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Thursday, June 28, 2012

Drought Tolerant Garden Plants

My gardens haven't seen any rain for several weeks now.  The grass is brown and I even commented to my daughter that it sounds like crunchy snow.  Of course the reality couldn't be further from the truth - it's hot!  No snowball could survive in our back yard today with temperatures expected to rise into the triple digits.  Droughts do provide us with one really nice opportunity to examine our gardens for drought tolerant plants.  Here are a few of those plants that have done very well in my garden without any supplemental watering.

In most cases natives perform better than exotic plants in the garden.  But there are exotics that can thrive in our weather conditions.  Unfortunately these exotics often become invasive because they can handle our native conditions so easily.  Take this butterfly bush for instance.  It's done fantastic without any care from me this year.  It's a beautiful plant but can be a fast spreading invasive in the right conditions.  As an example take my mom's garden.  She has two butterfly bushes outside her vegetable garden and last year they seeded the vegetable garden with at least 20 new butterfly bushes.  They are drought tolerant but beware before planting!


One really cool native plant is ninebark.  This physocarpus is 'Diablo', a patented variety with gorgeous purple tinted leaves.  It's performed very well through the drought so far.

These pictures were all taken in the heat of the day and so the leaves have curled just slightly as a defense against losing moisture.  This is perfectly normal for most plants.  It's when plants start the day off wilty that you need to be worried!


I can't say enough good things about switchgrass!  Native, hardy, beautiful, and a great replacement for miscanthus.  I have 5 varieties in my garden and I like them all!  Here is 'Heavy metal' and below it you will see 'Shenandoah'.  All switchgrasses can be propagated easily through division


 'Shenandoah' features reddish tinted foliage that really becomes bright and colorful in the fall. 
 

'Powis Castle' is a non invasive variety of artemisia.  It spreads only by layering which is easily controlled.  In fact it is so easily controlled that in most cases you will probably plant the layered divisions in other areas of your garden.  There are few plants that I will say are completely deer and rabbit resistant and this is one of them!  They've never taken a nibble of our artemisia. It's also extremely drought tolerant!


Achillea is one of those plants that anyone can grow!  It does spread but it's usually controllable.  Bees and pollinators love it and with the ferny foliage you will too.  Trim it back after the flowers have faded to encourage it to bloom again and again.


Native viburnums like this arrowwood viburnum do great in times of drought too.  Soon the berries will turn blue and supply the birds with some important sustenance for the dry summer.



Another native shrub that does great is the witch hazel.  Ours has never been very fragrant when blooming in the spring but does an excellent job as a small shrub in the landscape.




I hope that the weather is being kinder to you than it is to us!

To plant more natives in your garden do some research into Alan Armitage's Native Plants Book. It's a great resource! 

3 comments :

  1. Dave, we are headed above 100 today and I am so glad that I have some of the plantings you wrote about. I have switchgrass, ninebark, viburnums. The hydrangeas do not like the heat and curl each day, boxwood and yews seem to take it in stride.

    Of course my succulents in containers just love it!

    Eileen

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  2. I have 6 established Butterfly Bushes and this year is the first time I have ever found a volunteer bush. I added some new ones last year and two new ones this year. I love them and yes, they can handle a drought like no other blooming bush I know. The blackeyed Susans are pretty hardy as well during drought...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Dave, I'm just down the road from you and my January jasmine in full hot sun next to the pavement continues to be glossy and green. Same goes for the red spirea that is now reblooming.

    Suzanne

    ReplyDelete

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