UP THE GARDEN PATH

LOUISE TOMLIN TAKES A LIGHT HEARTED LOOK AT GARDENS AND LOOSELY RELATED TOPICS. THIS TIME SHE’S LOOKING AT TROPICAL PLANTS YOU COULD GROW IN THE UK.

We’ve already passed the shortest day and I know I’m not alone in watching the daylight increasing, it seems to happen quite quickly at this time of the year. I often glance out of the window and realise that it’s later than I thought, there’s still plenty of light in the sky for instance at 5.30, whereas a couple of weeks ago it was definitely dark at that time. It helps me feel the spring isn’t far away.

This year I’ve been very lucky having had the opportunity to escape the winter and travel for a few weeks in Indonesia, namely Bali and some of the smaller islands in the Indian Ocean. So I’m not quite as light-starved as in some previous winters. Being a keen ‘plantophile’ and photographer it was an absolute delight to look closely at some tropical plants and dream of finding ways to grow some of them on my return to England.

This idea tied in quite nicely with a chat with our esteemed Editor Simone, who said she’d love to see some of the pics I had taken there and pointed out, ‘we all need a bit of a cheer up this time of the year Lou, go for it!’

So, with permission from on high to indulge in a tropical plant fest, I thought I’d show you some faves and see if I could find out if some of these hotties can be grown in our less steamy climate.

Frangipani is an icon of the tropics. With many colours ranging from classic white, yellow, pink, and even mango and lipstick red. Their perfume is divine, so they are worth growing for that alone, but the delicate waxy flowers and semievergreen glossy leaves make them a superbly attractive tree, that can grow up to 6 metres if left unpruned. However they can be grown in containers and be kept to a manageable size, in a well-drained mix of sandy compost, so could suit a conservatory or even a light, airy space in your home. Being a native to tropical climes it would have to be sheltered from our winter weather but could live outside during the summer on a sunny deck or patio. A Google search of ‘buy Frangipani uk’ showed plenty of websites where you can buy these, so it’s totally do-able.

Hibiscus .This stunning red flower is part of a large genus of some 200 plants related to the Mallow, which includes both annual and perennial herbaceous plants, as well as woody shrubs. Some originate in the Far East and because the winters can be harsh there, they are hardy, which is great news for us because that means those can be grown here in the UK. There are a bewildering choice of colours, including whites, pinks, purples and mauves available to buy online, so Hibiscus is well worth having a go at and with a little research you can add a touch of the tropics to your garden.

The beautiful yellow Allamanda hendersonii cathartica common name golden trumpet are evergreen shrubs, with clusters of large trumpet-shaped flowers in summer and autumn. They are good climbers and will do well in a very sheltered position next to a south or west facing fence or wall, in well-drained soil. So these lovely plants are possible to grow outdoors too, but may need some frost protection, or you could grow in large containers and bring indoors once frosts threaten.

I had trouble identifying this bright orange flower through my usual searches on the internet, but as soon as I put it on a few of my gardening social media groups it was identified as Tithonia rotundifolia Torch or Mexican Sunflower. Many gardeners came forward extolling its virtues as extremely easy to grow in the UK from seeds that they had bought online, it flowers late summer and autumn and the bees love it.

I’ll definitely be giving it a go in my garden this year. I’d love to hear from you if you have any plant or garden queries, or if you have a suggestion for future subjects, you can catch up with me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram  or email: louise@louisetomlin.co.uk