Drought Tolerant Gardens.

With the heat wave currently restricting me to the shade of my office and cooling fan, I thought it provided an ideal opportunity to write about drought-tolerant gardens.

We spent a week in August 2012 visiting gardens in Essex and East Anglia, one of the driest areas of the UK.

The first one we visited was Beth Chatto’s, famous for its gravel garden.

Beth Chatto’s Gravel Garden.

Beth Chatto was born in 1923 to enthusiastic gardening parents. After working as a teacher she married the late Andrew Chatto, his lifelong interest in the origins of plants influenced the development of the gardens and their use of plants to this day.
Following Andrew’s retirement, they built their new home on wasteland that had been part of the Chatto fruit farm. The site presented many difficulties for starting a garden including low annual rainfall. It was to Andrew’s plant research that they turned.

Informed by his knowledge Beth selected plants for a series of gardens that could thrive under different conditions. Beth Chatto’s first book, “The Dry Garden”, was published in 1978.

The gardens began in 1960 and from an overgrown wasteland of brambles, parched gravel and boggy ditches it has been transformed, using plants adapted by nature to thrive in different conditions. Thus an inspirational, informal garden has developed.

A light and airy tearoom allows visitors to relax and take in their surroundings over homemade cake.

The world-famous gravel garden inspired by the low local rainfall, is full of drought-resistant plants from the Mediterranean. The site was originally the nursery car park.

It was first subsoiled to break up the pan. The soil is largely gravel and sand, mushroom compost was added to help plants become established.

This picture shows Agapanthus Evening Star & Verbena bonariensis with large-leaved Berginias, in the bed across the path. The Berginias are a favourite for edging borders, providing all-year-round interest with many developing a rich red tone in winter.

Self-seeders such as Fennel and Verbena thrive in these conditions……….

along with Stipa tennuissima and Verbascum.

A few conifers were included as accent plants, Beth wrote in her book, “they, surprisingly, survived due, I think, to mulching in the early days” here also Stipa gigantea and Euphobias.

Perovskia blue spire and Alliums are some of the plants that make up the planting palette of this garden.

The Mount Etna Broom in the centre, has grown to become a 15ft tree.
Clean gravel is added to the paths from time to time to help conserve moisture and suppress germinating weeds.

Trees, such as Eucalyptus and shrubs were also chosen for their drought-tolerant qualities.

The Scree Garden.

Planted in 1999 in part of the old mediterranean garden, the Judas tree in the centre of the island was planted over 45 years ago and forms a focal point.

On the day we visited succulents and alpines were on display along with the washing

The accompanying plant nursery stocks over 2000 plants, all displayed by growing conditions. They do provide a mail order service.

If you are in the area I would recommend a visit, there is also a water garden, woodland and reservoir gardens. You can visit the restaurant, plant centre & gravel garden free of charge.

July in Our Garden@19

July can be an anticlimax in the garden following the excitement of June with its roses, peonies and Iris.
These are some of the plants trying to fill the void here in our garden.

The sunny front border is always home to some self-seeded Eryngium Giganteum (Miss Willmotts Ghost) as popular with the pollinators as the gardener.

In the silver birch border, the Anthemis tinctoria is in full flower perfectly complimenting the Clematis ‘Blue Angel’.

One of my favourite July plants is the Francoa sonchifolia with its orchid-like flowers. It is very drought tolerant and easy to grow from seed.

The blue border is in some areas living up to its name with Geranium Johnson’s Blue and a self-seeded Campanula lactiflora ‘Prichard’s Variety’ matching the garden furniture.

On the other side of the blue border around the sundial are planters of Zantedeschia Contor, Agapanthus and two Cotyledon orbiculata a striking drought-tolerant succulent

Either side of the Banana Bench is the delicate Dianthus carthusianorum, ideal for dry areas.

We recently visited a garden owned by a garden designer who had classic urns set back in a border planted with annuals.
I had these two lovely Yorkshire pots, inspired, I built two wooden stands and planted them with Fuchsia and mini Petunias to provide some extra colour in a shady area against the fence on either side of the never-ending path around the banana bench

In another shady area on the patio is a small display of Ferns and Hostas.

On the fence by the raised herb bed is a fan-trained red currant bush laden with fruit. I need to cover them with a net before the birds find them!

Proving that July doesn’t have to be dull in the garden is the Clematis ‘Perle d’Azur on the trellis behind the banana bench. Please turn your sound on, select watch on YouTube and select full screen when you play the video.

What is providing colour in your July garden?

Bonsai in Worcester.

We recently visited a group of gardens in Worcester who were opening for the National Garden Scheme, I don’t think many of the visitors would have expected to find such a wonderful Bonsai collection in Worcester.

From the NGS website,

“The garden has been 14 years in the making. It was designed around a collection of Bonsai trees which needed to be displayed sympathetically in fairly natural surroundings. It is a low maintenance garden with many oriental influences and a studio designed to look like a tea house. There are also two small ponds with fish and wildlife.”

The owners are Malcolm & Diane Styles. 

I am sure you will agree with me this is a wonderful garden and bonsai collection.