Blue Daisy Garden Diary - October/November 22
Summer Dry, Winter Wet by Nicki Jackson
As garden designers we are always striving to deliver our client’s ideal garden. Often that ideal is articulated in phrases such as contemporary, cottage, low maintenance, wildlife, child, or pet friendly, and more. Each of these phrases immediately conjure up vague ideas in our head about what kinds of plants will complement their chosen style of garden even before we’ve actually designed the hard landscaping layout and features based on their wish list.
You’ve no doubt heard the old adage ‘right plant, right place’ so when it comes to planting – whether for a new design or already existing borders – this is something we’re always trying to achieve with an additional ‘right job’ tagged to the end of the phrase too.
In terms of ‘place’ we check types, moisture levels and pH of soil in borders. We check aspect and light levels. We look at borders’ surroundings to see what might impact on the area and how. Is it sheltered or exposed, is an existing tree causing a rain shadow or making the ground extra dry, for instance? We take all of these things into consideration and try to mitigate, if needed, the effects as best we can to ensure new plants will have the best possible conditions to survive and thrive.
We’ve always done this work with our average local weather in mind too; we have been long blessed with a moderate climate but changes have been afoot for quite some time and gardeners – like canaries in a coal mine – are usually the people talking first about such changes: how mild and wet our winters are becoming and subsequently how many more pests and diseases they’re noticing, how unpredictable the weather is now, how late the frosts are coming (if they come at all), how early spring is coming, how late summer is lasting, how much longer the flowering season seems to be and more.
Over the years our plant choices have been gradually shifting in line with these changes which have generally been considered fairly benign for many, but the summer of ’22 seems to have changed all that and now even non-gardeners are beginning to think about and ask for plants that can cope with heat and drought like we’ve just experienced. But this is the UK and if anything is guaranteed weather-wise in this country it is its changeability; those same plants will most likely need to cope with an awful lot of rain and potential flooding too.
Mulch is the not-so-secret weapon for helping plants survive weather extremes but that is something for a future article, for now, here are some good performing plants for both summer dry and winter wet:
- Hydrangea Annabelle – a bushy deciduous shrub with show stopping large white globes of florets
- Rosa rugosa – parent to many shrub roses this is well known for its hardiness and disease resistance; pink flowers in summer, hips and striking leaf colour in autumn.
- Crocosmia (usually Lucifer) – a perennial with multiple, fiery-coloured flowers in summer through into autumn
- Iris sibirica – bees love this flag iris’s purple flowers with white and yellow markings.
- Miscanthus sinensis – a deciduous ornamental grass with pink-ish flower plumes in late summer
- Persicaria – usually red or pink, long-flowering and striking, many persicaria varieties are great ground cover plants but choose carefully, some can spread at an alarming rate!
- Geraniums – much loved stalwart of the British garden, hardy geraniums are tough, easy to grow and are great for pollinators
- Rudbeckia – great for pollinators, these long flowering and robust (often yellow) daisy-like flowers with black centres, provide a riot of late summer colour
- Vinca – evergreen, long flowering and great for ground cover
- Ajuga – ground hugging evergreen with blue-toned flowers in spring through into summer
This list is not definitive or exhaustive – it’s a big ask for any plant – but hopefully it is a good starting point.
© Nicki Jackson, Blue Daisy Gardens 2022