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GOT A HOT 'N' DRY SPOT IN YOUR GARDEN?

Maybe your irrigation doesn't reach an isolated spot in your garden, you have an area that is exposed to extreme temperatures or simply by choice you want to conserve water, after all it is a precious resource.

What ever it maybe there is a wonderful selection of plants on the market that go into survival mode when placed in a hot and dry position.

As moisture levels in the soil decrease over warmer months, the trick is for us to work out which plants will revel in the hot and dry conditions a true New Zealand summer will throw at us.  A plant's foliage is one key as to where the plant will thrive in nature.  A trick many green thumbed gardeners have used for years is to select plants with silvery foliage as a number of these tend to be very adaptable to the dry conditions of summer; but remember this is only a rule of thumb and there are a few plants that may catch you out.

In areas where summers are hot, dry or both plants that have small leaves, are very efficient at producing food and lose relatively little moisture.  The more moisture a plant gets, the larger its leaves can be, but plants adapted to full sun seldom have leaves as large as those of shade-loving plants, such as Brunnera's, Hosta's and Heuchera's.  Waxy or fleshy leaves, such as those of succulents, are designed to hold water.  Silvery or hairy leaves like those of Pachystegia's are also adapted to dry, sunny areas because the hairs reflect light and act like insulation, keeping the plant from overheating.  Plants grown from bulbs, corm, tuber or tuberous root tend to be sun and drought tolerant as they tend to store moisture in their roots or stems.

What's hot in the selection of tried and true campaigners coping with the harshest of summers include the rock roses Cistus 'Bennetts White' and Cistus luscitanicus which will reward you with an abundance of white flowers.  In addition the silver stunner Convolvulus cneorum is a fantastic choice for impact.  For an aromatic garden favourite , try Lavenders and Rosemary.  If you are looking for an option that has some bold saucy foliage then look no further than the Marlborough rock daisy Pachystegia Insignis.  This gem from the Kaikoura coast will strut its stuff in the driest of positions and is happy with the salty winds that blast it constantly, making it an ideal choice for any coastal spot as well as your hot and dry area.

For a hedging alternative, try the delectable Corokia Frosted Chocolate or Corokia Geentys Green.  Or for that native look garden, look no further than the abundant selection of Flaxes, Astelia's, Libertia's and Grasses on the market; all will provide you with flamboyant foliage and effect; whilst coping with a New Zealand summer.  Fashionable Dianella's such as the newly released Emerald Arch, Baby Bliss and Blue Twist are perfect for that low maintenance garden applying the principles of xeriscaping.

Seemingly contradictory in terms, all these plants will need a little water initially to establish their root systems in the soil.  But once established, as they become the camels of the plant kingdom, just sit back and enjoy the summer's warmth.

Featured article in Homestyle Magazine January 2009

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