Creating a Unique Tropical Garden

Posted on October 30, 2014

Mark Read, senior landscape designer at Natural Habitats, and winner of numerous landscape design awards over the last few years, knows the importance of plant selection in creating gardens of distinction. One of Mark’s favourites is the tropical garden. His resort style tropical gardens are created for a seamless balance between nature and a residential living space. He follows certain guidelines that give each garden its own unique character.

According to Mark, there are some important steps to creating a tropical garden. Firstly, identify the key structure (or bones) of the garden. For instance this might be the lawn, pool, entertainment area or children’s playground. Each of these features will have their own unique character.

The next phase is to link the structure through connections which may include pathways, boardwalks and bridges. The third phase is to clothe the overall structure in a dense palette of plants to create a natural environment, leaving no part of the garden appearing unfinished.

For the plant palette, Mark begins with the tall plants first, then fills in with medium sized bushes and shrubs and then completes the design with leafy bushes and ground covers.

Pools and entertainment areas, are surrounded in tropical plants such as palms, cycads, gardenia, frangipani, hibiscus, heliconia, ginger, philodendrons, orchids, bromeliads and calathea. New Zealand natives include karaka, nikau, tree ferns, pohutukawa, kohekohe and taraire.

Marks designs include water features, lighting, children’s playgrounds, slides, tree houses, board walks and bridges that provide connectivity and enhance the feeling of being immersed in a private tropical rainforest.

The huge variety of plants are chosen to create height, texture and depth within the garden, ensuring the canopy envelops the area for privacy, but doesn’t overwhelm it. A key rule is not to choose plants that betray the illusion. One plant can spoil the effect. Tropical plants with their bursts of colour add life and harmony to the garden and link the natural environment with tropical outdoor style furnishings.