Drought Tolerant Planting in Our Garden@19.

During the heat wave in July, I wrote about drought-tolerant gardens: Here

I have for two years been working towards a more drought-tolerant planting scheme for both the south-facing front border and the Blue Border the priority here was to remove the requirement to water during the summer.
The front border is south facing, in full sun, while the blue border is partly shaded by next door’s huge copper beech tree.


A small front border edges the drive, it was planted with Bearded Iris, Roses, Nepeta ‘ Six hills giant’, Salvia Nachtvlinder, Eryngium Giganteum (Miss Willmotts Ghost), Eryngium planum and Eschscholzia californica.
Last year our neighbours removed the conifer hedge bordering this bed, providing almost two feet of extra depth to the border.

Following lifting, dividing and replanting some of the bearded irises, with the extra space avalible, I have added more of the annual Eschscholzia californica, lavender, Hyssop, Helichrysum italicum (Curry Plant) Valerian phu ‘Aurea’ along with some Tulip ‘Johann Strauss’ and other species tulip bulbs.

There was a Myrtus Communis already growing against the house, I have added another one here which I propagated from cuttings.

Myrtus Com


In the Blue Border plants that did not perform during last year’s drought were removed, creating space for more drought-tolerant plants. Helianthus Lemon Queen was one, it really does not like dry conditions.
Aster divaricatus was moved to the shade while others were lifted and potted for sale on our open days. Aster trinervius, ‘Asran’, Aster sedifolius and Symphyotrichum ericoides ‘White Heather’, were retained due to their flowering following the drought.

The Allium family do well in dry conditions so do the Bearded Iris, divisions from the front garden I have planted here in the space created. The blue Centaurea montana is a real survivor, we also have Centaurea montana ‘Lady Flora Hastings’ in the White & Green garden, it has white star like flowers.

Deep tap rooting plants such as Cirsium rivulare ‘Trevor’s Blue Wonder’, Echinops ritro, Eryngium Giganteum (Miss Willmotts Ghost) and Eryngium planum, with their deep tap roots are excelent drought tolerant plants with the bonus of being popular with the pollinators.

Pilosella aurantiaca (Fox and Cubs)is a wildflower, which could become invasive, I tolerate it for its orange splash of colour. (I think it was Christopher Lloyd who said if your friends do not like orange in the garden call it butterscotch.) More information can be found on the RHS Website.

Francoa sonchifolia, Geranium phaeum var. phaeum ‘Samobor’, Hesperis matronalis, Lunaria annua ‘Rosemary Verey’, Stipa arundinacea and Stipa tenuissima happily self-seed around the garden whatever the weather.

Fennel, Hollyhocks, Hyssop, Inula magnifica, Lychnis chalcedonica, Lychnis Coronaria (Red and White), Salvia Nachtvlinder and Verbena Bonariensis are drought-tolerant plants that I have grown from seed. Valeriana pyrenaica, also from seed, has been happy so far planted in the shade.

Purchased Perennials are Kniphofia Banana Popsicle, Perovskia Blue Spire, Helichrysum italicum (Curry Plant) and Sedum Mr. Goodbud

Pittosporum Tom Thumb, Thuja Occidentalis ‘Rheingold’, Buxus and Taxus bac. Fastigiata (Irish Yew) provide winter interest.
The Blue Border in winter showing the four central Buxus.

I am now waiting to see which plants have survived this winter’s low temperatures, especially the newly planted young ones.
It will be interesting to see how this tweak to the planting palette performs this summer.
Will we now have a wet one?

Drought tolerant plant list in Our Garden@19.
Allium ‘Purple Sensation’, Allium Nectaroscordum siculum.
Aster trinervius ‘Asran’. Aster sedifolius, Bearded Iris,
Calamagrostis x a. ‘ Karl Foerster ‘, Centaurea montana,
Cephalaria gigantea ( Giant Scabious ), Cirsium rivulare ‘Trevor’s Blue Wonder’, Echinops ritro, Eryngium Giganteum (Miss Willmotts Ghost), Eryngium planum, Euphorbia characias subsp. Wulfenii, Pilosella aurantiaca (Fox and Cubs), Fennel, Francoa sonchifolia pink, Geranium phaeum var. phaeum ‘Samobor’,
Helichrysum italicum (Curry Plant), Hemerocallis Red Day Lily. Hesperis matronalis, Hollyhock Apple Blossom, Hyssop, Inula magnifica, Kniphofia Banana Popsicle, Lavandula, Lychnis chalcedonica, Lychnis Coronaria (Red and White), Lunaria annua ‘Rosemary Verey’ Miscanthus sinensis, Myrtus Communis, Nepeta ‘ Six hills giant’, Origanum Laevijatum ‘gentle breeze’. Perovskia Blue Spire, Persicaria amplexicaulis Firetail, Phlox paniculate,
Pittosporum Tom Thumb, Salvia Nachtvlinder, Sedum Herbstfreud, Sedum Mr. Goodbud, Solidago Fireworks, Stipa arundinacea, Stipa tenuissima, Symphyotrichum ericoides ‘White Heather’, Taxus bac. Fastigiata (Irish Yew), Thalictrum aquilegfolium, Thalictrum flavum subsp.glaucum, Tulip ‘Johann Strauss’
Thuja Occidentalis ‘Rheingold’, Valerian phu ‘Aurea’,Verbena Bonariensis.

Drought Busters in Our Garden@19.

Very few plants in our gardens can survive these temperatures let alone flower. These are the few exceptions here.

Inula magnifica
Hollyhock Apple Blossom
Echinops ritro is loved by the bees.

I was once told I would regret planting this in my garden because it can be invasive. In our free draining soil, I am very happy to have it.

Sedum Mr Goodbud
Aeonium arboreum Schwarzkopf
Cotyledon orbiculata just starting to flower.

What is surviving in your garden?

Drought Tolerant Gardens 3

The Old Vicarage East Ruston.

During our tour of East Anglia, this garden was high on my Wish list to visit.

When Alan Gray and Graham Robeson first came to the old vicarage there was no garden whatsoever, it was a blank canvas. Every garden was designed entirely by them as were the various buildings, their sole aim has been to try and enhance the setting of their home. Alan occasionally writes for the RHS magazine and has his own YouTube channel. Throughout the garden there are many rare and unusual plants growing. They propagate from these in small numbers so that they may be purchased from the plant sales area. There is a converted barn for a tea room with a wonderful display of vintage garden tools on the walls. The garden lies 1½ miles from the North sea.

The pedestrian entrance court.

The pedestrian entrance court with its free draining gravely soil is planted each spring with a variety of succulents, with Aeonium ‘zwartkop’ and the slaty blue Cotyledon orbiculata taking centre stage.

The garden spans 32 acres, containing many garden rooms to discover and explore. Herbaceous borders, gravel gardens, sub-tropical gardens, a box parterre, sunken rose garden, Mediterranean garden, Walled garden, large woodland garden and a Desert Wash garden.

The Desert Wash. 

This area of the garden is designed to resemble parts of Arizona where, it probably only rains, once or twice a year, but when it does rain it floods and great rushes of water channel through the landscape tossing rocks and stones around and leaving behind dry channels and islands where succulent plants flourish.

The real work in making this garden started one metre below the surface where they broke up the sub-soil and incorporated lots of gravel. Then they built layer upon layer of gravel and gravel mixed with soil, the aim being to keep this area very free draining especially during the winter.

Many of the plants grown here are able to tolerate some cold provided they remain dry at the root. Some four hundred tonnes of flint of various sizes have been used in the construction of this area.

They are always experimenting and pushing the boundaries with the planting. Besides the usual drought tolerant plants you will find Puyas, Bromeliads, Agaves and Aloes. Nothing is wrapped for winter protection, the excellent drainage prevents water lying around their roots.

Slide Show The Desert Wash.

Viewed through a porthole cut in the shelter belt is this much photographed borrowed view of Happisburgh lighthouse.

St Mary’s church at the end of the garden.

This is one area of the garden, there is so much more to see not least its magnificent Walled Garden which was built to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Drought Tolerant Gardens 2

RHS Hyde Hall.

In 1955 when Dr and Mrs Robinson came to Hyde Hall in 1955 there were only six trees on the top of a windswept hill and no garden. They donated the 42-acre garden, Hyde Hall, to the Royal Horticultural Society in 1993. We visited there in August 2012 during our garden tour of Essex and East Anglia.

A dry garden was created in 2001 by Mathew Wilson, curator at the time, it aimed to show visitors how they can work with the environment and use drought-tolerant plants.

This path leads into the dry garden, described as one of the crowning achievements of Hyde Hall.

Work began in the winter of 2000, which ironically was one of their wettest winters. It is home to more than 400 different species of plant.

The garden has been built on a south-facing slope covering 0.4 acres, using Gabbro boulders and subsoil mounded over the rubble.

The topsoil was mixed with grit and sand to offer a free-draining environment for the plants.

On summer days, with the rolling hills in the backdrop, the garden looks rather like a Mediterranean outcrop, and it’s easy to forget that you are in the heart of Essex.

In spring, the garden shines with golden Euphorbia, conifers are included for winter interest and drought tolerance, while in summer it turns purple as Verbena bonariensis attracts hosts of butterflies and ornamental grasses towers high above the garden.

Such as the wonderful Stipa gigantea below. Alliums are planted for spring colour with Agapanthus, which you just see on the left for later in the year. Also on the left is Perovskia ‘Blue Spire’ which provides colour over a long season.

Echinops ‘platinum blue’ and Verbascum olympicum enjoy these conditions.

Also, the beautiful Crinum Powelli is here with Eryngium planum.

From here you could look down onto the gravel or scree garden which had more recently been developed.

Some of the stars up close.

Hyde Hall is well worth a visit if you are in the area, this is only one of the many inspirational gardens within its boundary. Do you have any drought tolerant stars shining in your garden?

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.

Plant of the month.

Choosing a plant of the month at this time of year is a little like choosing your favourite child. Daucus carota, the wild annual carrot, flowering in the blue border mainly from self sown plants is my choice. I grew it two years ago from seed, there was none in the garden last year, now this year…

Scarlet Tiger Moth, you see the red underneath when it opens its wings.

A simple drought tolerant plant, easy and cheap to grow, used by herbalists, loved by the pollinators and ideal for wildlife friendly gardening.

Do you currently have a favourite flower?

Drought Busters July 2018.

Those of you living and gardening in the UK do not need me to tell you that we are ‘enjoying’ one of the hottest June/July periods for some time, with day time temperatures reaching 30c. Whilst for many of you reading this in other parts of the world this may not be unusual, but here it is , testing both the gardener and their plants.

These plants featured are the drought busters in Our Garden@19. Interestingly I originally grew them all from seed, except for the allium, also some of them have since self seeded around the garden.

The wild chicory towers above almost every thing in the garden, here in the herb bed, growing through the standard gooseberry. It is a beautiful shade of light blue.



Cichorium intybus. Wild Chicory.

Also towering above everything else are the teasels, this is the first year I have grown them. Listening to a talk by Fergus Garrett inspired me to plant them and they allow them to self seed around Great Dixter. They are good for wild life especially the pollinators and the seeds are said to be loved by Goldfinches in winter. I have only planted two in the garden, they can dominate if left to their own devices.

Dipsacus fullonum Common Teasel.

Dipsacus fullonum
Common Teasel.

The ‘thistle-like’ plants always do well in dry conditions, here Echinops ritro, is yet to bloom…

Echinops ritro.

…also ‘Miss Willmotts Ghost’, I do like this spiky plant. It is I think, a little like the lady it was named after. Especially if you worked for her.

Eryngium giganteum ‘Miss Willmotts Ghost’.

Eryngium giganteum ‘Miss Willmotts Ghost’.

The wild carrot has seeded itself around the garden including here between two paving slabs, thus preventing anyone from sitting on this chair!

Similarly the Lychnis of both colours have seeded in the gravel…

…and the Linaria seeds around everywhere!

In a sunny spot by the banana bench and in the alpine boxes on the south side of the house, is Dianthus carthusianorum, with its clusters of diminutive deep pink flowers.

Dianthus carthusianorum.

Dianthus carthusianorum.

I am ending with this single Allium ‘Red Mohican’. I wish I had more!

Allium ‘Red Mohican’.

An interesting fact about these plants is that several of them were for sale during our open weekend and very few of them sold, because, I guess, they were not in flower at that time.

I wonder if they would sell now?

Do you have any ‘Drought Busters’ in your garden?