A Tropical Touch in a Native Garden

I'm lucky enough to have some woods behind my garden, so I thought I'd share some photos with you!  In a month or so I'm sure it will be flooded anyways, so I'm enjoying the ability to slip back there and check out the sights, like the bed of ferns in the photo above!
The dominant canopy consists of bald cypress, slash pine and sweet bay magnolia, while the secondary canopy is one of  yaupon and dahoon hollies, and red bay.  In the shrub layer I have mostly fetterbush, highlands blueberry, and saw palmetto, while the ground is covered with ferns and switchgrass.
Admittedly, I do have a couple of exotic tropicals thrown in for a touch of the rainforest, such as my cat palms, agapanthus, caladiums and bromeliads.

Isn't that caladium gorgeous in this setting?  The bulb inadvertently got thrown out with some lawn refuse about 5 years ago, and its been coming back every year despite annual flooding!  That's definitely not what any of my books would predict...

Below is a shot of a Billbergia bromeliad naturalized on a tree in the woods.  Yes they are that cold hardy!  Randomly placing epiphytes in the garden really does help to create the illusion of a rainforest, so I would recommend it to anyone who can get away with it.  Some other good ones for zone 9a are golden polypody, Japanese birdsnest fern, native tilladsias, staghorn ferns, resurrection fern and aechmea gamosepala.


  1. That caladium in that setting does look gorgeous!!! Very beautiful color as well! It is very nice to have natural woods just behind your garden. You really can make a rainforest out of it!

  2. How wonderful to have such a beautifully natural area in your backyard. It's so nice to have privacy like this in your backyard. Do you know the name of that fern? I have a wet area in my garden and could use something like that. Also, do you maintain this area or does it stay neat and clean? Very, very nice!

  3. Ami
    Doesn't the caladium just pop out? I just love going into the shady woods on hot days and just take it all in.

    Thelypteris Palustrus is the ferns name I think, or Marsh fern. I don't know where you can find them for sale, but maybe online? I also have cinnamon fern back there and royal fern will take the flooding too. I even planted the South Florida native Leather Fern at the edge of the woods, which looks super tropical and prehistoric!
    I don't have to maintain too much since its a fairly established area, but a few years back I did go and cut back some undergrowth to help the ferns compete better. I have to go out there and kill some invasive colocasia aquatica soon though, since its started to encroach since the last flood.

  4. Your woodlands are lovely, and that caladium is outstanding in that setting. I love the ferns! It's nice to have some shade on a hot summer day!

    Thanks for visiting my blog and for your comment on Tropicana. I had not thought of combining it with purple heart or potato vine, but you are right — that would look fabulous. Thanks for the suggestion!

    I really like your blog; I will be back to visit!

  5. meredehuit,
    I now follow your blog... I love the snail post!

    debs garden,
    I wish I could follow your blog as easily as I can with the blogspot ones! I just ended up bookmarking it.

  6. I would like to place a hammock in there and just spend hours reading and napping (with a mosquito net of course)!!!

  7. Caladium is really a funny little thing. They just pop up when they love the condition and environment. Otherwise they go on 'hiding'. They are fun to have in the garden. When the plant shows up, it's a surprise for me ;-)

  8. How lucky you are to have that area in your garden.It's something we are all trying to create,and you have it occuring naturally.

  9. I really like the epiphytes on the trees. I keep saying I want to copy that idea but I need to actually DO it. What a nice area you have to be the background of the garden.

  10. Julie
    What a great idea! Eventually my garden will merge with the woods, once the trees grow up a little. Then the garden will be just as peaceful!

    You're absolutely right. I find them popping up all over, only to disappear later. Its still a shock to me that they endure flooding!

    I'm trying to create it in my garden too! Eventually the canopy will grow in and I'll have a nice and shady tropicalesque retreat! Thanks for visiting!

    I just take some twine and tie the bromeliad to the tree, making sure so snip the twine when the roots take hold. You can also include some leaf mould or sphagnum moss for a quicker adhesion.

  11. Thanks for the names of several ferns that don't mind getting their feet wet.


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