How to create Balinese gardens without going to Bali

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When we arrived in Western Australia we bought a lovely house in a beachside suburb with a small backyard.

It was very different to our previous house and garden in South Africa which had a huge view, and to begin with despite loving our new house I felt like a caged lion as I gazed out at the colour bond fence which surrounded our oblong patch in suburbia.

Balinese gardens bring the tropics to a small back yard

“I have to cover the fence with something green, and I really wish it could look tropical out there,” I railed on numerous occasions to Dave.

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Training climbers to creep over willow trellis and easy to erect reed fencing was my primary aim to cover the colour bond fence.

Poor man, after year two when he saw that I’d avoided going out in the garden and subsequently I’d managed to kill the grass surrounding the swimming pool, and how the three citrus trees were looking ragged and sickly, he agreed on a budget to make some tropical changes to spike my interest in gardening.

And I got busy, and then roped him in as well. Because gardening can be relaxing, and I think that after the age of fifty it’s definitely good for you. It gets you outside, it makes you twist and turn, and it ups your spirits and renews your faith in the circle of life.

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We named our statue Squiffy, because well, she looks a bit under the weather doesn’t she! We planted petunias in early October and within 5 weeks they are blooming beautifully.

To tell you the truth, I’m no gardener. My thumbs are an ikky shade of green … well some things grow for me, others don’t. Perhaps it’s how I talk to the plants?

The Hibiscus and Magnolia below for instance, are beautiful when they flower, but I can’t keep them flowering for very long.

balinese-gardens-jo-castro-lifestyle-fiftyAnyway, with a little attention our small garden has morphed into a mish-mash of this and that, with some things growing like weeds and others getting attacked by snails.  But overall I’ve tried my best within budget to create a garden that feels to us like a resort and is somewhere interesting to chill-out with lots of things to look at.

You can see how much its changed in four short years below. The palms have been a great success.

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The grass above didn’t last long (I didn’t water it enough), but the palms did. They’ve done really well in their pots.

And it’s become a bit of a playground.

Anyway, if you’d like to add some Bali to your block, here are 10 tips to guide you.

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Primary colours remind me of the tropics, and I couldn’t resist buying a strawberry plant to hang up the other day. It was $10.50 from Bunnings.

10 Tips on how to create Balinese gardens

  • Palms of any sort immediately suggest Bali to me. We have them successfully growing in pots all over the place, and surprisingly they grow well when their roots are contained. Large palm trees planted in the garden are great if you have space for them, but again beware, because their roots can be invasive.
  • Bamboo creates a lush tropical feel and makes a lovely sound when it rustles in the breeze. Bamboo makes fab fence cover and is good for screening (I wish I had place for some) but watch out because it clumps and spreads.
  • Frangipani grows well for us, probably because it likes the soil conditions here and doesn’t require a lot of nursing from me. But I do talk to my Frangis nicely, because I love them and they smell divine. They’ve grown surely and steadily over the four years we’ve been here and now hang deliciously over the swimming pool, their waxy flowers dropping onto us when we swim. They bloom for a good five months, keep their leaves for about 7, which means there’s only 5 months when they are stick-like in Western Australia. Winners.
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Frangipanis are probably my favourite – and they bloom for a good five months in WA.

  • Reed or bamboo fencing cover. It’s easy to put up, covers ugly fencing, and although it fades and does disintegrate you can poke holes in it (I’m a very basic gardener!) and so it’s a wonderful structure for climbing plants.
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This little fellow is part of a pair and they cost $49.98 each from Bunnings. You can buy them in blue, green or rust.

  • Statues. I’d have statues everywhere if only Dave would allow me, but our garden is contained so I know in my heart that it would be overwhelming to have too many, rather than looking stylish. We’ve kept our statues quite small and discreetly placed, although I’d like to get a ‘humungous’ statue one day.
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You can go a little bit wild with finishing touches. We enjoyg hunting out small items to add interest. The Buddhas were from a Balinese store in Bunbury, the shell hanging was $50 from a Broome market, the elephant from Bunnings, and the candle holder was $25 from a local store.

  • Balinese flags. These are cheap and cheerful and add impact. You’ll find them readily available at garden centres that stock Balinese imports. They are not expensive so you could change your colour scheme every year.
  • Hanging shells. I bought some hanging shells in Broome for $50 at a night market. I think this kind of decoration along with wooden chimes can add a distinctly Balinese feel to the place.
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I came across Loot the other day in Bunbury – it’s a marvellous place, a treasure trove of interesting bits and bobs for Asian themed homes or gardens. If you’re not local, check out the online store and Google,  “Loot Homewares”.

  • Incense. The most evocative aromas of Bali for me are sandalwood and citronella. When we eat outside we’ll always have one or the other glowing on the table, or one burning at our feet to ward off the mossies.
  • A Bali hut gives shade and character. We decided against a thatch Bali hut because it was expensive, and we wondered how tatty it would look after our West Australian winter storms and winds. So we opted for a Bunnings special and bought what we call a ‘pondokie’ for $399. Yes, it blew down in a storm so we had to cement in gum poles on which to fasten the canopy. After two years the canopy ripped in the winds and disintegrated in the harsh summer sunshine, but aha, luckily we’d had the foresight to keep a spare in stock. I now have another canopy at the ready stored in the garage. Just hope that Bunnings go on stocking those canopies, because our gum poles aren’t going anywhere.
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Sometimes it’s interesting to see how things change over time. You can see we started off with a canopy from Bunnings ($399). It blew down in a storm so we cemented in poles. We first had a seating area, and finally, this year after lots of discussion … bought a hot tub.

  • A shady seating eating area or a hot tub? We had a shady seating area out in the garden for two years, then decided to splurge and buy a hot tub. We’ve probably used the area more now that we have the hot tub there because we’ve used it throughout the winter too (it’s not too far to make a dash in my gown to the back door). However, I do miss sitting with friends sharing wine and snacks under the pondokie in summertime and being out in amidst the garden, surrounded by nature which I was when I took my early morning coffee into the garden too. Thinks … maybe it’s time to buy a big umbrella and some chairs to put on our last remaining patch of grass!

Our little garden is a work in progress, so I’d love any tips you’ve got to create more  tropical style.

If you’d like to see how our garden looked in the beginning, and the basic landscaping we did, then pop over and take a look at : How to create a Balinese garden in your backyard

But don’t go away just yet … Do you have any tips for Balinese Gardens, would you like to create one, or do you have another theme that’s successful? Why not tell us in the comments below?

Until next time,

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Comments

  1. gabrielle cheater says:

    I am impressed it looks really wonderful,Perhaps you should start designing gardens,.!

    • Oh ha ha!! That’s really funny Gabrielle! Thank you for your kind words, and I’m really glad you like it, but the whole thing is rather a fluke! Even I can’t believe things are growing so well!

  2. I’m half way there with my tropical garden so thanks Jo for these tips, they just might encourage me to keep going 🙂

  3. Living in Utah, I’m afraid my plants would look good with your little Squiffy. Love what you’ve accomplished. I have a small hobby – growing orchids in my office and I’ll dub this my Bali garden.

    • Thanks Neva. Your orchid garden in your office sounds wonderful. I wonder what colours you have? Love them. I also have one growing in our lounge, a present on our anniversary.

  4. Irene S. Levine says:

    Your garden is breath-taking. I imagine the first prime requisite is the right weather conditions?

    • Thanks Irene. Yes, weather conditions help … sunshine and water being the two main things, although our garden is always rationed as we have to abide by strict water regulations in WA. It seems to stagger on through summer, but spring and autumn when we have rain, are the best times in our little patch.

  5. Thanks Irene! Yes, heat and sunshine and soil conditions need to be right, plus water of course.

  6. Beautiful gardens! You must enjoy year-round warm weather.

    • Thanks Patti. In fact we have cold, wet winters, but our climate is classed as “Mediterranean”, so the Bali garden only really gets going in the summer.

  7. what a transformation Jo – your garden looks beautiful with the Bali treatment. I have garden “rooms” – my patio area is my Blai garden with palms and things. I would like to add some colour to all the green. There is a beautiful palm that grows in SIingapore etc with red stems – but evidently impossible to grow in our climate – what a pitty. I do have a bamboo that is NOT a spreading variety. I love it. Ask at the garden centre, I am sure they will know it. Don’t have green thumbs?- come on Jo! what you have done with your garden in a few years is fantastic!

    • Thanks Jill! I love the sound of your garden with ‘rooms’ – what a great idea. I’m going to take your advice and try and find a non spreading variety of bamboo for the back corner.

  8. Wow it’s beautiful. I bet at least the weather is probably better for these types of gardens than the northern US! It’s too cold much of time time surely. I love the way it changed the place. I hope everything is going out there in Western Australian. I have never been to the western side but always wanted to go! The Frangipanis are gorgeous and I’ve never heard of them before!

    • Hello A, yes I guess our climate is more suited to tropical gardens than the northern US. I reckon you’d love the scent of the Frangipanis – it’s always so evocative of holidays and summer for me. Thanks for stopping by today, appreciate it 🙂

Look forward to hearing your thoughts!