Designing Tropical Themed Gardens

 In Garden Design

Dan’s thoughts on designing tropical themed gardens. Why they’re great and how to design your own.

Tropical themed gardens are among my favourite garden styles.  I love the lush planting, the hot colours and that feeling of being on holiday in your own garden. But how do tropical plants fare in Somerset? Well – some of them love it, but if I’m honest, I choose plants that look tropical, but can thrive in our climate without special care and attention.

Designing a tropical themed garden

Tropical themed gardens are not just about the plants – although planting is important.  Good garden design looks at the layout, the materials used and the possibility for borrowed views …whatever the theme. And in a tropical garden, you are aiming for that wonderful feeling of being embraced by the garden, feeling safe, soaking up the sunshine and relaxing.

One thing to consider before anything else, is noise.  Are you near to a busy road? Does the chit chat of passers by bother you?  

Start by landscaping that will help to block out unwanted sounds and replace them with happy noises such as water or bird song.

More about landscaping to reduce noise in this blog.

garden design trends

Don’t forget to make young plants feel at home while they are getting established.  This irrigation system will ensure that watering doesn’t become a chore.

Now think about seating areas.  How will you make spaces that feel intimate, safe and warm? Living walls are an excellent idea. They’re all about ambience and needn’t be hard to construct.  A sturdy pergola swathed in aromatic climbers such as Jasmine will create just the right atmosphere. A living wall allows you to fit a lot of plants into a small space.

Finally, contrasts.  The contrast between hard landscaping and planting. Using different shapes, sizes and textures of foliage and really playing with lighting to accentuate those textures. That’s what designing a tropical themed garden is all about.

What to plant in a tropical garden

You’d be surprised at the range of plants you can use in the UK to create a tropical themed garden.

tree fern for tropical themed garden

Tree ferns create structure in the garden and draw the eye upwards. They’re not cheap to buy, but think of them as an investment. These look delicate but are relatively easy to care for. Simply wrap the top of the stem over winter time so that they don’t get waterlogged.

tropical looking castor oil plant with water droplets on palmate leaves

Fatsia japonica – the castor oil plant is a prime example of a tropical looking plant that does well in the UK.  Huge, deep green shiny leaves and incredibly easy to grow. These are evergreen and will give you all year round interest.

Or how about cordelines? Spiky and exotic looking, these evergreens grow relatively slowly and hold their shape well.

Bergenia (elephant’s ear) is another all year rounder.  Huge, glossy leaves provide dense ground cover all year round and in spring you’ll be treated to bright pink flowers too. 

For summer time, hostas really come into their own. Use them to create layers beneath larger plants, just like ferns, they love shade.

Lighting your tropical themed garden

beautiful garden to look forward to

Beautifully lit garden with tropical planting

For me, lighting is crucial…even in winter time when you are not actually sitting out of doors. A well lit garden offers a great view through the window and means you get value from your garden for all 12 months of the year.

Find a focal point to illuminate. Perhaps a statue, a water feature or an outstandingly beautiful plant. Think about some ambient, low level lighting to guide you around the garden. Or what about festoon lights for that tropical holiday feel?

No matter how small your garden, it’s easy to give it a tropical feel by using luxurious landscaping materials and beautiful plants.  Need more ideas? Garden design and build services from Silver Birch Gardens are more affordable than you might think.  Call me today and we can discuss your ideas.

Contact Dan at SilverBirch Gardens


You might find these articles helpful too

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