In late July I blithely congratulated myself on watering less, assuming that rain would come and my plants would be refreshed without supplemental irrigation. My expectations were way off. In the month of September, we got less than an inch of rain. So far October is just as dry.
|The garden is drooping|
During the drought, I’ve had to make difficult decisions about watering. I’m finding out the hard way which plants can tolerate sustained dryness. For container plants, it was easier to know what to expect. In hot weather, they wouldn’t last more than a day or two without watering, because the small volume of growing medium in the pot dries out so fast. Those I kept watering with the hose wand or watering can.
Then there were newly planted perennials and shrubs. Before the drought, I optimistically planted in new areas. When we replaced a rotting stockade fence with chain link last fall, I planted a row of evergreens. In spring I added a buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
|The buttonbush has survived so far|
and moved a chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia) to a sunny spot nearby. Around the garden pond, I planted native perennials for pollinators: false aster (Boltonia asteroides), northern blazing star (Liatris novae-angliae), wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), and mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum). All these will need supplemental watering for their first two years. I’ve kept at it with the watering can.
|Northern blazing star at the end of its first season|
For the rest, it was survival of the fittest. The lawn completely surrendered. With our dog and her friends racing around on its parched surface, the grass wore away completely. Luckily, turf grass is my least favorite garden plant. It should grow in cool, damp environments like the British Isles, where it belongs.
|So much for the grass|
In the drought, it’s easy to see the advantage of protective adaptations like waxy leaves. The boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) hasn’t batted an eye. The vinca (Vinca minor) groundcover in the front yard is starting to droop after two full months with no water at all, but it’s still green—another reason I’m glad it replaced the former front lawn.
|Vinca has proven very tough|
But some waxy leaves of a few evergreen shrubs are turning yellow or brown, as on the Catawba rhododendrons (Rhododendron catawbiense) and mountain laurels (Kalmia latifolia).
|Rhododendron leaves yellowing|
Softer deciduous leaves are drooping. Even the Canadian wild ginger (Asarum canadense), which is usually impervious, has flopped to the ground.
|Wild ginger has collapsed|
In contrast, the goldenrods (Solidago spp.) and asters (Symphiotrichum spp.) are unfazed.
|Goldenrod dealing with drought|
I notice that some perennials with fleshy roots have an advantage. Smooth Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum) is still holding up its leaves. In the cutting garden, the cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) has turned completely brown, but dahlias are going strong. Presumably rhizomes and other fat root forms store water for hard times.
|Smooth Solomon's seal has fleshy roots|
I find myself wishing that some of the rain flooding the Gulf Coast would come our way. We’re supposed to get some remnants from Hurricane Delta next week. May it be so! At this point I’ll only believe it when I see it, because so much forecasted rain hasn’t materialized.
|New England aster holding up well|