Wednesday 29 April 2015

How to create an exotic/jungle style garden

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 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 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?

So much to do...

All of a sudden things are growing again, and the garden is a sea of blue from all the forget-me-nots. Although all I can see is the list of things to do, things are actually looking in good shape which is a good job as there is a tv crew coming round to film...more of that in another post

However as a wander round the garden and where things are at:

Terrace is shaping up nicely. Schleffera is beginning to flush, and behind the Musa sikkimensis have their first leaves out

Eccremus (below) has survived and is very quick to flower, and in the sun the Balinese shrine is exuding tropicalness

This was our big potting the large Trachycarpus on the terrace which was looking sadder every year as it became more pot bound. We thought we could gently slip it out of its pot (saving the expensive pot) and then set the palm free but were thwarted. Much tugging and swearing followed as we tried to pull off the pot, ending up cutting it free/getting aggressive with a sledgehammer. It is also the heaviest thing in the world!


Pond (above) really needs help! but my initial problem area at the top of the steps (below) is now looking super lush with a Phormium and Cordyline getting bigger and under planting of Acanthus. There is a fig in the middle which will eventually be big and imposing...

Melianthus has survived the winter and has one banana grove behind is just coming into leaf

In the veg plot I am actually feeling like a proper veg grower! note the neat rows and turned earth!

I use Ajuga as ground cover to keep the weeds at bay, but at this time of the year it looks great

Upper garden with the newly set free palm tree and Echiums which are now reaching for the stars

Lots to do!