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Garden Design

Design elements – tropical gardens

Marianne Cannon

Marianne Cannon

December 21, 2012

I talk with Louise McDaid, landscape designer, about tropical gardens to suit any climate. Your whole garden doesn’t have to be tropical. If you live in a cooler or arid area, you might have a tropical theme within your garden style, finding plants from suitable microclimates with that tropical style.

Tropical gardens Part 1: Going tropical around the pool

RealWorldGardener - tropical poolsWhat do you think of when the word ‘tropical’ garden is said? Swaying palms, coloured cocktail drinks with umbrellas in them, or lying in a hammock swaying gently in the breeze? Maybe dipping your toes into a pool….

Perhaps you did all these things on your last holiday to a tropical isle, but wait, you can have it at home as well. Maybe not all of it, but at least some of the features.


Tropical gardens Part 2: Entertaining

RealWorldGardener - tropical garden entertainingIn a lot of places in Australia, the days have begun to be quite warm, so thinking of tropical plants for an area in the garden suddenly has become quite appealing. Even if you live in an arid zone or cool temperate area, you can still achieve that tropical look with plants that grow well in your local district. Knowing how to arrange them is the key to achieving that tropical look, and around the entertainment area, it might be de rigeuer.

The whole garden doesn’t have to be tropical; you can add a tropical touch here and there with plants that are suited to the climate you live in, creating places in your garden where you like to sit and read or think.


Tropical gardens Part 3: Coastal gardens

RealWorldGardener heliconiasTropical gardens seem to fit hand in glove in coastal areas, because when we think of beach, we often like imagining that we’re in an exotic location with the lushness of a tropical oasis.

It’s important to remember that windbreaks and creating microclimates will help establish large leaved plants that might not thrive or do that well to start off with. But with a bit of planning, I’m sure you can get that tropical look for your coastal garden. Close planting is the key, and layering.

Let’s find out how to create this near the coast…


Tropical gardens Part 4: Cool climates

RealWorldGardener cool climate tropical gardenRainforests are found throughout the world, not only in tropical regions, but also in temperate regions like Tasmania and mountainous regions in Victoria and New South Wales.

Montane rainforests are like tropical gardens in cool temperate areas, so it’s not such a stretch to consider planting or designing with the tropical look in cool climates. Montane rainforests have quite a lot of year-round rainfall, are mostly above 1,000 metres and mostly have a canopy layer but don’t have the year-round warmth and sunlight associated with tropical rainforests.

Just like in coastal gardens, windbreaks and creating microclimates will help establish tropical plants that might not thrive otherwise. But with a bit of planning, I’m sure you can get that tropical look for your mountain garden. Close planting is the key, and layering.

Let’s find out more….



Tropical gardens Part 5: Wildlife

RealWorldGardener tropical wildlifeWildlife and rainforests just go together like peas in a pod. Rainforests are essentially nature’s tropical garden but now only cover less than 2 percent of the Earth’s surface. Yet rainforests house more than 50 percent of the plants and animals on Earth. Here’s some ideas that might get you interested in creating that tropical space in your garden. Rainforests have 170,000 of the world’s 250,000 known plant species. You’ve probably heard of Madagascar, which has around 500 species. And an area of rainforest the size of two football fields (one hectare) may have more than 400 species of trees.

And why do tropical forests and gardens attract so many creatures? The canopy structure of the rainforest provides an lots of places for plants to grow and animals to live. The canopy gives sources of food, shelter and hiding places, providing for interaction between different species. For example, bromeliads that store water in their leaves allow frogs and other animals to use these pockets of water for hunting and laying their eggs. So why not grow a tropical area in your garden to attract wildlife?

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