In the Garden: Dealing with the heat with drought-resistant plants

Well finally we’re getting more consistent warm weather

Well finally we’re getting more consistent warm weather but it’s disappointing each summer to lose some of our garden colour when the heat really kicks in. That’s when the real sun lovers shine and add fresh new life to our gardens.

The growing interest in the use of canna lilies is phenomenal. These beautiful foliage plants are true sun lovers and really begin to perform when serious summer temperatures hit. Although there has been some beautifully coloured foliage varieties over the years, there’s not been much new lately. The growth has been in shorter more compact varieties that flower earlier and are well suited for containers and today’s small space beds. All cannas have a certain elegance and you know they will last till fall.

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Grasses, too, are very much summer heat and drought tolerant plants. ‘Purple Fountain’ grass (Pennisetum setaceum ’Rubrum’), with its dark burgundy foliage and complementary pink ‘bunny tail’ plumes, is the summer darling of all the annual grasses. A somewhat newer variety, called ‘Fireworks’, is a little more vibrant with red and wine foliage. Don’t rule out fescues, acorus, carex, hardy pennisetums or the wide range of miscanthus for great perennial grass structures for hot summer gardens. They are certainly the plants of the future. 

Banana plants have become garden sensations over the past few years for their tropical look, easy care and wide range of varieties. The hardy ‘Musa basjoo’ and the brilliant rich burgundy red ‘Ensete maurelli’ are two of the most popular and most dramatic. Surrounded by other tropical foliage, like bougainvilleas and mandevillas, they can create a delightful tropical theme that thrives in the sun. 

Dahlias are true summer garden heroes coming in a wide range of sizes and flower forms. They are showstoppers and love the summer heat. I also like the fact that they continue blooming well into fall.

Lantanas have come from nowhere to being a main stay in our new gardenscapes. The many new short varieties (30-40cm), like the ‘Lucky Series’ and the more pastel shades of the ‘Landmark Series’, provide a fresh range of colours from white and pink to peach and blush shades. They are great in hanging baskets and containers and are quite at home in garden beds. These new varieties don’t shatter nearly as much as the older forms and they bloom well into fall.

The number of new rudbeckia varieties is mind boggling. Their weather tolerant, non-stop blooms provide fresh colour and add a summer richness like no other plant. The newer varieties are shorter, more compact and bloom their hearts out. Compact annual varieties, like R. ‘Toto’, are great but the perennial varieties are about to bloom and will do so until late September. Rudbeckia ‘Little Gold Star’ is the shortest variety but R. ‘Early Bird Gold’ and the old reliable ‘Goldsturm’ are still two of the best.

Blue is a great cooling colour for summer and annual salvias have really expanded their offering of blues. ‘Blue Victoria’ has given way to the shorter version ‘Rhea’ that grows only 30cm high with the same rich blue flower. ‘Evolution Deep Violet’ has darkened the colour range with 15-17cm rich violet spikes that top 45cm plants. It’s also an award winner. 

The most under-used and under-rated summer ‘hottie’ are the ‘Profusion’ zinnias. Growing only 25-30cm tall, they spread like a carpet up to 40cm and add true zing to our summer gardens. In a class by themselves, these award winning zinnias now come in white, cherry, coral pink, deep apricot and hot scarlet. We love to use them in our gardens among trees and shrubs, roses, perennials and anywhere the sun beats down. This year for the first time we will see the double version with its very unique 5cm daisy-like double blooms. 

Petunias are the queen of hot vibrant colour and today there are so many mind-boggling colour combinations, they fit any sunny décor. Try the ‘Confetti’ combinations for some very sophisticated colour. The ‘Waves’ too create a real ‘pop’.

These are just a few of the summer beauties we can enjoy without fear of sunstroke or watering restrictions. They are truly a welcome addition to summer in our containers and home gardens. Please add them to your list.

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