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Theme of the Month – Creating A Tropical Garden

Imagine Bali, under the palms, the smell of frangipani in the air…..bliss! We all dream of lying in a tropical garden or by a pool sipping on a cold (insert drink of your choice), especially when options for traveling are limited and we’re all looking for ways to get that holiday-vibe at home.

The ‘Tropical’ trend seems to be enduring in interiors, and since 2015 we’ve been seeing a dazzling array of bold bright colours, palm prints, pineapples and an abundance of tropical flowers and exotic birds. This time we’re focussing on the outdoors and if you’re forced to have a staycation this year, what better way to make it bearable than by creating your own totally tropical paradise??

Professional Garden Design tutor Gill gives you some tips….

Planting Your Tropical Garden

Ideally you need a sunny, sheltered, frost-free site. Choose plants that have a range of heights such as trees, scrubs and herbaceous ground cover with climbing plants helping to tie these all together.

A tropical garden will usually only provide an abundance of vegetation and foliage for around 6 months of the year. Whereas a typical English garden will provide all year round interest. So you might want to use a combination of planting to achieve an all year round look.

Try to use a mixture of hardy and tender plants. During the winter months the more tender plants will need to be protected or go into storage. Ideal plants for this type of garden would be:

  • Tree Ferns
  • Banana
  • Eucalyptus
  • Bamboo
  • Yucca
  • Hosta
  • Passion Flower
  • Jasmine
  • Lemons
  • Chilli

trees in planters and leafy foliage flowers and leafy plants

Tom Stuart-Smith

Let’s take some inspiration from Tom Stuart-Smith, a landscape design practice established in 1998. The practice remains small with nine landscape architects and designers working under the direction of Tom. With an International reputation they design gardens that combine both naturalism and modernity. Their projects range from large gardens, public parks through to smaller private gardens. Tom Stuart-Smith has also been awarded 8 gold medals and received 3 ‘Best in Show’ for a number of his gardens designed for the Chelsea Flower Show.

London Garden

One project in particular that stands out is the ‘London Garden’. Behind this high brick wall, Australian tree ferns create a lush and leafy canopy. In contrast, the under planting has been pared back to a combination of feathery grasses, curvaceous boxwood and climbers. Tom’s philosophy behind this design was to create a garden that would take the clients on a journey of discovery and make the garden a ‘place of imaginative possibility‘.

Tom Stuart-Smith London Garden Drawing

“This enclosed back garden uses tree ferns to create a dramatic year-round effect. The levels steps up gradually from a cast concrete terrace to a small sandpit and kids garden at the far end of the garden. The journey between the two is through a mass of delicate grasses and lumpy mounds of box. The idea of the place is that even within a relatively small space there can be a liberating sense of other worldliness about the garden experience. The moment you cross the threshold you are in a different world.”

— Tom Stuart-Smith

Garden with palm trees pictured from inside
London Garden Fence
Tom Stuart-Smith Garden with Palm Trees

Furniture For An Outdoor Space

Once the planting is in order you now need to think about how you can start to enjoy your tropical garden.

Our gardens are now becoming an extension of our homes and when the weather allows. We like to take every opportunity to spend time outdoors. It might grabbing a morning coffee before we head off to work, relaxing with a glass of wine in the evening or enjoying a meal with family and friends. Whatever your requirements, you need to create an outdoor area that gives maximum enjoyment.

wicker egg chair in leafy garden

This ‘egg’ style chair is the perfect place to sit and relax on this terrace. The seat swivels 360 degrees on its fixed base allowing you to choose between shade or dappled sunlight. Fill it with an abundance of cushions and you won’t want to get out. The black wicker works well alongside the smooth grey rendered wall that has been topped with boxed hedging. Planting pots help to soften the overall look whilst creating the perfect haven.

Alternatively, if your garden is filled with lush green foliage, why not use furniture, cushions, rugs and lighting to inject colour. These brightly coloured ‘Peacock’ chairs create a focal point in the corner of the garden and provide comfortable seating.

colourful wicker outdoor chairs and side table

Alternatively try reviving your old garden furniture with a lick of paint or stain, there is a wide choice of finishes available and suitable for all different plastic, metal and wood furniture. Here’s some of our favourite retailers:

  • Plasti Kote
  • Annie Sloan
  • Autentico Chalk Paint
  • Ronseal

Create an Outdoor Living Room

For a more relaxed and sociable seating area why not take it one step further and create an outdoor living room.

The Pergola pictured below offers some protection from weather and helps to define the space. A selection of rugs add comfort under foot and warmth to the terracotta tiles floor. A rattan corner sofa with built in chaise provides the much needed comfortable place to sit, relax and spend time with friends. Scatter cushions in an array of bold and dramatic textures and patterns can introduce that much needed injection of colour. Finally, the throws will be a welcomed addition when the sun goes down and the evenings get chilly.

Garden with Pagoda and bright fabrics

With long summer evening well upon us now we want to spend as much time outdoors (when the weather allows!). What better place to enjoy family meals than sitting around a teak dining table and chairs?

In the below image, sumptuous cushions with accents of indigo blue introduce comfort and style. The red, orange and purple rug with its intricate pattern gives the illusion of a tile floor.

outdoor teak dining table

Next, we have a brown rattan sun lounger working in harmony with wooden decking and horizontal fencing. The colours in the rug pick out the tones of green in the planting along with the view of the lake, and the teal seat cushion helps bring this all together.

wicker chaise lounge with blue cushion on wooden decking in front of a lake

Hus & Hem — Rugs

Hus and Hem have a wide range of outdoor rugs:

“The technique of weaving plastic carpets was born in 1948 in Dalarna, Sweden and was later modernized by Pappelina, as new forms, colours and materials were added to the original process. Pappelina plastic carpets are rooted in Swedish tradition and Swedish design, with production and materials all coming from Sweden.”

hus and hem colourful carpet textures

Outdoor Lighting

Outdoor lights really set the ambience of any garden or outside space. Carefully chosen and positioned, lighting can not only draw you into the garden but it can also enhance the design of both the hard and soft landscaping.

As seen in the image below a combination of up lighters have been cleverly used amongst the plants to create interesting shadows on the white render. Spot lights and down lights help illuminate the perimeters of this patio. The pink LED lights set into the top and underside of the wooden seating helps draw you further into the garden whilst separating the dining from the chill out area.

modern outdoor garden with uplighting

The following courtyard is densely planted with lush tropical looking plants. Although the lighting is simple, the effects are stunning, illuminating the bamboo stems and giant palm leaves.

Simple garden lighting with lush tropical plants

Source: My Landscapes

A much simpler way of achieving successful lighting in the garden is by using lanterns and string lights. These lanterns in various sizes and colours contain candles which provided a soft warm glow, illuminating the steps leading up towards the house.

colourful outdoor lanterns and string lights

And finally why not add a bit of tropical fun with these pineapple and parrot themed lights? These would look great hung amongst the branches of any trees or suspended from Pergolas to create an amusing focal point.

fun pineapple and parrot string lights

We hope you enjoy creating your own tropical garden paradise this summer. We’d love it if you would share some photos of your tropical themed outdoor space with us in the comments below, or let us know on Facebook or Twitter.



London Planters (2016) Bamboo Planters [Online Image]  [Accessed: 07/07/16]

The Royal Horticultural Society (2016) Tree Fern [Online Image] Available From: [Accessed: 07/07/16]

Hubpages (2016) Passion Flower[Online Image] Available From: [Accessed: 07/07/16]

Cool Tropical Plants (2016) Banana Plant [Online Image] Available From: [Accessed: 07/07/16]

Tom Stuart-Smith Ltd (2016)London Garden[Online Image]Available From: [Accessed: 05/07/2016]

Masters Home Improvements (2014) Egg style chair [Online Image] Available From: [Accessed 06/07/2016]

Milly and Eugene (2016) Peacock Chair [Online Image] Available From: [Accessed 06/07/2016]

Houzz (2016) Outdoor Dining [Online Image] Available From: [Accessed 06/07/2016]

Ultimate Patio (2016) Rattan Chaise [Online image] Available From:

Hus and Hem (2016) Pappelina Rug [Online Image] Available From: [Accessed 07/07/2016]

My Landscapes (2016) Court Yard [Online Image] Available From: [Accessed 07/07/2016]

Lamps Plus (2016) Orange Lanterns [Online Image] Available From: center/b/blog/archive/2014/06/18/inspired-by-brazil-colorful-tropical-style.aspx [Accessed 06/07/2016]

Ooga Lights (2016) Pineapple Lights [Online Image] Available From: [Accessed 07/07/2016]

Ooga Lights (2016) Parrot Lights [Online Image] Available From:
[Accessed 07/07/2016]

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3 responses

  1. This garden furniture looks very stylish and comfortable. This is also suitable for a big family.

  2. I agree that using outside wall lights LED is an excellent way to add elegance and beauty to a garden. You can help highlight certain areas and plants in your garden that will result in a truly relaxing atmosphere. Also, it can help illuminate the place and maintain its impressive look even at night. Thank you for sharing this, I will try doing this in my own garden.

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