Made Wijaya, tropical garden designer and author of "Tropical Garden Design," writes that "a true Balinese garden is a thing of mystery and romance." It is ornately decorated but also vegetatively lush to honor and show love of nature. Walled courtyards provide views across the garden to beautiful pottery or water features or specimen plants, many of which have traditional uses in rituals and ceremonies.
Whether you desire a more rustic, rural feel or a more modern, urban Balinese garden, trees and treelike palms are essential to providing shade as well as creating the right scale, since many gardens in Bali may not be expansive. Focus on the courtyard with specimen trees such as screw pines (Pandanus spp.), timber bamboo, figs (Ficus spp.), frangipani (Plumeria spp.), tree ferns and certainly a coconut palm (Cocos nucifera), since it plays a role in Balinese ritual, according to Made Wijaya. Other small palms that readily find space in the garden include the Christmas palm (Adonidia merrillii), Formosa palm (Arenga engleri), lady palm (Rhaphis spp.) and the sealing wax palm (Cyrtostachys renda). If you do have the space, a flamboyant tree (Delonix regia), coral tree (Erythrina spp.) or breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) is warranted.
Vivid accents of brightly colored leaves or large-size leaf blades add much delight to a Balinese garden. Certainly ti (Cordyline fruticosa) must be grown, as it plays a central role in ceremony. Croton (Codiaeum spp.), dumbcame (Dieffenbachia spp), variegated gingers (Alpinia spp.), any aroid like caladium or taro, bananas and sugar cane make good candidates to grow, too. Cycads, which look like ferns, create a stately effect where ferns may not grow in slightly sunnier spots. Any tropical plant can be used; the key is ease of growth while looking lush and vibrant. Remember, present plants that honor nature by showing off something exuberant. Don't discount inexpensive coleus plants or sweeping clusters of bromeliads, either.
No Balinese garden would be complete without frangipani (Plumeria spp.) or hibiscus to make ritual offerings in a traditional sense. Color remains an important part of this tropical garden, so enjoy the seasonal delight of ginger and heliconia flowers. Waterlilies and lotus bring delight to a water feature. Large vines like bouganvillea clamber nicely on courtyard walls, but any vine that has an immense seasonal flower display is acceptable--the brighter the better. Small trees can serve a dual purpose in both providing shade and providing bright flower displays, such as the dwarf poinciana (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) or yellow alder (Tecoma stans).