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A tropical style garden – Part 2

By Sereba Agiobu-Kemmer
18 December 2021   |   2:35 am
Many tropical plants are distinctive and dramatic in their sculptural or architectural forms and bright colours. They can be used as specimen plants for focal points and special attraction in the garden.

Living Sculpture
Many tropical plants are distinctive and dramatic in their sculptural or architectural forms and bright colours. They can be used as specimen plants for focal points and special attraction in the garden. Plants can also be used to make topiaries, such as bougainvillea hedges or topiary, which flower incessantly and better with regular trimming. Hibiscus and Ixora are also plants that hedge well with glamorous flowers. Many palm species are excellent examples, such as strong bismark palm and the smaller silver saw palmetto varieties. Some palms sport red, orange and purple colour in new growth and f4uit, which while stunning can be more difficult in most climates outside the tropics.

But palms also have striking stems that can be single or clumping or coloured, such as lipstick palm (very cold sensitive) and golden cane, which is pretty hardy. Some small bush palms are attractive, such as ladies’ fingers palm (rhapis palm), which can be variegated. The Victorian tradition of stumpery art is making a comeback in gardens. The art of assemblage of tree stumps or logs installation in a dense mass in which ferns, orchids, bromeliads, tillandsia and other epiphytes can be planted for colour and sculptural aesthetics. Bromeliads are an amazing species that can grow in beds and pots or mounted in trees and wall panels, if it does not freeze. The species offers a riot of colours, forms, patterns and shapes.

Tropical Gardens In Arid And Temperate Climates
When writing about tropical gardens in different climate one must also consider such gardens in extreme climates of drought or cold. Using the country Nigeria as an example, we go northwards as far as the savannah open grasslands which is so different from the dense tropical rainforests of its southern most areas. From the open grasslands of the savannah in the middle belt zone of Nigeria one moves further northwards. Further north with less rainfall, sparsely in some states that are close to desert, the climate is arid, dry and extremely hot. The Fadama agricultural scheme providing year-round irrigation has made it possible to see water-lilies in still water, what is left of streams in scorching hot March, at the height of the dusty dry season, I saw such a spectacular scene on the road between Kebbi and Argungu. Unbelievable, but it is true, and that is in the wilderness. So, one can with care, create a tropical garden with a jungle effect if no one desires in arid climate. It will only cost more in time and maintenance.

But generally, for such a terrain, plants to select and you will not have to miss your siesta are the agaves, succulents as desert-rose, ponytail palms, date palms, architectural cacti.
You can create the oasis-like gardens, “enclosure” or courtyard with water features, like fountains cooling the air, plant “hanging garden,” and simple borders of drought-tolerant plants. Limit the palette using potted versions to breathe vigor and vibrancy into your courtyard and home. Contrast plants and flowers to the earth tones. This can be done with pure green foliage or mass together a tumble of blooms, such as bougainvillea, cactus dahlia and cactus geranium, allamanda.

Have a mix of stately palms and tropical plants. One could design a secret garden with agave type plants, bamboo, small feathery golden palms, for poolside pots, with bird-nest plants, king palms, with small succulent underneath their shade for borders. Use drought tolerant plants such as Black-eyed Susan vine, Euphorbia and Bromeliads. Black-eyed Susan vine (Thurbergia alata) is a perennial and herbaceous plant that is part of the Acanthaceae family. It is a climbing vine native to East Africa, and frequently seen as an ornamental plant in the gardens, also in hanging containers. The vines thrive when grown in partial shade or full sun, and can manage dry, drought conditions. The flowers show up in colors as yellow, orange, red reddish orange. The vines can reach heights between 6-8 feet. Euphorbia is a genus of flowering plants part of the Euphorbiaceace family. Euphorbia generally appear in tropical and subtropical regions of Americans and Africa. Members of the Euphorbia genus are called “spurges”. They are perennial or annual herbs, trees or woody shrubs. The drought-tolerant plants emits a harmful sap (known as latex) that is milky in texture and appearance.

In rare instance the sap appears more yellow than white. Spurges all bear flowers that are unisex and monoecious (meaning the same exact plant produces both male and female flowers). Bromeliads are drought tolerant plants, members of the bromeliaece family. Perhaps the most well known is the pineapple. Another example of a bromeliad plants is Spanish moss. Bromeliads are neotropical plants that only grow in subtropics and tropic of the New World. The plants have diverse types of leaves with some of the leaves appearing as thin as needle, while others appearing very flat and broad. The leaves can be in various different colors, such as green, gold and maroon. Although less common, some bromeliads also have yellow, red, cream or white leaves. Many bromeliads have subtle scents, while others have stronger fragrances. These plants you can include in your garden for their versatility and adaptability.

Have plaited- grass screen or walls surrounding the garden, tropical bedding in smaller areas with concrete or tropical landscaping pool with outdoor plants-plant up to the edge of lazy windingriver made shiny marble or pea gravel.

In the enclosure, the partial shade gives protection from the scorching heat. One can increase the humidity level with a real water feature, such as pool, waterfall or fountain to give moisture and cool air. Thus, a micro-climate is created, like an oasis in the desert.

The Modern Courtyard
START by creating a peaceful garden in a small area as a small courtyard or backyard garden or patio, a little will go a long way. Don’t jump into too many plants, since many will outgrow their space and require trimming or division to keep them, making the garden seem snugger.
Start with solid hardy evergreen for the background. There are plants you know for the tropical aesthetics and their presence creates an instant feeling of the tropical experience, feathery palms and ferns, dracaena, cordylines, broadleaf banana type plants, elephant ears, potted outdoor or indoors.

Non-Tropical Climate
THIS is for gardeners in temperate climates, who are determined to prove that tropical gardens are no longer exclusive to the tropical areas and are adopting the tropical garden design, which is possible through careful choice of plants and flowers. Some tropical species that work well in non-tropical climates include acanthus mollis, Algeria ivy, Canna, Crocosmia (a.k.a. Lucifer), Passiflora Caerulea, Paulownia Tomentosa, Secrecia and Trahycarpus fortunei, fan palm. Palms are an essential ingredient of an exotic tropical garden. Since its introduction to Europe in the 1840s, Trahycarpus fortune, has adapted well to serve cold. It has been known to recover from temperature as low as 18c. it’s a great plant for temperature climate. Tradescantia pallida, purple secretia or wondering jew is a drought resistant plant that can take some light frost. Small pink petals flowers grace it. It grows anywhere. These tropical plants might need to be protected during the cold weather. So, consider confining to a patio and pots, or having them in ceramic urns amid the greenery of the border. You have set a stage where you can enjoy them through the summer months and can easily dismantle and bring indoors until the cold spell is over.

Tropical style gardens can exist anywhere. The key to a healthy tropical garden is lot of light and water and for the soil to be humid at all times.

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