Here are our top ten plants for the exotic gardener who like to garden on the edge in the UK.
NUMBER 1. Trachycarpus wagnerianus.
This majestic fan palm is an absolute must in any exotic garden.
This is a smaller selection of the species Trachycarpus fortunei, native to China, Japan, Myanmar and India. An adaptable palm and relatively easy in cultivation. Best grown in open position with some shade when young. Likes a well drained but fertile soil that does not become waterlogged in winter. Ideally planted when small, around 10 to 15 litre is ideal. Protect the crown from hard frosts and snow for the first few years, but once established is very hardy- RHS rating H5 which is -15℃. Feed throughout the season with Blue Nurseries Palm Fertiliser.
NUMBER 2. Musa basjoo.
There is nothing that screams exotic garden more than a clump of tall jungly banana plants.
Big jungly leaves and actual bananas produced on mature established plants, sadly the bananas are not edible. To get this magnificent exotic to a big size you will need to protect the pseudo-stem over winter, our cultivation guide has details of winter protection of banana plants. Like all Musa, this banana is a hungry plant and requires plenty of water and feed throughout the growing period. RHS rating is H2, but we think its H3 and with protection even lower: -10℃
Specialist Banana fertilisers are available from Blue Nurseries Ltd
NUMBER 3. Hedychium densiflorum 'Assam Orange'
There are many hardy Hedychium ginger lilies, but this is probably the hardiest and easiest to establish.
Hedychium gingers have a wide range in Asia, but most of the hardier species and selections come from the Himalayan lowlands. Hedychium densiflorum 'Assam Orange’ grows to around 90cm tall with a spike of orange flowers in late summer to early autumn. Likes a semi shaded position but can take full sun. Needs a rich, moist well drained soil. Like all gingers they enjoy a top dressing every spring and a thick mulch every autumn. Spreads slowly to produce large clumps. RHS rating H3, but again we think much hardier!
NUMBER 4. Fargesia murielae
The fountain bamboo.
A well behaved, clump forming bamboo with graceful arching stems.
We have chosen this bamboo because of its perfect nature for garden cultivation. It does not spread like some bamboo, it's relatively drought tolerant, which is unusual for most bamboo and it’s not massive, growing only to 3 meters. Easy in containers or in the ground and likes shade or semi shade. RHS rating H5, which is -15℃. Feed with our specialist bamboo fertiliser from spring to late summer.
NUMBER 5 Agave montana.
This large spiky succulent looks great in a huge pot or in a raised bed, adding a hint of the med or even Mexico to a sunny patio.
Here at Blue Nurseries we affectionately call this big beautiful Agave, ’Monty’. Native to the mountains of the Nuevo León region of northeastern Mexico, where it is exposed to cool wet conditions and even snow and ice during the winter months, when temperatures drop to -15℃.. Features a large tight rosette of blue/green leaves, heavily marked by the previous leaf. Great in huge pots, raised beds or dry boarder. Grows to 1.5 to 2 meters wide and 1.2 meters high. Flowers eventually with a massive flower spike of up to 5 meters tall! (Agave are monocarpic). Survives in the ground here in Wiltshire with a temporary winter rain shelter. RHS rating H4.
NUMBER 6. Yucca rostrata.
A large spherical head of glaucous thin leaves on stout aging trunks. Another must have from the Americas.
This is a very adaptable Yucca, native from northern Mexico Chihuahua region and Coahuila to southwestern Texas. Tolerates drought wind and wet conditions, but needs a well drained soil in full sun. Grows to 2-3 meters high or more with the spherical head of 1 meter across. Has also been known to flower in the uk, with a 1-2 meter flower spike of ivory white bell shaped flowers. Likes a good liquid feed in spring with Blue Nurseries specialist cactus and succulent fertiliser. RHS rating H4/5 which equates to -15℃.
NUMBER 7. Tetrapanax papyrifer 'Rex' .
A monster, huge leafed giant also known as Chinese rice-paper plant.
A massive shrub growing to 5 meters, from Taiwan and Southern Chinas rainforests. Related and very similar to Fatsia Japonica, but bigger and altogether more exotic. Produces a series of tall sturdy stems topped by large palmate leaves which can grow to 1 meter plus. Like Fatsia, white pompom like flowers are produced in late summer, which are followed by black seed clusters.
RHS rating H4, making it hardy to -10℃
NUMBER 8. Aloe polyphylla.
The spiral Aloe of South Africa. This is a rare beast, but once seen it is never forgotten.
This stunning succulent comes from the high mountain slopes of Lesotho in South Africa and this makes Aloe polyphylla suitable for Uk cultivation. Although not a desert succulent, A.polyphylla does require an extremely well drained and loose growing medium and is probably best grown in raised beds or a steeply drained slope. Some protection maybe needed when small, but otherwise this fabulous succulent is hardy. RHS hardiness rating H3, however we are confident of much lower cold tolerance. Feed with Blue Nurseries specialist cactus and succulent fertiliser in spring.
NUMBER 9. Dicksonia antarctica.
The best loved tree fern and rightly so. Even the smallest garden has room for at least one of these Antipodean living fossils.
Coming from Tasmanian rainforest, the main requirement for success with these giants is water, lots and lots of water, delivered straight into the crown and for best results, rain water ! Plant in damp soil in full or partial shade, sheltered from dry summer winds. Winter protection of the crown is advisable in the UK. Will grow very slowly to 3 to 4 meters but very slowly. Feed with very weak diluted seaweed extract from spring to mid summer. RHS rating H3 but we think H4.
NUMBER 10. Roscoea auriculata.
We have slipped this less well known Himalyan Ginger in at the end because it is less well known and we think that should change.
R. auriculata is a deciduous perennial with purple orchid like flowers on top of 50cm tall pseudo-stems. Easy in cultivation preferring a shaded spot in moist rich, but well drained soil. The tubers are like small bunches of bananas and these should be planted in spring about 10 to 15 cm deep.
Feed well in spring and mulch with bark chip to help retain moisture throughout summer.
More information can be found in our Roscoea Cultivation Guide.
RHS rating H5