Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cool Tropicals

One of the common views of a tropical garden in the UK is that everything is dug up and cleared away for winter. Whilst some exotic gardeners may do that, we want a garden that looks good even in winter. The philosophy for the garden is that most of the plants, especially all the backbone planting are hardy, often they are not tropical at all, but grown for a tropical effect.

Many of the interesting introductions in recent years have come from mountainous regions of Asia such as Yunnan Province in China, or Mount Fan Si Pan in Vietnam, areas used to cold conditions, but teaming with interesting plants such as Scheffleras and Fatsias that have an exotic look but are capable of tolerating quite low temperatures.

Last night we had a low temperature of -4C (25F) and a light snow fall, whilst many of the plants drooped in response, by lunchtime they had shook off the cold and were looking as they normally do. Some of the more tender plants are root hardy such as hedychiums and banana (Musa basjoo), so whilst these will be cut back this year they will return in the spring once the weather warms up again.

Here are a selection of photographs of the garden from today.

Fatsia polycarpa


Fatsia japonica in flower


  1. You garden really looks like it is in the southern hemisphere. You have a great concept, and are lucky to have plants that either come back or weather the winter well. I like your garden artifacts as well. Very well planned and designed.

  2. Wow! It still looks like a jungle in there! How much land do you have?

  3. Love your photos. Your garden is proof that you can have a tropical garden that looks tropical all year.

  4. Looking very beautiful. I see the Midlands got -8ºC, hope you aren't in for another winter like 2009/2010.
    The upright stone powdered with snow looks so much like the famous Zen stone gardens around Kyoto.

  5. Dear Mark and Gaz, How clever you are to include plantings with a tropical feel yet the hardiness to withstand an English winter. As you say, if everything in the garden was removed and/ or clothed in bubble wrap, that would not be particularly attractive to look at over the winter months. The photographs you show here really do illustrate how successful you have been in capturing the spirit of the tropics in London on a freezingly cold day!!

  6. Beautiful! It must be fun and amazing to live as though in a tropical paradise! Lovely lovely photographs.

  7. I found this really interesting. I have been looking at bamboos to form a hedge and to screen an irritating neighbour, there are so many to choose from that it is bewildering

  8. Thanks for the lovely compliments, we love sharing our hobby and passion for plants with other likeminded people :)

    Hazel, it's a rather irregular shaped garden, sort of L-shaped but the longest part is about 130 feet from the house, and the bottom part is about 40 feet wide. It's a big garden for an urban area but for a gardener it's never big enough :)

    Peter, I hope so too! That was a particularly bad one. Although we have mostly hardy plants, the first set of cold spells in winter is always unsettling.

    Bamboos make fantastic hedging! There's lots to choose from indeed and can be bewildering but you can whittle them down by considering several factos like allocated space, aspect, moisture, height, etc. I can help you make a choice if you wish, but the genus Phyllostachys is a good starting point.

  9. You guys have a fantastic all year garden. I have been trying to achieve this in Aberdeen, obviously not the tropical look as we are so far north. Do take a look if you have the time and give me your opinion.


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