New Tropical Garden – Exciting times! Part 4

Planting!

Now for the exciting bit – buying plants! It’s really fun researching what plants I want to have in my tropical paradise. First and foremost is finding plants that will be happy living in the UK. I’m lucky so be living in the south of the country and we don’t get very harsh winters so I’d imagine most sub-tropical species would do OK in the summer months but may need some protection in the coldest months. I’m new to growing tropicals, well, only I’ve only grown ones you’d grow as annuals like geraniums, tomatoes, etc so research is king.

My neighbour successfully grows Canna Lilies in her north facing front garden so that’s where I started. I bought two Canna Generalis and a Canna Tropicana Durban. It’s a start, I’ll probably buy some others but it’s got me going.

Next, I did some research on ‘typical’ tropical plants to get that jungle look. I love flowers (I have a wildflower bed) but what I’ve found is for the right look I’m going to need foliage, foliage, lots of leaves and maybe some foliage. The most iconic of all ‘tropical’ plants is the Fatsia Japonica. Growing to the height of 3-4 metres and the same in spread with large hand shaped leaves around 40cm in width it’s a fantastic plant, but sadly I think it’s a little overkill for my little patch. However, I found in my local nursery a variety called Fatsia Japonica ‘Spider’s Web’ which is a smaller variety (only growing to 2.5 metres height and spread) with pointier leaves, fringed, almost decorated with white lines. It’s very pretty and would slot in perfectly.

I have read a lot about gingers, I’m not talking about people of a celtic ancestry but rather the plant. They seem relatively hardy in the UK (again, the plant), dying back to the root over winter and requiring only a good mulch over the coldest weeks. They also spread along the root, forming a clump of plants which can be split once established. I was on the lookout for a Hedychium or Ginger Lily as it’s commonly known, which is a nice plant with large fleshy leaves and a lovely looking spike of sweetly smelling orange flowers. Fortunately I happened upon one almost straight away in the same nursery I got the Cannas in, so that went in the basket straight away!

As a bit of an impulse buy, I also purchased a Cycas or Sago Palm. I’d seen one on a balcony earlier in the week and thought it looked rather nice and, well, tropical. Once I got it home I realised it’s more of an indoor plant in this country so I’ll leave it in a pot and only put it out over the summer months.

Here’s a picture of them all…

Tropical Garden Plants

Unfortunately as it’s late October, I can’t put any of them in at the moment so will have to wait until spring. They’ll be happy in my greenhouse until the last frosts have passed and then they can get established in the ground.

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New Tropical Garden – Exciting times! Part 3

Landscaping Continued

The next thing I wanted to do is to create a path through the tropical garden. However much I wanted to just hack my way into the jungle, making my own pathway through the foliage, I think realistically I needed to make a pathway.

I wanted to have a meandering route that didn’t go straight from A to B and also have a way to see every area and have a focal point in each corner. It’s only a small area so it didn’t take long to create the path by digging down a few inches along the route I’d chosen. I then filled the track with the Leylandii chippings from my wood chipper topped up with bought bark chippings.

Here’s how it looks…

Tropical Garden Progress 5

The next thing to do was to fill the pond and put in some interesting features. Previously as a weekend project, my dad and I made a rustic looking bench; so that had to go in somewhere. I also had an old galvanised wash tub and bath which I needed to put somewhere so they were to go in too.

Here’s what I did with the galvanised bits, I’m thinking of entering it into the turner prize you know!

15a

Now once again, I know it looks crap BUT you’ve got to imagine it amongst all the palms and monkeys, etc. Just small bits of it will be peeping through, just enough to catch your eye and make you stop and think.

Here’s the bench…

Tropical Garden Progress 11

Pretty isn’t it?! It looks a bit new at the moment but it’ll age and mature, it’ll blend into it’s surroundings, things will grow up it, grow through it and it’ll look like it’s always been there….

Next time, it’s planting!

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New Tropical Garden – Exciting times! Part 2

Landscaping

Once got to a stage where all the unwanted plants, weeds, trees were gone and I was left with a flat piece of bare earth, it was time to work out how I wanted my new garden to look. I had visions of me sporting a safari hat and holding a machete knife, hacking through ten foot tall ferns with howler monkeys and cicadas shouting from high up in the canopy. As my tropical garden only measures twenty foot square, I’m perhaps being a little over ambitious. However, do I want to at least feel like I’m not seeing the whole garden from the entrance and I want to have to push my way through the foliage to get to the other side. Which brings me to my next point, features.

Once I have my postage stamp jungle up and running, I’m going need to have a reason to explore it. So the first thing I wanted was a pond so the local wildlife have a place to drink, frogs have a place to do the backstroke and I have a nice feature to put at the end of my safari. I also had a huge pile of logs and branches from the Leylandii and Apple trees to do something with. My plan was to dig the pond, surround it with the logs and using a method called ‘Hügelkultur’, create a raised section of the garden by covering the logs with the mud from where the pond had been dug out.

It’s my first time using Hügelkultur, which is meant to be a great way to create a fertile, water retentive area which has the added benefit that it creates heat as the logs slowly decompose. It’ll be great for any tender plants I choose to plant on top of it!

Here’s the pond and raised area as I progressed…

Tropical Garden Progress 9

Tropical Garden Progress 8

I bought a semi-rigid style pond out of ease as I’ve used pond liners before and unless you remove every stone and line it with blankets or sand, it may get damaged. So a rigid one it was.

Here’s how it turned out…

Tropical Garden

It doesn’t look much now agreed but once plants start overhanging the pond and the raised area is covered by wonderful ferns, hostas and cannas, it’ll look amazing – honest!

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