If you live in the south of England, you’ll probably be sick of drought warnings and hosepipe bans. But even if you aren’t affected by the current lack of rain, you’d do well to learn a bit about drought-resistant gardening since global warming is likely to give the whole country longer, drier summers. So what can gardeners do?
Firstly, you can begin to change the style of plants you choose to plant. Instead of opting for traditional moisture-loving flowers and shrubs, take a look south for inspiration. Locations such as the Mediterranean, North Africa, Mexico and parts of Asia have many gorgeous indigenous species that are perfectly adapted to drier conditions. And don’t forget perennials such as grasses – many species are drought resistant and look stunning. You could even create a rock garden full of succulents – the ultimate camels of the plant world that can go months without watering – yet stay in tip top shape.
Next, collect and store as much water as you can, using traditional water butts as well as more modern ideas such as trapping water beneath patios and inside walls. “Gardeners should make the most of any downpours” You can also reduce water loss from the soil using mulch, and try not to dig when it’s really hot.
With a bit of research you’ll soon discover that there’s no end of gorgeous flowers, shrubs and trees that can survive and even thrive with very little watering. Take plants that you see across the south of France, for instance. Lavenders, sunflowers and many herbs such as rosemary and thyme are perfectly suited to dry conditions. Paths lined with purple and white lavender and herbs, not only look stunning, but insects – and cooks – will love them too.
Most silver-leaved species, such as convolvulus are also extremely drought-tolerant, so you could also create shimmering silvery borders.
If you think capturing rainwater means ugly green plastic water butts, think again. There are a variety of gorgeous rainwater storage systems on the market – how about an aged oak barrel straight from a Scottish distillery? Or what about stylish silver galvanised or white metal water butts that will look fabulous on any patio?
Out of View
The idea is to dig a large hole in your garden and create a miniature underground reservoir inside by lining it with waterproof membrane. Stack specially designed plastic boxes on top of the membrane and you can build on top of it, laying a patio over the whole thing, for example. When it rains, water percolates through the patio and boxes beneath and is trapped by the membrane. A pump installed inside one of the boxes can then spray the water to wherever it is needed in the garden. You could even build a reservoir inside garden walls and under paths.
Hold the Water
Succulents aren’t just plants for popping in small displays on your windowsill. You can turn their fantastic variety of colour and texture into striking displays in the garden, whether in established rockeries or in tubs, pots or sinks. They come in all shapes and sizes, from spikey, stripy Agave to delicate sedum and the architectural Echeveria. With their fleshy leaves, these hardy little plants will need next to no watering yet create a stunning display throughout the summer.
For more inspired drought-resistant planting, you won’ do better than grasses. Many of the blue foliage varieties such as Festuca Elijah Blue and Elymus magellanicus look amazing but can tolerate extremely dry conditions. Some Californian grasses and sedges such as Carex praegracillis can also handle extremely dry conditions. The shorter species are perfect alongside paths and patios or in tubs. The taller varieties can be planted as transparent screens that will highlight colourful planting beyond.