On location: tropical garden style and inspiration May 29, 2017 10:53
Last week, we were really lucky to find ourselves in the most beautiful contemporary garden. Lush, tropical planting combined effortlessly with gorgeous mediterranean style terracotta pots filled with Cordylines and Olives. Add in sunshine and a beautiful, warm swimming pool and quite frankly, we were looking to move in.
Aside from being the perfect place to photograph our deckchairs, cushions and a NEW SECRET SQUIRREL but hugely exciting new product line (EEEK!) it also provided plenty of planting inspiration. With a notebook full of ideas, here are my top five easy steals from this beautiful garden:
Underplanting. Sounds vaguely risqué but anyway, underplanting is a tropical garden essential. Tropical gardens are all about the foliage at different levels. Many plants absolutely thrive in full shade or semi shady spots because they herald from lush, jungly locations in which shade is a given. I spotted Acanthus mollis (bear's breeches) looking very happy and handsome in the darker confines of the garden. Gorgeous clumps of ferns (ostrich ferns, I think) were growing together in a large groups, rather than dotted around and the result was instant impact. The limey green foliage looked beautiful against the dark, plum coloured leaves of Heuchera as well as Hostas and bright, yellow Lilies half submerged in a shallow pond.
Water: Talking of ponds, let me just mention the water in this garden. From the gentle rippling of the pond, nestled in and surrounded by lush, damp loving plants, through to the palm springs style swimming pool in a bright, sun filled hotspot; water was abundant and celebrated in this beautiful garden. All too often I moan about my garden being too wet or damp. Instead, this owner had made water a feature and celebrated it in style, in two very different ways. Absolutely gorgeous.
Tough Love: Up until last week, I thought my Cordyline looked pretty happy in my garden. But it looks SO different to the ones spotted in this tropical garden. So much so, I didn't recognise them as Cordylines at first. To start with, they were in flower. Mine has never flowered in eight years! I had no idea they had such delicate, pretty wafts of flowers amid their spiky foliage. The other huge difference was the planting. My Cordyline has been planted straight in the ground whereas these were planted in huge terracotta pots dotted around the patio. The result is hot, hot, hot for their roots with few nutrients in the soil. But, a little tough love was doing wonders, as they looked stunning. I now look at my solitary Cordyline and feel it is all bit pathetic & mollycoddled. Poor thing.
Gangsta's Paradise: Now, let's talk gangsters. Not real ones, obvs, but the garden variety. Trachycarpus fortunei. These wonderful, prehistoric looking plants that carry on with a swagger, irrespective of what the weather throws at them. I asked about any special care these required or feeds and the owner said they just do their thing with very little care. No wrapping up in the winter. No feeds. In fact, the owner described them as 'thugs', muscling their way through, come what may. For me, they looked magnificent, adding to the sense of glamour and style in the garden.
Thinking Vertically: As much as I loved the swimming pool area and seating in and around the garden, it was the clever, imaginative way in which the back of the garden had been terraced that for me, was just brilliant. Two staircases either side of a centre bed add drama to the garden. It actually reminded me of that big old staircase in 'Gone with the wind'. Or the one in Sex in the City when Carrie spots Big at the theatre and legs it. It works brilliantly as a frame for the planting in the centre and for the entire garden, drawing your eye up and around this beautiful space. I love the feeling of sitting 'in' a garden, literally immersed in it. The extra height this terracing provides really gives you a sense of that. It offers a retreat and an escape from the world. A tropical hiding place, not a long haul flight away, but in deepest, darkest Kent. Perfect.