In the midst of a very wet winter, we are probably not thinking about drought resistant plants for our gardens. On the experience of previous summers, however, they will earn their place; we live in one of the driest areas of England.
There are several interesting ways in which plants conserve moisture. Here are some examples with tips on care:-
- Grey looking plants have green leaves covered with a tightly pressed mat of white woolly or silky hairs. It acts on the plant rather as we would put on a shirt or blouse to stop sunburn.
Stachys lanata (bunnies’ ears or lamb’s tongue) produces a carpet of silver leaves with small- flowered spikes in summer.
- Some euphorbias have a glaucous leaf: a green leaf covered with a light coating of wax which gives it a greyish-blue sheen and prevents scorching.
Euphorbia myrsinites is a low-growing evergreen with bright yellow flowers in spring. It makes an attractive display with small daffodils and other spring bulbs.
Euphorbia characias wulfenii, a taller variety, is already showing its light green, cup-shaped bracts. These still look attractive as they age. Remove these spikes at ground level later in the year as the new spikes form. Just be aware that the plant’s milky sap is a skin irritant so wear gloves and keep your arms covered.
3 .Some plants have finely cut leaves; big soft leaves scorch easily and lose moisture.
Anthemis “Sauce Hollandaise”, height 60cm, grows well in my garden and produces attractive daisy like flowers in the summer. Anthemis cupaniana bears white flowers in spring and is low growing. Cut back the flowered stems to reveal good leaf rosettes for the winter.
- Many plants with small finely cut or dissected leaves are protected by aromatic oils e.g. thyme, rosemary and lavender. These all add colour, have a culinary use and attract insects.
- Thick swollen leaves, plants like stonecrop (sedum) and houseleeks (sempervivum) store water in their fat juicy foliage. They do particularly well in our gardens, with the sedums offering colour and attraction for butterflies in late summer.
If you want plants to thrive and to cut back on the time consuming watering, look to these well adapted plants. Nature has this wonderful way of enabling plants to survive in all sorts of conditions.