Why grow Exotic plants in the UK?
Our gardens are a great place to escape the normality of the day to day things, work and all the other distractions. The garden provides a relaxing, safe space to escape and immerse yourself in a different world. You don’t need to be a professional gardener with all the answers to start growing exotic and tropical plants, as most of the information you need is at your fingertips online or in the many amazing books on the subject, the trick is just to get started and not be too precious about things dying or not looking quite as imagined! Be happy that some plants will just die, no matter what you do, and it’s often the ones you forget about that actually do the best. There is nothing better than watching something grow and change through the seasons, and it will bring you immense joy I can guarantee. There is also the great satisfaction of growing plants that no one one your street is growing to the same extent you are, this never gets old! “You’re growing BANANAS?!” Uh huh yep!
There is always something for everyone, no matter your interests or skill level, just get started. It also suits the gardener that wants the garden looking prim and proper all year round with sharp tidy edges and not a leaf to be seen out of place – and then there are the experimental gardeners amongst us, who grow big things, large things, things that take over and go wild in our gardens to create that all encompassing jungle effect.
There are also exotic plants to cater for those who want to spend more time, and for those that don’t. Those that want to spend some time in the winter getting the more tender plants through the ice and snow, and those that don’t want that hassle. Hopefully we can show and guide you some of the plants that would be suitable for you.
There are so many tender exotic plants that can create a massive show in their very first year in your garden, such as canna plants, gingers, colocasia etc, all that get massive before you’ve even thought about it. However some of these plants are generally overwintered in a frost-free basement, cool room, or even a garage. If you have a conservatory, or a warm bathroom – we have used almost all rooms in the house in some years…!
For a plant to be deemed exotic, I think it should improve the garden in a way that changes the overall feel of the garden. Using different textures, colours and heights to create pockets of interest, and jungle like areas can transform even the smallest garden into a majestic jungle. The more effort you can put in through the winter, the more impressive display you can have through the summer. It seems like hard work, but it doesn’t have to be. You’ll be looking forward to the end of the summer when plants are at their largest and about to be cut down by frosts, months after the standard UK garden has already lost all majesty.
There has been so much experimentation by exotic gardeners over the last few decades, that the information is quickly changing. New plants are found, cultivated and put on sale, offering you more choices and more history to know what may or may not be perfect for your chosen position. So many more hybrids and cultivars are available, and although gardening has gotten a lot more expensive in the last few years, there is no doubt you can still do it on a shoestring if you have time and patience and dedication. It’s quite amazing what you can grow from seed in just a few years, believe me I have done it myself!
With so many options, from a lush palm grove nested at the end of your garden reflecting the even sun, or a hardy garden full of plants that you don’t need to do anything with in the winter – it’s all available. Get yourself a small polytunnel, or an insulated greenhouse and a cheap heater and literally the world is at your feet. The possibilities are endless. I love how tree ferns, and the Tetrapanax make it seem like you’re in a Jurassic forest, lost from civilisation. From a Victorian fernery, through to a palm fringed border, even a Californian sharp edged architectural featured garden – it’s all doable with a creative idea.
If you are wanting a more edgy, architectural looking garden then look no further than some of the palm species, or sharp angular grasses to hold those shapes. Using texture and shape can totally transform your garden. Or just have an area for each, one lush area, and perhaps an arid spiky architectural area in a different spot in the garden. Another thing to think about is the smells of the flowers, think about where you might sit in the evenings, and which way the wind blows, the look and the textures combined with the smells truly will transport you off to a distant country whilst sitting in your own back garden.
Once you start getting your eye in for exotic and tropical plants, you do start to notice them in your local surroundings, Our local council often plants palms and cannas on local roundabouts, what a treat considering the usual run of the mill grasses used there.
So much to do, so little time.