You Tell Me - Balinese Themed Garden?

 Birdsnest fern's apple green fronds

Help me choose!
What plants and design elements would really make this garden into a Balinese sanctuary?  I am designing a garden bed for the entrance to my parent's house and need your help in creating an Indonesian or Southeast Asian vibe!  The house's architecture isn't anything special, the walls are light gray, and the paving is plain ol' concrete, so I have to rely on the plants and planting design to create the look I'm going for.  Since the best gardens in this theme are the simplest, I need to narrow it down to just several plants. 

Existing Plants
There is a rectangular planting of azaleas along the foundation, and a random assortment of dwarf hollies in front.  I will remove the unhealthy ones and prune the others to create a more naturalistic shape in the Asian aesthetic.  The crape myrtle is being removed, as well as the lantanas.  I have Liriope Spicata, which is similar to mondograss, and lily of the nile as groundcovers.  I have also planted gloriosa lily to ramble through the azaleas and give a tropical blast of color in summer and fall.

Plants to Use
 Loquat - I am definitely leaning toward a Loquat to replace the crape myrtle, since it has the broad, evergreen leaves and ornamental shape that works well with an Asian theme

Lady Palm - Behind and beneath the loquat seems like a great place for my new bamboo-like lady palm, which would make a great backdrop.

Birdsnest Fern - This is a must have for a Balinese garden, but since my broadleaved variety is a little more tender, I'll probably try the one with narrower leaves that Floridagirl has.  Ideally, I'd plant it in the tree.

Lemongrass - A great architectural grass that makes even greater tea, this can get kinda big.

Alocasia "Calidora" - I have it in the backyard, but alocasias are another nice element of a Southeast Asian garden.

Plumeria - A staple in Geoffry Bawa's and Made Wijaya's landscapes, I may add another one and just dig it up in winters like this last one.

What other plants can you think of?

Hardscaping and Decor
Eventually I will extend the width of the sidewalk with white pebbles in between the sidewalk and the border, which would be made of a dark finished wood and bamboo.  This is fairly affordable, visually opens up the entrance in a welcoming arc, and will give my mom's power chair more wiggle room.  I can't afford much in the way of the carved wood accents so typical of the style, but will probably incorporate something small, like lanterns or a container at the doorstep.  Any other ideas?

Baby treefrog on an alocasia leaf


  1. Oh, that dear little treefrog! I have nothing to contribute designwise, but I'll cheer you on enthusiastically.

  2. Just knowing that you like the treefrog works just fine for me. We get a ton of them in spring, and they prefer to live in the leaf axils of elephant ears, gingers, bananas and bromeliads. I love em!

  3. Hi from Australia, I went to an open garden last year and the entrance was spectacular, I think just the kind of thing you have explained. He used rocks as mulch which gave everything quite a nice clean look. Lot of bromeliads and a couple of stunning desert rose (dont know if you can grow them there). One element he did that I liked was to have a separate small bamboo type plant off to the side, seeming to grow out of the rocks (if you understand what I mean) also I think an element of water is essential.

  4. I originally come from China, so maybe I can contribute a little here. I definetely agree with africanaussie about using bamboo. Just be careful about type you choose. Some bamboo could be very invasive and the roots could destroy your house foundation if plant to close to the house. Small bamboo in a planter will be a good idea.

  5. Loquats are a great choice...exotic and very cold-hardy for Zone 9. I agree that the Lady Palm would give a tropical bamboo effect. I have a palm (Areca) in my garden that everyone thinks is bamboo. And I am a big fan of the bird's nest ferns! That bright green really pops in shady spots.

    Plumerias are the bomb! But mine have been cold-damaged now two years in a row. They come back from ground level, but they won't bloom that year. Have you ever dug them before? I'm just wondering, because they have pretty extensive, though shallow, root systems for the size of the plant. (I dug an old one up once and was quite surprised.) Taking cuttings is probably easier.

    Whatever you choose, we want to see pictures!

  6. Well, you have included plumeria, alocasia and bird's nest fern which are really the must (for me!) for a Balinese theme garden. Have you considered big ceramic pots that look like urn? Thanks for your reply on the calla lily :-)

  7. This project sounds like fun! Definitely the loquat and lady palms are a great choice. You might also try some cast iron plants beneath the loquat as they need shade. They look tropical but are cold-hardy, and they come in different varieties (short & tall...tall being 2 ft). Some are solid green, variegated or speckled. You might also try Big Lots for some inexpensive accents. I look forward to seeing photos. Good luck.

  8. aloha, what a fun project to work on and i love that it will be a tropical theme, the hardscaping sounds great and affordable, how about staining or painting the pavers with a balinese theme to give it more interest, alot of balinese gardens have graveled pathways with pavers. also the plant material sounds great, for hardy plants why not choose variegated cannas, caladiums and alocacias, coleus for color and gingers, also hardy bamboos especially the variegated types of clumpers that are available in your area...a nice pic of the property would help :)

  9. africanaussie and ami, do you know where I can find som dwarf bamboos? I've been looking and would love to find one someday. Otherwise I have lady palm and bamboo palm.
    Floridagirl, how is your areca down there? Mine is crummy looking. :(
    Stephanie, I am keeping an eye out for an urn. It could be the one garden art piece I allow myself to buy.
    Susan, I like cast iron plant but probably need to reserve the shadier spots for the lady palm and birdsnest ferns for now. I've been looking for an excuse to get some though...
    Noel, I'd love to stain the concrete but then I'd have to stain the huge driveway, so I can't afford it. Great ideas though...

    I'll follow up with some pictures soon!
    Thanks everyone!

  10. Ooh, RFG, I love Bamboo palms. They're supposed to be cold-hardy and love the shade. Have you been able to find those for a reasonable price? They want around $60 apiece for them at our local nurseries! I want one so badly!

    My Areca palm is many years old and is a huge clump. It's Zone 10, so I shouldn't be growing it, but, oh well. Everyone here grows them, along with Zone 10 crotons, ti plants, giant birds, and plumeria. The Areca WAS damaged, along with all the other Zone 10 plants, for the second year in a row. But it's not destroyed--mostly upper leaves are burnt. Last year, it looked pretty bad for a few months, but ultimately recovered. Check out my post "Wordless Wednesday: Tropical Textures." The first three pics feature a few of the Areca trunks.

  11. Yeah, those were pretty trunks! I actually got the bamboo palm labeled as a radicalis palm, with small radicalis palms growing in the same container for about 15 bucks. I'll try and start dome from seed when I get ripe fruits, but they bay be hybrids with the radicalis.

  12. I love the baby treefrog! So cute! I also like the layout you've created for the site; it's great! I'm really enjoying the pictures you've taken of the plants you've been talking about for so long. It's nice to finally have a visual to go with everything.

  13. Hey, I visited you for the first time, as I love tropical gardens. Lots of good pics and writing, so i enjoyed it a lot - thanks!
    Perhaps as a form of contribution, I can invite you to our blog

    We are a small publisher, and currently we finished one book on tropical homes (with beautiful gardens surrounding them), and now we are finishing our next book Exotic Gardens of the Eastern Caribbean. There will be about 500 photographs including some most amazing gardens we were able to find. as we work on this book, we will post photos from it, and some can be quite inspiring, or give fresh ideas. I hope you can enjoy these - even if they won't show you anything you would wish to use...
    I will link to your blog, as soon as i'll figure out how - I am rather new to this, ha ha... Chers! Derek


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