Gardening with Gael - Try hardier varieties for a hot dry summer
Watching reruns of Game of Thrones in preparation for the last season is a good way to access the ruthless personality trait needed when confronting the end of summer garden.
Last year we were fortunate with regular rain. This summer has been hotter and drier and from all accounts we can expect much of the same in the future. Time to accept that some plants cannot survive a long hot summer without water. I hear Wendy from Tumbleweed Nurseries in Matakana giving regular advice on the radio.
“Water long and deep,” she advises and she is right. Less regular but very deep watering encourages the roots to go down and plants have a greater possibility of surviving. Then of course the mulch helps as well.
We all have favourites that struggle. Mine are my hydrangea panniculatas. The established plants are coping well. The ones I transplanted last year are struggling. The plants from last year also have good mulch. By the end of the summer it will be time to take stock and not replant anything that died. My dear little parahebes are desiccated sticks. Something hardier will have to take their place.
A plant that is doing well, is loved by the bees, and also enjoys a coastal environment, is the escallonia. I remember mentioning the new escallonia white profusion when I was planting my white wall last year. If you need a hardy fast growing shrub or hedge this one is amazing. In the months since I planted it, the entire hedge has grown to over a metre. White conical shaped flowers appeared in the spring and the entire hedge has flowered all summer. I have not had to water it, only trim back some branches encroaching on the path.
Most of the advice I have read suggested that the best time to trim is late autumn/winter. Pruning in the spring will reduce the numbers of flowers. I suspect mine is going to need a couple of prunes a year at the rate it is growing. I am delighted with it. In under one year I have the effect I was hoping for.
With their quick growth, ability to be pruned and general hardiness most escallonias can also be trimmed and shaped for topiary.
An escallonia that is more compact and could be trimmed to a round ball is escallonia apple blossom. The plant features large pale pink and white flowers reminiscent of apple blossoms. I do not need a hedge in my border garden here at the beach house. Most plants have survived the summer but there is one area that is less than attractive and I think I will try small trimmed specimens of escallonia apple blossom. There is something about dense glossy leaves in the hot weather providing a foil for the crisp dry grass.
Look around, see what plants in your area are doing well and replace any plants that struggled with ones that have proven their worth. There is a garden on the way to the Heads beach that catches my eye every morning. The owners are often not there and the garden is flourishing. I can identify Fijian hibiscus and coastal coprosmas.
Remember right now the feijoas all require a deep water once a week. Even a bucketful saved from the shower helps.
Most escallonia can also be trimmed and shaped.