Grow your own tropical paradise

Grow your own tropical paradise
    The World Cup is finally over and football fans around the country will be wondering what to do with themselves as they await the start of the Premier League season.

Gardening is one way to keep yourself occupied, of course – if you've been a bit slack in recent months and your plot's looking a bit below-par, now's the time to give it some attention.

At MowDirect, we've been running articles on Latin American gardens, and regular readers might have been wondering what it's like to be a gardener in tropical climes. 

With all those exotic plants available to choose from, Brazilian gardeners like Roberto Burle Marx certainly had plenty of opportunities to indulge their creative side.

Ambitious gardeners in the UK can take inspiration from software engineer Tim Wilmot, who has spent the last 25 years growing an exotic jungle in his urban back yard.

Palm trees, exotic ferns, bamboo and banana trees are all flourishing in the Bristol garden, which cost Mr Wilmot around £10,000 to develop.

However, maintaining his miniature Amazon certainly requires effort – the avid gardener spends three or four hours a week tending his plants to ensure they can survive in the colder British weather.

In the summer, a huge amount of watering is required to sustain the tropical paradise, while in winter Mr Wilmot builds shelters to protect some plants from the cold conditions.

"I've always wanted to create my own little paradise, and I've spent 25 years doing it. Obviously it is difficult in the UK so you have to have a hot summer followed by a mild winter."

And he's unapologetic about the £10,000 cost of his hobby. "When you think about it I don't think that's too bad," Mr Wilmot said. "I think you can justify spending that on a hobby."

With the right amount of research and dedication, then, you too could have your own Brazilian garden – as long as you live in a relatively mild part of the UK.

Finding out as much as possible about the natural habitat of plants and whether they could survive in your local area is an essential first step, while the biggest challenge you'll face is protecting your plants from frost.

Providing barriers is another means of ensuring your plants survive – walls and other windbreaks will protect them from the elements and help to create a microclimate that will increase their chances of thriving.

Tropical Britain recommends deep planting with good drainage and heavy mulching. Adding generous amounts of grit and sand will increase drainage and minimise the chances of rot.

Insulating plant stems and foliage is also essential for many varieties of tropical plants, such as Musa basjoo.

Some tropical plants that can be grown in the UK include palm trees, banana plants and cordylines. Mr Wilmot's plot includes succulents such as such as Puya alpestris, a member of the pineapple family, and Beschorneria yuccoides, which is native to the mountains of Mexico.

Growing a tropical paradise in your back garden might take a lot of effort – but stepping outside and feeling like you're taking a holiday is bound to be worth it.

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