Tropical Gardening

I am a keen gardener and in the UK I was proud of my flower beds and vegetable garden so I was looking forward to developing a garden in tropical West Africa. I have a reasonable library of gardening books but none cover gardening in the tropics, I tried to buy some but could only find ones from the USA or Australia which had just a chapter or two on tropical gardening. There was nothing devoted to gardening in this area so it has all been trial and error.


I will not dwell on the errors, just to say that we have not sucessfully grown any vegetables and anyway, they are so cheap it really isn’t worth the effort. When we bought the compound the garden was fairly neglected. There was a boy who looked after the compound but without any guidance he did little but water the few plants that were there. There was some jasmine, oleander, a few fragi-pangi trees and some bougainvillea and not much else apart from trees, including palm, cashew, locust bean, mango and a few other indigenous trees.

Butterfly Bush (Lantana camera)
Butterfly Bush (Lantana camara)

We visited the National Botanic Gardens in Baku and the nurseries on the Bertil Harding Highway in Kotu and one in Sanyang itself, and our neighbours’ gardens and begged, borrowed, stole (and even bought) a variety of plants.


The compound is 80m x 80m, (about an acre and a half in ‘proper money’) which is a lot of space to fill. We have got rid of some rhun palms and locust bean trees and planted lots of other trees. There are several types of citrus – orange, grapefruit, lime, lemon and mandarin, date palms, coconut palms, avocado, pawpaw (papaya), Pride of Barbados, a ‘lilac tree’, an ‘All Purpose tree” a baobab and a silk cotton (kapok) tree. Most of these are just saplings at the moment but with lots of watering they are growing quite quickly.

African Marigold
African Marigold

There are some other fruits – banana, pineapple and passion fruit, but they haven’t produced any fruit yet – we keep waiting! There are two areas of shrubs and flowering plants, one along the driveway in front of the house and another around the pool.

Red Allamanda
Red Allamanda

I have often been told that all you have to do is put some seeds on the ground, cover them with a little soil and, hey presto!, they will grow. I suppose this may be true in some parts of the country where there is good alluvial soil with loads of nutrients but, here on the coast, we have sand instead of soil. I have found a small amount of composted material in the compound and used this to germinate some seeds. The biggest lesson I have learned is that plants need water. Not just a little dribble, now and again, but copious amounts, every day. Most of the shrubs I have planted get 10 litres of water every day and they are just surviving. Roll on the green (rainy) season!

There are no panoramic photos of the compound because the plants are still small and look lost in the dry dust that makes up most of the compound. I will post some when the garden is more mature.


1 thought on “Tropical Gardening

  1. I live in the sub-tropics and had to learn how to grow things by myself. I grow many of the plants you mention: bananas, citrus, bougainvillea, Pride of Bardabos, frangipani, baobab, etc. I also grow vegetables and things such as Venus flytraps and moringa trees.

    It is a coastal environment in Bermuda and the soil is poor (and very alkaline). But the plants accommodate and thrive. I think that you are right–water is important, especially in the initial stages of growth. But when a plant is established, it can survive drought.

    I’ll look forward to updates on your new garden.


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