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.

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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.

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Excerpted from Simple Steps: Containers for Patios

©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2007

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