New Tropical Garden – Exciting times! Part 7

A Sad Story

I woke up the other morning and found my way to the kitchen to make myself a nice cup of tea. Nothing remarkable about that I hear you remarking. No, however, I put the kettle on, opened the tea bag pot and to my horror, I could see the bottom! There were no tea bags left!! I frantically searched the cupboards, even venturing into the depths of the back of the cupboard where all the forgotten things live. Among the broken shards of spaghetti, squashed stock cubes, soft with age and old honey jars now fused to the shelf, I found a solitary tea bag. A sad individual, long removed from his kin, an old pinenut his only friend.

Old Tea Bag

Sad perhaps but he was a tea bag none the less! Into the cup he went with a splash of milk, one sugar and some boiling water [sounds rather cruel now I’ve personified him]. What resulted was a cuppa nobody should ever have to experience, it was truly awful. It tasted exactly of the cupboard from whence it came. With a bouquet of curry powder, gravy thickener, brown sauce, cumin powder and a cornucopia of other flavours of which I’ve no idea what, it was an experience which I’d soon rather forget. A dark moment in my life.

To turn this sorry situation into something positive, I took the opportunity to look up tea on the internet, to see, well, what tea is. I knew it was the crushed up leaves of a plant, that the plant is grown in India, it is picked by the woman on the PG Tips box and has in reality little to do with chimps or small yorkshiremen. That was the extent of my knowledge.

Tea for two and two for tea…

To save you some time and prevent you from leaving my website, I’ll quickly explain tea to you. What we call tea is the fermented, rolled, dried and then crushed up leaves and bud of the Camellia Sinensis plant. Wow, managed to do it in a sentence, Wikipedia had to use a whole page! The plant is a relative of the Camellia Japonica we often grow in the UK for their glossy leaves and bright flowers. It is a native to China and India, however and here’s the interesting bit, it will and does grow perfectly happily in the UK. In fact there is a small plantation on the Tregothnan Estate in Cornwall! What really got me excited, not only do they grow in the UK, Tregothnan actually sell the plants for others to grow them too. Having an exotic plant to put in my tropical garden that I could also make a cup of tea from is just a dream come true!

I had to get one! When I went to the site, Tregothnan were selling the plants for a not overly cheap price of £14.95 each. They also sold three together for £35. I thought I might as well go for the three to give me some backup if I managed to kill one of them. If I manage to kill all three, well then that’s my stupid fault. As I put in my details to buy them, I discovered there would be a £5 postage charge, however, if I spent over £40, postage would be free. So I needed to find something for £5 and get it effectively for free. I plumped for two baby Trachycarpus fortunei or Chinese windmill palms as they’re known for a total of £42.90.

A few days later, they arrived and here they are. Three tea plants, ready and waiting to be put out in the garden in the spring.

Camellia Sinensis

Just need to find out how to make tea from them!

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New Tropical Garden – Exciting times! Part 6


On each of my forays to the garden centre, one plant keeps catching my eye – a Mahonia (not literally as they are very prickly and that would be rather nasty). I guess it’s the time of year when the nurseries have them on display being winter flowering plants. I’ve ummed and ahhed and ahhed and ummed over whether to get one for myself. They have a kind of exotic look to them although I wouldn’t call it ‘tropical’ per se. However, the more I considered getting one, the more I realised it was on my mind and the only way to stop thinking about it was to just get one.

So now I have a mahonia!

Tropical Garden Mahonia

My variety is called Mahonia X Media ‘Winter Sun’ and after a bit of research, I discovered that Mahonias are shade loving and would be ideal next to the shed which is in shade for most, if not all of the day. They also grow quite tall which is good for me as I wanted something to obscure the shed from that side.


Earlier this year we were given some Nerine bulbs. They were unlabelled but grew into foot high plants with white spidery flowers. I’m not sure but I think they are probably the Nerine bowdenii Alba variety. Potted up together in a planter, they looked OK but I think they really needed to be in the ground dotted around rather than in a clump so they can contrast with other plants. I’ve put them in. I’m not sure if it’s a permanent home for them, I’ll just have to see how they look next year.

Tropical Garden Progress 17
(You can also just make out some Viper’s Bugloss I’ve transplanted from another part of the garden)

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New Tropical Garden – Exciting times! Part 5

Planting Continued

It’s frustrating buying tropical plants in the winter – it really is. I waited until autumn to landscape my garden to avoid annoying any birds nesting in the shrubbery and to be able to collect the last harvest from my doomed apple trees. This has been a big drawback as it means a lot of what I wanted to achieve has to be put back until next year.

As a little sweetener I decided to buy some less tender plants to give me something to do and to at least make me feel like progress was being made. The pond needed some cover so that was the first thing to do. Another trip to my local nursery and another basket of plants. This time grasses. I wanted some grasses for placing at the bends of my bark chip path and amazingly in the sale items they had various types of Carex. Carex is the genus of the Sedge of which there are many types. I plumped for six Carex ‘Amazon Mist’ which have lovely fine blades like thick luscious hair, perfect for sweeping past and gently touching with your fingertips (yes I know, I’m like that). They’re quite small at the moment but they’ll grow and spread.

Tropical Garden Progress 12

For the pond I bought a Carex oshimensis ‘Everillo’ which will look great as it arches and dips into the water like a mini weeping willow. Annoyingly when I got home I found I already had one growing in a rockery. It didn’t matter as that was just another one to put the other side of the pond.

For the pond’s oxygenating plants I bought a Pontederia cordata (Pickerel Weed) which will send up spikes of dark blue flowers in late summer and some Hydrilla (standard pond weed). I transfered some pond life from my other pond further up the garden to ‘activate’ it, alas this came with the compulsory duckweed.

Here’s how it looks now…

Tropical Garden

Inspired by an area of the New Forest I sometimes visit, I wanted to buy some Hart’s Tongue Ferns (Asplenium scolopendrium ‘Angustifolia’), with their long wavering shiny fronds, they’re a native plant with a tropical look and are shade loving so would be ideal for the area which is shaded by the shed. The ones in the nursery were only small but I got a couple anyway, however, when I got back I realised I’d got two Angustifolia (which I’d intended getting) and one Cristata which is the ‘Crested’ Hart’s Tongue Fern. Not a problem as they are similar and Cristata is actually a more interesting plant.

As I was milling around I also found a Bergenia called ‘Autumn Magic’ which I bought mainly for the leaves as they are large and fleshy and sometimes called Elephant’s Ears. In autumn they send up maroon red stems supporting small pink flowers.

The garden looks like it’s got potential now. You can start to see how it’s going to look….

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