If you live in northeast Florida or happen to be going up to Jacksonville via I-95, be sure to check out Washington Oaks for its amazing gardens, natural maritime hammocks and its unique anastasia limestone outcrops on the beach. For the purposes of this entry, lets just focus on the gardens for now.
Here you can see Shell Ginger (Alpinia Zerumbet) in the background, White Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia Nicolai) and Musa spp. Bananas, and even a Screw Pine (Pandanus) in the upper right hand corner. What makes this look so much like a rainforest is the coarse textured architectural plants layered under a canopy of varying heights. The water not only looks refreshing but also allows a clean view.
Billbergia "Striata" nestled among mondo grass in a winding garden path.
Alpinia Zerumbet and its porcelain blooms
Slender Lady Palm (Rhapis Multifida) towering over some rather lanky Fingernail Bromeliad (Neoregelia Spectablis)
Leather fern (Acrostichum Daneifolium) and Shell Ginger in their element. Looking at this scene, I can't believe its not tropical! These are two awesome plants for the wet tropics look, and both are hardy in zone 9a and possibly 8b. They may die back a little but grow bigger each year nonetheless. Be sure to give them lots of water!
Washington oaks is one of Florida's best kept secrets and is sure to inspire the tropicalesque gardener and any others as well. It has a prime location between Hwy A1A and the intercoastal waterway, and on the other side of the highway is one of florida's only 3 rocky beaches. Hint: The other two are Indian Rocks beach and Blowing Rocks Preserve. Hope this provides you with some ideas!