The tropical garden that will make you wonder if you're still in Norfolk

Sonja Gaffer and Alan Beal with their treehouse, a recent addition to their tropical garden in the N

Sonja Gaffer and Alan Beal with their treehouse, a recent addition to their tropical garden in the National Open Garden Scheme at Hellesdon, complete with tiki hut. - Credit: Archant

A dog groomer has shared a glimpse of the secret oasis that hides behind her garden walls.

The tropical paradise belonging to Sonja Gaffer is a labour of love with the mother-of-one forced to uproot her beloved botanicals once a year to protect them during the winter. 

The 56-year-old said she was first inspired after visiting the home of the late Will Giles who was the owner of The Exotic Garden in Thorpe Road.

Sonja Gaffer and Alan Beal in their treehouse, a recent addition to their tropical garden in the Nat

Sonja Gaffer taught herself everything she needs to know to grow these exotic plants. - Credit: Archant

And once Ms Gaffer, from Waldemar Avenue in Hellesdon, bought her first three banana plants, she was hooked. 

Despite having no previous experience in gardening, over the last 22 years Ms Gaffer has taught herself everything she needs to know to grow exotic plants in a Norfolk climate. 

But it was only in 2019 when Ms Gaffer and her partner Alan Beal opened their home for the first time, through the National Open Garden Scheme, that visitors could take a look for themselves. 

“I don’t know where my love of it came from,” she said. “I grew up in a house with no garden at all.

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“I just love all things nature and wild. There is something about watching a plant grow which is absolutely fascinating to me. 

“I wanted to join the National Open Garden Scheme for a long time but I never thought my garden was good enough.

"But now every time someone comes to look around, they just say 'wow'."

Sonja Gaffer and Alan Beal in their treehouse, a recent addition to their tropical garden in the Nat

Sonja Gaffer and Alan Beal in their treehouse, a recent addition to their tropical garden in the National Open Garden Scheme at Hellesdon, complete with tiki hut. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Archant

Banana plants, palm trees, a pond, tiki hut and tree house are just some of the most eye-catching features and every year Ms Gaffer tries to add something new. 

The National Open Garden Scheme describes it as a "surprising and large suburban garden of many parts with an exciting mix of exotic and tropical plants combined with unusual perennials".

Ms Gaffer added: “I don’t go abroad myself but when I have people from Indonesia or Thailand come here and say to me ‘this could be my home country’, that’s the biggest compliment I could get."

Sonja Gaffer and Alan Beal in their treehouse, a recent addition to their tropical garden in the Nat

Sonja Gaffer and Alan Beal in their treehouse, a recent addition to their tropical garden in the National Open Garden Scheme at Hellesdon, complete with tiki hut. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Archant

This summer the garden will open to visitors on August 7 and September 4, from 10am until 5pm. 

For more information visit the National Open Garden Scheme's website.