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Published August 07, 2011, 12:05 AM

Dickinson Man's Palm Tree Survives the Winter

It's been more than a year since Travis Frank planted a 13-foot-tall palm tree in his yard in Dickinson and he is proud to show it's still alive.

By: Ashley Martin, The Dickinson Press

DICKINSON, N.D. (AP) — It's been more than a year since Travis Frank planted a 13-foot-tall palm tree in his yard in Dickinson and he is proud to show it's still alive.

It took a lot of effort and monitoring, but Frank was confident he could successfully give his yard a taste of the tropics.

"Most people had pretty good faith in me, just because I thought it out pretty good," Frank said.

He insulated the tree for about seven months.

"I figured it would be about six months, and we had probably the worst winter I could have possibly tried it," Frank said.

The tree looked similar to a large pole covered in plastic over the winter, he said.

"It looked kind of terrible actually, just because it was wrapped so oddly," he said with a laugh. "I started off with my Christmas lights, the burlap, which keeps water away from it and keeps it dry inside . and then I had the insulation around that and then a thick plastic like a painter's plastic around that."

It may come as a surprise to learn the Christmas lights made the tree too hot, Frank said.

"It was too warm, so it dried out," Frank said. "It didn't get enough water for as warm as it was running. It was running essentially like it was summer and it wasn't getting watered that way."

He attributes the scarcity of the trees' fronds to the too-hot conditions he created.

"I figure by mid-August it should look really good again," Frank said. "I'm definitely hoping we have a very nice fall."

He is going to use rope lights this winter, which he said put off less heat, but provide enough light to keep the palm tree alive.

"Not enough for it to thrive, but enough for it to survive," Frank said.

The roots were also a little too cool over the winter, he said.

"They survived, but they retracted backwards," Frank said. "The ground didn't freeze, but generally they like their roots and their tops to be the same temperature."

Craig Armstrong, who owns Second Nature Greenhouse and Landscape Center in Dickinson with his wife, Monika, said he is happy the project worked out.

"I had to see it to believe it, but they're still alive," he said with a laugh. "I was just thinking 'hey good for him.'"

He added not many people would put as much effort into the trees as Frank has.

"That's pretty cool, actually," Armstrong said. "It's a pretty neat project."

Frank said most of his friends and family have been supportive of the project and he has seen a few people he didn't know stopping to look at the trees.

Frank plans to keep other palm trees he planted in his yard this year outside this winter as well.

"It was a lot of babysitting, but I don't have kids so that worked out ok," Frank said. "With the exception of moving them outside and help getting them into the wholes, because they were really big, other than that, I've pretty much done it myself."

Artificial palm trees also tower over his back yard, where he is constructing a pond and river.

Frank plans to continue caring for his palm trees for years to come, he said.

"It's fun to try different things," he said.

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