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How to Design a Tropical Garden in the UK

How to Design a Tropical Garden in the UK

A tropical garden in the UK can seem like an unlikely concept to even the most ambitious garden designer, however, it is not so insurmountable a project as it may seem, since so many tropical-looking plants are entirely adaptable to the British climate.

Forgetting about flora for a moment, the aesthetic of a tropical locale can be achieved by way of structural additions that have no requirement other than a decent carpenter and an artistic eye. These elements can take the form of hard wood decking to emulate the quays and jetties of the tropics which evoke images of blushing sunsets and fishing ports awash with exotic fare for barbequing. Bamboo screens are also a sneaky way to introduce what is considered an icon of jungle ecology without actually having to plant anything, while lending geometry and privacy to different areas of your garden.

Specific features can also define the aesthetic a garden designer wishes to project and elements such as tiki torches, bamboo huts or even a functioning bar outfitted with a palm leave roof (for the monsoon rains that are, unfortunately, typically British too!)

Water features are not essential, however, a natural rock formation in lieu of your own Mekong delta could certainly add an extra dimension of sparkling light as well as relaxing sound and how better to enjoy these features than from the bosom of your own hammock – in pastel pink of course!

Of course, we can’t discard flora entirely since the jungle landscape is synonymous with tropical climates. A good garden designer will of course advise you, but palm trees are a dramatic addition to any space and for a tropical design they will be your centrepiece. Their height and spread will provide shade and a variety of dimensions that colour your palette from ground to sunny sky. We recommend the hardy Trachycarpus fortunei and Chamaerops humilis. Musa basjoo, which you can boast to your friends is a banana tree, also lends a junglyfeel with its large glossy leaves, though we wouldn’t plan our fruit salads around it as it is unlikely to bear fruit in our climate! If you’ve a shady garden, choose Dicksonia antarctica which is the hardy Tree Fern. Their large fronds will look great silhouetted against the sky and even better when up-lit at night.

As previously mentioned, Bamboo is viewed as a hallmark of exoticism and whilst they can provide colour from their leaves and stems, when a breezes passes through them they can also create a subtle symphony of creaks, rattles and whispers to rival any wind chime. It is important, however, that you plant non-invasive species, lest you want a diorama of Jumanji in your garden! Your garden designer will advise you, but a good selection is the well-behaved Phyllostachys nigra. Finally, to form the lyrics between this punctuation of plant life you might consider the large-leaved Fatsia japonica, a selection of ferns and some colourful additions such as Gingers, Red Hot Pokers and Crocosmia to give a good second act to your gardening story.

2012-08-05 12.43.30 IMG_4173 our garden at night torch

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