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This summer gardeners have the added challenge of hose-restrictions and drought conditions to beat to keep gardens and patio pots looking blooming marvellous. However, there are hundreds of plants which can cope with a small amount of water, writes Caroline Knight
This year, here in the Northern Hemisphere, the summer solstice occurs on 20th June. It hardly seems possible, therefore, that we are enjoying the lead-up to the longest day in the year.
If your watering can is always ‘half empty’ you will no doubt be lamenting the approach of longer nights, but hopefully, even you, will try to enjoy those long warm days that result in a tumbling abundance of growth in the garden.
Of course this year we have the added challenge of drought conditions which have forced us all to think more ‘sustainably’. It seems clear that we should all be harvesting rainwater during the winter and times of abundance in order to keep our gardens going throughout summer.
But even this will be unlikely to provide enough water for swamp-loving specimens planted in arid situations. So we should all don our sensible heads and plan our gardens to cope with what might well become more ‘normal’ weather conditions.
Average temperatures in the Arctic are rising – and the picture is made crisply clear by looking at something called the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, which was an enormous block of ice that had been around for at least 3,000 years before it began to crack up in 2000. It is now breaking into smaller pieces because it is melting.
The Arctic has been described by experts as ‘global warming’s canary in the coal mine’ and many scientists view the region as providing an indication of things to come.
This might be good news for bikini manufacturers but it’s not so great for polar bears, nor for gardens. However, while it might be tricky to solve the climate change conundrum, there are plenty of ways in which we can deal with its effects. For example, there are many ‘drought tolerant’ plants which, once established, should never need watering.
Take Abelia x grandiflora ‘Francis Mason’, for example. This small shrub is semi-evergreen and has delicate, trumpet-shaped pale pink flowers in June. It is slightly tender and is best grown in a sheltered, sunny spot but it rewards the gardener with a continuous pinky tinge, even after the flowers are over.
Alliums are also happy to be quite dry – these architectural plants are grown from bulbs which are members of the onion and garlic family – and enjoy dry, well-drained soil in full sun. Then there’s aquilegia which just loves dry soil, as do berberis, providing you can cope with the thorny spikes.
One of my personal favourites is centranthus, or valerian, flowering, if you are lucky, from May through to October and seen in abundance growing wild near the coast.
If you need something for either full sun or partial shade you might choose choisya ‘Aztec Pearl’ with fragrant white flowers and attractive foliage.
There are actually hundreds of varieties of plants which can cope with just a small amount of water once they are up and growing. Many clematis are happy with a drought provided they have been planted deeply and have a good mulch around their roots.
If it’s evergreens you are after, buxus sempervirens doesn’t mind being dry. Then there’s eucalyptus, euonymus and hebe ‘Autumn Glory’. Not forgetting lavenders and other useful herbs and plants with edible attractions – the dry weather need not be a problem if you’re growing appropriate species.
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