Before moving to Singapore (which is where i lived before Switzerland) i wasnt a huge fan of tropical gardens. But after three years of living on the equator, i grew a love for the lush dark green leaves and vibrant flowers that is a tropical garden.
Ever wondered if you can create one yourself? First you need to ask yourself if you have a warm enough winter for one. Unfortunately an area that gets frosts through the winter wont work.
Your tropical garden should be mostly green with splashes of vibrant colour from tropical flowering plants and variegated or coloured foliage. Red, orange and yellow are the most prominent colours with white and green variegated foliage.
The plants should consist of palms, plants with strap like leaves and those with bold or coloured foliage dominate.
Some recommended species are:
Hawaiian hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis)
Vireya rhododendron (Vireya cultivars)
Crab’s claw (Heliconia angusta cultivars)
Fijian fire plant (Acalypha wilkesiana)
Giant elephant’s ears/giant taro (Alocasia macrorrhiza)
Elephant’s ears (Alocasia x amazonica)
Prayer plant (Maranta leuconeura ‘Kerchoviana’)
Zebra plant (Calathea zebrina)
Crotons (Codiaeum variegatum)
Dancing ladies (Oncidium varicosum)
Canna lilies (Canna ‘Tropicanna’ and Canna ‘Tricolour’)
New Guinea impatiens (Impatiens)
Sago palm (Cycas revoluta)
Spiral ginger (Costus barbatus)
Crinum lily (Crinum pedunculatum)
Sacred Bali bamboo (Schizostachyum brachycladum)
Variegated shell ginger (Alpinia zerumbet ‘Variegata’)
Spindle palm (Hyophorbe verschaffeltii)
Majestic palm (Ravenea rivularis)
Medinilla (Medinilla magnifica)
Colour- Combining brightly coloured foliage is the key to achieving a tropical look. For maximum impact, position plants with red, yellow, orange, pink, purple and lime-green leaves next to each other. Colourful flowers, such as fragrant frangipani, hibiscus, ornamental ginger and dramatic canna lilies will warm up the garden and provide further contrast to the vibrant ground-dwelling foliage and green canopy.
Don’t limit colour to plantings – add colour by painting your fence or furniture and adding coloured pots and cushions.
Foliage- For the most part, tropical gardens rely on foliage rather than flowers to create interest year round. Foliage should be flamboyant, lively and colourful, and plants must be chosen on the basis of the size, shape and texture of their leaves. Planting in groups of odd numbers (three, five, seven and nine) is a common trickand something that I follow– it gives a broad brushstroke of colour and texture, and makes a huge difference to the feel of the garden. Placing plants with contrasting foliage next to each other will create drama and interest.
Trees- A selection of perfectly placed palms and bamboo is essential for achieving a tropical look. Although they’re often criticised for growing too big, palms and bamboo will benefit the style and mood of the garden: they provide the rustle of foliage in the wind, furnish your garden with a fern-like ceiling and dense green walls, and do a great job of privacy screening. There are a million varieties to choose from, remember that not all varieties are suited to every climate, and smaller-growing or dwarf specimens are the best choice for courtyards and pocket-sized gardens.
Herbs and spices- If you love to cook, try growing Asian herbs and spices in your tropical garden. Not only do they contribute wonderful flavours and aromas to a wide variety of dishes, they smell fantastic in the garden and help deter pests.
Cardamom, kaffir lime, lemongrass, coriander and mint will grow well among tropical shrubs in cool, moist spots. If you plant edible ginger (Zingiber officinale) now, it will be ready to harvest in March or April – simply plant a healthy-looking ginger rhizome from the supermarket. To harvest, dig up clumps with a spade.
Palms surrounded by Birds Nest Fern, Cordylines and Mondo Grass
Lush tropical planting
pool design surrounded by a tropical garden
Alpinias and birds nest ferns
Bougainvillea in a feature pot by Secret Gardens of Sydney
Bromeliads, Liriope and Frangipanis from Secret Gardens of Sydney