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The tropic of West Kent

If you don’t get a free copy of the Town Crier magazine – here is my June article

Photo Hardy exotic plantsIt is easier to create a tropical-looking garden in our temperate climate than you might think and does not require without a greenhouse to protect all the plants in winter.  Choose plants with a strong architectural shape or big leaves but survive temperatures down to at least -10oC for the permanent planting and add a few spectacular flowering tender plants in the summer.  These latter need to spend the winter indoors or be treated as traditional summer bedding and composted when the frost comes.  Plant densely and use groundcover under taller plants – think Jungle.

Hardy ‘exotics’ for the structure: Bamboo, choose a form such as golden or black Phyllostachys that will not overrun; Fatsia japonica and the hardiest Palms. A purple leaved grape vine will add a suitably jungle climber effect although the grapes are not edible.

Hardy perennials: plenty of striking foliage from Bergenia cordifolia (Elephant’s ears); Hostas, Phormium (New Zealand flax); hardy ferns contrasting with the tall yellow & red flowers of Eremurus (Fox tail lilies) and Red hot pokers.

Summer stars: This is where the main flower power comes from and they will not make it through the winter outside: Canna Lily; Dahlias (right back in fashion), Gladioli, tuberous Begonias and whatever takes your fancy in the bedding plant display.  Bougainvillea and many other houseplants are happy outside in summer: simply place the plant in the border to hide the pot with other vegetation.

Just add a deckchair and a long, iced drink for a perfect exotic ‘staycation’ moment in your own garden.

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