Garden

Who needs a botanical garden? Five unusual plants to grow in your backyard

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If you’re passionate about plants, there’s a good chance you’ve visited a botanical garden to gain inspiration for your green-fingered ambitions. Given the level of horticultural know-how on display there, you can be forgiven for thinking it’s beyond your own level of expertise. But don’t be deterred – here are a handful of exciting and unusual plants anyone can grow in their garden.

The botanical garden plants anyone can grow:


1. Kochia scoparia

If you want to give your garden added dimension, this spherical-shaped grass is the ideal choice. Although a luscious green for most of the year, in the autumn kochia scoparia’s foliage turns a vibrant shade of red – hence its common names, which include ‘burning bush’ and ‘fireweed’. Easy to grow and low maintenance thanks to its hardy drought resistance – making it ideal for drier climates – you’ll achieve best results if planting the seeds from late April to early May in an area that receives daily sunlight. A perfect feature for any home-grown botanical garden.


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2. Blue passion flower

With the concentric circle pattern on its quill-like filaments highlighted by the canvas of its creamy white petals, as well as the perfectly-formed arrangement of its protruding stamens and stigmas, the blue passion flower has a striking other-worldly beauty to it. Despite its botanical garden exoticism, however, you’ll have little difficulty getting this enthusiastic, trouble-free climber to thrive. Fine with both acidic and alkaline soil, its ideal location is somewhere slightly sheltered, such as at the base of a wall or fence that gets full sun. With little to no maintenance it will rapidly reach 8 to 12 metres in height.


3. Alpine strawberries

Much smaller than their conventional cousins and with an exterior that makes them look like bright red mini hand grenades, alpine strawberries are unusual-looking fruit indeed. Their taste, however, is exquisite; packing an intense sweetness unmatched by regular strawberries, which is why it is said that the alpine variety makes the best jam. If your backyard is rather more limited in size than a botanical garden, or you are growing from pots on a balcony or patio, they are also a far better bet. Easier to cultivate from plants rather than seeds, they will flourish in most soil types but appreciate a good dose of moisture and nutrients, so be sure to top up their soil with a regular layer of compost.


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4. Lamb’s ears

If there was ever a more appropriately-named plant, we’ve yet to hear it (no pun intended). Yes, the leaves of the lamb’s ears plant are so velvety soft it’s like stroking the finest quality wool – a pleasurable sensation you’ll be tempted to repeat every time you walk past it. Relatively drought-resistant, the plant is tolerant enough to grow in almost any region and soil type, requiring little maintenance once it is established. Pick a spot that gets full sun or partial shade and that drains well in the event of rain, as too much moisture is the lamb’s ear’s one true enemy. Come summer, the tips of its stalks will blossom with an explosion of purple, fragrant flowers for a feel of true botanical garden decadence.


5. Giant allium

With the amount of time you spend caring for your plants, the task can become akin to nurturing a child. Growing to a height of around 150 cm, that’s a feeling you may well get with a giant allium. It’s a little less demanding, though, growing in almost any soil – as long as it drains well – and drought-tolerant enough to be able to be left basking in sunlight all day long. Because giant alliums propagate naturally, you can plant them and leave them unattended for years. The only downside is that the window for planting is autumn and autumn alone.

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The next time you go to a botanical garden, don’t feel intimidated by the array of new plants you might find. Instead, embrace the unusual and use it as a catalyst for your own creativity. Variety is indeed the spice of life and, as the plants above prove, it can be much easier to bring into your garden than you might think.