I have just returned from Bali and spent some time contemplating the foolhardy attempts of those who insist on replicating a tropical garden in Perth. We do not have the same climate, soil type, rainfall, or ocean currents.

Perth has a Mediterranean climate but we can grow some tropical plants successfully if we prepare the soil to a depth of 40cm and mass-plant with more hardy plants such frangipani, acalypha, dianella and bougainvillea. Developing an upper canopy is vital to reduce evaporation, and give the understorey plants some protection from the burning summer.

Think about mixing colour and texture in the planting scheme and please: rethink the palm thing. When most palms grow to maturity you will be looking at a trunk, not at the foliage. Do not plant out palms before you have some shade from trees. Go to a palm specialist such as Coast Road Palms (coastroadpalms.com) to get the correct species for your garden.

Perfume is also important for the tropical feel. Gardenias are everyone’s first choice but they are a lot of work. Choisya or murraya do better in our climate. Always plant more than one of anything unless it’s a tree or cycad, which look spectacular on their own.

If you love cooking with Asian spices and herbs, you can grow cardamom, ginger, turmeric, kaffir lime, lemongrass and mint in the garden beds. I grow rainbow chard with everything because I love the foliage colour — and I can eat it.

Other plants that will give that semi-tropical look without depleting water resources include:

Trees — bauhinia, Hymenosporum flavum, Delonix regia, Syzygium Cascade, erythrina, banana and Brachychiton acerifolius

Shrubs — heliconia, cordyline, acalypha, coleus, crinum, Grevillea Cooroora Cascade, G. dryandri, G. longistyla, and Hibiscus rosa-sinensis.

Foliage plants — Dianella Destiny and Tasred, Lomandra Wyeena, croton, canna, euphorbia, alpinia, zingebar, bromeliad, kalanchoe, bilbergia, adenium and grapto-phyllum.


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