Dry, sunny spots in your garden need very specific plants, choose the wrong type of plant and it’ll grow pale and lanky, as it slowly dries out and starves.
Well drained soils are usually sandy or chalky, the nutrients quickly drain away leaving the soil low in nutrients.
But this needn’t be a problem, there are many plants that thrive in these conditions because they originate from areas of the world where poor, dry soils are standard. They have cleverly adapted various methods of coping with these harsh conditions. Many have silver coloured leaves that refelect the sunlight, or leathery ones that don’t dry out, or a covering of fine hairs to trap moisture.
These are some of my favourites, they look good and are easy to look after.
These are plants that grow, flower, die back and re-grow the following year.
There are many different varieties; they all have a rosette of fleshy leaves that produce tall stems topped with clusters of small starry flowers that last for weeks in late summer. The flowers have the added bonus of attracting bees, hoverflies and butterflies.
One of my favourites is Sedum Purple Emperor, it’s plum-coloured foliage and pink-red flowers fade to amber-brown in autumn. It makes a stunning contrast with silver-leaved plants.
60cm high x 50cm wide.
Echinops ritro (globe thistle):
This is a tall, rather striking looking plant with soft, grey-green, spiky leaves that are grey underneath. The steely-blue globe shaped flowers grow on white stems, perfect for naturalistic planting.
Leave as long as possible in the autumn to enjoy the architectural shape, then cut back to ground level.
1 m high x 80cm wide.
Euphorbia characias wulfenii (Spurge):
There are lots of different types of Euphorbia, this one is tall (1m high) with blue-green foliage and acid green flowers in late spring. It’s a wonderful foil for all the yellows and blues around at this time of year.
Remove the spent flowering stems, but take care because the sap is an irritant and shouldn’t come into contact with the eyes or skin.
1m tall x 80cm wide
You may still find this under the name Brachyglottis, which is what it used to be when I was at college .
This is one of the plants that are very common and therefore often undervalued, but it can be a real stalwart of a sunny border. It looks best when lightly pruned each spring to form a neat shape; the new growth will be a lovely soft silver-grey.
It has yellow daisy-like flowers in summer and does well in exposed conditiond such as roof gardens or the seaside.
1m tall by 1 m wide.
Salvia officinalis (Sage):
Herbs are very handsome plants and shouldn’t just be used in vegetable gardens. Sage has soft grey-green leaves and a nice rounded spreading shape with hooded pale blue flowers in summer.
The purple version (Salvia purpurea) is a bit smaller but equally attractive. Prune in the same way as the Senecio. It’s at the front of the border in the photo at the top of the page.
Add moisture retentive compost to the planting hole and water during dry periods for the first two years until the plant becomes established.
A skilfull selection of shapes and colours makes a sunny border that will look lovely, and need little attention.
photos courtsey of ebase.com, schmidt landscapes