Exotic Bedding Plants

 In Bedding Plants, Exotic plants, Gardens Visited, Succulent plants

I love to push the boundaries and grow exotic bedding plants!

But what do I mean by exotic?

I guess the term exotic covers most of the plants in our gardens but I’m referring to those that look ‘exotic’. That’s those plants that have spectacular looking leaves, flowers and perhaps even fruits.

Spring is the time to plan

It’s March and there is a feel of spring in the air.

It’s time to get sowing, potting and planning the bedding plant display for this summer!

But what if our climate were to really warm up and enable us to create stunning bedding plant displays with exotic plants?


Costa Rica plants

I recently visited Costa Rica. This little country has a native flora greater than all of North America!

In fact my travels took me down to the border with Panama and the Osa Peninsula.

On the Osa Peninsula it is claimed that 5% of the world’s flora is to be found!

This Central American country is a plant [and animal] lovers paradise and I’d strongly recommend a visit.


A hotel garden full of exotics

My wife Felicity and I traveled extensively in Costa Rica. And it was at the end of our journey where we saw those exotic looking plants used as bedding plants.

We stayed in the Bougainvillea Hotel near the capitol San Jose.

This proved to be not only a very comfortable and well-appointed hotel but a veritable oasis for gardeners!

And it was here that my eyes were opened to just what can be achieved.

Just take a look at this bed of Bromeliads outside. These are plants that we grow inside and perhaps in conservatories. And they are plants that normally grow as epiphytes on the branches of rain forest trees.

Here is the view from the balcony of our room. Once again with plenty of ‘indoor houseplants’ being used outside.

Now added to Bromeliads you can see Bougainvillea, begonias, Monstera [cheese plant], palms and a towering Norfolk Island pine in the background.

A lot of this colour is from foliage plants. The stunning pink leaves of Cordyline fruticosa [see illustration] looks spectacular.

In the UK we plant a few red varieties of Cordyline australis as focal plants in pots and bedding schemes. I don’t think that we have anything to match this for pure ‘wow’ effect do you?


The origins of this garden

This is a truly exceptional garden by any standards. I was surprised that it began as a hobby.

The garden was planted by a Dutch coffee plantation owner long before the hotel was built.

The coffee plantation is now reduced to a few demonstration trees. And in their place is every exotic and spectacular plant that you could imagine!

Giant bamboos tower overhead and in the gentle breeze their huge stems creak, rustle and crash. Closing your eyes, it sounds as if you have suddenly been transported back to the deck of a square rigger sailing ship!


A celebration of plant diversity

This garden celebrates the diversity of both flora and fauna of Costa Rica. It’s positioned in the highly cultivated Central Valley and reflects the importance of crops grown there.

And so wandering one the garden’s many paths you will see citrus, banana, cocoa [chocolate] and coffee trees.  But beneath them will be species and varieties of Bromeliad.

You’ll also see pineapples which is also a Bromeliad. And pineapple is one of the major crops grown and many of the indoor foliage plants that we grow in our homes in Europe.

Stroll through the garden you may just see the blue crowned motmot, a half dozen different hummingbirds, tanagers or even tree frogs and lizards.

The foyer is beautifully decorated with fantastic looking orchids from the garden’s orchid

house and each are grown to perfection and displayed with just as much care.

This is a perfect place to unwind after a long flight and a fantastic garden to visit even if you stay elsewhere!

Can we grow these exotic plants as bedding plants here in the UK? Well, it will have to get a lot warmer yet but we can certainly dream!

In the meantime, there is no time to lose since it appears we have at last seen the back of one of the worst winters that I can remember. So whether our summer colour comes from exotics or not, we need to get growing right now!


The Hotel is just 10 minutes from both the capitol city San Jose and Heredia and is appropriately called Hotel Bougainvillea.

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