My Henri Rousseau Garden.

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.

Tetrapanex papyrifer

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.

Abutilon ‘Nabob’ with Dahlia ‘Bishop of Leicester’

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.

Shefflera taiwaniana

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.

Melia azedarach with Dahlia ‘Thomas A. Edison’

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.

Musa basjoo and Tetrapanex papyrifer

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.

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.

Canna ‘Stuttgart’

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.

Pseudopanax ‘Sabre’

I like the variegated foliage of Yucca gloriosa ‘Variegata’. If it blooms it will be a bonus but I love its spiky foliage.

Yucca gloriosa ‘Variegata’

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.

Eucalyptus gunni with Dahlia ‘Honka Fragile’ and Euryops  pectinatus

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.

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32 Responses to My Henri Rousseau Garden.

  1. AWESOME for sure! Lots of great colors​!

  2. Your garden is so full of flowers and it must really keep you busy. I don’t know why anyone would not like dahlias, I would love to grow them if I could. My garden has a jungle look, but not in a good way.

  3. rusty duck says:

    What a floral treat. And the big leaves certainly lend an exotic feel.
    Slugs have defeated virtually all my attempts to grow dahlias. I currently have just four and only then in containers. Two of them did start life out in the garden but had to be dug up again for their own protection. Occasionally I purchase another in the hope that one day I might find the solution. Growing from seed might well be part of it. At least it would be a cheaper way to manage the losses!

    • Chloris says:

      Slugs are a real problem with dahlias specially when they are first emerging. I do use pellets because otherwise I wouldn’t get any dahlias at all. I kept my seed grown dahlias in pots until they were quite big and picked off the slugs every day.

  4. Kris P says:

    The Rousseau Garden strikes me as perfect in both name and execution. An exotic cat or 2 would be a nice addition, though 😉 I don’t know how I got by for so many years without dahlias either. I so wish I could grow big-leaved plants like your Tetrapanax in my own garden. A blogger friend in nearby Long Beach has been successful with it but I killed the seedling a blogger friend in Oregon sent me.

    • Chloris says:

      I have the neighbour’s big tabby hiding there very often looking tiger-like. I have seen your lovely dahlias on your blog. They are such a joy. I am surprised that you can grow them as they need so much water.

  5. Eliza Waters says:

    I always love seeing your posts, Chloris, as you have such a wide variety of interesting and noteworthy plants. Lovely!

  6. Cathy says:

    This is a lovely glimpse into your garden again and I do enjoy seeing all the unusual plants you grow. Fabulous dahlias and I love all that dramatic foliage too. 🙂

  7. Cathy says:

    This if just glorious, Chloris, as you well know! Very different from how it looked when I saw it in February, and perhaps one day I will see it in its more exotic state. I particularly admire the vision you have had, putting it all together and envisaging the bigger picture – unless you are going to tell us you just randomly shoved in things that you liked… What gardens did you visit in Shropshire?

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Cathy. It looked very sad in February but maybe in time I will get it looking good all year round, that will be a challenge.
      We went to Coton Hall in Northamptonshire on the way, then Hodnet Hall. Wollerton Hall and Ashwood nurseries garden. It was a great trip.

      • Cathy says:

        Ooh, what a lovely selection, although I have not yet been to Hodnet or John’s garden at Ashwood. No wonder it was a great trip!

  8. Heyjude says:

    “…a few days after I got back from Greece I had to pack my bag again for a trip to Shropshire ” haha… that made me smile! Love the exotic garden, it really does look fabulous and I envy you the space you have to create such beautiful spaces. A lot of hard work to maintain I imagine. As for Dahlias, I’m afraid although I love the colours and some of the shapes, the slugs, snails and earwigs are far too prolific in my garden and although I tried growing a few this year it has been pretty much a disaster. I shall save the tubers and try them in pots next year and see if that works, otherwise I shall just admire yours.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Jude, it is hard work but I used a membrane to keep down the weeds as I do in all my new areas now. Yes, slugs love dahlias but if you can get them going in pots and plant them out when mature they are not such a problem.

  9. susurrus says:

    Rousseau would love your jungle. I can’t imagine people not liking dahlias either – there are so many to choose from.

  10. Love the combination of bold foliage and colorful dahlias. A delightful garden.

  11. bittster says:

    Fantastic.
    “Obviously it has no lions or naked ladies” -that became less and less obvious as more and more of your dream was revealed. Perhaps the tetrapanax was my favorite, but most everything looks amazing and I can only imagine all the planting and care which went in to this display.
    So much for your roomy greenhouse though. You’ll be sipping your tea while standing and I don’t think you’ll mind at all that the plants are packed all about you.

    • Chloris says:

      Thank you Frank. Yes the Tetrapanex is amazing, I don’t know any other plant with such enormous leaves. Space in the winter greenhouse becomes more of a problem every year.

  12. snowbird says:

    Goodness, it does indeed look lush and jungly, beautiful and colourful too. I love your Dahlias, so many wonderful varieties! Mine are doing well this year, Hopefully you can rest and chill now.xxx

  13. Brian Skeys says:

    It looks stunning Chloris.

  14. You have certainly captured that “lush jungly” atmosphere Chloris. What a glorious creation. I wonder whether a search party might be required a few years down the line. Cathy took the words right out of my mouth by asking which Shropshire gardens did you visit 🙂 I’ve been to both Wollerton Old Hall and Hodnet more than once but the garden at Ashwood nurseries is still on the list. I wonder if you made it to the tearooms at Hodnet which I can never quite relax in.

  15. tonytomeo says:

    Arundo donax happens to be one of the worst weeds in California that not many of us actually see. It infests irrigation canals and natural deltas. Conversely, Yucca gloriosa, as well as other yuccas, really should be more popular here than they are. Some are native to the south.

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