Choosing a staycation? You can still capture a feel of the tropics in your garden with plants and accessories, experts insist.
While many of us may be staycationing this year, there are ways to create a holiday haven in our gardens using plants and decor that mimic a host of exotic destinations.
RHS Garden Wisley’s exotic garden, for example, houses not only tropical-looking pineapple plants, striking palms and giant banana trees which flourish in summer, but shows what will survive the winter.
RHS Wisley’s garden manager Emma Allen, who looks after the exotic garden, says: “When experimenting with tropical plants at home, remember the ‘right plant, right place’ rule. If you have a shady corner, make sure you plant shade tolerant options, and if you have sun trap areas, select plants that will flourish there.”
Allen’s top plants for a tropical sensation…
Trachycarpus fortunei – a really hardy palm (down to between -10 C and -15 C), this will give your garden the exotic look and feel without the need to worry about whether it will survive through winter. They are rather slow growing, ultimately reaching a height of over 12m after 20-50 years.
Canna – any type of canna will bring large juicy leaves and exotic looking flowers in pink, orange, yellow, white or red. Some have variegated leaves such as Canna ‘Stuttgart’ or ‘Phaison’.
Passiflora caerulea – a hardy semi-evergreen climber with the most striking flowers. This vigorous plant will cover a wall or pergola in no time.
Fatsia japonica – a medium-sized evergreen shrub with palmately-lobed leaves to 45cm in width, and small white flowers in clusters and small black fruits.
Dahlia – extravagant and flamboyant flowers, plus they flower all summer long. For drama and colour, try ‘Karma Choc’ (Decorative Group) with dark red velvety flowers, or ‘Edwin’s Sunset’ (Waterlily Group) with beautiful vivid red flowers that almost glow.
Use decor and accessories…
Blend your tropical-looking plants with exotic accessories and seating to create a holiday feel. Experts at Dobbies Garden Centres (dobbies.com) offer five design tips to help you into the holiday mood…
1. Go totally tropical
Fill patio containers with a selection of vibrant bedding or perennial cottage garden plants for an instant display of foliage and flower colour, including Cordyline australis ‘Peko’, along with potted palms such as Phoenix canariensis, Chamaerops humilis (dwarf fan palm) and Trachycarpus fortunei to add height and interest and look great in groups. Position pots behind garden furniture to create the illusion that they are planted in the ground.
2. Create a colour pop
Bring a brilliant burst of sunshine and add some zing to your exterior space using an eclectic array of brightly coloured pots, mixing and matching flowers in contrasting shades for maximum impact. Fun accessories will quickly brighten patios or balconies. Choose pots in vibrant primary colours, which will really pop against white or neutral backdrops.
3. Bring the indoors out
Brighten your garden getaway by bringing houseplants outside for the day. Adding your favourite indoor orchid to a bistro table will create a tropical centrepiece – just be sure to return them to their normal home later on to ensure they don’t get exposed to too much direct sunlight.
An outdoor rug will instantly transform your space and offers protection to patios and decking from sun cream spillages or melting ice creams. They also help to zone an area, adding a stylish decorative touch. Day beds and hanging egg chairs are the ultimate garden getaway luxury if you have room.
4. Make it magical
For atmospheric evenings, accessorise with a variety of lanterns, fairy lights and candles to enhance the mood – it is amazing how magical a space can look at twilight. A stylish lantern, or a solar-powered string of lights draped across trees and fences will stretch out the time spent outside. Use blankets, floor cushions and chunky knit throws to keep warm and curl up under the stars.
5. And when the sun sets…
Take the chill out of cooler evenings by investing in a practical chiminea or fire pit for your patio, adding warmth and light to extend outdoor entertaining.
And think about how you are going to protect your plants during the cooler months, RHS expert Allen advises. “As many domestic gardeners do not have the time or space to bring plants inside over winter, it is essential to protect in situ. If focusing on the tropical look, select hardy options such as trachycarpus, fatsia, eucomis, tricyrtis, schefflera and zantedeschia, which will re-emerge after winter.
“If you want to have bananas or half-hardy palms, try wrapping them throughout the winter using horticultural fleece or hessian and fill the inside with straw for extra insulation,” she adds.