its east south facing
Hi, Laura, I've bumped your last thread up the page. Might be good idea to add your pictures to your 1st thread
If you want a tropical garden, your location will make this a seriously big job and expensive. You would need to create a micro climate with high fencing to keep out the wind. You should be ok with the sun, but you need to find your prevailing winds and exclude them.
There are numerous pretty hardy shrubs you can use, but if it were me, I'd get the advice of specialist nursery who supply the sub tropical plants.
The southwest of the country and london are the ideal places for subtropical gardens, County Durham may be a bit ambitious, but if its possible then go for it!
..if you can afford them, buy plants called 'Fargesia', there are a few varieties... 'Rufa' is my favourite or 'Jumbo'... they are hardy and give a tropical effect will little effort... give them a bit of time though.... non-invasive.. no trouble... grasshoppers like to rest on them in summer...
Do you want the plants to look tropical or actually be exotics. I am going for a tropical 'look' on a fairly shaded patio by using things with big leaves. I've chosen Fatsia Japonica, Royal Fern, Hosta 'Big Daddy', canna and kniphofia 'Milk Maid'. I grew a cup and saucer vine from seed last year which I overwintered in the greenhouse because it wasn't hardy, that will come out after the frosts. They all look exotic but only the canna and vine will need to go in the greenhouse in winter, the rest are hardy. You could look for a phormium (New Zealand Flax), they need some winter protection in colder places like wrapping with fleece and straw. Go on Crocus and use their plant choosing tool, it's really helpful when planning a new area.