Tropical Palladianism

Our Malaysian Godfather and Godmama have announced their intention building of a Palladian-Tropical villa, which they have kindly thrown open to us, once it enters the realm of the actual:

‘Deeply moved by your doldrums, we have rushed out and looked at some land that we may perhaps buy, so that we can build a VILLA or some such so that another time you and Janey can jump on a plane and come and ESCAPE THE HORRORS OF JANUARY IN SCOTLAND. We are talking about roughly two acres approx an hour from KL, currently orchard, formerly padi fields (so it should be quite easy to make a pond or a lake if we wanted to). The idea is to keep the apartment in KL and make a country house and garden for the fun of it. Now the things to remember about building a house in Malaysia are that there is not a single architect with any knowledge of classical styles, still less of classical proportions; and that there are no craftsmen (really). Jalousies could perhaps be made in Bali and shipped over, but in general simplicity will be forced on us. You must also remember our sadly inelastic budget, which will probably preclude quadrant wings and pavilions, no matter how small. You can bring us a recording of Miss Dog saying “Black goes with everything” which we can play on a loop so that you do not feel homesick while you are LOUNGING ON THE VERANDAH in January and writing cards to that good-for-nothing Biswell fellow complaining about the horrid HEAT and the horrid SUNSHINE.’

Since this charming prospect all still inhabits the world of the hypothetical, they invited suggestions about how to do a Tropical Palladian Garden, and I ran the concept past my brother, the Real World Consultant, and hopeless devotee of tropical vegetation (much of which he successfully grows in West London, due to Global Warming). I hadn’t meant to throw the problem his way, it was simply that we had a conversation which began with the information that he’s growing (from seed) the kind of bamboo which grows 18 inches in a night and ends up 60 feet high. Once alerted to the Godparents’ dilemma, he reverted, to nobody’s surprise, to one of his idée fixes, the Giant Malaysian Bat Plant (in an earlier blog, I described the concept of our building a two-story greenhouse for the creation of a private jungle, a project which the RWC is, ahem, right behind – the Giant Malaysian Bat Plant featured largely in the Douanier Rousseau landscape which, he suggested, would be mine for the mere piffling investment of several thousand quid I don’t have just at the moment). Giant Malaysian Bat Plants were, I hazarded, not very Palladian. ‘How about strelitzia alba?’ he suggested (which is very like the strelitzia which has flowers like bird of paradise heads, only white, and with the minor disadvantage of growing 25 feet high; you see why he wants me to build a double greenhouse, he’s growing some of the little bleeders (again) from seed. ‘There’s a very nice lavender banana’, he said, helpfully. At which point, words failed me. What our dear Godmama would say to a very nice lavender banana is something which I am unprepared to ventriloquize. ‘Well’, said the RWC practically, ‘I’ll think about it.’

5 Responses to “Tropical Palladianism”

  1. fjs Says:

    excuse me! I don’t feel that I have offered any more than gentle encouragement, in a zone where some might consider gentle encouragement would be going too far.
    Some of the more exotic exotics work down to -20, vide the dwarf himalayan banana, an enchanting plant with yellow lotus like flowers. I think the two storey greenhouse concept came from the northern professor, not guilty m’lud. On a more practical note, my researches to date lead me to the opinion that tropical exuberance and palladianism are at best an uneasy combination, I would welcome some info on the cultivation of nutmeg…

  2. Jon Says:

    To misquote Holmes, surely the Giant Bat of Malaysia is a plant for which the world is not yet prepared.


  3. The Canadian Professor Says:

    No country house in Malaysia would be complete without an elephant. Perhaps several. Were you to contact the Malaysian Elephant Sanctuary, about an hour by bus out of KL, you would find the elephants whoe lives were vastly improved by my son and daughter in law - Peter Bruckmann, Lianne Carley. Perhaps one or two could come for a visit?

  4. the tropical godparents Says:

    Well actually it’s not going to be Palladian but Russian Neoclassical, and it is BEYOND QUESTION that this would happily coexist with Giant Malaysian Bat Plants, Lavender Bananas and Elephants irrespective of colour but the pinker the better. Indeed, anticipating just such an eventuality as elephants, we have made an increase in access space a condition of purchase, for what is the use of a COUNTRY ESTATE, if one’s elephants get stuck in the gateway?

    All suggestions for the making of a tropical paradise gratefully received.

  5. The Canadian Professor Says:

    There is a particularly attractive elephant called Abot (pronounced Ah-boot), with long eyelashes and a curly tuft on the top of her head. The difficulty, of course, is that elephants are deeply sociable animals, so you might have to have at least another, perhaps three or four, depending on your acreage. A river would help. They love water.

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