Creating a Tropical Garden Scheme
Tropical schemes are easily put together. Pick your star architectural plants, fill the gaps with flowers and foliage, then check that the pots and background create the right illusion. Simplicity is the key.
Pots and Backdrops
With the emphasis on bold, punchy, exotic planting, avoid pots that will upstage the plants. The latter should grab all the attention. Only try exciting shapes or painted pots where the plants command equal attention. Avoid anything green in the background (from decking to a lawn), so that all the leaves are clearly visible, without any competition.
The choice of gap fillers is important because if all the plants are headline-grabbers, they will fight for attention, and you’ll get more losers than winners. Use the fillers to guide the eye to the strongest shapes, and create breathing spaces. The most reliable and highly effective include shade-happy hostas and ferns.
- Adiantum venustum
- Choisya ternata
- Dryopteris filix-mas
- Hosta 'Blue Angel'
- Hosta fortunei var. aureomarginata
- Hosta 'Frances Williams'
- Hosta 'Halcyon'
- Laurus nobilis
- Matteuccia struthiopteris
- Sasa palmata
Tropical scenes demand sparing, judicious use of color, just enough to hint at parrots and toucans. Traditional English bedding plants, such as petunias and busy Lizzies (Impatiens), are ideal, as are the flashier dahlias, red hot pokers (Kniphofia), ginger lilies (Hedychium) and montbretia (Crocosmia).
Care Tips for Tender Plants
Tender plants can be treated in four ways: grow them as annuals and discard at the end of the season; take cuttings from the parent (again discarded); keep the plants under cover over winter; or wrap the plant and pot in bubble plastic, or in straw inside a chicken-wire case.
Tropical Planting Ideas
Chamaerops humilis (Image 1): The slow-growing dwarf fan palm comes from southern Europe but is happy in colder areas. It makes a bushy, low-growing clump of stiff leaves, and is quite a rarity because it doesn't get ripped and ruined by fierce winds. Bring inside in winter in cold areas.
Trachycarpus wagnerianus (Image 2): A slower-growing, neater version of the Chusan palm (T. fortunei), with smaller, straighter, stiffer, but equally splayed leaves. The extra rigidity and smallness mean it is better able to withstand windy sites. Move indoors in winter in cold areas.
Agave (Image 3): These American succulents are all slow-growing. Tender Agave americana has extraordinary, long, saw-edged, viciously spine-tipped leaves, which can reach 5 feet high. 'Variegata' has yellow-edged leaves but is more tender; and 'Mediopicta' has a yellow leaf band.
More Tropical Planting Ideas
Phormium cookianum 'Sundowner' (Image 1): One of the flashier forms of mountain flax, making a chunky clump with a burst of tall, arching, bronze-green leaves with pink margins. The summer flowers are a minor bonus, and are well worth leaving for the superb pods that follow.
Musa basjoo (Image 2): The Japanese banana is hardy enough for mild inner city gardens. It puts on prodigious annual growth and has massive paddle-like leaves up to 6 feet long. In cold areas, cut off the leaves when frosted, create a tube of chicken wire around the stem, and pack with straw.
Canna 'Striata' (Image 3): With its 18-inch high, vertical, paddle-shaped, green- and yellow-striped leaves, place this canna where the sun shines through it, to get the full effect. Orange, gladiolus-like flowers emerge above the foliage in midsummer. Bring under cover in winter.
There is a huge range of widely available, often subtropical, large-leaved plants that can be grown easily outside in summer. In complete contrast to the archetypal English garden, flowers are out, and dramatic, jungly leaf shapes are in.
Tropical Gardens in Containers
Create a lush summer look in the garden or on the patio by planting a banana plant and other warm-weather beauties.
Creating a Mediterranean Patio
Finding brightly colored plants for a Mediterranean look is not a problem garden centers are packed with them but knowing which ones to choose and how to combine them can be tricky.
Choosing Containers for Your Garden
Before buying containers, work out what sizes you'll need, how they'll look, what plants you want to grow and how much time you have for watering.
Caring for Your Garden Containers
All containers need thorough washing every so often to make sure they are clean and pest-free — but wood, metal and stone pots may benefit from a little additional care to keep them looking their best.
Choosing Materials for Your Garden Containers
Containers come in a wide range of materials, from metal to ceramic to wood, but the right choice depends on three key factors: the design of your garden or patio, where the containers are to be positioned and the size of your budget.
Balancing Your Potted Plant Display
All gardening is a glorified form of flower arranging; this is particularly true of potted displays, where you need to think about the look of the containers as well as the plants.
A Modern Container Garden for the Patio
In this contemporary display, the slim vase-shaped container balances the tall spiky cabbage palm and drooping ferny foliage, while pineapple-like flowers lend an exotic touch.
European Indoor Gardens
Gardener Lill Linder explains what they are and how to create one of your own.
How to Prepare a Container Garden
Discover how to choose and prepare creative containers to ensure your plants are healthy and bountiful.
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