Imagine your patio door to be a crack in space and time, a portal back into prehistoric times, when those lovely giant lizards roamed the earth. What was it like when those silly doves in your yard were more like behemoths, two-storeys tall and weighing more than a couple of elephants? Welcome to your Jurassic-park inspired tropical garden!
Now, something to remember about the planet back then is that there were no real flowers yet, so we’re going to try to keep flowers to a minimum and rather resort to interesting foliage textures and colours to derive interest in the garden. This is surprisingly difficult, since most of the plants we use in our gardens now reproduce using flowers, but luckily some of their ancient relatives are still with us today. The crocodiles and coelacanths of the plant world, if you will.
Let’s start with some of the easiest plants to use for getting your garden to look like a prehistoric wonderland. Ferns and tree ferns are the most obvious plants to start as they predate the dinos themselves. I have always had a specific love for ferns since I was a child, incidentally, I was and still am a dinosaur nut!
The way these plants unfurl their fronds is a beautiful and interesting element all on its own. The tree ferns take it a step further, by making huge fronds and older ones will grow tall and loom over you and the garden like a dinosaur all on their own.
Honourable mentions: Consider including some varieties of Asparagus densiflorus. Several varieties spread or grow more upright and they add a lovely fluffy lime-green texture to the garden. Cycas revoluta has a very similar look and growth habit to ferns but introduces a more robust and spiney look to the garden and it is definitely worth adding to the collection.
We usually associate that period of history with the very lush and “jungley” look, so we can definitely add some BIG leaf favourites for the tropical garden into the mix too.
We’re talking about Monstera deliciosa, Philodendron selloum, Xanadu and Alocasia macrorrhiza (Elephant’s ear). There’s even a purple Alocasia, if you can manage to find one. These guys will definitely add some major scale to make a statement and have that prehistoric look to them to boot.
Now let’s get a little crazy with foliage colour. This can inject some major interest and also make sure everything isn’t all the same shade of green in your jurassic garden.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the resplendent Coleus plants (Solenostemon scutellarioides). If you want to make a statement with foliage colours, these are the plants to get. Pepper them in groupings among your other plants and watch your garden explode with bright reds, pinks, neon greens and yellows. There are many to choose from and each is more brilliant than the next.
Don’t forget about hard landscaping. This area depends on how rustic or modern you want to go. I personally like the juxtaposition of the ancient-looking garden with modern elements and finishes more than the rustic and natural look, but this is up to your own personal taste.
Consider adding in a feature bench so that you can go sit, interact and enjoy your garden. I would say the clever use of rocks and pebbles are a must. They exaggerate the old world feel as well as maybe some feature driftwood.
Gravel or bark chip mulch will make the perfect addition for footpaths, but that’s not to say you can’t use modern concrete flagstones or wooden sleepers or discs to walk on.
A water feature is a must to create the proper ambience. It can either be a subtle babbling brook or a gushing waterfall. You can go either way with how it looks, modern or rustic.
This is just the beginning, but this will get you off to a great start when creating your ‘Jurassic Garden’.
For more gardening advice contact Kerwyn on 064 658 2815 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit the Purple Turtle Concepts and the Guild of Landscape Designers (GoLD) pages on Facebook.
By Kerwyn Fourie
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