Garden Photo of the Day

Tropical Flare in Canada

Bringing paradise home

My name is Joanne Lacroix, and my husband and I live in Cumberland, Ontario, in a rural area just outside of Canada’s capital, Ottawa. Our property sits on an area populated mostly by maple, oak, ironwood, and black walnut trees. Despite all the beautiful trees in our forest, we have limited soil, and our home is built on vast segments of bedrock. My gardening challenge in this Zone 5 location has been to grow plants in very limited soil and in mostly shady conditions.

tiki barAbout five years ago, after having visited a few tropical locations, we thought, why not create a tropical feeling in our very own backyard? Our backyard was largely unused and undeveloped at the time, and so we decided to build a structure that includes a tiki bar, a seating area with a fire table, and an outdoor BBQ zone.

My husband, Ron, designed this structure, and we built it from scratch from the ground up during our summer vacation. We also created a pathway with interlocking stone that connects to a patio we had already created. The “palm trees” that are seen in the photos are also a DIY project. We used wood from our forest, covered it with taped wrappings and a concrete paste, and then painted. They are topped off with artificial green stems that we purchased online.

To add to the tropical feeling of this outdoor living space, I have created various beds around the structure and the backyard with finishing toppings of mulch, river stone and stepping stones.

bleeding heartThe plants are mostly perennials, such as this bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis, Zones 3–9).

Hostas and potted annuals and ferns bring more color and interest to the landscape.

garden arborAn arbor welcomes you into this part of the garden.

Pops of color come from various potted plants and containers of annuals, such as this hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, Zones 9–11 or as annual).

ColeusColeus (annual) adds more color to the landscape.

Not only does our little tropical oasis provide us with countless hours of fresh-air time during the spring, summer, and fall, but we also enjoy sitting at the fire table with blankets during the winter months. On cold winter days, just gazing outside and seeing the tropical structure reminds us that the warmth of spring and summer, and the gardening opportunities those seasons provide, are just around the corner.


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View Comments


  1. blondie3 09/30/2020

    Love what you have created in your backyard, it is very inviting and restful, I love pathways and strolling through a garden

  2. sandyprowse 09/30/2020

    Absolutely fantastic! What a marvellous and ingenious backyard you have created all by yourselves. Such creativity — you are both to be congratulated. Memories of your tropical-style oasis must help to make the frigid Ottawa winters more bearable.

  3. katherine_8 09/30/2020

    Hi Joanne. Fellow Canadian here. You and hubby have done a fantastic job of adding a tropical feel and look to your Cumberland backyard. A lot of thought and imagination went into that, giving you a unique and special backyard. If you google 'tropical looking plants for ontario' you'll find a lot more ideas. Best wishes from Mississauga :)

  4. User avater
    cynthia2020 09/30/2020

    Hi, Joanne. I like the sinuous lawn around the tiki buildings - fun, attractive escapism.
    Thank you for sharing what your site issues were and what your inspiration was.

  5. Musette1 09/30/2020

    that is a lovely, restful garden space! The tiki structure is magnificent!

  6. User avater
    simplesue 09/30/2020

    You and your husband are very talented!
    At first glance I thought you were located in Florida!

  7. btucker9675 09/30/2020

    Wonderful - so fun and witty to have a tropical island in Canada!

  8. User avater
    vanhatalosuomi 10/01/2020

    Great features, and it's great to be able to enjoy your garden & the outdoors for extended periods throughout the year. congratulations! looking good!

  9. User avater
    pattyeckels 10/01/2020

    You have left me speechless! What you have done is amazing! And put a smile on my face. Wish I could visit! Enjoy! 🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷

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