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Themed garden series part 2: tropical gardens

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No matter where you live, the theming of your garden can be individualised to make you feel like you’re living wherever you please. Not all plants flourish in every climate, but with the right setup you can be basking in the tropics or traversing the tundra without even stepping outside of your yard.

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Part two of our Themed Garden series situates us squarely in the middle latitudes of the earth. The hot and sunny tropics. Tropical ecosystems can range from lush rainforest to sparse desert; despite what a lot of people presupposed, they’re amazingly biodiverse and have a huge range of possible combinations and biomes to choose from in constructing a garden.

This part will mostly be a breeze to construct for most Australian households — we can certainly sustain the heat needed, and with sufficient water (and not all tropical plants need water, remember the tropics also include a lot of desert!) most flora can flourish.

These aspirational images should be enough to kickstart your plans for the perfect back yard. They’ll fit a multitude of specifications and desires, and provide springboards for a whole host of others.

Plants to consider: Birds of Paradise, palms of any kind, Bougainvilleas, Hibiscus, and anything from the Heliconia or Cycad family will look stunning. Aquatic plant life includes Aroids, Cordylines, Water Lilies, and Crotons.

A formal modern style of landscape design is a classic style with a luxurious look and feel. It’s often referred to as ‘traditional sophistication’. Generally speaking, the term ‘formal modern’ evokes ideas of the regal English garden or the classy French or Italian renaissance design. The good thing is that formal modern can be versatile and the characteristics can be adapted.

As a general rule, formal modern style landscaping is made up of symmetrical lines. It is created using geometrical shapes, planned out sections and divisions. It’s all about straight edges and long sight lines.

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Combining looks

This garden contains overhanging, leafy greens to create a space which is both spacious to walk in but still feels like a trek through dense, thick rainforest.

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Combining different textures and colours can do wonders to create a journey for your garden – notice how the path sticks to light and dark browns like a tree trunk, while the plants showcase the garden’s lush green colour. One of the best ways to incorporate texture into your tropical garden is with a variety of high-quality pots, jars and troughs that you can use to diversify the placement and presentation of the tropical plants.

This piece, overall, excels strongly in creating a strong visual journey. It’s a showpiece, and one designed for a larger garden rather than an urban backyard. Still, the lessons here apply to any and all gardens that you might dream up.

Work wood in

Wood, while not as cooling as stone on a hot day, works wonders in a tropical garden. Thatched roofs and timber construction nestle magnificently with palms, which likewise flourish in the hot Australian sun and are the backbone to many tropical gardens. Again, note the crowded closeness of the plants (and again, while crowded, they’re never within danger of crowding out a person).

Half-covering your patio area as in the picture above may also lend themselves well depending on your intended theme. It allows plants to flourish around you, further heightening that rainforest feel, while still providing cover in inclement weather.

A bit less crowded, please!

Not everyone’s dream garden involves a gigantic rainforest, and not everybody has both the time and desire to upkeep while also having the space. This piece goes for a more refined look, choosing to combine the structured paving that contains the garden with the wild plants overflowing onto the white of the tiles.

The faint colour of the natural stone pavers and the vibrant, healthy greens of the plants perfectly complement the warm tones of the wooden BBQ panelling and the autumn-toned interior. There’s just enough here that thrives without seeming busy.

Combining planters with a cool, flat surface has the advantage of a portable, customisable garden set up with a rich contrasting backdrop that’ll highlight your garden and make your flooring look spick to boot.

Red and Green

Red and green are two colours that combine well in a warm environment. Red is the archetypal ‘hot’ colour, and green is cool without being dull. A lot of tropical plants also share this colour scheme, such as these Bromeliads or ornamental Ginger. Other plants to make use of this colour include Amanda’s Blush, Americana, Beachcomber, Bolero and Cameroon.

Right angles on the path and a well-kept lawn without borders give a hint of order to a natural environment highlighted by verdant leaves. The human and natural world intersect pleasantly; walking in through the gate you’ll be greeted by mostly plant-life, but a short walk leaves it behind bringing your view to the house and paved yard.

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