Say Yes to Tropical Plants in Your Garden

By George Graine, Fairfax Master Gardener
“The good gardener is the one who makes experiments.” — Vita Sackville-West (1950)

book coverIn the book “Fearless Gardening” by Loree Bohl she wrote, “To every gardener who ever thought, but I can’t or I shouldn’t, you can and yes you should.” This type of guarded optimism could just as well apply to a new book by Marianne Willburn titled, “Tropical Plants and How to Love Them: Building a Relationship with Heat-Loving Plants When You Don’t Live in the Tropics” (Cool Springs Press, 2021). Note that the author is not a resident of Hawaii, Florida or Southern California. In fact she resides and gardens with tropical plants in a rural area of Northern Virginia. Here she has an “… ever-evolving mixture of tropical, temperate, and native plants.” Please do not let the title of this book be a turn-off because there are so many plants that you can enjoy in our Mid-Atlantic hardiness zone. Consider this book as a challenge to gardeners who previously assumed tropical plants demanded a tropical environment or be relegated to remain as houseplants.

Gardening with most tropicals will not break the bank. Consider this quote from the author. “I have spent most of my gardening life trying to figure out how to make more from less, much from something, and anything from nothing.” That is why she got into the wonderful world of tropical plants. Her writing is like talking to a friend over the backyard fence and without any long-winded technical horticultural jargon. You will learn important concepts so that the points being made are easily understood. Furthermore, the explanatory writing makes a lot of sense, and the beautiful color photos in real garden settings are superb.

Perhaps now you are asking a question — why tropicals? The answer is relatively simple and straightforward. It is because tropical plants make an impact, that is, a statement in the garden. These type plants also tend to complement nearby plants without dominating them. Think