Gardening guests Lorna Ko and Michael Perry: totally tropical!


Gardening experts Lorna Ko and Michael Perry have joined forces to share their top tips on how you can easily transform your garden by being smart with your space. With Lorna’s specialist knowledge on water features and ornaments combined with Michael’s love of all things flora, they’re a match made in gardening heaven.

For a full introduction to the duo, click here to read their first blog on sprucing up your windows

On to their second post!

Totally tropical: Exotic, but easy ways to bring the jungle into any home!

Lorna Ko In 1996 I went on a trip to Mexico with my friend Heidi to go around some ancient Aztec, Mayan and Incan ruins.

As we left the small propeller plane (no direct flights in those days to this region) we were hit by the humidity and heat.

It was totally tropical and unlike anywhere we had been before! The plants and wildlife were amazing – from huge giant green plants which looked like something from Tarzan, to stunningly beautiful jaguars and scary alligators – we saw it all!

We totally fell in love with Mexico and all the amazing tropical scenery we saw, but you can also enjoy tropical sights closer to home.

When I visit my friend Chantelle and her family down in Boscastle in Cornwall it’s surprisingly tropical, they have a little stream at the end of their garden and these huge Giant Gunnera plants (also known as Giant Rhubarb plants) that grow up around it, and it’s like something out of Jurassic Park!

Take a look at the incredible plant, plus some of my favourite views:

cornwall-sunsetgiant-rhubarb-in-cornwall cornwall-beach

Michael Perry

Well, I must confess I’m a bit of a ‘plant trekker’ so I’m often combining travel with some plant exploration! I have been lucky enough to partake in a 100km trek through the Costa Rican jungle, which was such an awesome experience!

I was fan-girling constantly, as I spotted plants I’d never seen before! Some plants we would be used to seeing as houseplants were jungle monsters in the humid Costa Rican conditions!

I am also partial to Greek Island holidays, and always marvel at the sight of Oleanders, Bougainvillea and Hibiscus! But, did you know, most of those can be grown in the UK, as long as they’re sitting in overly wet soil over the winter months?

I was enthralled by Jersey in the Channel Islands when I was a kid. I remember once we drove to the very top corner and visited a small village called Plemont, where there was the most exotic waterfall I’d ever seen. I was only about 10, so it was a super special experience for me. Little did I know I would go on to see waterfalls in South America, Australia and more!

Here are some photos from my Costa Rican adventure:

in-the-jungle costa-rica costa-rica-swimming

To create your own exotic garden, look for texture, architecture shapes, and colours. Let your imagination run riot. Where possible, choose hardy plants as they’ll be much less maintenance, but it’s also possible to grow tender plants, such as bananas – just make sure you give them some winter protection!

You can get the jungle look in any size of garden, or even on the balcony or patio – when planting up containers I would use lots of foliage plants; choosing glossy green specimens and lots of hot reds, oranges and yellows! Boom!

Your jungle garden can be as easy to look after as you want it to be! You’ll find the dense planting style of a tropical patch actually reduces weed growth, as your architectural plants will create a impenetrable blanket that weeds will be hard pushed to get through!

For best results, water regularly, perhaps even consider setting up irrigation. Remember fertilisers will help too, especially with blooming power, and with keeping glossy leaves nice and shiny!

Michael’s tropical plant picks

There are some really clever ways of getting the jungle look in your own garden for a fraction of the price, and with plants that thrive in UK conditions.

Thompson & Morgan yucca
A perfect example – these are tough, drought tolerant, shiny and hardy too, so they’ll come back every year. This plant is incredibly low maintenance, but totally exotic!


Hayloft Plants Dicksonia Antarctica Tree Fern
These are great for a shady, damp corner and grow wonderful curling branches. Ideal for pots or the border – they definitely tick the exotic-looking box!


Rainbow butterflies daffodils

You might be surprised to learn spring bulbs can create the jungle atmosphere, but these are super fancy, in tropical colours, and would look brilliant with the ferns or your tropical border!


Lorna’s jungle decorations

Home2Garden mosaic bird feeder and flower bird feeder

First things first, you’ll want to encourage some wildlife of your own to enjoy what you have created! Have a look at these bird feeders from Home2Garden, I first saw their bird feeders over in QVC US and they instantly caught my eye.

Who knows? You may even get a tropical parakeet or two coming to have a snack!

home2garden-bird-feeder-507959 home2garden-flower-bird-feeder-507957

butterfly-lights-506168Smart Garden butterfly lights

When it comes to giving your garden or balcony a tropical look, a great place to start is with some atmospheric lighting.

You can set these cute lights either onto a white light or a multi coloured effect. I would choose the coloured lights and place them near a water feature to give that look of a night time jungle waterfall illuminated by the moon!





bernini-fountain-507436Bernini lion head fountain

I mentioned a water feature, now let’s add one to the scene, I am lucky to represent Bernini Fountains – they are completely wireless as they run off a rechargeable battery hidden inside and so you can use them in the day or night, in the light or shade and put them wherever you want because they don’t need wiring or plumbing in!

This fountain will especially work with our wild theme with a stunning design which features the King of the Jungle himself – the lion!

It’s a smaller fountain which means it’s great for smaller spaces and balconies and if you’re accessorising with some of Michael’s tropical plant suggestions you can place your lion head fountain in amongst all the greenery for a pop of animal magic!


Top tropical trips in the UK

lorna-applying-ultrasunLorna: I really recommend a trip to Kew Gardens – they have some of the rarest and most unusual tropical plants in the world, including the rare Titan arum which produces one of the largest flowers (3 meters tall!) and one of the foulest odours in the plant kingdom (a bit like Michael’s socks after a three-hour garden show!).

If you live near London and have little ones in the family, then I also recommend Kew’s annual pass which means you can visit as often as you like including their brilliant ‘Climbers and Creepers’ children’s play area which is both educational and lots of fun!

If you’re planning a trip, I would also really recommend some serious sun protection because even in the UK the sun can be just as strong as the tropics sometimes!

I saw a fab new product by Ultrasun the other day – a special eye sun protection cream specifically formulated to protect the skin around your eyes. As we get older this delicate skin can start to develop fine lines and sun damage can really affect this so here is my top Ultrasun tip so you’ll be a sight for sore eyes not suffering from them!

If you need a handy bag for your jungle adventures then this one is just perfect – Kipling, cross body and a jungle print – what’s not to love?!

Michael: I adore East Ruston Vicarage Gardens in the corner of Norfolk. It really is paradise. The area is blessed with a micro-climate which means they can grow pretty much anything they want, as exotic as they come!

I was there in July and I was squealing around every corner, if it wasn’t rare climbing Nasturtiums, it was giant, fragrant flowering hostas, I was totally spoilt. It’s a bit out of the way- almost in the outback- but it is well worth a trip, maybe make a weekend of it!

east-ruston-vic-gardens east-ruston-vic-garden-flower east-ruston-vic-garden



What we’ve been up to this month

Lorna: It’s been a whirlwind summer for my family and me!

Firstly I took my son to Sardinia to visit his grandparents where we saw some of the most amazing plants and flowers. From giant fresh lemons and succulent figs growing on trees to some amazing flowers which even managed to grow on the sand on the beaches! We also visited a local food market where the fresh produce was just out of this world. The rich, sweet flavours of sun ripened fruit is so special and just can’t be beaten. Sardinia is such a beautiful island but also gets extremely hot so we were very glad to take along our trusty Ultrasun Sports Spray and Lip Protection!

After we got back it was then my sister’s wedding. What a day! We were so lucky with the weather and everything went just perfectly. It was an Art Deco themed wedding so my sister and her husband had sprayed 50 pineapples gold to decorate the amazing venue down in Surrey – quite a feat! My sister also chose some stunning flowers for the bouquets and table arrangements which incorporated white feathers into the displays – if you love feathers or know someone who does then check out these fab feather earrings I have found from Diamonique!

My sister also had a very special Guest at her wedding – Dermot O’Leary! I posted some photos of Dermot with myself and my Dad on social media and a few people thought we were getting married! He is already married to the most lovely lady so I am sorry girls – he is not available nor am I becoming Mrs O’Leary!

After the wedding I then took my son down to Boscastle in Cornwall to visit my schoolfriend Chantelle and her family again after we had visited them back in the spring. I love Cornwall – from the dramatic, rugged coastlines to the delicious cream teas we had a lovely few days visiting Crackington Beach and going on some stunning coastal walks. We even went Blackberry picking! For my son, growing up in London means you can often forget the simple pleasures of getting out and picking your own fruit and it was lovely just walking and picking our own fruit and meeting some friendly cows along the way too! If you are looking for some fruit to grow yourself check out these fab blackberry pots from Thompson & Morgan to bring a flavour of the countryside into your own garden.

Michael: As ever, I have been busy travelling- not just for work but for leisure too! In fact, August has been mostly holidays!

First up was Mykonos! The island is just beautiful, and we were so lucky to be transferred to a modern, contemporary hotel on the south coast! I spent a lot of time Instagramming wild flowers though, as always! I was amazed at how dry the country is, yet many blooms still survive! Just like Lorna, I also took the worry out of re-applying sun cream with the Ultrasun Sports Spray and Lip Protection pack from the Q!

Straight after our Greek jaunt, we were off to Berlin! I had never been before, but heard so any great things about the place. It is nicely alternative without being too ‘try hard’ too! We hunted out the most unique areas, where the graffiti was mind-blowing. In fact, there was graffiti everywhere! Of course, I also snapped a few street blooms as well!


Get in touch! we love hearing from you so if you have any comments, questions or feedback on our blog please find us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter:

Lorna on Twitter | Lorna on Facebook | Lorna on Instagram | Lorna’s website

Michael on Twitter | Michael on Facebook | Michael on Instagram | Michael’s website

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