Who would have thought, back in the sunless, soggy early summer, that I would now be praying for rain. Who would have thought that the sentence; ‘I wish it would rain’, would have ever been needed!!! But, here we are in the final few days of July, watering, not just the plants in pots, but plants in the ground.
The most badly dried-out plants are the phlox. Their leaves droop pathetically at the back of the borders. Phlox, of course, have quite shallow feeder roots, spreading out just below the surface. If you dig them up to move them, be prepared for them to suddenly re-appear in that same spot, as the longer roots have the ability to regenerate top-growth, therefore making them suitable for root-cutting propagation. Best planted in semi-shade, to help them cope with drier weather, they also benefit from a good feed.
Some plants just shrug off heat and a spell of dry weather and cope beautifully with lower light levels and rain. Believe me, plants like that are to be cherished!! Geum, potentillas, hemerocallis, chicory, geraniums and lysimachia all spring to mind, as do persicaria, galega and miscanthus. To be fair, there are very few ornamental grasses that require special conditions.
But paying attention to special conditions can mean you are able to grow a much wider range of plants. We have a beautiful, highly scented Mandevilla laxa growing on a west facing wall at the nursery. It’s a plant from the sub-tropics which can tolerate a few degrees of frost. However, our nursery garden is exposed and cold. How do we get it through a typical English winter? Well, obviously, the west-facing wall helps, but we also helped the odds by (a) planting it’s root-ball right up against the footings of the wall so it was in contact with the concrete: (b) planting a Stipa arundinacea right on top of said root-ball. All this helps to keep out the winter rains and protects the roots from frost. In the winter of 2010 when our bay tree was killed to ground-level and all the ceanothus shrubs died, our Mandevilla sailed through it all.
Of course, Mandevilla never need extra water.Pity more plants aren’t like that. I wish it would rain!!