Today I'm joining Ricki of Sprig to Twig in posing a question for garden bloggers (and gardeners in general, of course). In the Pacific Northwest, we are experiencing a second unusually hot, dry summer. While not enough to make any concrete proclamations on climate change, the weather is making it difficult to keep many garden plants watered, especially if you've been doing a lot of planting and moving the last couple years. I had already decided to shift more towards plants that can handle our summer drought before last summer hit, and this summer is only making me more determined to do so. I'm weak, though, and still purchased a few thirsty plants even after it became apparent that this summer would be a killer for such things. Even worse, for the most part they were impulse buys, too. I'm almost contemplating trading or selling some of them at the next plant exchange or garden bloggers' bazaar (I'm hoping more and more that there will be another). I'm even thinking of phasing out some of the thirstier plants that are already in the garden.
Perhaps the most striking sign of how early and warm summer is this year is how my Calluna vulgaris are starting to bloom already. They're over a month early! Usually their one of the last things to bloom in summer.
At least they are fairly drought tolerant. I did finally water the ones in the driveway island this past weekend, which hadn't been watered at all since the rain stopped. The ones growing in front of the ramp at the front entrance may have to relocate this fall. It's difficult to water the steep slope of clay soil, even with a soaker hose, particularly with the landscape fabric under the mulch (thank you, contractors, and lazy gardener, aka: me). Even after watering, the slope faces west and gets so hot in the afternoons that many of the heathers still wilt and a couple of Penstemon rupicola have fried. Plants from the mountains don't like heat. Go figure. I was surprised by the survival of a Ledebouria 'Gary Hammer' on that slope, which requires excellent drainage in our winters that is not typically found in clay soil. The slope is enough to make up for the clay. Now I'm contemplating things that can take really hot afternoon sun and would grow well on a dry slope (maybe even an agave or two). I am planning to do a lot of moving and planting this fall and will likely make fall my main planting season from now on, restricting spring planting to very early in the season.
So (finally) I'll pose my questions. How is your garden handling the heat? Did you already have a mostly drought-tolerant garden or have the last two summers been a rude awakening? Are you planning to shift towards more drought-tolerant plants or will you be adapting in other ways such as more efficient irrigation? Or do you think this is an over-reaction and you're just going to water extra this year and wait for cooler summers to return? It could, and at some point probably will, happen. What are some of your favorite drought-tolerant plants? Are there any plants that have surprised you with their drought tolerance or improved performance thanks to the heat? Any other related thoughts are welcome, too!