It’s never been so good to see rain. We’re in Suffolk in the UK and this summer has been hotter and drier than any I’ve experienced before.
With record-breaking temperatures and no rain for many weeks, gardeners here have been frantically watering and worrying about whether their gardens would survive.
Somehow we’ve been lucky. Only a few of the plants in our garden have been badly affected.
One of these is the Japanese anemone ‘September Charm’. (Despite its name, it always starts to flower here by the end of July and finishes in August.) This year’s flowers are smaller and some of the leaves are wilting. But I haven’t watered it because it’s a rampant thug and I’m trying to discourage it from spreading everywhere. (Despite its ambitions to take over, it can stay because it’s a good subject to photograph.)
Another plant which is struggling, even though I water it, is a lovely blue veronica. I really hope it survives because the slim spires of flower work so well as a contrast to the other plant shapes in the border.
A careful eye is kept on our one bush hydrangea and so far it’s doing quite well, with just the occasional watering. (Bath-time for the tiny frogs that are living under it at the moment!) It might not be the most suitable plant for our hot, dry garden but I had to have it – the lacecap flowers are lovely to photograph.
(There are also a couple of climbing hydrangeas, but I never water them and they seem to do just fine.)
Many other plants have coped well with the drought. A hibiscus (‘Blue Bird’) has had very infrequent watering. (I have a sneaky dodge here. I’ve pushed a length of plastic pipe into the ground beside the rootball. Watering into the pipe means that the water is carried right down deep to the roots.)
Other happy plants include a number of trees and shrubs. (The mature ones seem to have had no problems.) I’ve been particularly impressed by a purple smoke bush, ceanothus, dark-leaved elders (‘Black Lace’ and ‘Black Beauty’), a Himalayan indigo and a cut-leaf lilac (Syringa x laciniata), all of which are still relatively young and have had no watering at all this summer.
Many of the smaller plants that have done well (agapanthus, sedums, salvias, gaura, Russian sage, Anthemis tinctoria, stipa tenuissima) were chosen after reading ‘Beth Chatto’s Gravel Garden’. This is a tremendously useful book which takes you season-by-season through everything you need to know about creating a garden that will survive drought and I can really recommend it.
Have you any tips for keeping a garden going through drought conditions? Any ideas, suggestions for good plants etc. would be very welcome in the comments…