Embracing the Long, Hot Summer . . . Designing a Water Wise Garden
Welcome to high summer! With temperatures soaring and scant rainfall last week, suddenly this gardener switched from wellies and rain ponchos to flip flops, sundresses and watering wands. New England —always known for its fast-changing weather— has been experiencing some atypical summer extremes. For the past three summers, it seems like it’s either raining non-stop for months —with severe flooding here in Vermont— or not at all. After weeks of downpours and washouts, I had quite a bit of hydrating to do last week —running here and there with hoses and timers for newly installed gardens— but my wildflower garden, pictured here, hasn’t cried out for a single drop. The vast majority of plants in this drought-tolerant design are North American natives —or hardy, non-native cousins— chosen for their willingness to not only survive, but thrive with Mother Nature’s wild mood swings. When I think ‘low maintenance’, I always look to heat and drought-tolerant plants for summer sun.
Even in the Northeast, full sun gardens require perennials, shrubs and trees that can really take the heat. When designing gardens in hot, dry locations, I take my inspiration from the native prairies, meadows and even high desert regions of North America, where drought tolerance is essential to survival. Rudbeckia, Penstemon, Panicum, Agastache, Filipendula, Amsonia, Coreopsis, Asclepias, Echinacea, Liatris, Achillea, Pennisetum, Lupine, Heliopsis, Salvia and other wildflowers and grasses are all good, perennial choices for full sun and lean soil. I also look to the Mediterranean, where boney earth, sunny summer days and low rainfall place similar demands on plant life. Perennials and shrubs with narrow, fine. shiny, silvery,Â and/or sun-reflective foliage —Lavendula, Achillea, Tanacetum, Festuca, Perovskia, Nepeta, Artemisia,Â Stachys, Thymus, Echinops, Eryngium, Centranthus, Ceratsium, Salvia, Juniperus, Caryopteris, Calluna and Erica, to name a few— not only survive in full sun and fast-draining soil, but they actually require it in order to thrive. Hardy succulents and their close cousins —including many Sedum, Echeveria and Euphorbia— perform well during hot, dry spells and the many low-growing species fill empty nooks and crannies between stones and walkway pavers. Although all gardens require supplemental watering until established, by choosing drought-tolerant plants, mid-summer water-demand and garden labor is significantly decreased. And aren’t we all looking for just a bit more time in the hammock?
Â A Drought-Tolerant Mix for Summer-Autumn Color: Rudbeckia hirta, Amsonia hubrichtii, Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’, Callicarpa dichatoma ‘Issai’, Â Liatris spicata ‘Kobold’ and Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’
Agastache & Rudbeckia Lure in the Pollinators with Bold Color, and Stand Tall on Hot Summer Days
Â Late Day Light on the Golden Daylilies Along the Drive: Though Hemerocallis are Often Shunned as ‘Common’, I Love their Long, Cheerful Show and Indestructible Ease. Many of Mine are from Olallie Daylily Gardens in South Newfane, Vermont.
On My Bookshelf: Resources & Inspiration for Designing & Planting a Water-Wise Garden . . .
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