Exotic Bedding Plants

 In Travel

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

I recently visited Costa Rica with a native flora greater than all of North America packed into this tiny attractive little country. In fact my travels, with my wife Felicity, took us down to the border with Panama on the Osa Peninsula. Here it is claimed 5% of the world’s flora is to be found!

But on our final stop we stayed in a hotel near the capitol San Jose and this proved to be not only a very comfortable and well-appointed hotel but also 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, perhaps in conservatories, and they are plants that grow as epiphytes on the branches of rainforest trees in the wild.

Here is the view from the balcony of our room, again with plenty of ‘indoor houseplants’ being used. Now added to bromeliads you can see bougainvillea, begonias, monster [cheese plant], palms and a towering Norfolk Island pine in the background.

A lot of this colour is from foliage plants such as the stunning pink leaves of Cordyline fruticosa [see illustration]. In the UK we plant just  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?

This is a truly exceptional garden by any standards and one that began as a hobby. It 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!

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

This garden celebrates the diversity of both flora and fauna of Costa Rica and being positioned in the highly cultivated Central Valley reflects the importance of crops grown there. So wandering one it’s many paths you will see citrus, banana, cocoa [chocolate] and coffee trees but beneath them will be bromeliads, pineapples [also bromeliads] 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!

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