‘Houseplants’ for the Garden!
05 July 2014 - by Lizzy Browne

Another wet day (as predicted by weather forecaster extraordinaire Piers Corbyn  of www.weatheraction.com) so I’ve just cheered myself up with a  little retail therapy, buying some plants for our Exotic Garden. You would  normally think of these particular acquisitions as houseplants but there’s no  reason why they can’t be bedded out for the summer and brought in for the  winter, just like the cannas. Will Giles (www.exoticgarden.com) has been doing it for years. 

It was  difficult at the wholesalers, not to get carried away, but fortunately, I was in  my little car with dog and baby seat on board so space was limited.

Here’s  what I got!


Asplenium nidus – such juicy looking leaves, they remind me of  Kelp. These will need a shady position so I could be tempted to place these in  the Tree Fern Garden, adjacent to the Exotic Garden, perhaps on the apple trees  or maybe on the tree fern trunks themselves, attached with wires and sphagnum  moss.


Begonia rex – beautiful black, red and purple variegation. We have  hardy Begonias at Urban Jungle such as Begonia grandis evansiana, Metallic Mist  and Argentina and half-hardy sutherlandii, but these Begonia rex look super  exotic and colourful. Again, they’ll perform best in shade as the leaves would  become scorched and discoloured in the sun. I’ll probably plant these near the  entrance, where they’ll be in the shade of the Cupressus and Musa basjoo for  most of the day.


Crotons (Codiaeum) – I tried to buy some really amazing red and  black variegated Crotons but they were earmarked for another customer so I had  to settle for these which are a handsome orange and green.


I was never a huge fan of crotons until I went to Jamaica and saw  vast swathes of them at Hope Botanics. If only they would grow to such majestic  proportions in the UK.


They won’t. Nevertheless, they’ll make gorgeous shrublets and add  yet another texture to the garden. While we’re on the subject of Hope Botanics –  I thought you might to gawp and drool over this photo of their amazing Royal  Palms!


Bromeliads – I picked up some red, yellow and orange flowered  Guzmania, in full flower but the flowers usually last for months anyway.


My favourite of all though is the bromeliad Aechmea fasciata: It’s  a really popular house plant and very easy to grow and should be equally easy  outdoors provided it gets a little shade and we keep the rosettes filled with  rain water. The combination of silver/grey leaves and pink bracts with blue  flowers is rather special.


Maranta – The Prayer Plant, so called because the leaves turn up  as the light falls in the evening. I have three of these at home on various  windowsills and know how easy they are to grow. They should make excellent  ground cover in the shade. We’ll dig these up, along with the other tropical  bedding plants in October, before the nights get too cold, and try to  over-winter them in a heated greenhouse. We’ll probably not heat too much more  than 5 or 6 degrees centigrade but most of the above plants have a reasonable  chance of survival if kept dry. Or we could spoil them rotten at home and bring  them back to the nursery next summer. 


We got the rain we were praying for and with the warmth and  humidity you can almost hear the plants growing. The Exotic Garden is almost  planted – just a few finishing touches to the planting. The paths need  re-barking and we haven’t decided yet on what to use to top the obelisks –  perhaps England footballs! Oh yes – and a name for the garden.

 
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