Island Gardens

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HELLO ALL AND WELCOME BACK TO THE FIRST ISLAND GARDENS OF 2021. TODAY WE’RE LOOKING AT THE EXCITING AND EASY PROJECT OF CREATING YOUR OWN TROPICAL GARDEN.

In October, my beautiful partner and I bought a new home together. The first request I remember was “let’s have a tropical garden” and when you love someone so much, of course – yes is a wonderful word. Between you and me, a tropical garden is exactly what I wanted too.

Firstly, we cleared the old shrubs and started from scratch (first photo). We then removed some of the sandy soil and brought in a 20cm layer of fresh, fertilized garden soil on top of a whole bunch of extra fertilizer in the form of chicken poop pellets. This was much to the delight of all our neighbours, isn’t that right May? Also delighted was one of our puppies Rebel – the photobomb queen pictured here.

There are so many plants that can be used to create a tropical garden. To keep it simple, I’m going to focus here on the plants that I’ve been able to find easily in the Bribie area.

Many tropical plants need a fair bit of shade. To help, we’ve chosen some partially established golden cane palms. They can be kept short, meaning no hard-to-reach seed pods in years to come. I also love them because they are so versatile. Left unattended for years, they become unruly but with only occasional maintenance, they can be shaped to whatever configuration you desire. We want a few tall stems to cast shade and not so much of the bushy lower-centres that many people prefer for screening. In our case, the fence provides privacy anyway and being able to see the fence behind the plants adds depth to a fairly narrow garden space. A lickety-split philodendron is near the left. It can grow to 2 metres, casting shade when the lower leaves are trimmed. Just like its smaller cousin the xanadu, it’s lush, lime-green foliage is a nice contrast to the reddish calatheas and cordyline on either side.

Coleus, mini-agapanthas, portulacas, a money tree, dark cordyline and small purply ficus all adorn other spaces here. A bird of paradise (strelitzia) is being added soon. You may have noticed we put a lovely rojo congo there just behind Rebel. It needs more shade than it’s currently getting so I’ll move this one and think about planting a new one there when the palms get bigger. And inspired by one of my customers – thanks Dee – we’ve trailed plants over and between the rocks. Dichondra (both green and silver), some sun-tolerant ferns, bromeliads, gypsophila (baby’s breath), violet and red-flowering vincas, swedish ivy and other presently mysterious plants found at markets all have their place in this space.

Turf is coming soon, which will complete this area. Happy days. See you in issue 133 on 10th February. Thanks for reading and as always, happy gardening.