Trailfinders Australian Garden at Chelsea

Trailfinders Australian Garden at Chelsea

Its great to see exotics at Chelsea

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Let the digging commence

Digging out the new pond area in the wettest spring I can remember was perhaps not my smartest move, but I have started anyway. With help brought in from my cousin and his mate we have shifted quite a lot of the heavy wet clay. And clay when it is wet is very very heavy. Im sure it will all be worth it in the end but at the moment it seems like a fools errand.

We are digging, shovelling and barrowing the mud from the hole to the front of the house to load into my cousins trailer to take it all to the rubbish dump where we have to unload it for recycling. Quite what they will do with all my mud is anyones guess but they are very welcome to it.

I wish now we had got a mini digger in when we had the chance before the extension was built but no point in worrying about that now. Whats done is done and my wife would not be impressed if I complained too much!

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Happy Christmas!


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Begonia Luxurians


Fabulous shape and form. Not hardy enough in the uk, but worth pot growing.

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Exotic Weather

With the UK basking in hot sunny weather at the moment its really easy to imagine youself somewhere hot and exotic. Gardening is on TV a lot at the moment withthe RHS Chelsea Flower show, and I have been enjoying coverage – only a couple of exotic gardens though, the best of which is from Australia and features huge washingtonia palms!

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Schefflera Impressa

One plant that helps give a jungle impression is the Schefflera Group of plants. There are lots available, but often are quite expensive (The best supplier is Crug Farm in Wales – very very good quality plants that are second to none – however other sellers are available)

One of the best perfroming plants, which is a pretty hardy plant is Schefflera rhododendrifolia, still known by many as Schefflera impressa (and it is still often sold under the old name so check for both names).

The leaves exhibit the usual pinate shape common to schefflera. This plant is very hardy and even quite small and recently introduced plants suffered no damage during the winter of 2010-11 which by all accounts was the worst winter in 30 years.

A very beautiful plant that should be added to every jungle garden. Image

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My Favourite Palm

My Personally favourite palm is Washingtonia robusta ( which is also sometimes called Mexican Fan Palm or Mexican Washingtonia). Washy as its sometimes called isnative to western Sonora and Baja California Sur in the north west of Mexico.

Given ideal conditions, it can grow to 25 m (82 ft) tall, although its not fully hardy in the UK. Each leaf has a petiole of up to 1 meter in length, and  then a palmate shaped fan of leafletsagain of up to 1 meter long. The flower can be  up to 3 meters long,  and contains numerous small pale orange/pink flowers. The fruit of the palm is a spherical, nearlyblack or very dark purple drupe, which is about five to ten milimeters in diameter and apparatnly the fruit is edible, though I wouldnt want to try!

In the UK however they rarely make this size, as they are not really hardy, except in a few locations with very ideal coniditions, and even then should only be considered a temporary plant. This will not survive the old winters the UK used to get. There are reports of some surviving a number of years in central London or the south coast, but these are most definately the exception rather than the norm.

However it is still my favourite palm, fast growing and more beautiful than Trachycarpus fortunei, its cheap and easily available and smaller plants will overwinter in pots in a greenhosue or conservatory with ease.

A must have plant for an Exotic Garden.

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My Top Ten Exotic Plants

There are many plants suitable for creating your jungle garden. anything with a big leaf, bright colours, palm like or just interesting. Selecting just 10 is very hard but here are 10 to include.

1.Trachycarpus fortunei


The chusan palm, sometimes incorrectly called chamaerops excelsa is a very hardy palm suitable for the uk climate. Reported to be hardy to below -20C once mature, and a real must have plant.

2. Dicksonia antartica

Well known tree fern and easily available – even B&Q sells this. Hardy to about -10C but should be given protection and sited in a sheltered spot for the best performance. Needs lots of water.

3. Phormium tenax


Large plant with strap like leaves, easily hardy to about -10C although will be damaged at that temperature. From New Zealand and very arcitechtural.

4. Bamboo

There are so many available it would be impossible to pick just one. A selection of different shapes heights and colours should be included. Avoid the running types, although most will run to some extent.

5. Gunnera

The giant rhubarb, and it really is giant, needs a damp position for best results, and if given the best conditions will easily allow a person to walk underneath the giant leaves.

6. Schefflera taiwaniana

Very graceful and once established quite hardy, easily taking below -10C. Related to the common houseplant, schefflera arboricola sold in garden centres, but much more attractive. These can be expensive, with only a few suppliers such as Crug Farm in North Wales (who do mail order thankfully).

7. Chamaerops humilis

Another palm, not related to Trachycarpus despite the mis-naming of many nursery owners. Smaller than the Trachycarpus, and not as hardy. -10C will do damage to smaller plants, or even kill them. Larger plants will be hardy to -10C.

8. Paulownia tomentosa


The foxglove tree, large leaves which can get even larger if you pollard it. Veyr hardy and faily fast growing, can be grown from seed to a large size in less than 5 years.

9. Cordyline australis

Fast growing palm like plant from New Zealand, Often called a cabbage palm, although its not related to either. Reasonably hardy to about -7C, and the root stock can survive lower. A well established plant may survive (with damage) temperatures to about -10C

10. Fatsia Japonica


Large hand shaped leaves, evergreen and very hardy, These fast gorwing shrubs come from Japan and are easily hardy to -12C possibly lower, so an ideal plant for the UK.

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Jungle Design

Jungle style gardens often use plants that have adapted for hot conditions coming from places such as Mexico or Australia and Africa.  Using a selection of different plants with various leaf shapes and forms such as spiky, fluffy, tall, short, plants all should be used and plants from from bright and vibrant cannas and hardy palms to exotic hardy bananas such as musa basjoo all combine to give a garden an exotic, tropical jungle feel.

Making your selections for the exotic plants
Plants coming from the exotic and tropical regions of the world will often be far too tender to survive the winter in the UK. However some should be included to give that exotic flair, but you must remember to provide them with suitable protection over the winter perhaps using fleece, straw, heating cables or even a mini greenhouse. Some jungle style plants will cope well in dry soil for example plants such as phormium tenax, whereas others prefer a much more moist condition such as the giant rhubarb – gunnera and rodgersia.

A place to relax
To truely be able to appreciate your jungle garden you really do need a seating area that catches the sun hidden amongst the foliage. After all its the sun that most suggests an exotic location. Choose your furtniture that blends in well to the postion for instance wooden, rattan or bamboo furniture or for a more excentric and exlusive look how about something such as chairs carved from tree stumps or even a hammock strung between the trees. Imagine sitting in your hammock amoungst your palm trees drinking a nice cocktail!

Remember to source materials that will fit with your design, and feel exotic, for instance such as reed matting and bamboo screening to cover the typical garden fencing that most homes have.

Of course most of all you should have fun with your design. Its a place to escape to and enjoy!

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Jungle Garden thoughts

To create a jungle garden plants are important but also you must remember intersting hard landscaping.

If you create a jungle garden in a city this can be a great design to recreate that tropical paradise feeling from your exotic holiday in you own back yard. The large lush green plants are key but you can have lots of fun playing with the jungle themed landscaping and other features.

Key considerations:

Plants:  I will talk about plants in a new post in the future. Here I will look at other aspects.


A Jungle Garden must have the feeling of seclusion, you do not want to see high rise buildings or neighbour houses. You dont get a skyscraper in a jungle of course!!! Planning the layout to hide tall buildings, neighbouring windows and also to hide any ugly features like a telephone pole or mobile phone mast are very important. These things take away the jungle look.

When choosing your design try to blend in the boundaries. Nothing says suburbia more than wooden fence panels painted in that horrid orange or red colour the DIY sheds are so keen to sell. If you have fences paint them dark green or black and have plants in front to hide them.

For fencing round a patio, spend extra money on something more interesting – you can get much better panels than those awful DIY ones and paint them a nice colour – white always looks good, its high maintenance but helps give you a better feeling.

Try and create a journey in the garden, make it flow somewhere, do not have straight pathways but put in bends, angles and hidden parts. Even in a small garden try to make some of it hidden from view.


Decking can make a big difference, but please avoid the same things that everyone uses, the cheap decks used by tv makeover shows do not make you thing of jungles but of Ground Force!. Use wide boards, scaffold boards or invest in a good quality hard wood. Stain these with a good quality paint, I like Ronseal rather than own brands.

Do not have a square deck, try to make it an interesting shape and have planting at the edges. soften what you do.


An absolute must have is water, a pond, waterfall and fish will make you drift away.

Be careful with water and children.

Natural Materials

Dont use too much concrete, but use stone for pathways or bricks/blocks. Try to remember what you seen on TV of real jungles, they dont have concrete flagstones, but paths have stone or stepping stones on gravel!

Good look with your plans

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