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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Inspiration from the tropics

Happy sunny Sunday – and sorry for the recent silence. I've been lucky enough to be on holiday in hot, tropical far-off places. But now I'm back in Blighty, to gorgeous (not to mention tan-sustaining) weather, feeling refreshed, renewed and full of inspiration.

While I was away, I revived my obsession with tropical foliage and am determined to get as much of it as is possible in a semi-shady London garden. Sadly, my quest for the gorgeously fragrant frangipani trees of my dreams has been fruitless, and I fear the search for exotic plants suitable for the southern hemisphere is going to be tough (though when I've spoken to some clever garden-y friends and got their tips, I'll share them). It's a small start, but I'm very happy with the mini magnolia tree I planted in the winter, which has sprung into life during our recent mini heatwave. I searched hard for one that didn't need a proper flower bed and lots of growing space, as I only had a big pot on offer – and if you, like my friend Giles, are also keen on a magnolia that you can grow in a container for a balcony, patio or front doorstep, check out this miniature pink beauty from Van Meuwen, which costs just £17.95 and grows to a manageable 150cm.

Meanwhile, here are some nice jungle-y, planty, flowery things you don't even need a garden for...

1. Cotton Kaveri bedding, designed by artist Rebekah Maysles, who was inspired by a trip to the south of India. Anthropologie, from £38

2. This luscious Green Flower Oilcloth, is one of the new designs at Viva La Frida. Big, bold flowers (the largest white flower measures 20cm square), and just £12 per square metre. Use it as a tablecloth to bring the tropics into your kitchen, or stretch it like a canvas and hang it on a wall. I think it'd look great in a bathroom.

3. This pretty vintage garden print, from The OK Corral is far from tropical – instead it's packed with bluebells. Very English. And very lovely. The artist is Beatrice Parsons (1860-1955) and this 24.5cm x 32cm painting, in its original wooden frame, is a snip at just £12.

4. Good old B&Q. I really like this environmentally friendly wallpaper, which is printed on 100% FSC paper using water based inks. It'd look lovely livening up a wall in a hall or along a staircase, I think. Best of all, it's just £12.98 per 10m roll. (And look out for this wallpaper in next Sunday's green-themed Insider column in the New Review. This week's, in case you're interested, is all about how to pimp your stairs.)

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