I have been enjoying my exotic garden for months now and it is still looking great. Actually, I never know what to call it because it is not really exotic or tropical, it is just brightly coloured and full of dramatic foliage. I call it my Rousseau garden because it is inspired by one of his imaginary landscapes such as the one depicted in ‘The Dream’. Obviously it has no lions or naked ladies and a lot of the plants are hardy but I wanted to create a lush, jungly feel.
I have used a combination of hardy plants, tender ones and annuals. The tall variegated grass Variegated Aruno donax ‘Variegata’ is a perfect foil for the huge leaves of Tetrapanax papyrifer which comes from Taiwan.
The variegated canna and the abutilon in the above picture are not hardy although I did leave the abutilon in and it died off but came back. Obviously I took cuttings as a precaution.
Shefflera taiwaniana is another attractive foliage plant. It has not reliably hardy, especially when young but I got mine through last winter with no problems. It likes the protection of other plants because it can’t cope with cold wind. I grow it in front of the giant grass, Arundo donax and this part of the garden is very sheltered.
I grew Melia azedarach from seed picked up in Greece six years ago and I was delighted to find that it survived the winter outside.
Other dramatic foliage is provided by a hardy banana, Musa basjoo. Although the roots are hardy it has to be wrapped up for the winter.
Cannas make dramatic punctuation points and they are easy from seed. At least they would be if they didn’t have bullet-like shells which inhibit germination. You are advised to scrape off some of the seed coat with a knife or sandpaper. This of course depends whether you prefer to cut your fingers or scratch the skin off your finger tips. I have done both and neither method is very successful and I never get a very good germination rate.
I particularly like the bold leaves of the banana leaf canna, Canna musifolia.
I also like the white variegated one called Canna ‘Stuttgart’ which is still rather small from seed but next year I hope it will have its showy orange flowers.
I have to bring the cannas inside in winter and I have made work for myself by falling for a tender shrub with dark pointed leaves which also needs winter protection. It is called Pseudopanax ‘Sabre’ and as it gets bigger I know I shall regret buying it.
I like the variegated foliage of Yucca gloriosa ‘Variegata’. If it blooms it will be a bonus but I love its spiky foliage.
I have planted Eucalyptus gunni and in the spring I will coppice it so that it will keep its small juvenile leaves. I have a golden bean tree, Catalpa bignonioides ‘Aurea’ and a foxglove tree, Paulownia tomentosa both which will be cut down every year now they are established so that I will get the monster leaves.
Annuals here include Cuphea heterophylla, nasturtiums, Mirabilis jalapa, Nicotiana ‘Tinkerbelle’ Coreopsis tinctoria ‘Roulette’, Ricinus communis ‘Carmencita’, Ipomoea lobata, Rudbecki, Black Eyed Susie, Thunbergia alata, Antirrhinum ‘Black prince‘ and quite a few others. Tithonia is sadly missing this year as slugs ate every single seedling.
Dahlias provide most of the colour, I don’t know how I managed without them for so many years. Still I have visitors who don’t like them and seem to find them a bit vulgar or something. What else blooms from July until the first frost and keeps the garden looking wonderful into the autumn? What’s not to like apart from the earwigs? I always tell people who profess not to like them to try and forget their prejudices and look at them with fresh eyes as if they have never seen them before. Here are a few of mine. I haven’t included any of my own seedlings because I want to have a final drool over some of my favourite seed grown ones in a separate post.
I also have ferns, hostas, begonias and so much more planted here, but that is enough for today. Life has been a bit hectic lately because just a few days after I got back from Greece I had to pack my bag again for a trip to Shropshire with my gardening friends to see some fabulous gardens. But now I am home and looking forward to catching up with the blogging world.