Despite our national image we have less rain in the South east than Rome.
According to the Met Office, April was the warmest on record, at 10.7C on average, exceeding the previous warmest April in 2007, which was an average of 10.2C. On 23 April – St George’s day – temperatures in Surrey soared to 27.8C, one of the hottest April days since 1949. For comparison, the 30-year average temperature up to 2000 for April was around 6.9C.
It was also one of the driest Aprils, with average rainfall in the UK at 36.7mm – only 52% of the long-term average.
As climate change presents us with the challenge of less water, choosing plants to suit our growing conditions becomes paramount.
With some conditioning of the soil and careful watering, there is a considerable range of plants that can tolerate dry conditions once they are established.
Many drought tolerant plants have silver or grey-green leaves, their light leaf colour reflecting the harsh rays of the sun. Some have a coating of fine hairs on their leaves or stems, helping to trap moisture around the plant tissues. Below is a selection of plants with good drought-tolerant properties.
Acacia dealbata (mimosa) AGM: Height 15-30m (50-100ft); spread 15m (50ft)
Cercis siliquastrum (Judas tree) AGM: Height and spread 10m (30ft)
Koelreuteria paniculata (golden rain tree) AGM: Height and spread 10m (30ft)
Ptelea trifoliata ‘Aurea’ (hop tree) AGM: Height: 5m (15ft)
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana (Lawson cypress): Height and spread variable according to cultivar
Cupressus arizonica var. glabra: 10-15m x 4-5m (30-50ft x 12-15ft)
Juniperus: Height and spread variable according to species and cultivar
Pinus: Height and spread variable according to species and cultivar
Cordyline australis AGM: 3-10m x 1-4m (10-30ft x 3-13ft)
Trachycarpus fortunei AGM: (20m x 2.5m (70ft x 8ft)
Artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ AGM: 60cm x 90cm (24 x 36in)
Halimium: Height and spread variable according to cultivar
Hebe: Height and spread variable according to cultivar
Lavandula (lavender): Height and spread variable according to cultivar
Nandina domestica (sacred bamboo) AGM: 2m x 1.5m (6ft x 5ft)
Ozothamnus ledifolius AGM: 1m x 1m (3ft x 3ft)
Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Blue Spire’ AGM: 1.2m x 1m (4ft x 3ft)
Santolina chamaecyparissus AGM: 50cm x 50cm (20in x 3ft)
Abelia × grandiflora AGM: 3m x 4m (10ft x 12ft)
Arbutus unedo AGM: 8m x 8m (25ft x 25ft)
Callistemon citrinus: Height and spread variable according to cultivar
Elaeagnus angustifolia AGM: 6m x 6m (20ft x 20ft)
Olearia macrodonta AGM: 6m x 5m (20ft x 15ft)
Ozothamnus rosmarinifolius ‘Silver Jubilee’ AGM: 2-3m x 1.5m (6-10ft x 5ft)
Vitex agnus-castus: 2-8m x 2-8m (6-25ft x 6-25ft)
Campsis: 10m (30ft)
Eccremocarpus scaber AGM: 3-5m (10-15ft)
Jasminum officinale: 12m (40ft)
Passiflora caerulea (e.g. ‘Constance Elliott’ AGM): 10m (30ft)
Solanum crispum: 6m (20ft)
Baptisia australis AGM: 1.5m x 60cm (5ft x 24in)
Euphorbia: Height and spread variable according to cultivar
Eryngium: Height and spread variable according to cultivar
Echinops: Height and spread variable according to cultivar
Osteospermum jucundum AGM: Height 10-50cm (4-20in) Spread 50-90cm (20-36in)
Verbena including V. rigida AGM and V. bonariensis AGM: Height and spread variable according to cultivar
Cortaderia selloana: 2.5 -3m x 1.5m (8-10ft x 5ft)
Panicum virgatum: 1m x 75cm (3ft x 30in)
Pennisetum alopecuroides: 0.6-1.5 x 0.6-1.2m (2-5ft x 2-4ft)
Stipa gigantea: AGM 2.5m x 1.2m (8ft x 4ft)
Don’t miss the June issue of The Landscaper for details of suppliers of these plants