Putting together a jungle-inspired garden in a country where rain falls throughout the year and frosts hit at the most unexpected times isn’t the easiest thing to do. Indeed if you’re a fair weather gardener all the application of fleece jackets and bringing plants inside is probably a little too much to ask. So why not use a little imagination to put a hint of the tropics in to your garden without giving yourself a perennial headache.
Exotic planting schemes don’t have to include difficult to look after banana plants or expensive, hard to get hold of coffee bushes. In fact it’s very easy to adapt your traditional British garden to give a colourful, exotic look by adding in vibrant plants boasting bright colours, bold shapes or unexpected foliage. Even dahlias such as the ever popular Bishop of Llandaff can bring a touch of sunshine to a garden filled with your usual cottage favourites. Bright, large canna lilies are increasingly easy to get hold of and less difficult to care for than some of their sister plants. They combine easily with chintzier plants to give a wickedly unexpected contrast which will give your garden real personality.
When looking for the exotic don’t feel confined to the glossy, dark green large leaves of jungle plants. There are plenty of Mediterranean plants which work well in the British garden, used as they are to a less unforgivingly humid climate. Lavenders, rosemarys, Hungarian acanthus and verbenas are becoming typical of the modern UK garden but give off the impression of something a little more unusual – direct from the South of France perhaps. Likewise though a bougainvillea may take a little extra work, placed against a south facing wall it can evoke memories of holidays in Spain or Italy.
While concern over water consumption grows and less of us find time to spend tending a garden, dry gravel gardens are becoming more and more popular. In place of a lawn swathes of stones are home to grasses, bamboos, euphorbias, sedums and eryngium, plants which need little water and minimal care. This kind of exotic gardening can sit well with the gardener concerned over a changing climate. A real gravel garden offers a planting matter which is dry to begin with – sandy or gravely – rather than simply adding a mulch of gravel to an existing bed.
Perhaps the simplest way to add a touch of exotica to the garden is with bulbs which can easily be spread among existing plants or distributed about the patio in pots. Peruvian daffodils, gloriosa lilies and naked ladies (amaryllis belladonna) are all safe bets for colour and form. Or for the very simplest exotic garden simply plant a number of pots with large bamboos, ferns and miscanthus which, when grouped in a garden look striking and are easily moved to a sheltered spot in colder weather.