Until now though it has been very dry at Wisley, and this, coupled with the sandy soil on Battleston Hill, has meant we've had to water our plants regularly. However, one area which has thrived in spite of the dry weather has been the Mediterranean Garden, which I look after. Several plants have really come into their own in these warm conditions, so I thought I would share with you some of these fantastic drought-tolerant plants which are well worth trying for your own garden.
Olearias have a range of leaf shapes and colours - my favourite this year has been Olearia macrodonta, mainly for its delicious fragrance! I don’t often associate the daisy-like flowers of the Asteraceae family with such a strong scent, but this evergreen shrub is full of surprises. Olearia × oleifolia 'Waikariensis' also has scented flowers but much more subtle and musky. For silver leaf colour I really like Olearia × mollis which has textural, toothed leaves.
Santolina rosmarinifolia subsp. rosmarinifolia and Santolina pinnata subsp. neapolitana are delicate-looking evergreen shrubs which would be at home in a herbaceous border. The latter has feathery silver-green leaves topped with lots of button-like lemon-yellow flowers in summer. They can also be used for dwarf evergreen hedging.
A diverse genus, some of the euphorbias which thrive on the terraces include trailing Euphorbia myrsinites and feathery Euphorbia cyparissias 'Fens Ruby', which are both low, spreading perennials and excellent for ground cover. If you're looking for a larger, upright plant Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii is one of the best. It's an upright, evergreen sub-shrub with blue-green leaves and massive green flowerheads throughout spring.
Despite their fleshy green leaves, agapanthus are tough, easy-going perennials which are very drought-tolerant once established. They look good in all sorts of positions, including patio containers, herbaceous borders and contemporary gardens.
Often evergreen, Phlomis are not only great for dry soils, their flowerheads are architectural and the spent flower stems persist through winter. Phlomis russeliana is one of the best for this as the foliage dies back in winter, but Phlomis fruticosa also shows off its seed heads well. For foliage interest, Phlomis italica has soft woolly, silver leaves and pink flowers in summer.
Californian tree poppies
I couldn’t fail to mention Romneya coulteri, the Californian tree poppy, which is looking amazing at the moment. Tall and wild, the blue-grey stems of this perennial have rocketed into the air bearing their large white poppy-like flowers at the tips.
There are many more plants I could mention, so please do head over to the Mediterranean Garden and have a look around! A dry garden is by no means a limitation.
For more information and plant suggestions take a look at our advisory page on drought-resistant plants.