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Tiny Tropical Haven in London

Hi all,
I'm new to the forum as well gardening and need some advice with creating a tropical space in my small NW-facing garden. Moved in 5-6 years ago but only got round to this now. 

Whilst garden size is about 22* 5 meters, I only have 10 by 5 to play with due to the 2 sheds and space in between. Plan is to transform the main garden space into a tropical haven that somehow incorporates the huge log cabin studio (also being refurbed). I'd also like to hide the neighbours outhouse on both sides.

The space at the back will then become a vegetable garden and composter but that's a project for another day.

The main space has a 5m patio,5m gravel plus another 1.5m patio in front of the log cabin  (with overhang on top). Plan is to reduce/reshape the 5m patio, remove existing gravel/path/membrane, treat the soil and start planting. New path can be built later. 

To the right of garden I'm looking to have a cluster of banana tree , fatsia japonica and Japanese sedge. To the left is palm trees, fatsia japonica, autumn fern and bamboo in pots.

Having some googling, YouTube videos, reading discussions on here, I've come up with a landscape plan and some plant ideas.

What soil prep is needed and how do I lay/space out the plants to layer them?
Also how much plants will I need to start me off ? I'm hoping for something that looks good 2 years from now.

Already have 2 Mexican fan palms(3-4 feet) ordered. They were less than half price so didn't want to loose out on the deal.

I've tried to attach some photos of the garden, design sketch
Sorry about the long first post




  • NekkyNekky Posts: 40
    More photos with view from different angles.
  • B3B3 South East LondonPosts: 24,069
    You could have a wonderful green space. It looks as if it will be very sheltered but I think you will need to spend a lot of time preparing the ground. Don't stint in this  but I'm sure it will be worth it. 
    In London. Keen but lazy.
  • NekkyNekky Posts: 40
    Thanks B3. You are right that the space is quite sheltered with a lot of hard surfaces which I'm hoping will be covered/hidden with plants. 

    I've seen some good illusions like this one:

    Though I'm aiming for a more usable garden with chillout space.

    When you say prepare the ground, what does that entail once the gravel and membrane are removed ? After raking/turning over the subsoil and adding store bought compost to it. Is there more to it prior to planting ?

    I had a quote a few hours ago to shorten the patio and clear-out the membrane and gravel. I was quite shocked at the £800 + skip cost.
  • NekkyNekky Posts: 40
    Also, would I need to wait a given amount of time post ground prep before going ahead with planting ?
  • B3B3 South East LondonPosts: 24,069
    You'll need a lot of organic matter to improve the soil before you can consider the lush growth that you want.. Whatever was under the gravel and membrane is likely to have been compacted and depleted of nutrients, worms etc.
    I'm in London so that doesn't seem particularly expensive. It depends where you are. Could you do some of it yourself? It sounds more like labour than skill.
    In London. Keen but lazy.
  • NekkyNekky Posts: 40
    Ok, that really gives me an idea of what I need to do and  why it is needed. 

    I'm likely to go with the quote as the job will be too much for me and involves cutting slabs into curves which I definitely cannot do myself. I can then focus on the soil prep and planting stages. I'm based in Bromley/Kent so may explain why cost doesn't seem particularly expensive to you.
  • B3B3 South East LondonPosts: 24,069
    I'm not far from you but even so, it sounds like there's a lot if work. Make sure you get a few quotes. There's a lot of cowboys out there.
    In London. Keen but lazy.
  • NekkyNekky Posts: 40
    Did a little more research on how to soil prep.
    Does the below approach sound reasonable ?

    Once gravel and membrane have been removed, I'll:

    1) loosen up the compacted soil using fork/pick axe etc
    2) remove any obvious rubble/large stones/ weeds from the soil
    3) lay compost to improve organic matter
    4) lay topsoil (enough to replaces gravel and level soil)
    5) wait 2 weeks before planting to allow microorganisms to establish themselves

    Do I need a soil conditioner and if so at what stage ?
    How do I workout how much compost and topsoil I'll need ?
    Would it be a good idea to wet the soil daily(prior to planting) to aid quality

    Sorry about the 101 questions. This is all new to me but very excited about having a proper garden in the end.
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 82,246
    I'd rather use well-rotted farmyard manure instead of bagged compost.  You can buy it in bags from garden centres or have a bulk bag delivered.   I think I'd restrict that to the areas that were going to become planting beds/borders ... no real need for it for areas of lawn, so work on the layout before doing your calculations.  And make sure you make your beds/borders wide enough ... nothing looks worse than narrow borders ... it makes the whole garden look mean rather than lush and inviting.  :)
    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • LG_LG_ SE LondonPosts: 4,049
    I think a lush tropical garden will work well in that space 👍🏼
    I'm not far from you either. It might be worth joining the Bromley Plant Swap and Horticultured groups if you're on Facebook. My banana has little pups, I could keep one for you if / when I get round to separating them.
    'If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.'
    - Cicero
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