THE DRY SUNNY GARDEN

Spiky leaves and spiny flowers, silvery foliage and felty stalks – many of the plants which thrive in dry soil are not sentimentally pretty, but please the eye with bold form or strange texture, espe-cially those which flower in high summer and are armoured by nature to face the sun. This is one of the compensations for owners of a dry garden, with fast-draining sandy, gravelly or chalky soil.

Another is that many plants for the dry garden are deliciously aromatic, often natives of the Mediterranean, where so many herbs spring from the thin soil of the moquis. (If you approach the Greek island of Thasos by sea and the wind is right, you may smell the herbs half a mile away.) The dry garden is not the easiest to plant, but it brings unusual pleasures.

The plants should prosper in a hot position, but this does not mean that they like to be starved, for they are not desert plants. With a few exceptions (which I have pointed out in each case), they like to be planted with plenty of decayed vegetable matter to hold the moisture, and mulched occasionally later on. Crumbly leaf-mould, compost or spent hops will counter the aridity.

Most of these plants will not need watering once they are properly estab-lished. One or two, such as Campanula carpatico, may sometimes flag in a drought, and you will have to water them, but the rest will find enough moisture to carry on, especially those, like Acanthus, which have very deep roots.

These plants for the dry garden look best in association with each other, or with similar plants from the wide range of sun-lovers, including small-leaved shrubs, like bay and myrtle, which are characteristic of the Mediterranean. Some shade-lovers can be persuaded to grow in the sun, but they do not look right’. The dry garden has a harmony of its own.

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