Create a Dryland Garden
Dryland Gardens use drought tolerant plants to create a low maintenance garden. While most often thought of as a full sun garden, dryland gardens can also be created in partial or even full shade. The main objective is to find plants that require little supplemental water during the hot, dry days of summer. In addition, we must ensure adequate drainage to keep plants alive during the wet winter months.
Dryland Garden Examples
Hellstrip/Parking Strip Garden
A hellstrip garden is often created in the neglected space between the sidewalk and curb but it can also be created along the edge of a driveway as we did at Wild Ginger Farm. We selected our toughest, most drought tolerant plants and used a pocket planting technique to create a colorful and attractive garden that welcomes visitors to our nursery.
Succulents are natural choices for the dryland garden because they prefer dry, infertile soil and thrive with neglect. Often considered only for full sun locations, many species also grow well in partial shade. They work well when planted together and can also be integrated very effectively into mixed perennial gardens.
Sunny Dry Garden
This garden receives no supplemental summer water and we selected plants that thrive in dry summer conditions. We have successfully grown a number of dryland plants including Rockrose (Cistus sp), a wide variety of species Penstemons, California Lilac (Ceanothus sp), Flax (Linum), Pinks (Dianthus), Lavender, Hummingbird Mints (Agastaches) and California Fushia or Hummingbird Trumpet (Zauschneria).
Sunny Garden with Drought Tolerant Plants
Sunny Gardens in Spring............and then again in Late Summer of the Same Year
A Sunny Garden receives at least 6 hours of sun each day. If needed, drainage can be enhanced with the addition of inorganic soil amendments and also by mounding of soil. Drought tolerant plants that prefer low fertility soil and occasional summer irrigation are selected. It is interesting to note in the above photos that the color palate of this mixed perennial bed shifts from cool whites, pinks and blues in spring to yellows and golds by late summer. Because this garden receives occasional supplemental summer water, we can grow a wider variety of plants than in the unirrigated Dry Garden, above.
A garden area planted with spring flowering bulbs that require a dry summer rest is another great dryland garden. Spring and summer flowering bulbs are a great choice for the drier areas of your garden.
Dry Shade Garden
The dry shade garden is a challenging environment for plants because it limits two key elements plants need to survive - light and water. Most shade plants have moderate to high moisture needs. This is because the large surface area of their leaves allows them to absorb the limited light available, but also causes moisture loss. We must select plants that are both shade and drought tolerant for the dry shade garden. Many Pacific Northwest native woodland plants, such as Asarum caudatum pictured above, must deal with this situation in nature and there are a number that work well in the dry shade garden once they are established. Most will need irrigation the season they are planted while they are becoming fully rooted in their new environment.
What can be more fun that attracting these wonderful birds to your garden? Look for plants with orange and red tubular flowers such as Penstemon pinifolius (above), Agastache 'Sangria' and Mimulus aurantiacus.
Herb gardens are both beautiful and functional Dryland Gardens. Culinary herbs such asThyme, Lavender, Rosemary and Sage work well in a mixed perennial garden but why not group them together to create an herb garden? The herb garden we created is a series of small, steeply mounded beds of well-drained, low fertility soil surrounded by gravel paths. It is colorful and fragrant, providing us with yearround interest and, of course, fresh herbs for cooking! Another plus - they are deer resistant!
A roof garden, also known as a green roof or vegetated roof, is another example of a dryland garden. Roof gardens are aesthetically pleasing and environmentally sound. They are eco-friendly because they absorb water that would otherwise become stormwater runoff, reduce rooftop temperatures, and give off oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the the environment, reducing the effects of global warming.
This type of garden is constructed on a structurally reinforced roof that has been lined with a waterproof material. The planting medium is 3-8" deep and drainage and, in some cases, irrigation, is provided. Because the roof garden is completely exposed to the environment, plants must be able to withstand the harshest winter and summer conditions. Compact, low-growing drought and cold tolerant plants are selected for these gardens.