The tropical garden trend continues to be popular with people seeking a ‘holiday’ feeling in their own garden. Gardens created using lush, leafy exotics work particularly well in urban situations, creating jungly, private spaces, and best suit secluded areas of larger gardens, rather than being open to the wider landscape.
Large foliage plants to grow for structure include tetrapanax, melianthus, bamboo and banana. Dicksonias look great repeated and underplanted with a mass of hakonechloa – a look used successfully by the designer Tom Stuart-Smith. Useful ground cover plants include pachysandra and asarum, along with hostas and ferns.
Declan Buckley has been using exotics for years, adapting his lush style of planting to different settings, and exploring more unusual plants. He recommends looking at Jimi Blake’s use of exotics and Crûg Farm Nursery for inspiration. Some of Declan’s favourite plants include hardy schefflera, pseudopanax varieties, Fatsia polycarpa, which is more delicate than japonica, and astelia such as A. nervosa, which he prefers to phormiums. He also likes euphorbias such as E. stygiana and E. mellifera, which has fabulous rusty coloured flowers that attract wildlife.
For colour, Declan recommends rich hues such as reds, yellows, oranges and purples. As well as the ubiquitous verbena, agapanthus, and Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’, he suggests plants such as Salvia ‘Amistad’ with its lush deep purple flowers (it tends to need some winter protection though). Zantedeschia, Persicaria orientalis or coloured-leaf varieties such ‘Red Dragon’ also work well, and he sometimes includes annuals such as the fab Tagetes ‘Cinnabar’, which has tall, crimson-coloured flowers.
Then all you need to do is accessorise chairs and loungers with bright cushions in pops of purple or orange, or hang out a colourful hammock, and you’ll feel like you’re on holiday every day!