Planning for the Tropical Border

In between mowing and planting and fretting, I’ve been cracking on with the tropical border and the two completely new beds (see – ‘Busy, Busy, Busy’).  I finally finished cutting the turf (on either side of the path) for the two new beds;  rock hard soil didn’t make this task any easier and yep, I’ve hurt my back.

Looking a little like an oil-tanker, it needs more work as I’m not happy with the shape – it needs to be ‘curvier’.  (Incidentally,  these beds don’t extend all the way along the path, as this is the only access to the east lawn for the ride-on mower and quad bike).

With the new beds cut, the next job was to transfer two or three inches of top soil from the tropical border to the new beds and begin preparing the former.

The new tropical border is close-by the path.

Next job?  Barrowing several loads of very well-rotted manure in from out on the drive.  Next job?  Barrowing several loads of compost in from the ‘bins.

I've been asked to leave the roses in situ - though if all goes to plan they will find themselves smothered by the new tenants. And also, looking at this photo, I'm thinking, "We're going to need a bigger bed!" It needs to be deeper.

And then?  Digging it all over – before it gets a final compost-mulch top-coat.  Thankfully, I still have loads of compost available.

With the hard work mostly done, I thought I had better make a start on getting some plants ready to go into this new tropical/exotic (call it what you will) border.

First up, were various dahlias that I dug up last autumn; dried, wrapped up in newspaper and squirrelled away.  I checked them twice during the winter (to remove any rot) and, on unwrapping the other day, found that they were in fine fettle and raring to go.

I also had my box of Precious Things; an order from Peter Nyssen and various other bits and bobs that I’ve picked up recently.

I’m particularly excited about these ten Lilium pardalinum which, with luck and a fair wind, should reach two metres in height.

Great to re-use some of the large number of old pots hanging about the place.

Quite a lot of time spent potting then and er, I might have overdone it on ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ dahlias.  I’m a bit embarrassed at how many I’ve got (though I can use them in other parts of the garden too).  I’ll say the number quickly and then we’ll move right on, OK?  OK.  Ready?  Here we go … 29.

I recently bought these rather lovely Melianthus major.  Not a plant I’ve grown before but I’ve been itching to get my sticky mitts on one (or two) for a while.

To augment dahlias, cannas and lilies, is my over-wintering collection of Echium pininana – grown from seed last year.  I lost one over the winter but these seven seem healthy enough and have continued to grow these past few months.  Indeed, every time I’ve moved them, I’ve had to prise their pots from the soil below.  In the above photo there is also red banana and a variegated ginger.  In addition to all these, I have some ‘Musa basjoo’ hardy bananas and …

… a colocasia.  I know the latter should probably have had a rest period over the winter but last September I dug it up, popped it in a large pot of leaf mould and put it in the (heated) greenhouse.  It’s a little tatty (hence the close up shot!) but it can go back out soon with a head-start.

A lot of plants then but this is a big new border – and the old tropical bed needs plants too.  I’ll let you know how it all turns out … unless, of course, it is an unmitigated disaster, in which case you will hear nothing more.  Zilch.  Nada.  Nowt.  Instead, I’ll concentrate happily on daisies in the lawn, dandelion seed-heads, frogs and back-lit oak leaves; the usual AG fare.  But my silence will speak volumes and you’ll know, you will know, that the new tropical border looks absolutely rubbish.

Advertisements

38 thoughts on “Planning for the Tropical Border

  1. I would say something about that bed’s shape too but I’ll sit and wait to see the result. I must admit the bones around which you are working on don’t suggest any interesting shape though. The plant you have chosen are exciting, may I suggest some big miscanthus clump amongst them? It would give that forest look…

    By the way… 29? Seriously? You still can be cured, you know?

    Like

    • You are a very wise man, Alberto and don’t let anyone tell you different. I didn’t mention all the plants I’m putting in but there are indeed four Miscanthus sinensis (Morning Light and Zebrinus). And as I told Jason below, I did ask politely that you not mention the 29 and sadly (or happily) there is no cure. Dave

      Like

    • Hi b-a-g, thanks for the vote of confidence and yes, the Bishop dahlias are destined for the new border. I’m going to tackle cutting more turf today in order to make it bigger, though it is a job I’m tiring of. Dave

      Like

  2. A tropical border is fun, although a lot of hard work. It should give lots of interest late in the season when perhaps other areas are looking tired. We don’t have enough water here (in Italy) for a tropical effect but Lillies grow well as does the Melianthus of which I must grow some more – I grew some from seed for a friend and as Helen says they germinate easily and grow on quickly. I’ll hope to see the border full of texture and colour later in the summer.

    Like

    • We are officially in a state of drought here in Southern England, Christina, so I probably should have planted a Med garden rather than a water hungry tropical/tender one. Oh well, fingers crossed. A chap, who has been doing some work at the Priory, confidently told me he predicsts a summer wash-out! So who knows. Dave

      Like

  3. This looks like it’s going to be awesome! I look forward to seeing pics 🙂 That’s an awful lot of hard digging and barrowing – I hope your back feels better soon. 🙂

    Like

  4. Hi David, I won’t be surprised if instead of silence I’ll (sort of) hear you screaming and shouting by midsummer 🙂

    How exciting, a bigger tropical border that ill be a riot of colour in just a few months! It’ll be an explosion of red too with that many Bishop of Llandaff which is probably my favourite Dahlia (and a Dahlia I’m having difficulty finding one recently!). Looks like the Echiums will be set to flower this year too and will rewarded with towers of inflorescence. So looking to seeing the progress pics!

    Like

    • Thanks Boys. I guess it isn’t really a tropical border in the sense of all your amazing tropical and exotic plants but over the coming years, I should like to diversify away from just dahlias and cannas. You shall be my inspriration and guiding light! Dave

      Like

  5. I agree with Mr. K about how pleasing the straight lines are in this case, but failing that, would something like a guitar body work? The large, round end would be down at the far end of the path where the bird…bath? baptismal font? urn? is, with the “waist” about 2/3 of the way up the new beds you’ve made and the smaller curve ending where the new beds end now.

    I LOVE that kind of lily. Hope your back mends soon, or that your circle of friends includes at least one Swedish masseuse.

    Like

    • With the exception of the kidney beds (so-called because of their shape) there are no curves in the garden borders and given the straight as a die path, the thinking was that arching beds here would soften the impact. I like the guitar shape idea, Stacy – I’ll need to have a think and see it in my minds eye when I’m next back at work. (It is an old bird bath btw – and I think too small a focal point, so may need to be replaced with something bigger). My back is fine, thanks for your concern. A couple of uncomfortable nights but now forgotten. Phew. Dave

      Like

  6. The light in your first photo is beautiful. I’m sure the hot/tropical border will be a great success. You’ve got a great selection of plants and they will be perfect for drought hit Britain!! I love Melianthus too but it can be tender and would never survive a Welsh winter so for now anyway that’s one plant that will just have to stay on my wish list. I’ve just potted up some stored dahlia tubers but haven’t got a clue where I’ll put them this year. There’s a pond now where they were last year.

    Like

    • Hot border is a much better name, WW, which I may well adopt. Or tender border? Most of my plants are pretty much run-of-the-mill stuff so not that tropical or exotic really – though I want to get more into this whole ‘exotic’ thing more. Dahlias need a lot of water, so I’m not sure it is a great time to be developing this bed – or were you being ironic? Though my gardening sage told me yesterday that he predicts a wet summer – so who knows! Dave

      Like

  7. 29 Bishop of Llandaff, let me just check that again … definitely 29, you’ll have quite some impact there, looking forward to seeing it all when it’s done. Good luck with it all.

    Like

    • Jason, I did specifically request that we wouldn’t dwell on the number of Bishops. Sigh. I know, I know. I forgot that way back last autumn, I put in an order for twenty from Nyssens, so over the winter I bought another nine. But, like I say it is a long border, and even with that number I think I will use pretty much all of them. In pots, I can also sink them into any gaps in the other borders. And as Helen suggests, I have gardening friends who I’m sure I can do swapsies with. But you’re right it is a silly number. Dave

      Like

  8. Ooh…feeling quite alot of angst n’ anxiety and other ‘an’ words which have slipped my mind for a sec’ in your posting today…I digress…
    Ooh angel cake & angling have ‘an in them, but now I’ve totally lost my train of thought…bugger!
    Where was I…oh yes…hard work, broken back, container-ship-shaped flowerbeds, too many plants, poop n’ compost.
    You need a break, failing that, an assistant. Packing my bags as I scribe to lend a trowel.
    I could sleep in that posh heated greenhouse and eat bananas from the Tropical bed. If you could supply the odd cup o’ char that’ll do be just fine. Fear not, the cavalry is en-route!

    Like

    • Jane, Jane, Jane. You’ve been at the Evo-Stick again, haven’t you? The greenhouse is far too posh to have staff kipping in it but I’m sure I can find you an old, tumbledown, roofless out-house to bed down in, or else a spot beneath a shrub somewhere. Please bring your own tea-bags and bananas – you think I’m made of money? Otherwise I would love your very kind offer – just lay off the Evo-Stick. Kindest regards, Dave

      Like

  9. It’s no wonder your back is done in with all that barrowing. You need a young assistant for all this work then you can be the artistic flamboyant gardener. Not suggesting you’re over the hill or anything.! Would love to have Dahlias but we’re a bit too high up here at 600ft above sea level. Any info about Echium pininana..how high…situation etc? I was given 3 plants as a gift.

    Like

    • I have been thinking, Bridget, about contacting the local horticultural college and asking if I could ‘have’ a student a day or two a week, especially now as there is talk of opening up the gardens to Joe Public.
      What a lovely gift! About half of my echiums were a gift from a friend also. I have now realised that I have no seed this year. Unless mine flower and set seed, I won’t have any plants for next year. Rather than going into much detail here, there is an excellent article – http://www.cooltropicalplants.com/Echium-pininana.html – that’ll give you the info you need. Having written what I have in response to Faisal, I’m encouraged to see that my enriched soil should be fine for them. Do let me know how you get. I really want to get mine into the ground but the Priory is subject to late, harsh frosts so I must be patient for another month. Dave

      Like

  10. How exciting I love new borders; What about doing half moon shapes so the borders are wider?
    I have Melianthus, grew them from seed last year, they seemed to germinate qute easily. Now I have 3 reasonable size plants I need to decide where to plant them!
    Looking forward to seeing your tropical border develop – maybe you could trade some Bishops for something else?

    Like

    • Hi Linda, thanks for visiting. If you’re interested please feel free to e-mail me (theanxiousgardener@hotmail.co.uk) – I’d be happy to share my thoughts on transferring to WP. Dave

      Like

  11. Dave,
    You will love Melianthus major. When you “get your sticky mitts on one” take a whiff of your mitt, it will smell a bit like peanut butter. Great plant for a tropical border and a wonderful texture and color throughout the season.

    Like

    • Hi Michael, I read your comment on my phone while at work today. I immediately softly crushed a leaf and yes, you’re right – peanut butter! Made my stomach growl and yearn for hot buttered toast. D

      Like

  12. I like the shape of those beds. Now and again there’s a place for rigidity – and the path and the geometric cuts look like the fletching of an arrow. The concept of a ‘tropical’ border is good, but not one that I am likely to adopt, for obvious reasons….

    Like

    • I’m pleased you like them Mr K and really like the fletching of an arrow analogy. But I was originally asked to do more rounded, curved beds – so it is kind of out of my hands, I’m afraid. D

      Like

  13. I doubt if any of your work’s rubbish, Dave. Those Echiums ( one of my favourite exotics ) look in splendid health – I can’t believe they’re so young. I have to ask – do you feed them up or do you let them do it tough? – only because I think of them as liking poorer soils.

    Like

    • Hi Faisal, no I don’t feed them though I did repot several times (3 or 4) last summer/autumn – into ordinary potting compost. They do like poorer soils so I’m not sure how they’ll fare in the enriched soil I’ve prepared for them. I guess I’ll find out. Dave

      Like

    • Yeah, lots of work Elaine – and more now that I’ve realised I have to recut the tropical border to make it deeper. I will actually let you know how it ends up looking. Disaster or no. D

      Like

Any thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s