RHS Hyde Hall's sub-tropical border gets re-imagined

Our sub-tropical border at Hyde Hall has always been a firm favourite with both visitors and staff alike

RHS Hyde Hall's Tropical BorderLocated next to the farmhouse, the late summer intensity of colour from tender perennials and the huge leaves of the bananas and cannas gave the illusion that you could be anywhere other than rural Essex. But despite its lush and exotic appearance, the sub-tropical border never sat well with its neighbouring beds and borders. The restrained and carefully thought out colour schemes of the farmhouse garden and the cool dappled shade of the woodland garden jarred with the towering foliage and the garish colours.

Of course the other down side to this sub-tropical paradise is that while it gave its all in the summer months, come the winter the area was a barren wilderness with all of the tender plants being cosseted in the heated polytunnel or tightly wrapped in horticultural fleece to keep out the worst of the winter weather.

Tropical BorderThe decision was made in 2013 that the sub-tropical border would be relocated. It just so happened that I had the perfect location for it in the Queen Mother's Garden. This spot was ideal because, while it received masses of sunlight, it was well shielded from the wind by an Acer campestre (Field Maple) hedge and our machinery shed. There was also the added benefit of some existing evergreens (Drimys winteri, Eriobotrya Japonica (Loquat) and Fargesia robusta) that would add structure and provide a leafy back drop.

And so, following the obligatory soil prep, we went planting. I was keen not to produce a carbon copy of what we had before; I wanted to include hardy plants that wouldn’t look out of place mingling with the tropical foliage.

Canna indica 'Purpurea'I am really pleased with the end result. The mixture of hardy plants such as Hemerocallis 'Bela Lugosi' and Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon' work well with the dramatic foliage of Canna indica 'Purpurea' and the Ensete ventricosum 'Maurelii' all complete with the Musa basjoo towering overhead.

The best thing though about the new sub-tropical border is its location. Nestled inbetween existing shrubs and trees and almost unseen until you are right next to it gives the impression that it belongs in its spot and has been there for years.

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The Royal Horticultural Society is the UK’s leading gardening charity. We aim to enrich everyone’s life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.