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Visit A Tropical Paradise -- In Your Own Backyard

By: Sandra Nelson

By Sandra Nelson


If a trip to the tropics isn’t in the plan this summer, why not create a tropical paradise in your own backyard? Using these 7 design tips from the experts, you can have the perfect place to relax and unwind.




KEEP IT LUSH  The idea of a lush jungle or a luxurious rainforest may be hard to envision in the middle of the Great Plains, but with a little perseverance and ingenuity it can be accomplished. Those of us who live in colder climates may not be able to landscape with palm trees and pineapples, but we can choose other species that mimic the shapes, forms and colors of plants from the tropics. Tender tropicals that won’t survive wintertime temperatures can be potted and pulled indoors over winter, giving us the full range of exotic choices,  (Join us next week as we showcase varieties for a tropical paradise outside the tropics.)



ADD SOME WATER  A tropical paradise revolves around the sight and sound of water. Installing a full sized pool designed to resemble a hidden lake with a beach entrance would be an ideal touch, but including a small pond, especially one with a cascading waterfall, can be just as magical at a reasonable cost. If a pond isn’t practical, then add a fountain or a bubbler close to the seating area.  


SEEK SHADE   After basking in the sun, retreating to a shady spot is a blissful change. Intentionally including shaded areas in the design gives you the opportunity to enjoy your paradise all day long  —  even when the sun is high. Constructing a Palapa (even an imitation) definitely says tropical paradise, but a gazebo, an umbrella or even a shade cloth can work as well. 


CREATE AN ATMOSPHERE WITH MATERIALS   Concrete patios, brick sidewalks and 6 foot wooden privacy fences are definitely at odds with the flavor of the tropics. Instead of those common hardscaping materials, consider using natural elements. Bamboo, whether as fencing or live in a planting bed, is an excellent choice for a privacy screen. Natural stones set in gravel or mulch give an authentic feel to the pathways. Lava rock used as ground cover hints at the distant presence of an island volcano.

BE CAREFUL WITH COLORS   Think through your intent as you design your hideaway. Ask yourself if you are designing a beachfront playground or a secluded retreat deep in nature.


A beachfront playground suggests high energy and calls for bright, bold colors  —  crimson reds, brilliant oranges and startling yellows.




A hidden Shangri-la, on the other hand, promises peaceful relaxation and demands the softer silvers, blues, greens, pinks and violets of nature with only occasional bursts of vivid colors.




CARRY OUT A THEME    Just like decorating the living room, the small, final touches are often the make or break points of a design. Choose wicker, rattan or teak for furniture rather than sleek metal or heavy wood pieces. Include a hammock, a fire pit or tiki torches to emphasize an island feel.


Hanging wooden wind chimes mixes their melodies with gentle breezes that carry stress away. Unique art pieces add a touch of whimsy and fun to the atmosphere, making it a place people want to gather.



INVITE WILDLIFE   A healthy jungle or rainforest is teeming with wildlife. Planting to attract songbirds, hummingbirds, butterflies and other animals makes spending time in your tropical oasis an entertaining and engaging pastime for children and adults.