Friday, 23 May 2014

The mysteries of the sub-tropical garden



There is a part of the garden which seldom gets mentioned in blog posts, because it is out of my comfort zone. It is also not really mine, in the true sense of the word. Well, it is mine in that I  love it and enjoy it, but I don't plan it or plant it or maintain it. I don't really understand it, and it is a bit of a mystery to me, like growing Bonsai or giant vegetables, I don't have the skills to create it. That doesn't mean I don't love spending time in it, I just don't get what makes  it tick.


For a start the drama is mainly in the foliage, whereas I like my drama to be highly floriferous.


The drama is hard to create, and comes partly, I think, from having height ... 'in your face' height. So, turn the corner and there is a big palm right next to the narrow grassy path. The feeling is of a lush, exotic jungle. Leaves are generally big, and there is variety of form, texture and colour, all jostling together.


Me, I'm a simple soul, striving for an exuberant cottage garden crammed with roses, lupins and sweet peas. It's the flowers which do it for me, the colours and form, and the plants themselves. I love to collect individual plants , so none of that ' three the same' nonsense for me ! The beds are edged with small plants and other plants are graded in height behind them so it's a bit scary when the rules are changed, torn up, thrown away, as they are in the Exotic garden.




The Gunnera breaks all the rules, and is the undisputed king of the garden. One leaf can easily measure a metre across. It is a plant which suffered dreadfully in the winter of 2010, and, although it was not killed off, it had a severe setback, and is still returning to its former glory. 


The banana is a new addition this season, and is 'Musa Cavendish Dwarf', a variety which is frost tender, so we will need to cosset it through the cold weather. For a 'Dwarf', it's quite a size already !




The sub tropical garden is my husband's baby, created over the last 20 years and nurtured through the vagaries of the English climate. In the appallingly cold winter of 2010 we lost so many of our big palms, cordylines and tree ferns. Not only heart breaking, but very expensive too. The lost plants have been replaced now but it has taken all this time to get things back on track. We had been accepted by the 'Yellow Book' for the second year running, to open our garden under the NGS scheme, but the damage was so bad we had to pull out.



The Exotic garden wakes up slowly, and when the rest of the garden is bright eyed and bushy tailed, it is still yawning from its long winter sleep. The tree ferns just do it to worry us, they steadfastly refuse to show any new growth at all until we are totally convinced that they are dead and then, overnight, they gleefully put out new fronds.We discovered that if you dig about gently, you can feel the bumps of tightly furled new fronds deep inside the trunk, before they begin to grow. We spend a lot of time in Spring feeling about for those little bumps, and doing little jaunty celebration dances when we think we find one.




The  'jungle' effect in the Sub - tropical garden is created by close planting a variety of plants, which, although looking exotic, are, for the most part, totally hardy. Certain focus plants are tender, but the majority are tough, spit- in - the - face- of -frost sort of plants . The backbone of the garden consists of ferns, Fatsia Japonica (Castor Oil plant), Hostas, grasses, Ligularia and bamboos. 





Ligularia 'Desdemona'


This Aeonium  is one of the many babies we have, from a single mother plant. They are so easy to propagate, using a sharp knife to separate them from the main stem of the parent, they then root easily in gritty well drained compost.




Hostas - the large leaved one is 'Sum and Substance', the other is not known.


Various ferns and a young Ligularia 'Desdemona'.



Below are photos showing two new areas which are in the process of being planted. Although difficult to make out, there is a row of Fatsias planted at the back, which will provide a glossy evergreen backdrop, in a few years time. There are also young hostas and ferns, newly planted in there, and another Gunnera too. This Gunnera is a smaller variety than 'Manicata' and is called 'Tintoria'.


The other new area contains a white Crinum, Lobelia Cardinalis, ferns and Brunnera. The fern on the left is 'Polysticum Plumosum', and the Brunnera is 'Macrophylla Floraison'.


The character of this part of the garden is very different to all the other areas, and it is a very restful place to spend time ... which is why I have my hammock set up there !!






















32 comments:

  1. Well I think it's a lovely part of the garden. I'm hoping I can establish a tree fern down here.. eventually! It's sad to hear about your losses in 2010, I remember how cold it was.

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    1. Hi Rusty Duck and thanks for comments. I love spending time down there ! 2010 was horrendous, unlike this last winter which was ridiculously mild.

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  2. Wow! What a beautiful and unexpected sight.The work and dedication to maintaining an area so "out of the box" has to be staggering........ Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Thanks, Flower Freak, I take no credit at all for it, it is all my partner's work... I just lie in the hammock and enjoy!!

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  3. I too prefer flowers over foliage. However, this part of the garden is wonderful. The different heights and textures, amongst other things, work great together.

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    1. Thanks for kind comments Mystic Dreamer. I shall pass them on to the man who does all the hard work in that part of the garden !!

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  4. I think it's a great example of how to use form and foliage texture to great effect in planting design. I love flowers too but every garden needs its peaceful green place.

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    1. Hi Catherine, thank you for your kind comments. For me, the flowers win every time, but even they need the underpinning of carefully planned foliage.

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  5. I'm overwhelmed. What a gorgeous retreat you have there. How I wish our climate was warm enough for even a fraction of these plants. While I love my flowers there's something very cozy about all those tropical beauties tucked in together. Thanks for the peek.

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    1. Hi Marguerite. I also long for the plants which I am unable to grow in this climate ! I positively drool over the photos on blogs from hot, sunny countries !!

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  6. Jane, what a wonderful part of your garden and as you can imagine it is the part that is most akin to ours. Thoroughly enjoyed reading your post and admired every photo of your gorgeous jungle!

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    1. Hi Mark & Gaz, glad you enjoyed a closer look at this part of the garden. We are always interested in your choice of plants and planting, so your comments mean a lot !

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  7. My gosh! A sub-tropical garden? Your husband's? Good job! I love everything that is in this garden. I wish I have it haha... Btw those hostas are stars :-D

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    1. Hi Stephanie. I love hosts too, and they are one of the most important elements of this garden. It is all my husband's work - I just enjoy the results !

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  8. I love it. We have a few of the plants that you mention but not combined as youts are - we don;t have the space.

    I know just what you mean about tree ferns being a worry , however ours is past worrying about as it failed after the winter of 2010 . It wasn't removed though as I developed a cheat around it!

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    1. Hi Sue. Tree ferns are very scary plants to be responsible for ! It is like babysitting someone else's baby ... a constant worry that something might go wrong !!

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  9. What a lovely green oasis, I do love foliage gathered together like that, contrasting with each other. I'm not surprised this is where your hammock is, it must be so peaceful there.

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  10. Hi Pauline. It is a very tranquil place and a little nap in the hammock is most welcome ! this year, for the first time in about 15 years, the silence is broken by a cuckoo !

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  11. What a glorious garden your husband has created, and yes, the perfect spot for a hammock, so calm and restful. I love it.

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    1. Hi janet. My husband has put his heart and soul into this garden, and I learn a lot from his planting ... from the depths of the hammock !!

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  12. Every time I see a palm tree in England, it seems so bizarre. I thought England was cold and drizzly. But it definitely looks like a fabulous place to hang out. All you need are some coconuts and a few monkeys!

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    1. Hi Tammy, your view of England is not far wrong, but you have missed out the fog and the frosts !! Seriously ... the sun does shine sometimes, honestly! A few monkeys and coconuts though, now you're talking ! I'll see what I can do , but, failing that, will some grey squirrels and some hazelnuts suffice ?

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  13. Your husband is very creative, Jane. He did a great work and now you can lying in your hammock look at all this beauty! I perfectly understand you when you see died plants after cold time. Here in our northern climate I lose some plants every spring, waiting when they will awake and then throw them out. Yes, it's expensive to have Sub-tropical garden in England as just roses in my garden.

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  14. Hi Nadezda, thankyou for your kind comments. I bet you are prepared to lose precious plants most years, in your climate. Can you grow roses or is it just too difficult ?

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  15. Hi Jane. Regarding the pink LOV......it is just as fragrant as the white. I have only one that has bloomed but when there are a cluster of them they look much "pinker". Why they aren't more popular is a mystery.......I see them in garden catalogs a lot.

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    1. I must look out for them in catalogues & nurseries over here !

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  16. Lovely! There is so much texture in this part of your garden! I love flowers too but if the focus does fall on the foliage I like it to be dramatic. Like that Gunnera ... gorgeous!

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  17. Hi Sunita and thanks for your comments. The gunnera continues to grow this season, as the conditions are perfect for it ... wet and warm!

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  18. What a beautiful garden, and such a wide variety of plants too.

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  19. Hi jacktowerss and many thanks for your comments !

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Thanks for visiting and reading.
I really welcome comments and have learned much from them, over the years of leaning over the virtual garden gate ...