The illusion is fading away; that of being in some far-off tropical land. The first frosts of the year in the exotic garden are just around the corner. It’s time to start chopping, lifting and potting before ice blackens tender leaves.
As it’s now only a few weeks till I take to the skies, and like wise for Will, it’s all hands to the spade to prepare the garden for winter in record time. The bromylaids (Bromeliads) are drained of their pools of water, cracked-arses (Cacti) sheltered from the rain and purple bananas (Ensete v. ‘Maurelii’) dug, potted and stuffed in a heated dolly’s fun hole (polly tunnel). As if learning Latin plant names wasn’t taxing enough, here in the garden many things acquire alternative names and it’s not restricted solely to plants. Somehow, Jamie has become ‘Inflamed Knee’. I’m baffled too!
Although I’m looking forward to taking to the skies and heading off to foreign climbs, I need not wait for the lush foliage, vibrant flowers and intoxicating scents that the tropics evoke. Nor do I have to travel across oceans. For now I’m lucky enough to live in an oasis, an island paradise within a city, an ‘Exotic Garden’.
Ok, so for now the grey skies and chilly breeze are doing their best to thwart the illusion and instead of exotic birds and humming insects, far off sounds are instead of sirens, trains and football crowds. On a warm day while pushing through giant leaves, gazing up through palm fronds, fighting through groves of bamboo, stumbling across a waterfall dripping with ferns and being stopped in your tracks by scents on the breeze you’d be forgiven for forgetting you’re 52o N of the equator or a ten minute stroll from Norwich city centre in temperate England.
Sensory overload; though nature can astound, gardeners have the power to take control. In this garden created by ‘Will Giles’ plants from the four corners of the world are combined, big leaves, bright colours, strong scents and many textures juxtaposed. The garden goes beyond recreating the tropics; it is the tropics through the looking glass.
Now, in early autumn, sees the peek of the gardens charm and effect. The floors littered with acorns, curtains of vines (Vitis coignetiae & Parthenocissus quinquefolia) turn gold and scarlet and cob-webs bridge the paths. Oblivious to the coming changes bananas (Musa basjoo) push on upwards with a summers worth of arching leaves, Brugmansias pump out golden trumpets and elephants ears (Colocasia esculenta) are still growing each leaf a little bigger than the one before. Little do they know!
The reality is short lived; seasonal. These tender plants from their equatorial origins of steady warmth are ill equipped for winter. Cue the gardener; soon will be time to start fixing up the greenhouses, digging up the plants and wrapping those that are just too big to move. The reality is the garden is 52o N. It’s a lot of work for a garden that only exists for half the year. The up side being, apart from the few toughies like the Trachies (Trachycarpus fortunei) and Cabbage palms (Cordyline australis) that laugh in the face of snowflakes and gale force winds, Will is confronted with a blank canvas each spring to create another tropical world on steroids that stops visitors to the garden in their tracks.