Words by Hannah Reid, founder of bushgirlmedicine.com.
From birds and butterflies to trees and flowers, the tropics are almost synonymous with vibrant, saturated colour – and garden design is an opportunity to celebrate those tones. The Floral Colour Garden at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, with its pink, red, orange, yellow, white and blue gardens, is a stellar example of how colourful flowering trees and shrubs can bring all the hues of the rainbow into your backyard.
With a bit of thoughtful design and the careful selection of plants, gardens offer countless possibilities to bring tropical tones in, not only through the foliage and flowers but also through the pollinators and birdlife these will attract. Botanic Park General Manager John Lawrus explains how to approach your colour garden design:
“Good garden design always begins with taking a look at your soil structure, surveying existing plants and observing the movement of light in your area. It is always recommended to incorporate existing plants into your landscape plan,” he says. “Consider the different textures, shapes and growth patterns of the plants you have and those you want to add. Foliage, flowers and even fruits can be used to introduce bursts of colour to your outdoor spaces.”
Here are some native plants to consider when inviting colour into your garden or patio. Look for them at any local nursery selling native plants, including the Botanic Park.
Red | Pepper Cinnamon | Canella winterana
While scarlet Hibiscus or Bougainvillea flowers are an obvious choice, you can also look to a plant’s fruits to bring seasonal vibrancy. While Pepper Cinnamon has tiny red flowers, its seasonal berries are the show-stopper. Cabbage (Guapira discolor), Smokewood (Erythroxylum confusum or E. areolatum) and Fiddlewood (Petitia domingensis) also have crimson berries.
Orange | Broadleaf | Cordia sebestena var. Caymanensis
With showy orange blossoms and dark green leaves, Broadleaf stands out in any landscape while attracting pollinators to your garden.
Yellow | Dashalong | Turnera ulmifolia
These sunny blooms open in the morning and close up at night or when it gets cloudy. A member of the Passifloraceae family, there are three species of Turnera in the Cayman Islands. In addition to being a traditional medicine plant, Dashalong is also a food plant for the Mexican Fritillary butterfly.
Blue | Cayman Sage | Salvia caymanensis
This critically endangered shrub has tiny, blue flowers that are an essential nectar and pollen source for local bees and butterflies. Once presumed extinct, it was rediscovered in 2007 by Carla Reid and can now be purchased from the Botanic Park.
Purple | Christmas Blossom | Vernonia divaricata
This shrub’s purple flowers are a sure sign of the holidays and an important plant for local bees. Another native option and an alternative to the imported Mexican Petunia is Heart Plant or Duppy Gun (Ruellia tuberosa).
Pink | Whitewood | Tabebuia heterophylla
This beautiful, fast-growing tree produces showers of pretty, pink flowers, and its seeds will attract birds. If you are looking for a climbing vine, Curlin’ (Antigonon leptopus) is easy to grow and has bright pink bunches of flowers that pollinators love. Another option is Headache Bush (Quadrella cynophallophora) which has flowers that start white and shift to deep magenta as they age.
White | Frangipani | Plumeria obtusa
With fragrant, white flowers, Frangipani or Wild Jasmine is the perfect drought and sun-tolerant addition to your garden. It can be propagated from a cutting and is a food plant for the black, yellow and red caterpillars of the Pseudosphinxs tetreo moth.
For more local flora inspiration, visit ‘Bush Girl Medicine’ on Facebook and Instagram.
For more garden and colour inspiration visit www.vigoro.ky