Steele: Drought-friendly plants that thrive parched

Learn about drought-resistant gardening with Introduction to Xeriscape, Sept. 16 and 23, or Oct.1 and 8.

Although my focus in my home garden has always been to choose water-wise plants, I find during this unseasonably long spell of dry, hot weather some plants are thriving, while others seem to be gasping for water.

For the past 11 years I have gardened in pure sand—very easy to dig but poor in nutrients and no capacity to retain moisture.

Even though I have dug-in lots of water retentive organic matter and kept the soil mulched, the soil dries out rapidly and becomes hydrophobic (repels water).

I am a plantaholic.

Having a plant nursery for nine years magnified my interest in plant varieties.

When I gardened there, in amended clay soil, I could grow many water-wise plants without supplemental water.

When I first moved to this property, I brought my plant friends with me.

Sadly, many of my favourites couldn’t survive in dry, sandy soil.

I have grown some of them in an area that I water sporadically as needed.

This year the need has intensified.

I suspect that the weather we are experiencing is going to be the norm so I am planning to convert all the front and side gardens into plants that thrive in drought.

The time has come for hard decisions. Some plant friends are going to need a new home.

I have taken stock of what is thriving with little to no extra water. I may add more of these to replace the plants that need water.

Shade garden:

The border of giant Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum commutatum) is outstanding.

Leathery-leaved Bergenia looks great.

Euonymous Emerald Gaiety’ and Green and Gold both add brightness with their variegated leaves.

Surprisingly, hostas are doing very well (Krosse Regal, Albo-marginata, Golden Tiara and Sum and Substance).

They were planted in a compost/sandy soil mixture nine years ago and are kept mulched. The root systems are now well-developed.

The ground hugging Cotoneaster horizontalis has spread well and layered itself to make new plants.

Succulents, tall Sedum Autumn Joy and Matrona and many hen and chick varieties look great.

Northern sea oats grass (Chasmanthium latifolium) is a lush bright green.

Natives Oregon grape, Saskatoon and snowberry have all self-seeded here.

Full sun plants:

Herbs: lavender, oregano, thyme, sage, Hyssop officionalis

Ornamental grasses: blue fescue, blue oat, blue gramma (Bouteloua gracilis), blue hair (Koeleria glauca)

Good bloom: Russian sage, Nepeta Walker’s Low (catnip), Oenothera macrocarpa, Scutellaria alpina

Good foliage: Santolina, Rue, Yucca Golden Sword, Okanagan natives rabbit brush and big sagebrush, Artemesias Silver Mound and Valerie Finnis.’

You can find details and photos of these and many more water-wise plants on the plant database at okanaganxeriscape.org.

For detailed xeriscape information and plant suggestions, I invite you to attend my two-night class Introduction to Xeriscape on Wednesday, Sept. 16 and 23, or Thursday, Oct.1 and 8.

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