One of the most common requests that we get, particularly when we’re lucky enough to have a July this warm, is to add tropical elements to a garden. This doesn’t quite mean tiki torches and palm trees, but it does mean being subtle and stylish with designs that nod to warmer climes. Not all tropical plants are difficult to rear in Britain – and not all tropical elements are greenery. Here’s a list of some of the better ideas that we have:
Wood and Walkways
We can all take a lot of inspiration from Nick Wilson’s tropical garden in Leeds, of all places. Whilst many people might see this as a gimmick and not stylistically in keeping with what they had in mind for a tropical garden, it’s a great achievement and we can learn a lot from it. What makes it look tropical? Sure, it’s the choice of plants but how much does the architecture do? The answer is lots.
Choosing a darker wood for your decking (like Cumaru, Massaranduba and Garapa) will create the darker atmosphere that we associate with the jungle floor or the rainforest. Create a sense of seclusion and create hideaways, through your choice of plants (see some suggestions below) and this will make the space feel larger than it is. Levels and walkways will help to stimulate your imagination, don’t be afraid to do some landscaping to create different gradients where there are none.
Palms & Friends
So there’s no escaping that palm trees are synonymous with sandy beaches and clear skies. The iconic trees themselves can be difficult to keep, but there are some hardier versions that are much easier. Trachycarpus fortunei is one variety, which has a strong trunk and huge leaves shaped like fans; great for dappling sunlight and creating shade. Keeping is simple, but keep it relatively low to protect it from winds and gather straw on the crown during the winter. Chamaerops humilis gets a bad rap sometimes, often called the dwarf-palm. It’s certainly no towering tree, but it’s an interesting addition for those with spacial restrictions. Cordyline australis is a tall plant that can be made to look like the traditional palm tree, by removing its lower leaves.
The Mekong in Maidstone
We’ve already covered the benefits of garden ponds and pools, but bringing them into a tropical environment opens up another world of possibilities. The sound of running water can be the missing piece of your puzzle – and haven’t you always wanted a way to justify those £500 koi carp?
Here’s your opportunity to embrace the cliché and accept it for what it is. Try and keep the water level at ground height, rather than raised, and use stone to edge the banks. Creating a waterfall through rocks is much easier than it used to be and can be the source of your flowing river sound.
To make your pond function and look good, you’ll need two types of plants; submerged and oxygenating. For the submerged; Justicia Americana, Myriophyllum Propium and Nuphar Pumila will give you a mix of leaf and flower. For the oxygenating, Eleocharis Acicularis and Hippuris Vulgaris are both cheap and cheerful.
Eden Restored is a team of passionate garden designers working throughout London, Kent and Surrey.
We deliver value-for-money on small and large projects, from urban courtyards to country cottages.
To discuss your ideas and how we can help throughout the entire process, get in touch.