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What’s a good warm weather plant? John Humphries on what you should be …

How often have you been tempted when holidaying in a much warmer climate to nip off a piece of exotic plant material in the hope of propagating a garden ablaze with red bougainvillea on your return home?

I doubt whether you’d get it through customs today let alone a strip search by security!

Gone are the days when you could walk in with a cactus under one arm and the dried skull of a Mexican steer sticking out of a carrier bag as I did once.

The cactus has long since succumbed to our Welsh weather although the skull with two holes drilled in its forehead still adorns the wall of my garden shed.

Despite all this global warming stuff, I suggest it’s best to stick with warm-weather plants with a track record for surviving our variable weather.

Admittedly, we haven’t had it yet but July is usually the month when the weather most suits drought-resistant plants, not necessarily due to a lack of rain but also because it’s the period in summer when garden maintenance is most likely to be replaced by garden appreciation.

Dry weather plants on sunny, well drained sites respond wonderfully to baking sunshine while all around look limp and exhausted without regular watering.

In moderate rainfall areas, gardens most suitable for such plants are well-drained flat or gently sloping screes, or if that’s not possible raised free-draining beds above a layer of drainage material.

Whatever type of dry garden, it should be clear of over-hanging branches, south facing, and the soil neutral or alkaline which is most suited to many dry-weather plants.

If planted in summer, it should be remembered that although they are adapted to dry conditions they need regular watering until established.

Of all the dry, hot climate imports, the Yucca, a native of arid North and South American regions, if given a site with good all year round drainage and sandy or peaty soil, usually succeeds in producing a tall stem covered in creamy-white flowers.

Despite the Yucca’s desert appearance, it is hardy except in severe winters and on cool soils.

A large number of drought-tolerant plants are distinguished by grey foliage, some like lad’s love (Artemisa) with silver filigree leaves, Cotton lavender (Santolina), and Anthemis tinctoria with masses of lemon yellow daisy flowers now so familiar it’s easy to assume they are all natives.

For poor soil in a dry, sunny location, rock or sun roses are ideal.

Mention rock roses and most gardeners think of Cistus but the group also includes Helianthemum which is smaller and spreading with a wide range of colours and suitable for rockeries and border edges.

All rock roses are natives of south-western Europe and North Africa where they are seen growing freely on walls and in rocky outcrops and although some thrive well enough in any garden soil, they prefer it to be sandy and are much more likely to suffer during winter in rich soil.

Fleshy-leaved plants are also drought-resistant because they conserve moisture.

Sedum is probably the best known and while it does not flower until late summer/autumn, the clumps of thick, grey-green leaves are a valuable addition to the border from spring onwards.

WEEKEND GARDENING TIPS

* Trim conifer hedges taking care not to cut back into old wood which will not re-generate

* Plant autumn-flowering bulbs

* After harvesting, prune fruited raspberry canes down to ground level

* Onions, garlic, shallots are ready to harvest when foliage turns yellow

* Pick courgettes and beans regularly to encourage more to form

Article source: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/lifestyle/gardening-tips-from-john-humphries-4703081