Hints & Tips
Tropical gardening is becoming increasingly popular, and it is likely to continue to do so as the effects of climate change are felt in the UK, with milder, wetter winters and warmer summers.
Regions in the west of the country – particularly the south-west – are more suitable for cultivating tropical plants, as they benefit most from the warming effect of the gulfstream.
As software engineer Tim Wilmot showed, with the right amount of effort (and money), it is possible to grow an urban jungle in your back yard.
Mr Wilmot's jungle is home to a huge variety of different plants – he has, after all, given it years of attention.
If you're thinking of starting your own jungle, the key ingredients you'll need are lots of light and lots of water, so you'll need to ensure you put a decent irrigation system in place – over-watering can, of course, be hazardous.
Banana trees make a good choice – as tropical plants go, they are not too difficult to grow. They can also act as windbreaks and shields for other plants.
However, they do require large amounts of mulch and organic matter, as well as rich, dark soils if they are going to thrive.
Ferns are another type of plant commonly used in tropical gardens, and they tend to be easier to grow than many other exotic species. They should be grown in soil that is kept consistently moist and they should not be exposed to sunshine for prolonged periods.
Hardy palm trees are commonly used in UK tropical gardens. They should initially be grown in containers and brought under cover during winter. When planting, it is best to choose a well-drained, sheltered spot to protect against the wind. They also tend to require a lot of space.
It can take quite a bit of trial and error before you get your tropical garden right – it isn't something that happens overnight. Bulbs, corms or rhizomes may need to be lifted and brought inside over the winter to protect them from the harsh weather. But once you've got it right, the results can be spectacular.