Category: gardening (3)

This summer, tropical is topical. And that goes for gardens as well as pineapple-shaped ice buckets, palm-printed wallpaper and flamingo-themed cushions!

You can see why. Tropical gardens are exotic and relaxing. Perfect for entertaining friends with a piña colada or two, but also for whiling away a lazy afternoon – preferably stretched out in a hammock. It’s a bit like going on holiday but with no flying involved.

For the UK gardener, developing a tropical garden can seem an Olympic-sized challenge. But, tropical plants can be surprisingly hardy. Plus, you can grow many of them in pots that you can bring inside during the colder winter months. Here’s how to create your own tropical paradise.

POSITION AND PREPARATION

A sheltered spot that is sunny and frost-free will give you a head start. But don’t be put off if that doesn’t describe your outdoor space. You can create the type of jungle conditions that tropical plants love by fashioning a protective upper canopy out of tropical-style trees, and also by preparing your soil in advance. It needs to be well drained and enriched with organic matter. Mulch if you can. It will recreate those forest-floor conditions where dying organic matter enhances the quality of the soil, improves drainage, prevents your plants from drying out too quickly and helps protect them from the cold.

LANDSCAPING

Choose natural materials for the structural elements of your garden rather than hard landscaping that would look out of place in a tropical setting. Recreate wooden walkways through the lush vegetation with bark or timber paths that lead to a simple wooden gazebo or arbour in the style of a tropical shack. Display pots of exotic plants on decking and conjure up the drama of dark tropical nights with lighting. An uplighter can emphasise a special tree or the fronds of a fern, while spotlights shining through the foliage will create spectacular shadows. Hang lanterns in your seating area and complete the picture with rattan, or rattan-style garden furniture that has the added advantage of being easy to maintain.

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PLANTING

Dense planting is key, so select plants that will give you a range of heights, from tall trees right down to ground-hugging plants. Once you have decided on your framework, varied foliage and exotic flowers will add a carnival feel. But make sure you plant tropical specimens in spring so their roots have time to get established before winter sets in.

FOLIAGE

Add depth with a mix of leaf shapes and colours. Half-hardy musa basjoo, or Japanese banana, with its long paddle-shaped leaves, contrasts well with broad Gunnera manicata (Chilean rhubarb) or the dark palmate leaves and creamy white flowers of Fatsia japonica. Shade-loving ferns and hostas make excellent ground cover while grasses, such as Carex comans, add variety, texture and an almost ghost-like quality as they sway in the wind.

FLOWERS

Use bright flowers to add vibrancy and lift the green hues of your tropical garden. But don’t feel you have to stick to tropical varieties here – a mix of flowers that wouldn’t normally grow together can look really effective. Try exotic cannas alongside more familiar dahlias and lobelia. Showy agapanthus, crocosmia, jasmine, honeysuckle and hibiscus.

MAINTENANCE

Summer is when your garden will be at its best. But tropical plants can be very thirsty so invest in a decent hose to stop daily watering becoming too much of a chore. In winter, bring tender plants in pots inside or investigate wrapping them in horticultural fleece or using straw to protect them from freezing temperatures. A greenhouse, if you have space, will protect your more delicate specimens.

General tasks and garden maintenance

Continue to dig over existing beds and borders, again incorporating as much organic matter as you can. Forking over not only helps prepare the soil for spring, it helps reduce pests by exposing them to hungry birds.

Although temperatures should start to rise this month, there is still a risk of frost and even snow. Protect vulnerable plants, pots and taps from frost by wrapping insulation such as garden fleece around them and check pots and containers are raised off the ground if possible. Tender trees and shrubs will thank you for a generous application of dry mulch to protect their roots from freezing conditions.

Once the ground isn’t frozen, make new beds and borders – mark the shape with sand trickled from a bottle, remove the top layer of growing vegetation and dig the ground over, incorporating as much organic matter as possible. If you are making a bed in the lawn, remove the turf and stack it upside down somewhere out of the way – after a year or two it will rot down into fantastic compost. Alternatively chop it up and bury upside down in the planting hole a good spade’s depth down. Beware – if you just dig it in the buried grass will regrow and regrow and regrow and…

Remember not to let leaves accumulate around alpines – they will die if left damp for long. Cover bare patches around clumps with gritty compost to encourage regrowth.

When the weather allows, carry on clearing paths, check walls (but avoid concreting until there is no chance of frost), clean and insulate greenhouses and ensure heaters are working properly. Even a little insulation will make a huge difference to your heating bill.

Clean and repair your garden tools, book the lawn mower in for a service and check garden furniture for any rot. When it is warm enough, treat sheds, fences and trellis with wood preservative; brushes and rollers are fine for most things, however a sprayer is well worth buying for tricky projects such as woven panels!

If you were lucky enough to get given Easter presents, other than chocolate, chances are that you may have been given an orchid. Orchids are some of the most commonly grown houseplants and provided they have proper growing conditions, it isn’t difficult to learn how to take care of them. They look fab and they last for ages.
They make excellent accent plantings to nearly any home décor. Orchids require little care once all their basic needs are met such as light, temperature, and humidity.
Orchids need ample water but should be allowed to dry out some between waterings. One way to check for watering is by poking your finger about an inch into the growing media. If it’s dry, give it some water; otherwise, let it be.

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Indoor orchid plants also need adequate humidity, about fifty to seventy percent. There are various ways to increase the humidity in your home. Place a water-filled saucer or tray of pebbles beneath plants, mist plants daily, or use a humidifier.
Fertilize orchids weekly or bi-weekly while they are producing new growth and decrease to monthly or bi-monthly intervals once they mature. Discontinue altogether once the plants go dormant.

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Additional orchid care tips include repotting, which is normally done every other year. If your orchids suddenly stop blooming but have suitable light, temperature, and humidity, then repotting may be necessary.

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