Outdoor Oasis: Designing A Tropical Garden Paradise

290 North Washington Drive, Sarasota, Florida

Warm temperatures, salt-air breezes and miles of sandy beaches make Southwest Florida a year-round tropical paradise. By virtue of this enviable climate, it’s also home to some of the most gorgeous trees, flowers and landscaping in the world. But what types of plants and flowers will thrive in the home garden in both the dry, sunny winters, and the hot, moist summers? Premier Sotheby’s International Realty posed that question to a few gardening experts to get the scoop on the latest trends in tropical landscape design.

The Palm Tree, a Perennial Favorite

A swaying palm tree is perhaps the most enduring image of the tropical landscape. Their heartiness and versatility make them a favorite among designers. “The varieties of palm trees that exist are almost endless,”  says Julie Moir Messervy, landscape design author and principal of JMMDS, who recommends planting Bismarck, Royal, Indian Date, Silver, and Chinese Fan varieties. “Palms can be used in the landscape as features, framing and complementing the views.”

Bold Colors

Messervy loves bougainvillea, which she says lends itself beautifully to cascading down a hillside. “When faced with a steep slope, plant a ‘waterfall’ of bougainvillea punctuated with native cacti,” she explains. “Then place bold and fascinating bromeliads at the home’s entrances where they can be appreciated by arriving guests. These plant palettes and combinations complement a home’s interior. Contrasting foliage plants with cacti and agave, along with select palm trees, reflects the excitement and energy of the climate.” 

Plumeria obtusa, commonly known as frangipani, is another go-to planting. “The mid-sized tree has a very clean form and strong texture,” she explains. “The fragrance is so beautiful that we [can place] the fallen flowers on small plates around the house to enjoy it indoors.”

Mature Plantings
Mature planting of Allamanda hendersonii, Photo: Jana Bryan Wunderle/Julie Moir Messervy Design Studio (JMMDS)

Pool-side Beauty

The focal-point of many tropical homes is the pool, and landscaping  is very often an integral part of the design. E. Bingo Wyer of Cote Fleurie Studio loves to use Brazilian Red Hots (Alternanthera dentata) to accet this area. “It is a good edger and welcome addition to any pool side. It grows 20 to 28 inches tall, and about 18 inches wide and is trouble-free in full sun or partial shade,” she explains. “The bright foliage is great against the blue water and is fairly drought-tolerant. Ball shaped white blooms appear mid-winter. Its color pops best in full sun and we suggest these are best cut back as tin spring for a vigorous flush of color. The hot pink and rose shades also look great when punctuated by decorative grasses or mixed with separate clusters of  annuals, which can be rotated out for diversity. Its color pops best in full sun and we suggest these are best cut back as tin spring for a vigorous flush of color. The hot pink and rose shades also look great when punctuated by decorative grasses or mixed with separate clusters of  annuals, which can be rotated out for diversity.”

lily turf

Lily Turf with its lavender spikes loves pools. Photo courtesy of E. Bingo Wyer for Cote Fleurie Studio 

Wyer also loves Crossandra ‘Orange Marmalade’ for its bright orange hue as a reliable perennial in sunny or partially-shaded Florida pool areas. “It is a real beauty against the backdrop of a blue pool,” she explains. “Practically insect and disease free, it blooms in all the warm months of the year and doesn’t feature the exploding seed pods of other varieties, so the pool skimmer is not working overtime.”

If you’re aiming for a Mediterrean feel, Wyer suggests containers and pots “that spill over with ivy leaved pelargoniums, and lobelia. Nothing too tidy. Low growing aromatic plants also define the authentic Mediterranean landscape: rosemary, sage, gray leaved santolinas or a flat lawn lavender.”

 

 

 

 

 

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