Exotic plants for pots can be placed in the garden during summer, but really need the protection of a greenhouse or conservatory during the winter.
The cannas are exotic in both form and flower. Canna indica has banana-like leaves, grows to about 1,5 m (5 ft) and has bright red and yellow flowers in summer. C. indiflora is bigger and good for summer bedding or for pots. It has shocking pink flowers and will grow 3 m (10 ft) in a year. C.’Purpurea’ is a purple-leaved form with orange flowers. Cannas are best dug up in fall and stored under a bench for the winter, then planted out again in spring.
Agaves are succulent perennials grown for their large, fleshy, sword-shaped leaves. Agave americana has curvy-toothed grey-green leaves armed with short spines. It needs to be kept in a pot so it can be moved indoors in winter.
There are some small evergreen trees that can look highly exotic grown on their own. These include mimosa (Acacia dealbata) with pretty, grey-green ferny leaves and masses of tiny ball-shaped yellow flowers in spring. Acacia ‘Pravissima’ is a small weeping mimosa with triangular leaves, suitable for a small garden.
The monkey puzzle (Araucaria araucana) comes from Chile and is strikingly exotic. It is the only one of its family hardy enough to be grown outside in temperate zones. In the 19th century it was a fashionable tree to grow in front gardens. Grow it as part of a grove or as a specimen tree near enough to the house so that its fascinating flowers and fruits may be seen from an upstairs window.
The red-barked strawberry tree (Arbutus x andrachnoides) is evergreen, fast growing and winter flowering, as well as having attractive bark.
Bananas are really herbaceous plants but they are tall enough to act as trees in the exotic garden. They look good at the edge of a pond where they are reflected in the water. The hardy banana (Musa basjoo) has enormous tattered leaves, which can be used for anything from wrapping paper to picnic plates or umbrellas! Other bananas, including edible ones, must be kept in a conservatory.
Musa basjoo banana tree
Melianthus major, from southern Africa, is a dramatic plant with serrated grey-green leaves. It is actually a shrub but best treated as a herbaceous perennial. It will survive in a warm position in many areas, if protected in winter. All these exotic plants will add an architectural dimension to the garden and can be grown in association with hardier large-leaved plants such as Rodgersia, Ligularia and Astilbe, or add height to a bed of ground cover plants such as Sedum and Polygonum.
Surprisingly few swimming pools have had any attempt made to integrate them with their environment. But why put up with municipal surroundings if you have your own pool at home? Hedges, walls or trellises can all create an enclosed private space that you can make as exotic as you wish.
The pool could be integrated into a spacious patio or terrace with room to stand large pots of citrus fruit or tropical-looking plants, which will be reflected in the water. The pool itself can be any shape you wish. Standard clipped mop-headed box trees can stand sentinel alongside the pool. A cloistered Moorish changing room with rounded arches could face one end of the pool. Or you could have a Baroque pool built with scrolls, statues and more clipped plants.