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Architectural Plants | Exotic Plants | Flowering Plants | Mediterranean Plants


If you are looking to make a statement in your garden then Architectural Plants are what you need. Here you will find impressive plants with big personalities to inspire you to be bold and ambitious with your planting. If you cannot find what you are looking for here please refer to


Latin name: Phyllostachys nigra


Description: Highly architectural plants giving stature to the garden as well as flowing form. Clump-forming and normally well behaved bamboo with green canes (culms) when juvenile, turning jet-black with age. Although this is currently the most popular bamboo, there are contless others that are well worth trying. P. bambusoides ‘Allgold’ for instancer has bright golden yellow to deep orange canes – an absolute stunner!

Hardiness: Hardy to -15C and lower

Height: 4-8m

Position: Full sun position with plenty of air circulation

Soil: Well-drained garden soil that doesn’t get saturated in the winter

Water: Water to establish, then fairly drought tolerant when mature

Usage: Bamboos are attractive all year, hence should be planted in a dominant position, though their eventual size must be taken into consideration


Latin name: Magnolia grandiflora


Description: Glorious evergreen shrub and one of the first flowering plants on the planet, making it another plant that was around at the time of the dinosaurs! This impressive magnolia can get rather large, so needs to be positioned well. The oblong, pointed, glossy, dark green leaves are velvety-matt brown on the under sides. The fragrant, large, bowl-shaped flowers (20-30cm across), are absolutely stunning, appearing intermittently from mid-summer to early autumn.

Hardiness: Hardy to -15C and lower

Height: 4-8m

Position: Full sun to dappled shade with protection from wind as the branches break easily

Soil: Any well drained soil with added organic matter

Water: Fairly drought tolerant once established

Usage: Superb as a specimen shrub or tree and also takes well to being trained against a south or west facing wall


Latin name: Cordyline australis


Description: Striking tree that can get many meters high over the years. Best planted as a single trunked specimen, then after a few years its first flowering will cause it to become multi trunked from the top. If cut to the ground it will become multi-trunked from the ground. The greyish-green, strap-like leaves, up to a meter or more long are produced from the trunk tops with bare stems. The enormous flowering trusses are made up of thousands of small highly scented flowers in May. There are several coloured and variegated hybrids available if you want a splash of colour, although they tend to be less hardy.

Hardiness: Hardy to about -10C for short periods. If cut to the ground by severe frost it will re-shoot from the base the following spring.

Height: 1-5m

Position: Full sun to dappled shade away from desiccating winds

Soil: Any well-drained garden soil with added organic matter

Water: Water well to established then mulch well to keep moisture in

Usage: Becomes a very tall plant over the years, so needs a position where all its glory can be appreciated. The trunk becomes fissured and cork-like which is very attractive


Latin name: Agave Americana


Description: Only in resent years has it been considered possible to grow spiky desert plants in our temperate gardens, but now with warmer winters very much in mind, many garden centres are now stocking some of these fabulously spiky plants. Agave americana is one of the most dramatically architectural plants available and well worth trying. In this case, size matters – the larger the plant the hardier it is, hence specimens over 90cm tall will have a better chance of survival. Each heavy, thick, leaf gently curves from the base in a shade of matt bluish-grey, edged and with vicious spines – beware these plants bite!

Hardiness: Hardy to about -4C if planted on ludicrously well drained soil. If protected from winter rains, they will take a few more degrees of frost

Height: Up to 1.5

Position: Full sun

Soil: Ludicrously well drained soil with added sand and gravel or grit

Water: Exceedingly drought tolerant – our problem is too much rain!

Usage: For dramatic effect in a sun baked part of the garden. They are also excellent in large containers that can be moved into frost free conditions for the colder months of the year


Latin name: Dicksonia antarctica


Description: The most famous tree fern in Northern Hemisphere cultivation and a truly majestic and architectural plant to boot! The dense, fibrous, dark brown trunk is covered in overlapping frond stalk bases, giving it a rough texture. From the top issue huge mid-green fronds from 1-3m long depending on location. In the spring juvenile fronds emerge unfurling like hairy croziers over several weeks.

Hardiness: Most are capable of taking lows down to about -10C with straw placed in the crown when frost is expected. For light frosts down to -4C no protection is necessary.

Height: 50cm to 5m

Position: Preferably in a shaded wind free location

Soil: Moisture retentive garden soil with added organic mater such as leaf mould

Water: For best growth the trunks of all tree ferns should be kept permanently damp. Also keep the ground around them well mulched as well, thus retaining as much moisture in as possible. Tree fern trunks are difficult to re-moisten once dry – be warned!

Usage: Dramatic pre-historic fern once eaten by dinosaurs. Best planted in groups in the shade of larger trees for best results and of course, drama!


Latin name: Fatsia japonica


Description: Dramatic, fast growing, dense, rounded shrub with woody stems and large, glossy, palmate, deeply lobed leaves up to 30cm across. In mid autumn dense panicles of small white flowers are bourne followed by small black fruits. ‘Aurea’ has dark green leaves irregularly and heavily marked with white to pale greenish-yellow.

Hardiness: Hardy to-10C once established.

Height: 1.5-3.5m

Position: Full sun to dappled shade

Soil: Any well drained soil with added organic matter

Water: Fairly drought tolerant once established

Usage: Great for dramatic, architectural effect with its large glossy leaves. Works well in shady corners


Latin name: Melianthus major


Description: Evergreen, vigorous, sparsely branched shrub with stunning, powdery silver-blue leaves that look as though they have been cut with pinking shears. When the leaves are gently rubbed they give of the odour of burning rubber and peanuts. Don’t be put of by this though as it is a wonderful architectural plant and looks especially beautiful after rain has left beads of water on the leaf surfaces.

Hardiness: Hardy to about -5C for short periods

Height: 1-2m in a

Position: Sheltered sunny location away from prevailing winds or against a south facing wall

Soil: Well-drained with added organic matter

Water: Takes drought fairly well once established, especially if mulched, which also protects the root system from winter frosts

Usage: Its silver-blue foliage is a great foil for darker leaved plants, making it stand out, especially on dull days


Latin name: Musa basjoo


Description: Probably the hardiest of all the bananas and the most easily grown. This highly architectural banana has a pseudostem (trunk) that can reach up to 2.5m tall and from the top issue arching mid-green leaves up to 2m long and 50cm wide. With age this banana becomes multi-stemmed forming a small banana grove. This is a truly staggering plant and absolutely essential for a truly sub-tropical feel, giving strong architectural value to the garden.

Hardiness: Once established will easily take lows of -3C if protected from desicating winds. If you live in a cold area, wire mesh can be placed around the trunk and filled with straw to give extra insulation. Will Giles has been growing this superb banana outside for over 20 years without a single loss, in his Norfolk garden.

Height: 5m plus

Position: Full sun to dappled shade, protected from prevailing winds by other trees, shrubs or a building

Soil: Any well-drained garden soil with added organic and a yearly mulch of manure or compost

Water: Water well to establish and mulch thickly to keep moisture in, especially in hot weather

Usage: Very architectural plant that can be in a bed of its own so you can walk underneath it, or alternately at the back of a border


Latin name: Mahonia x media ‘Charity’


Description: Very tough architectural plants needing little maintenance. It is a vigorous evergreen upright shrub with dark green, spiky foliage on long fairly sparse, deeply fissured and very tactile, cork-like bark covered stems. One of the most wonderful things about this shrub is that it flowers when little else is - from early to late winter in the form of long racemes of arching, deliciously scented, intense yellow flowers, guaranteed to light up the darkest of winter days.

Hardiness: Very hardy and tolerant of just about anything

Height: 2-5m

Position: Full sun to dappled shade

Soil: Any well drained garden soil

Water: Fairly drought tolerant once established

Usage: As a feature plant in a position where you can feel the corky stems and sniff the intoxicating flowers


Latin name: Phormium tenax


Description: Very tough and dramatic architectural plants that need little maintenance, in a range of sizes to suit every garden. P. tenax is a clump forming perennial with dark green, rigid, upright, sword-like leaves 2m or more long. ‘Variegata’ has striking green leaves edged in cramy yellow. P. cookianum is smaller with arching leaves, with a good range of hybrids in striking colours.

Hardiness: Hardy to about -10C for short periods

Height: 1-2m or mo

Position: Full sun preferred, although will tolerate dappled shade for part of the day

Soil: Any well drained garden soil

Water: Water well to establish and much well to retain as much moisture as possible

Usage: As a feature plant or in a large container


Latin name: Tetrapanax papyrifer


Description: Ludicrously architectural plant that is literally jaw-dropping! It is a vigorous suckering shrub that is evergreen in mild areas. The huge, dark green, deeply lobed leaves, up to 1 meter across, are formed on long stalks giving a very dramatic appearance. The whole plant looks somewhat like a Fatsia on steroids! ‘Rex’ is considered to be the largest leaved form.

Hardiness: Hardy to about -8C for short periods. In cold areas the stems’ can be wrapped with horticultural fleece or sacking.

Height: 2-4.5m

Position: Full sun to dappled shade. Plant in a sheltered location away from desiccating winds and choose its final planting position well as this plant can become a monster.

Soil: Any well-drained garden soil with added organic matter

Water: Water well to establish and mulch thickly to keep in moisture

Usage: As this is such a dramatic plant, it needs plenty of room where it can be admired


Latin name: Yucca gloriosa


Description: These highly architectural plants hail from the dry arid areas of North America and are grown in gardens for their bold form. It is an evergreen tree-like shrub with a stout, normally un-branched stem with stiff sawed-like bluish-green leaves up to 60cm long. In autumn, spectacular pendent bell-shaped white flowers are bourne on large upright panicles. ‘Variegata’ is a suberb form with prounounced yellow edges.

Hardiness: Hardy to -15C

Height: 1-2.4m

Position: Full sun in as position that gets baked during the summer months

Soil: Poor to slightly fertile well drained soil

Water: Very drought tolerant

Usage: Fabulously architectural plants that look stunning in winter as well as summer especially when planted with other arid planting


Latin name: Arundo donax


Description: This is an enormous grass somewhat redolent of the more tropical sugar cane and the most dramatic grass you can grow in our temperate climate. It is a perennial, clump-forming plant with canes up to 3cm thick and 4m tall. The blue-green leaves are long and narrow up to 60cm long. There is also a beautifully variegated form, A. d. ‘Variegata’, with leaves striped in green and white, often flushed with pink on the new shoots which grows to about 2m. The variegated form needs some protection in the winter in colder areas.

Hardiness: Hardy and wind resistant, hence is excellent for coastal gardens, where it makes a good windbreak. The variegated form needs some winter protection

Height: Up to 4m a

Position: Full sun

Soil: Any moist well-drained, humus rich soil

Water: Prefers a moist soil hence best mulched well. I grown in dryer conditions it will be proportionately smaller

Usage: It can be planted as a specimen or placed at the back of a border to give height; it also makes a good wind break


Latin name: Aucuba


Description: Much used by the Victorians for its toughness and the fact that it looks somewhat like the more tropical Croton (Codiaeum). This is a tough, hardy, evergreen shrub with stout woody stems. ‘Crotonifolia’ has glossy dark green leaves that are heavily mottled and spattered with creamy yellow, giving it a very ornamental look. They take to pruning well if they get out of hand.

Hardiness: Very hardy and tolerant of almost anything

Height: 2-3.5m

Position: Full sun to dappled shade

Soil: Any well drained soil with added organic matter

Water: Very drought tolerant once established

Usage: Excellent for lighting up dingy corners of the garden and of course your day!


Latin name: Trachycarpus fortunei


Description: Once rare in this country, but know excepted as the hardiest palm that be grown anywhere in the British Isles as it will take lows of at least -15C. This absolutely essential palm, once established, can grow 30cm of trunk a year. The typical fan-shaped leaves can grow up to 1m wide on a mature plant.

Hardiness: Once established takes lows of about -15C. Protect from prevailing winds which can shred the leaves.

Height: 1-5m and t

Position: Sheltered position in full sun or dappled shade

Soil: Any well-drained garden soil enriched with organic matter

Water: Mulch well as this majestic palm prefers soils that do not dry out

Usage: Very statuesque palm for a dominant position in the garden where it can bee seen to full advantage – they also look good in groups. If planting in a container, make it a large one so it doesn’t blow over in windy conditions



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