Get the tropical look

Create a tropical feel to your garden with award-winning gardener Geoff Stonebanks.

jungle garden
It's easy to get the jungle look in your garden with a few choice plants. Image: Geoff Stonebanks
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Almost anyone can create a tropical feel to their garden, no matter where they are located. I’m very lucky to be by the sea and tropical looking plants look amazing in the gravel beds, but they also look equally at home in containers on a patio, on a balcony or in a small courtyard garden. To get you started and give you some ideas, I’ve chosen a few of my personal favourites that have worked well for me at Driftwood.

Aloe striatula
Aloe striatula

Aloe striatula

The first is Aloe striatula, a sturdy climbing aloe, that naturally occurs on the summits of mountains along the south of the Karoo region of South Africa. Despite its tropical look, it’s tough and hardy, with orange-yellow flowers. It is a popular plant in gardens around the world and looks great, especially if you can get it to flower! I’ve managed it on one of the two large clumps I’ve got in the back garden.

Eucomis

Another great favourite is the Eucomis (pineapple flower) which certainly looks exotic and very tropical, with its blooms being crowned by a tuft of leaves. They are, in fact, quite easy to grow. Try them in containers on the patio and in the conservatory, or in a sunny border in your garden. I have chosen to keep mine in pots, then I can overwinter them in the greenhouse.

Succulents

aeoniums
Aeoniums in Geoff’s garden

Succulents are very trendy and this summer, there have been lots of lovely comments in the visitors’ book, about my display of succulents by the summerhouse. Among them are these stunning aeoniums.  They too create a tropical feel and are really easy to grow and propagate, so you can soon increase your stock. One of my all time favourites though has to be Agave americana. I have over 20, all different sizes and all in terracotta containers. Due to the wet winters here by the sea, I prefer to keep them under cover to prevent their crowns rotting so I can just lift the container and transfer it to a side alley that has a roof over it. I have an Agave ovatifolia, or whale’s tongue agave. I bought it a couple of years ago and it is growing really well. The only downside, they do have every sharp needle ends to the leaves which I sometimes have to trim off to avoid visitors getting pricked with them as they walk by.

Oleander

Get yourself some real tropical shrubs with an eye-catching oleanders. This evergreen shrub is one of the UK’s favourite and easiest to grow exotics. The sweetly fragrant, funnel shaped blooms flower through the summer and well into autumn, followed by fascinating bean-like seed pods, I’ve got a pink one and a red one. Like the agaves, I have them in containers so I can move them under cover for the winter. 

Tree fern
Tree fern

Tree fern

A real statement tropical plant though has to be the beautiful tree fern. I bought one a few years ago and put it in a pot close to the pond! It looks stunning each summer flaunting it’s beautiful fronds for all to see. I have to put it in the greenhouse for the winter but it’s well worth the effort of carrying it up there.

Geoff Stonebanks

About Geoff Stonebanks

Geoff Stonebanks lives in Bishopstone, near Seaford in East Sussex and spends all his time gardening and fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support. Using his multi award-winning garden - Driftwood - he has raised over £95,000 for various charities in 8 years, £56,000 of that for Macmillan. The garden, which first opened to the public in 2009 has featured on BBC2 Gardeners' World, Good Morning Britain and in many national and local media publications. In his spare time, Geoff is also the National Garden Scheme's Social Media & Publicity Chair as well as an Assistant County Organiser & Publicity Officer in East & Mid Sussex.
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