Dreaming of wandering in a garden of tropical paradise? You don’t need to travel to an island to escape the pressures of modern life — when you have a resort-style garden, every day is like a holiday.
Dress your yard with south-of-the-border style by embracing a tropical garden design in planting areas. Tropical gardens boast colorful plants with exotic blooms and flamboyant foliage that transform any outdoor space into an equatorial oasis. Tropical garden designs sizzle with lavish growth as the temperature soars. Discover some ideas for tending your own tropical paradise.
While it’s fun to pick out tropical ornamentals for your garden, some important key components such as heat, humidity, good soil, and moisture are essential to consider.
When summer heat sends you scurrying indoors for air conditioning, tropical gardens stage outstanding growth. Tropical plants thrive in heat and humidity, so it’s best to site a tropical garden where warmth multiplies, potentially the Philippines.
Most tropical plants crave moisture, and the more you give them, the bigger they’ll grow. Create a tropical garden design near a water source, so you won’t have to drag a hose to the garden during dry periods. Tropical plants typically require soil that’s rich in organic matter. Be sure to work adequate organic matter, such as soil conditioner, finished compost, or composted manure, into soil prior to planting. Soil that’s high in organic matter don't need water as frequently, which will save you a little hose time during peak growth.
Water is critical for tropicals in containers. During peak summer heat, be sure to check soil daily for dryness, and water as needed. Some tropicals need so much water that it’s best to slip pots into deep saucers or tubs that you can top off as needed.
The sound of trickling water is a classic attribute of tropical settings, so plan to include a water feature in your tropical garden design. You can opt for structures like a pool area, a spa, a hot tub or even just a pond. If your space is really limited, then a fountain will do. Choose a simple wall or freestanding fountain, or invest a water garden that can host potted tropicals like Egyptian papyrus, elephant ears, bird-of-paradise or canna lilies.
Combining brightly colored foliage is the key to achieving a tropical look. For maximum impact, position plants with red, yellow, orange, pink, purple and lime-green leaves next to each other. Colorful flowers, such as fragrant frangipani, heavenly hibiscus, ornamental ginger and dramatic canna lilies will warm up the front yard garden and provide further contrast to the vibrant ground-dwelling foliage and green canopy.
Accessorize your tropical garden design by including touches that ooze calypso charm. Consider blazing tiki torches, potted orchids, and twinkling lights. A hammock or rope swing provides island-style seating, or choose weather-resistant wicker for an equatorial ambience. For more substantial furniture, select teak or shorea pieces. Both offer weather-resistance and durability, although shorea delivers these traits at a more affordable price. Include cushions outfitted with sunny tropical fabrics.
For the most part, tropical gardens rely on foliage rather than flowers to create interest year round. Foliage should be flamboyant, lively and colorful, and plants must be chosen on the basis of the size, shape and texture of their leaves. Planting in groups of odd numbers (three, five, seven and nine) is a common trick employed by garden designers — it gives a broad brushstroke of color and texture, and makes a huge difference to the feel of the garden. Placing plants with contrasting foliage next to each other will create drama and interest.
Moreover, a selection of perfectly placed palms and bamboo is essential for achieving a tropical look. Although they’re often criticized for growing too big or escaping, palms and bamboo will benefit the style and mood of the garden — they provide the rustle of foliage in the wind, furnish your garden with a fern-like ceiling and dense green walls, and do a great job of privacy screening. There are a million varieties to choose from, so visit a specialist palm or bamboo nursery where you can seek expert advice.
If you love to cook, try growing Asian herbs and spices in your tropical garden. Not only do they contribute wonderful flavors and aromas to a wide variety of dishes, they smell fantastic in the garden and help deter pests. Cardamom, kaffir lime, lemongrass, coriander and mint will grow well among tropical shrubs in cool, moist spots.
Don’t expect a tropical garden to be maintenance-free. Anyone who gardens in a warm, high-rainfall climate like the Philippines’ knows that plants explode out of the ground during wet periods. They must be pruned into submission or they’ll take over. The need for constant housekeeping means a good pair of secateurs is essential — use them to regularly tidy up any brown foliage, dead palm fronds and spent flowers.
Feed your garden with a mulch of organic manure each spring and spray all the foliage with a seaweed solution once every season to keep the plants robust and strong. In tropical gardens, it’s best to keep the lawn area small — time spent mowing and weeding the lawn is wasted time!
Hiring a professional designer is well worth the money — not only is the end result visually alluring, any potential problems can be addressed at the start. Colorful vistas, linear pathways and focal points create the structure of the garden and help link indoor rooms with outdoor spaces. Formal paths and straight garden beds contrast with the jungle plantings, while luscious palms, colorful foliage, timber furniture, Balinese lanterns and brightly covered cushions complete the resort style. All of these fun and smart ideas can be incorporated to your tropical garden with the guidance of a professional landscape designer.