Sunday, December 13, 2009

Summer plantings

December is a funny month. It is usually a frantic time, as we focus on the upcoming festivities, and perhaps even plan some holidays. But it is also about December the weather starts to settle down into a more predicable pattern, and we can think of those lazy, hazy days of summer. Unfortunately, for those of who garden on the east coast, summer means hot days, often windy, and prolonged spells of rainlessness.

This year has started kindly as far as rain goes. I made a trip up to Hawke’s Bay the other day and it was reasonable green all the way – not Taranaki green, but not east coast summer brown either. The forecasters are hedging their bets a bit this year, not really saying whether or not we will get a stinker drought, but whatever happens as far as rain goes, we will all be under some pressure to keep our water consumption down in the garden.

Fortunately there are a few things we can do to help ameliorate our lack of summer moisture.

Perhaps the most important thing to think about is correct plant selection. We live in dry areas, and cannot grow wet climate plants without a lot of difficulty.

I was really impressed with the street plantings in Hastings the other day. Someone has put a lot of thought into the sorts of plants that will survive a summer baking without too much watering, and have come up with an interesting range of shrubs that seem to be doing very well.

One of the people I was travelling with was enchanted with the use of lavenders as street side plantings, and I agree – they have grown very well, and probably need minimal care. I was also taken with other Mediterranean plants I saw growing in municipal plots, in particular a range of rock roses, Cistus. These sorts of plants, with their silvery leaves and tough textures, will thrive in the heat of summer, and will always look tidy. For native lovers, Hebes were also used extensively and well.

In the garden we can extend the range a little more with some shrubs that would be a bit too untidy to use as street plantings, especially the Australian and South African shrubs that thrive in our climate. Proteas, Leucodrendrons, Regal pelargoniums, Grevillias, and many others, will all do well and will easily cope with the summer dry.

Extra colour can be added by other dry loving bulbs, perennials and annuals, as well as a good dose of the very fashionable succulents, such as Aloes and Agaves.

Many natives wild thrive in these conditions too, especially some of the smaller leaved Coprosmas, the silver-leaved and golden flowered Brachyglottis, and many of the Hebes, which were also a feature in the Hastings gardens.

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