Thursday, 31 May 2012

The Dry Garden

Water is becoming an increasingly precious commodity. What’s a gardener to do? We want our patch to look beautiful yet we can’t rely on our hosepipe. It’s a dilemma. But if we think of it in terms of a challenge, a puzzle to be solved, the whole concept of gardening with minimal water can be a delight...honest.

A sunny patch with poor soil is the perfect place to start gardening with plants that don’t mind dry, sun-baked earth. Mediterranean plants are the ones to seek out. They include lavenders, rosemary and curry plants.

First enrich the soil with organic matter so that plants can hold on to moisture during dry spells. Well rotted compost or bagged planting mixture from a garden centre are best. You could also use spent mushroom compost. You’ll need around one bucket per square metre. Once this is dug in you can start planting. Don’t forget to include a few upright plants such as towering verbascum for contrast and interest.

Once planted, water everything thoroughly. Then cover the soil surface with a 2 inch / 5cm thick layer of small gravel. This acts as a mulch, sealing in moisture and suppressing weeds. It also acts as a canvas, showing the plants off to their best advantage. During the first year the plants will be establishing so you will need to water them when the weather is dry. After that they should be pretty self sufficient. It is possible to have a beautiful garden and save water. It just takes a little imagination.

My guru for gardening in dry conditions is Beth Chatto. Her books ‘The Dry Garden’, and ‘Beth Chatto’s Gravel Garden’ are full of helpful information. They’re available at garden centres and good bookshops.

Plants which thrive in hot, dry conditions
· Allium
· Cistus - Rock Rose
· Curry Plant
· Euphorbia
· Helianthemum - Sun Rose
· Lavender
· Phlomis
· Rosemary
· Salvia Argentea
· Santolina
· Sedum
· Senecio
· Thyme
· Teucrium
· Verbascum

-- Rob Amey

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