- Page 1 Creating The Exotic Garden – 2011 Season (this page)
- Page 2 Planting The Exotic Garden 2012 Season
- Page 3 New Entrance from Pond / South End 2014 Season
- Page 4 Gallery
When we visited East Ruston Old Vicarage last year we were taken with the Exotic garden. On the strength of that I bought a couple of packets of seeds of Cannas, Brugmansia and Bananas and “had a go!”
At 6 months from seed the Brugs got to the ceiling of our conservatory (about 10′) and flowered in August – and I’ve taken cuttings which will hopefully give us some shorter flowering stock for next year.
The Bananas grew at an extraordinary rate. They are a good 8′ tall.
The Canna’s were a laugh. Last September I was watching Gardeners World and they said that if Cannas are sown in the Autumn they will flower in their first year; but to achieve this they need growing lights through the Winter. A quick Google lead me to spend some interesting hours reading the Cannabis growing forums! and I purchased a Metal Halide growing light; it lit my office in the evening like daylight and I was thrilled to have some gardening to do during the Winter. They weren’t kidding about the first-year-flowering – although I might have got slightly carried away with the advice from the Cannabis growers, my Cannas were 5′ tall by November and flowered AND set seed in December! so from the half dozen seeds I bought I was able to re-sow another crop in January, and give away seeds to friends.
I also sowed some Palms in Spring 2011
So come the Autumn 2011 I started to think about where the exotic garden should be. Once of the main drivers was the fact that the “formal” gardens we are making will take years to establish and mature. The hedges planted last Autumn will be 5 years before they are anything to look at, and until they provide some shelter there will be no point planting the borders inside the new “rooms”. That’s not the case with Exotic gardening. A year, two at the most, is all that it takes to achieve a jungle. They mostly grow at a phenomenal rate, and the name of the game, for me, is anything with huge leaves.
In August we visited Christopher “Christo” Lloyd’s garden at Great Dixter (Garden visits, Wikipedia). If that’s a name you don’t know then I can guarantee you will enjoy his writing. He used to write a gardening column for Country Life, and has a very irreverent style of effortlessly crafted prose. Since his death in 2006 his garden is now managed by his then head gardened Fergus Garrett. Christo Lloyd is famous for his controversial approach to gardening, and some years ago he ripped out the formal rose garden and replaced it with Cannas, and then it became an Exotic garden. It is different to East Ruston Old Vicarage which has a large open rectangular area surrounded by borders; Great Dixter has the original narrow paths that formed the Rose Garden, and now you have to push between the towering tropical-looking plants. We loved that, and it has formed the thinking for how our Exotic garden will be.
On 16-October we went to see Will Giles exotic town garden in Norwich. What a cracking idea for a large town garden on a slope. A fabulous collection of plants, and relatively narrow winding paths, gave us more ideas, together with his use of Bamboo – which we had already considered to create a screen between the ponds and the Exotic garden so that it would be hidden and secret.
This is the area which we plan to make into an Exotic Garden:
We felled a peninsular of Leylandii, which I plan to replace with some more interesting Bamboo, which opened up the Entrance considerably
So I treated myself, for the second time this year, to the hire of a JCB and dug the area behind the pond where the chickens live. This is an area that grows nothing, and is in a fair amount of shade, courtesy of a Leylandii hedge and some other trees. I have dug a savage ditch along the Leylandii which will prevent their roots intruding, and double-dug, by JCB, the area to be planted. We also took down some less well-shaped trees to let more light in.
Of course once it is dug, and levelled off again, it doesn’t look much different – except that the soil is broken up and fluffy to help give the plants a flying start.
Under the trees we may be able to lay some membrane and create raised beds on top, which will stop the tree roots growing up, and then have some shade loving plants. The area under those trees is currently an eyesore, so its a worthy project.
This is the entrance, from the main lawn, Before and After trimming back the Leylandii
I took the opportunity to put some perforated drainage pipe in, back-filled with gravel, to improve the drainage – to try to prevent those plants, which are not fully hardy, sitting with their feet in cold, wet, clay soil during the Winters
I’ve been buying plants in the Autumn / Winter sales – I guess Exotic Nurseries don’t want to have to heat them over the Winter, and the conservatory is looking a bit stuffed!
More plants were purchased in December and January, and we only had one night of terror – 10th February the met office forecast said -2C – -5C (which would have not gone below zero inside the unheated conservatory) and we actually had -11C – bit of a panic at midnight lugging the Calor Gas bottle from the front of the house, used for the cooker, to the conservatory and hooking up a gas stove! just scraped through with -0.5C but several Banana leaves went crispy-brown as a result.