The Best Tropical Garden in Oxfordshire

We Take a Peek Over The Fence at Karen Cammish’s Lush Tropical Garden in Oxfordshire

I share my garden with… my husband, Jason, our grown-up son and daughter Yasmin and Jordan, and our two rescue cats, Daisy and Dolly. When we moved into our 1980s semi in 1993, the garden had a crazy paving path up the middle and stone planters next to the house that were causing damp. @My garden is… small, roughly square and measures 10 x 12m. We moved here from a rented house with a tiny garden, so this seemed huge, and we knew we could make it into something lovely. In 2015, we decided to dramatically change the space and reduce the size of the lawn to create more planting areas and fit in a hot tub. We wanted to hide the back of the garden, so it was more of a surprise as you walked around, and to disguise the square shape by putting in a circular lawn and mirroring it with a stone circle in the patio. I always do the design and Jason does the hard graft. It took most of that year to move plants and create a bigger decking area.

The Best Tropical Garden in Oxfordshire

The hot tub arrived in December to finish it off, lifted over our house by a crane! After trying lots of models, we fell in love with the Jacuzzi J-480 – it has great jets, lighting and two lovely waterfalls that flow over our shoulders. We’d always wanted an outside bar and when we visited Cocoa Beach in Florida in 2017, we saw a large African thatched tiki bar on the pier and had the idea of creating one underneath our thatched gazebo. We bought it from W J Home Bars (, stained it to match the deck, and framed and clad it using large bamboo poles. We love entertaining so it We created more planting areas by reducing the size of the lawn has become a well-used space and a great place to sit, have a drink and admire the garden.

We use lanterns and tiki pole torches for parties, and we have different kinds of lighting to illuminate plants, the walkway and the boundaries. We got our first totem pole mask on holiday at Clearwater Beach in Florida. We then added more that we found on Amazon.

The Best Tropical Garden in Oxfordshire

My inspiration is… Architectural Plants nursery in West Sussex. We visited it 10 years ago and bought our first Japanese hardy banana, Musa basjoo. We also had several trips to the Eden Project and the Harry P Leu gardens in Florida, both of which gave us design and planting inspiration and were behind the decision to go even more tropical.

Best garden moment We love the view from our kitchen extension down the decked pathway to the hot tub. Our garden faces north-west, so in the winter we have sun at the back, hence having the bar and hot tub at that end. In the summer, the sun comes up over the house by about 9am so we have a lovely sunny patio and garden all day.

Favourite area It is hard to have a favourite area as each part has its own particular wow factor, but we do love the walkway when the plants are fully grown and flowing over it. Current obsession Keeping on top of feeding our plants at this time of year is a priority if all the colocasias, cannas, bananas and gingers are to be at their best by summer.

Best buy The greenhouse, which was installed in July 2014. I don’t know how we survived without it. Overwintering plants is so much easier now. Favourite plant We love our Musa basjoo banana plants, as they give height and structure to the planting. Latest project Our pond by the bar desperately needs updating. We’ll be looking for ideas and inspiration this year. My top tip Mulch. We mulch twice a year with manure and strulch (wheat straw mulch). What my garden means to me… It’s a haven for relaxation, whether sunbathing or eating dinner on the patio, sitting in the hot tub or having a cocktail at the bar.


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