A customer at our Beccles nursery approached me last week after wandering through our Mediterranean borders and said ‘I want my garden to look like this – why doesn’t everyone grow these plants?’ That comment made me appreciate the huge difference between gardens planted with the ‘traditional’ range of plants (or the ones that are easily mass produced by commercial horticulture), and a large composition of the more unusual species, such as we have at Beccles.


Viewing our display beds through my customers eyes made me think about writing this blog. We are so familiar with them here at Urban Jungle that its easy to forget just how different the garden looks, due to the sheer number of unfamiliar and exceptional species we’ve planted together, so we invite you to come and see for yourself

The next question our customer asked, with what I detected as a slight tone of suspicion was, ‘But do these plants really grow in the UK?’, to which we replied that our garden was indeed a living example. At Beccles we have a fantastic open sunny site and fairly dry climate, more coastal in character than at our other branch in Norwich, so we have chosen species that will thrive in those conditions. At our Costessey branch near Norwich we have planted species more suited to woodland, or rain forest as we like to think. We believe this is one of the most important aspects of gardening; understanding your growing conditions and making the most of them, and then apply the UJ style…push the boundaries a bit!

We’ve had plants in flower in the Med beds right through the winter and now have a mass of different colours and scents, and we’ve chosen species that will continue the display for the rest of the year. The abundance of flowers is arranged around a solid backbone of striking architectural foliage that is almost all evergreen, and we’ve included some highly scented species so that the garden engages our customers with the widest spectrum of stimuli throughout the year.

Our garden is arranged in five raised beds built with rockery stone, each one has a different colour scheme and group of structural plants. You can walk right around each bed looking at the composition from every angle – a real challenge for the composition of species. The soil at Urban Jungle Beccles is heavy clay, so building up the beds and adding lots of gravel and grit to the soil was essential, but it also gave us the chance to use the rockery stone to drape plants over it. We have the succulent foliage and neon bright flowers of Lampranthus in red, pink and orange hanging over the stones, and Sedums and Sempervivums are beginning to grow into their niches as well as Aloes aristata and striatula.

The starting point for the design of our garden was the structural plants – the bones if you like, around which all the flowering plants would be arranged. Olive trees frame the paths between the beds and Butia palms make the central features in some, Yucca filifera in another, and a group of Nolina and Yucca rostrata in another. There are some plants that appear in most of the beds, for continuity and to reinforce the overall Mediterranean character, such as Cordylines in different forms, and Cupressus sempervirens – the iconic Cypress tree. We’re still adding recently acquired treasures such as Callistemon pinifolius ‘Green Form’, but we’ll leave you with this shot of Kareem planting a Quiecus suber (cork oak) last week. That sky…

‘Why doesn’t everyone grow these plants?’