Essence of a Tropical Garden

Creating a themed garden should involve a thorough understanding of the variables that exist within the garden. Some of these variables relate to the soil and property shape, while others relate to the movement of people around the garden.

Additional external variables such as rainfall, temperature and surrounding vistas can also affect the experience of pleasure within the garden.

Consulting with a designer is one way to effectively consolidate your ideas and maximise the variables for personal pleasure.

If creating a tropical themed garden, the diversity found in dry tropical and subtropical climatic zones can also be incorporated into a garden to establish a journey … an experience of the tropical essence.

One such garden called ‘Suan Sa-warn’ on a humble six-sided  32 perches at Bray Park, Brisbane, takes visitors around 5 water features and eight (8) rooms, each displaying a fascination for plants.

Under the protection of taller palms delicate understorey plants blossom and thrive. It is clear that a solid appreciation for plant collection, microclimate understanding and good horticultural advice had been adopted for this design. Aroids, bromeliads, rhizomatous and bulbous plants and succulents are a clear favourite in this themed garden including an impressive collection of approximately 100 palm species, 30 fern species, 10 cycad species and over 40 varieties of cordylines and crotons.

Owners Ann and Graham Humphrey explained the garden as a tropical essence journey – a condensed tour walking from the mountains to the sea. The journey starts with ferns representing the cool moist mountains, then continues down slopes through the jungle palms into the long plain, over the meandering river and then to the sea.

Rooms created within the garden are reminiscent of past travels by the owners and designer to Malaysia and Thailand and other tropical destinations.

To successfully design and theme such a garden required adhering to create a number of landscape principles:-

  • Plant species diversity
  • Bright and cheerful colours with flowers and foliage
  • Foliage texture and form
  • Removal of turf
  • Art – inclusion of Asian and Pacific Rim artefacts
  • Rooms – discreet yet effective in assisting the journey
  • Dynamic and ongoing improvements and changes

Designer and horticultural consultant Annette Irish found seeing visitors to the garden appreciate the intricate details and the overall layout most rewarding.

The collaborative interaction of client and designer meant that the garden has and shall continue to evolve with the personal taste of the owners yet retain the integrity of the theme and design.


Designer: Annette Irish  FAIH


Written by Paul Plant - freelance horticultural writer

For more inspiration, refer to subTropical Gardening magazine -

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