My goodness – drought, hosepipe bans, water shortage….sounds like doom and gloom for our beloved plots – or is it?
A few days ago I saw the first post on Twitter about a hosepipe ban and now there seem to be comments flying all over the place. I was discussing the Sunday papers on BBC Radio Berkshire at the weekend and we very briefly mentioned the weather (so very English) and the lack of rain – with the presenter saying how much like a dust bath his garden was. I quickly replied that you just need to plant the right plants – in no way meaning to be smug, but having only been involved in the industry for a couple of years – I have heard the argument for planting the right plants for the right conditions over and over, so it has always been on my agenda. His reply was that he wasn’t sure what grew in the Sahara – implying that he didn’t think we’d like it in our gardens. I didn’t get a chance to discuss the matter further, and we weren’t really there to talk about gardening anyway – but I was somewhat disappointed not to have been able to at least give a few ideas on growing drought resistant plants. Try typing ‘drought resistant plants’ into Google and look at the images – not a desert in sight.
Whilst designing a roof top garden last year for the RHS London Plant and Design Show, I researched using plants suitable for green roofs, as all my plants in the show garden had to be suitable to be grown in 10cm of soil. Taking advice from a green roof company and a well-respected nursery we came up with a remarkable variety of plants that would work. I narrowed it down to what was looking good in February (see full plant list below) and then after the show re-homed nearly 1000 plants in our blank canvas of a garden. The result is that we have lots of ground cover plants that survive with no added water and are happy to self seed. Because these were the first plants that we put in the garden I have used them as the basis for the rest of the planting, adding in other plants that will cope with dryer conditions – such as Lavender, Salvia and Achillea. I always soak the pots before planting for at least 15 minutes and often poor water into the planting hole. I also hate throwing plants away and often plant things that look the worse for wear and more often than not they make a come back. The one thing you don’t want to do is spend money and time on plants that then die as a result of not watering them, so I’m not saying to just pop them in the ground and leave them to it (although, that is the general way I garden) – but think carefully about what you are planting and see how you can minimise water use. Adding organic matter to the soil and mulching with compost, gravel or bark will help retain water. Also – drip irrigation systems are excluded from the ban and are not too expensive – have a look at Lia Leendertz post in the Telegraph Gardening .
I’m just finishing this as the weather is on, it;s due to rain on Saturday – let it rain first and then mulch!
Plant List: Sky Green Living @ RHS London Plant and Design Show 2010
Ajuga Catlins Giant, Anementhele lessoniana, Armeria maritima, Ballota pseudodictamnus, Carex Morrowii Variegata, Lamium ‘Beacon Silver’, Saxifrage umbrosa, Stachys byzantina, Veronica umbrosa ‘Georgia Blue’