Early September and everything is looking excellent at the Exotic Garden…

One of the Exotic Garden borders...

One of the Exotic Garden borders...

Visitors to the Exotic Garden here in Norwich are already asking me when am I going to start bringing in all those wonderful tender exotics – I have to admit, I really don’t want to think about it yet as winter will come soon enough without wishing it on! Summer 2013 may be considered as virtually over (by some) though I would rather think of it as one of the most ‘summery’ summers for many a year, with hopefully an Indian summer to come – well I can wish!

We have been blessed with warm September weather this week really pushing the growth of all the plants in the garden, with some such as the Brugmansia’s (Angels Trumpets) actually preferring the cooler nights as it simulates the cooler conditions they prefer in the Andes of South America. I remember last year many of the Cannas struggled to get to 3-4ft whereas this year they have gone absolutely ballistic, many towering well above head height and only now reaching maximum bloom and if the weather stays kind, they will just keep on going until the first frosts of autumn finally cut them down.

Brugmansia in full flower at the Exotic Garden...

Brugmansia in full flower at the Exotic Garden...

The new 8 x 10m Poly tunnel erected here at the Exotic garden in the Spring of 2012 was emptied of all its overwintering plants in late May this year though when you go in to it now, it still looks absolutely full, thanks to such a warm and glorious summer. Many of the plants in there were purchased from one of my favourite nurseries in North Norfolk – Creek Plant Centre owned by the inimitable Trevor Harris in South Creek near Fakenham. It may be small in comparison to some of the larger nurseries, but when visiting, I never fail to find interesting and often rare gems lurking in many of its corners.

Last June I purchased two 3ft tall Pasiflora’s from Trevor, including Pasiflora ‘Amethyst’ which grew rampantly last year, almost swamping the tunnel with growth this year, where it now hangs in massive curtains across the Polly tunnels struts. It is never out of bloom producing myriads of typical Pasiflora flowers in in a delightful shade of lilac-purple – superb indeed.

I must add the central part of the tunnel has all its planting in the ground in a long bed about 2.5m X 10m long. This has produced the effect I always desired when I was a little boy, of having a covered area that looked like a section of the Palm house at Kew!

Ground cover in the Poly tunnel at the Exotic Garden…

Ground cover in the Poly tunnel at the Exotic Garden…

Obviously some plants have hit the roof at 3.5m and have unfortunately bent over such as large specimen Strelitzia nicoli which really wants to be 5-10m tall! Planted next to it, again, as small plant last year, is Ipomoea indica syn. learii, a very dark and handsome purplish-blue Morning glory that has also reached gigantic proportions spreading down the centre of the tunnel to the top then trailing down to the ground amongst all the other planting where its long tendrils trail snake-like across the ground. It is never out of bloom, as it produces dozens of new flowers everyday with their splashes of intense colour.

Ipomoea indica syn. learii

Ipomoea indica syn. learii

Near the entrance is the Buttercup Bush – Senna corymbosa, with bright green pinnate leaves and racemes of brightest yellow flowers, set off by a large ‘Persian Shield’, Strobilanthes dyerianus, with its almost metallic-purple leaves. In the main border are also planted several different types of Colocasia and Alocasia with their massive architectural leaves giving a really jungle-like effect. There are several tall gingers including a handsome variegated form named ‘Dr Moy’, from the late plant breeder Dr. Moy of the San Antonio Botanical Garden in the US. It is a probably a Hedychium flavum x coccineum, with white paint-like speckles covering the otherwise green foliage. It hasn’t flowered yet though looks promising and when it does should produce fragrant, peachy-orange flowers with a darker orange throat!

The whole area is under-planted with a wide range of Tradescantia’s forming large carpets of differently coloured foliage, intersperses with ferns, Plectranthus and many Bromeliads lurking in the undergrowth. My cats can often be seen darting in and out amongst the dense planting!

Either side of the tunnel are raised benches absolutely stuffed to the gunnels with a large collection of oddity’s I have collected over the years including many different types of Euphorbia milii (Crown of Thorne’s) One that really stands out for me is Euphorbia milii variegata which has thin green leaves prominently splashed with yellow and topped topped with red flowers – quite divine!

Euphorbia milii variegata  with ‘Persian Shield’, Strobilanthes dyerianus in the background

Euphorbia milii variegata with ‘Persian Shield’, Strobilanthes dyerianus in the background

Another beauty in full flower at the moment is Duranta erecta, formally known as D. repens. This fine shrub is native to the New World from Florida, the Caribbean and south to Brazil. It has 1cm blooms that are edged in white lace, born in grape-like drooping clusters from summer right through into the autumn. I have seen this fine shrub on visits to the Caribbean over the years and have discovered that it makes an excellent conservatory plant as long as it’s kept at a minimum of 7C during those long cold days of winter.

Durantia erecta

Durantia erecta

I must admit when I see how full the Polly tunnel is at the moment, I struggle to think how we are going to get all the tender exotics in from the garden later in the year especially as they have put on so much growth! Never-the-less, with lots of judicious pruning and stacking, it will be stuffed like a large Sardine can by early November ready to go through the winter!

Liam Jason and Jess at the end of a garden open day relaxing...

Liam Jason and Jess at the end of a garden open day relaxing...

Enough of being inside – the garden is beckoning me as it is such a glorious day outside and many plants need deadheading to keep them in peak flowering condition right through into October.

For those of you who braved the Norwich City football match cars which unfortunately coincided with some of the Saturday openings here at the Exotic Garden in August, we have decided to extend the Saturday open days to the 7th and 11th of September as the Canary’s will be playing away on those dates – let’s hope the sun still smiles on us all for at least few more weeks yet – enjoy.

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  1. Deborah Scott Anderson September 8, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    Your plants are amazing after such a fabulous summer and I wish we could just stop the weather here and enjoy months of endless balmy autumn sunshine. Like you the thought if wrapping up my garden and myself for winter is not something I even want to think about – ever!
    Enjoy the open days and look forward to sharing the huge amount of plant growth in yr garden very soon when I visit.

  2. Delphine, Paradis Express September 15, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

    Your photos are always so beautiful and iadore your garden. It’s always a pleasure to visit this blog.The last pic is so cute.

  3. Paul Adams October 26, 2013 at 2:50 am #

    Difficult to believe that all this is growing in Norfolk! I know the former Duranta repens (there’s a typo in your picture caption) as Golden Dewdrop; in the tropics it often has the flowers and golden berries at the same time.

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Will Giles and the Exotic Garden, Norwich.


It is with great sadness that we inform of the death of Will Giles on Wednesday 2nd September 2015.

Will was diagnosed with cancer in 2013 and dealt with the devastating news in his own private way.

He was determined to relish every last moment of life and enjoyed relatively good health until earlier this year when, after a spell in hospital, he discovered that the treatments were no longer effective. Will enjoyed working in his garden for as long as his health allowed, creating the new green wall and directing the planting scheme for this season.


He will be sadly missed by all who have known him personally, or been inspired by his creativity.

Unfortunately, for logistical reasons, it will not be possible for the garden to remain open for the remainder of the 2015 season.

We thank you for your understanding

Following the loss of our great friend Will Giles, a small, private cremation without ceremony has been held in Norwich in accordance with his wishes. A celebration of his wonderful life will be held at The Exotic Garden on 4 October at 2pm and Will’s close friends, colleagues and associates are invited to attend. His ashes will be scattered earlier that day in a spot chosen by Will himself. Please come along any time after 2pm to pay your respects at the special place that he created and loved.

Charitable gifts in memory of Will Giles may be donated at:

www.justgiving.com/WillGiles-1 (Big C Charity) and
www.justgiving.com/WillGiles-2 (Perennial - Gardeners' Benevolent Charity)