Push Away the Daisies!
I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with daisies, but if you're going to create an illusion of Bali or the Yucatan, you'll need to ditch the daisies and any other flower that would look out of place in the tropics. Instead of planning traditional 'paint by number' flower beds, use solid masses of foliage to let plants from the region stand out and take center stage!
Use bright colors set against lush greenery, especially the iconic tropical ones like hibiscus, orchids, and heliconias. The large and architectural leaves of palms, bananas and alocasias are also a must, since they instantly transform any space into a tropical garden.
Look to the East... or West.
To make a convincing tropical garden, you'll have to set the stage a little. Make your own 'theme garden' and stick with plants from a certain area! For example, wouldn't it be neat to design a tropical Japanese garden?
You could use the same plants from a temperate Japanese garden, but add tropical plants from southern Japan as focal points! For example, Japanese birds nest fern, loquat, arenga engleri (dwarf sugar palm), and lady palm would be great tropicals from Japan to use. Maybe you could even showcase a little Samurai Orchid in a Japanese pot, or grow a banyan bonsai!
To create a convincing tropical garden, you'll need more than just plants. You'll need to add the human element too, in the form of hardscaping, accessories, pots, art, and garden architecture. For the aforementioned Japanese tropical look, it would be important to keep a simple and minimal design in keeping with a zen Buddhist mentality. Only then should you break out the stone lanterns!
Want your own spa? Make an outdoor shower worthy of a Balinese spa by laying pavers through river stones, setting up a teak stool, and using a folding bamboo screen to add a little privacy! Plant a lady palm or birds nest fern in the stones to really make it feel like you're showering in the jungle!
Engage the Senses
Imagine a dinner party in your tropical theme garden. Your guests would seat themselves at a dark stained table, taking in the amazing sights of your private resort. As they gaze at the bromeliad centerpiece, scents of jasmine and plumeria would waft into the dining area, enhancing the other worldly experience.
Your guest's nerves would be soothed by the gurgling fountain... by the chirping birds and bleating treefrogs that use your garden as a retreat from the city. Maybe you'd even be playing some samba or bollywood music in the background to add another level of realism to the charade! The great thing about incorporating great sounds into your outdoor room, is that they also mask the noises of city life, keeping you in your 'happy place'.
For more posts on garden design...