IT'S funny how we are never satisfied with our weather. But while we have welcomed some glorious spring sunshine the lack of rainfall — until a few days ago — dominated many a conversation.
Some gardeners have even been preparing themselves for a hot dry summer and are tapping into the wide range of the plants that never fail to thrive in even the driest conditions that Mother Nature chucks our way, however occasionally that may be.
While it may be horses for courses it's definitely a case of plants for purposes when you consider the ingenious ways nature has adapted many plants to endure long periods of much heat and little moisture.
So go with the flow (or in the case of water, lack of it) and utilise the many drought tolerant plants waiting to make your summers as stress free as possible.
The best plants to tolerate dry conditions are those that store as much water as long as possible, much like a cactus does in a parched desert.
The Houseleek (Sempervivum) is a curious example of such a plant; its capabilities for growing in dry conditions are so good that it has been grown on the roofs of houses since Roman times.
Folklore suggests these protected against thunder, pestilence, fire and water; these days however they are mostly just prized as very useful additions to summertime containers and alpine gardens where watering is required very seldom.
Houseleeks are available in many forms that make very attractive companions for smaller plants.
Spiky plants have carved a place in modern fashion, and their ease of maintenance has done much to expand their popularity.
Their strap-like fleshy leaves suit them perfectly for hot conditions where water is precious. The Agave can grow in the poorest gritty soils on the steepest slope and still manage to endure the coldest Mediterranean winter and can in sheltered positions be persuaded to take residence in our gardens here.
Cordylines (Cabbage Palms) and Yuccas are now quite at home in our climate and used extensively as container plants.
Perhaps the most popular spiky plant is the New Zealand Flax (Phormium) that again has travelled rather a distance and is a firm favourite for beds and containers.
Plants with small silvery foliage that reflects the sun will stand a summer day long after those with larger, lusher and darker foliage. Lavender and Russian Sage (Perovskia) are great examples of silver foliage that provides a perfect foil for blue flowers and will bask in the summer sunlight. Both plants are highly aromatic too.
Drought tolerant bedding plants are becoming more and more popular and save you from many hours spent with a hosepipe.
Osteospermum (Cape Daisy) is a gloriously colourful bedder with its magical daisy like blooms that bask in the sunshine. While most are not hardy the Stardust variety has proven to reliably pull through most winters.
Saving the best for last in my opinion is the Gazania, which for me provides the perfect picture on a summer day with its large glowing golden yellow or orange blooms that seem to bring more cheer than even the sun itself.