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Designing and Planting a Drought-Resistant Garden

Drought-resistant gardens have become increasingly in demand amid concern over climate change. This can be seen not so much as a trend which will pass, but more as part of a growing focus on sustainability, involving a permanent change to the gardening mindset.

At Compass Garden Design, we believe that greener, eco-friendly gardens are here to stay. We can design with water conservation in mind, creating beautiful and practical gardens in Bath, Wiltshire and across the South West, which will continue looking good even during the longest and hottest of summers. Here are some ideas on how to save water in your outdoor space.

Reasons for Water-Saving Garden Design

England has seen some dramatic changes in weather patterns over recent years, and protracted periods of summer heat mean it can be difficult to ensure that gardens get enough moisture. Water butts are a very good idea and great to include in a garden, but they can run out during prolonged periods without rain.

Many households will remember the hosepipe bans of past years, and, even when there is no actual ban, water companies often appeal for customers to conserve supplies. Many households now also have water meters, which help to focus the mind on conserving this precious resource.

Gravel Gardens – and Lawns

Replacing grass with gravel is a low-maintenance option, and one way to reduce your garden’s demand for water, as well as creating an attractive, contemporary look. The great Beth Chatto wrote a book about this, Drought-Resistant Planting: Lessons from Beth Chatto’s Gravel Garden, telling how she created a gravel garden in a dry area, vowing not to irrigate it at times of drought.

Gravel can be adapted to meet many different garden layouts and environments, and there is a wide range of stone sizes and colours available, so it is possible to choose a shade which will tone with paving and other features.

If you decide you still want a lawn, you could consider making it smaller, which will also save on maintenance. We can advise you on this as part of the landscape design process. It is worth remembering that lawns are actually quite drought-resistant, and even if your grass does turn brown during a period of drought, it will usually soon become green again once the rain does return. It is also possible to reduce water loss from lawns by measures such as raising the height of the blades of your lawnmower. This will help the grass retain moisture better.

Drought-Tolerant Plants

One of the best ways to conserve water is to choose plants which are not thirsty and won’t need constant watering during a dry spell. At Compass, we offer a planting consultancy service, and can help to choose the right plants for your specific garden, bearing in mind your own personal tastes as well as the soil and other conditions. Buddleja, poppies and wallflowers are among the colourful flowers which will do well with limited water.

To conserve water, the soil needs to be cultivated thoroughly before planting. Using organic matter and mulches can help to do this, and it is also important to remove weeds, which can quickly use up a lot of moisture.

It is advisable to make sure plants are small when first planted, and to plant any less hardy varieties in the spring, so they will be well-established by the next winter. Even if plants are drought-resistant, though, they do need careful watering in their first season – we can give you gardening advice on this and other issues.

Mediterranean Gardens

Mediterranean plants are increasingly popular because they cope so well with hot weather and the lack of rain. Rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano and phlomis, as well as palm and olive trees, all come into this category. Many drought-resistant plants have silver or grey-green leaves, which are good at reflecting the sun’s rays, and some are also hairy, with the fine hairs collecting moisture.

These plants often contribute to a larger Mediterranean garden theme, which can also include features such as rustic paving, stone walls and plenty of shade. A self-contained water feature will not use a lot of water and can also be included within this style of garden, helping to make it feel cooler and encouraging wildlife.

Compass Garden & Landscape Design

If you are considering a water-saving garden design, we can work with you to turn it into a reality. After an initial consultation, we will survey your garden and produce a scale plan and concept sketches before going on to a full design and helping you to choose the right contractor.

We also offer other services including our plant consultancy, where we visit your garden, draw up a planting design and source plants for you. The areas where we work include Bradford on Avon, Bath, Bristol, Westwood, Staverton and across Wiltshire, Somerset and the South West. Get in touch with us to find out more.