March 2013 - Liz Brown, Easy Exotics

Liz Brown of the Urban Jungle Nursery ( told us that not many of our garden plants are native.  Exotics give a flavour of foreign places and need not be hard to grow.

Trachycarpus fortunei, the windmill palm was recommended the best palm to grow, surviving at even minus 18! It is compact with a slim trunk, covered in whiskery fibres which can be stripped or left.  Fast growing, 30cm of trunk in a year when happy and well fed. Bees love the giant flowers.

Bamboos are useful and many are hardy, those with large leaves grow vigorously so you may avoid. Black bamboo is recommended, phyllostachys nigra, snap the heads off any you do not want growing where they come up, the heads come up all at once so are easy to control.  The largest to grow in England was a giant bamboo with fabulous colouring yellow and green, to the thickness of a fence post. 

Tree ferns survived warm winters but recent years have necessitated wrapping them well, fabric stuffed with straw on tops and trunks.  We saw photos of Japanese bamboo wrapping materials which were an elegant alternative.

Bananas - the Japanese fibre banana leaves lasted until Christmas and although the plant will die back to ground level it will come back.  They flower after 5 years and die but will have offsets by then to carry on.  The red banana grows to 7 feet in 2 years, cut it back in winter and store the root indoors.  You can see all these at the nursery and on the website.  Liz buys plug plants from abroad and grows them on.  Consider also succulents as wall panels, vertical gardening.  Feeding is vital to good exotic growing, they use blood, fish and bone, horse muck and Miracle Gro.