Some of us have been lucky enough to have had some sunshine recently – perhaps summer is finally here, hooray! But being a gardener, this sunshine brings worries - from fretting about about slugs and snails eating our dahlias, the worries turn to who is going to look after our gardens when we go on holiday.
When I am lucky enough to go on holiday, I don’t worry about the garden. This is because some time ago I took the decision to make my front garden a drought friendly gravel garden. Even though I love plants and I love gardening, I don’t want to do it in my own front garden. I want it to be the best on the street, but I don’t want to have to work at it. And when I go on holiday, I don’t want to have to worry about all the plants dying in my absence.
I never water my front garden. My structural shrubs are Myrtus, Pittosporum and Euphorbia characias. They like it harsh and don’t mind the lack of rain. I make use of mass bulb planting for late spring colour, such as the hardy Gladiolus byzantinus. I then choose my perennials carefully so that they provide maximum impact for minimum effort. In early summer I am rewarded by my long lasting blooms of Sissyrinchium striatum. In late summer/early autumn, I’m planning to rely on block planting of Sedum ‘Matrona’ with its purple stems and long lasting flowers acting as platforms for landing insects.
Acting as screens amongst this planting are self seeding Verbena bonariensis, Erigeron karvinskianus (Mexican fleabane) and Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’ (Bronze Fennel).
On a similar drought friendly vein, I recently recovered some window boxes from a commercial client for a summer freshen up. I suspected that my client wouldn’t be particularly efficient about watering so I had planted the window boxes up largely with Osteospermums (Cape Daisies). I thought that these sun loving natives of Southern Africa would be just the thing. However, I underestimated my client’s reluctance to water. They had suffered. So the summer freshen up consisted of a change of tack and I replaced the Osteospermums with drought tolerant succulents such as Aloe vera and Sempervivums. I challenged my client to kill these, whatever the weather.
So there we have it – a sun baked front garden which never needs watering and window boxes which will survive even the most forgetful of clients (fingers crossed). Now all I need is a holiday!
Nigel is an award winning garden designer with studios in London and North Yorkshire. As founder of Medlar & Cob he uses modern, intelligent design to create timeless British gardens rooted in tradition. Take a look at his blog here here - medlarandcob.com/m. You can follow Nigel on twitter @medlarandcob. Read more posts by Nigel.