Friday, 15 September 2017

The Exotic Temperate Garden

The Exotic Temperate Garden - All From Seed!

Growing exotics in temperate garden locations is fast becoming a popular challenge with many gardeners.  The rewards can be substantial, with an almost tropical rain forest feel to your garden, but the failures when using specimen plants which have not been tried before or in a new and untested location can lead to a considerabe financial loss as you write off your expensive plant and have to try something else in order to start over.  The way round this is to grow as much as you can from seed. Many tropicals have fantastically fast growth rates, including bananas, gingers and many half hardy types that can be used as annuals.  When growing from seed, you get as many plants to try out as you manage to germinate. With the correct selections and good culture, you can get 80 or 90 percent of your seeds to grow.  Even if a pack only contains 5 seeds, this results in 4 plants to test out your chosen location, so no need ot have all your eggs in one basket - you can try out the location with just one of your seed grown plants and see how it copes and what you have to do to make things work out.  Best case you have a wonderful new exotic to grace your garden, worst case its cost you a few pence and you have lost one of your 4 seedlings - but with more waiting in the wings you can analyse what happened and if you can modify the conditons you can try again for a different outcome.

This way you can experiment time and time again and either modify your garden (as we do with more shade, windbreaks and shelter) as the plants dictate, or learn what can and cannot be grown in your location.

Here are some plants to try - many of these we sell - some we do not, but we are happy to include them here because we are either trying them out or we know they will work.

Ensete - fast growing capable of 1 - 2 metres from seed in year 1  - If you can overwinter, then great, if not, then not to worry, start fresh from seed each year.

Ensete ventricosum - Ethiopian Banana
Ensete glaucum - The Snow Banana

Musella - average growing, very hardy - odd almost alien flowers

Musella lasiocarpa

Musa - large tropical group of true bananas, most of these are hardy to some degree and all can go outside, if only on a temporary basis.  Some of the hardy ones rival or exceed the commonly grown Musa basjoo.

Musa acuminata
Musa balbasiana
Musa bauensis
Musa cheesmanni
Musa coccinea
Muse Helens Hybrid
Musa itinerans
Musa manni
Musa ornata
Musa Red Tiger
Musa sikkimensis
Musa thomsonii
Musa velutina
Musa yunnanensis

But note, no Musa basjoo because as a hybrid, it is only grown from suckers.

Gingers and Relatives

Amonomum subulatum
Canna indica - note this is the species, the hybrids must be grown from divided rhizomes and many are covered by Plant Breeders Rights prohibiting this.
Cautleya gracilis
Cautleya spicata
Costus species
Etlingera species
Hedychium species
Heliconia species
Strelitzia reginae - Bird of Paradise Flower
Strelitzia nicolae - White Bird of Paradise

Most are not fully hardy, but die back to rhizomes that can be overwinted to be grown again next year.

Architectural Plants

Ricinus communis - Fast growing tender perrenial, but remember the seeds are toxic, so if you have children or pets please make a considered choice as to whether this is for your situation. If you can accomodate it, then it is really worthwhile as it will form a backdrop to all of your planting.

Agaves and Relatives - Not quick, but very hardy and tolerant of neglect.  If dry over winter at the roots most can take at least - 10, many much lower.


Many species, but you will need patience.


Asaparagus species - mostly the African types
Gloriosa superba
Ipomoea alba
Ipomoea Grandpa Ott
Ipomoea Blue Star
Ipomoea pes-caprae
Thunbergia alata

With the exception of the first named, all will flower in the first year and can be used as annuals or short lived perrenials.

Border Plants that have an exotic look

Coleus blumei - Flame Nettle
Nasturtium alaska - Flowers and mottled leaves, both are edible
Celosia plumosa
Gazania - great in the sun
Mesembryanthemum - again great in the sun
Linnaria marrocana

Scented Plants

Acacia species (The Australian species work best - the Wattles)
Bauhinia species (Orchid Trees)
Erythrina species (Coral Trees)
Gardenia species
Rothmannia species
Ipomoea alba

Within these lists you will find a large variety of plants that can be grown easily from seed that will bring an exotic touch to a sheltered temperate garden during the warmer months. In areas subject to no frosts (but low temperatures) then the plants in these lists can be left out all year.

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