We’ve had a particularly dry, hot summer and many forecasters say it’s the kind of weather we may need to get used to in the UK. Constant watering of plants is unsustainable, expensive and time-consuming so perhaps we should be looking at those that can cope with drier conditions. A Mediterranean approach is the way to go.
Lavender and rosemary are the two best-known plants at will set the tone. And many others work nicely alongside them. Silvery foliage is a sign that a plant can cope with heat, so think about adding Santolina (cotton lavender), Artemisia (mugwort, wormwood, sagebrush) and the Stachys byzantina (lamb’s ear) – perfect for softening the edge of planting and paving. Herbs such as thyme and marjoram work nicely, too.
Now you can start adding in some colour. Cistus (rock roses) are excellent all-round shrubs with sage-green leaves. There are many varieties with white, purple or pink papery flowers in the summer, which only last a short period of time, but masses are produced. For accent colour, Potentilla (cinquefoil) will do the job. My favourite is “Gibson’s Scarlet”, with its brilliant red flowers and dark green leaves.
The perennial Phlomis (Jerusalem sage) also works seamlessly with this style of planting; it has a spreading habit with soft hairy leaves and whorls of hooded flowers. Look for the tall architectural “Amazone” or softer, more lilac-pink cashmeriana; leave the flowers on as they’ll dry out on the stem and look fabulous as they decay in the autumn and winter. the silvery-leaved Achillea (yarrow) is another group of perennials to consider as their flat flower heads help to break up more shrubby and vertical planting. There’s a vast range of colours: “Paprika” has spicy orange/red flowers, while “Terracotta” is as its name suggests!
If you don’t have the right soil conditions, all of the above can be grown in pots. Plant up a few together in a large container and then place them in the sunniest spot in your garden or patio.