When I first got a call from the TV company wanting to come and film the garden for a new BBC gardening program I laughed as they wanted to film within the next couple of weeks. No no no! I protested. My garden is a jungle style garden which only looks good in late summer! Let us have a look they said...it looks great! they said....and so they came, and actually when looking at the garden objectively it is looking great at the mo. So I said yes....
So a week later I have ended up having a great fun day with Helen Skelton and Carmen. The premis being that Carmen was having a garden make over and that she wanted it to be a bit more exotic and remind her of Jamaica. They were both fabulous, and it was really nice to spend time just looking at the garden and enjoying it rather than sitting thinking what I need to do next. Generally I think this is a common disease of gardeners and we all need to step back more often!
|Helen and Carmen having a chat amongst the foliage|
Anyway, this has all got me thinking about what makes an exotic garden, and what can you do if you want the look but don’t want the faff of bedding out tender exotics and growing lots of annuals as exotic gardening can be really easy!
Of course a lot of exotic gardening is theatre and is about giving the impression of the tropics...so using big leaved things that are perfectly hardy like Paulownias, Trachycarpus, ferns, bamboos etc, avoiding things that are too English/cottagey. You then need to stage things right such as by creating ponds, using architectural plants in key places and having some statement statues/ornaments. It is all about having the right choice of plants, as they are out there, it is just about bringing the right ones together to give the right effect.
So I went for a walk round the garden and came up with my list of easy exotics to give the look early in the year.
Palms.....You can not beat Tracycarpus fortuenii for the exotic look. Very hardy and quick growing.
Chamerops humilis is also very easy, for me it seems to work best in a pot, here on a sun baked part of my terrace
There are lots of other palms such as Tracycarpus wagerensis, and some that are very new such as Tracycarpus laesectus? (below) but T. fortuenii is still head and shoulders above them
Fatsia: very hardy and easy! this is Fatsia polycarpa
Musa basjoo and Tetrapanax: two kings of the jungle garden. The banana ideally needs somewhere sheltered as the wind can rip the leaves. Tetrapanax is still one of my favourite plants as it is so exotic and primordial! very easy, and if you keep it to one/few stems the leaves are HUGE
Bamboo: ever reliable, can be a thug but just keep an eye on it or keep the roots contained. Here with Euphorbia x pasteurii, a plant with lovely lush green leaves and very exotic looking, again very hardy
Ferns and tree ferns. Regular ferns are hardy as anything, and tree ferns easier than you think, especially if you keep them watered....
Cordylines and Phormiums...the garden centre classic, but very exotic looking
Melianthus: fabulous leaves and incredibly exotic flowers if you can get it through the frost
Climbers: a jungle of climbers can help with the feel, especially leafy ones like the Kiwi, murhanbeckia and climbing hydrangea here. Passion flowers are also very hardy and exotic looking
Yuccas: easy and they just get on with it
Exotic statues/ornaments really help set the scene. This is a Ganesha from Bali
Then there are lots of other things that are a bit borderline, this is a Puya in a pot
and a climbing Eccremus which gives a perfect stab of red colour
Then there are two hardy bromeliads (Fasicularias) which look good all through the year
Again use exotic ornaments or pots like this OTT Chinese one
Iris confusa looking wonderfully lush and exotic
Then is you have sheltered corners use them...on my terrace there is a Butia, Schleffera and Cyathea
and making it through the winter with some protection a HUGE Musa sikkimensis
However if you can, tender plants such as this Brugmansia can really augment what you have...
So overall exotic and jungle style gardening is just about bringing the right plants together. There are lots of hardy and easy to grow plants out there, so why not give it a go?