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Plants for Drought

Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on Frida, 31 August 2001

August heat has been harder than usual on my garden, because plants were already weakened by April’s drought. Some I thought loved heat and sun are dying back: silvery Pussytoes (Antennaria dioica), super-early-bloomer Arabis sturii, and several Thymes — plants I was depending on for ground cover, to shade the soil.

Others are doing fine. The Thyme-leaf Speedwell (Veronica oltensis) is creeping all over the rock I planted it next to. Maybe I should replace some of the ailing Thymes with this tiny look-alike, which has sky-blue flowers in spring. The Balloon Flowers (Platycodon), blooming now, look great. They were one of the few plants whose self-sown seeds sprouted during this year’s dry spring. I didn’t even know they would self-seed, and I’m so happy to have more that I’m not deadheading any of them, which I normally do to prolong bloom. (I hope they don’t require this dry a year to produce volunteers.)

Succulent Sedums are happy, of course. Even the ‘Mohrchen’ I almost killed with too much shade is recovering well in its new home, burgundy-red leaves standing out against bright yellow marigolds nearby. Its replacement, ‘Frosty Morn’, is getting enough sun simply because I started with a much older, taller plant; as a result the long stems of Roman wormwood (Artemisia pontica) can’t overtop it. Instead, the two make very good companions, with silvery, lacy Artemisia foliage echoing the pale green-and-white colors of the variegated Sedum, while contrasting against the texture of its big, fat, leathery leaves. ‘Mohrchen’ has pink flowers; ‘Frosty Morn’ has white.

The yarrows are thriving: past their bloom peak now, but all June and July their flat-topped, lacy flowers were profuse. Many years ago I started from seed Achillea millefolium in a mix of colors; since then I never know what colors are going to appear in volunteers. Pink and mauve and rose and crimson; pale, moonlight-yellow and peach — not to mention the bright yellows of other Achillea species.

Then there’s the Pitcher’s Sage (Salvia pitcheri) that languished so last year, in all the rain, that it never bloomed. This year, it loves. It looks like I’ll see those bright, sky blue flowers in September.

It’s one thing to resolve to garden with plants that can take natural conditions in my garden. It’s another to find plants as versatile as the weather!

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© Copyright 2001 Catherine Holmes Clark