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Plants from Dry Places


By balcony


Plants from Dry Places

All plants need water to live, but some have adapted to survive extreme water shortages.

These survival strategies are reflected in their shape, feel & smell. Look for these features to fine good plants for a water-wise garden.

Losing less: leaf adaptations

All plants lose water through their leaves. Lots of water can escape from the large, floppy leaves of a “normal” plant. In most drought-tolerant plants though, the size, shape or texture of leaves are modified to reduce water loss.

Small, tough leaves lose much less water than large, floppy leaves.

Narrow, feathery or needle-like leaves have less surface area through which water can evaporate.

Hairy leaves

Many plants reflect strong sunlight and protect the leaves from drying winds.

Waxy leaves help to stop water loss.

No leaves! Some plants have tiny or even no leaves and just have green stems.

Avoidance tactics

Some plants have life cycles that avoid summer drought. One solution is to die down and survive as underground storage organs such as bulbs.

Other plants (the annuals) grow, flower, set seed & die in just a few months. Only their seeds survive to ensure the next generation of plants.

Storage solutions

Succulent (fleshy) plants store water in leaves and stems so they can survive long droughts.

Defence strategies

Many plants that live in dry places have strongly-scented leaves to discourage grazing. We use many of these plants, for example Thyme and Rosemary, to flavour food.

An urn with a selection of plants for a hot, dry location.

This purple vine was growing near the entrance to the Dry Garden. Unfortunately, as we all know, plants are subject to Powdery Mildew when they grow in hot dry places!

Although it looks unsightly, it doesn’t seem to do much damage to the vine, as you can see in the last photo below:

Well, this then is the end of this blog. I’ve tried to include a few photos of the different means plants use to survive in unfavourable climes. Not all the plants pictured here actually live in hot, dry places, yet they have adapted to them or, at least, can survive in them if not thrive.

Although all the photos I’ve used here are from my two visits to the Cambridge Botanical Gardens in September 2010, from the Dry Garden, not all the methods used by plants are represented here.

I searched through all my photos from there but couldn’t find any for bulbs or hairy leaved plants. Perhaps there weren’t any or, more likely, I passed them unnoticed!

Hope you have found this blog to be interesting & useful. We may have to search out in the coming decade more plants for our gardens from countries that have a hotter, drier climate than we are accustomed to in the UK. The summers are forecast to become hotter & drier – if the scientists involved in predicting our future weather are right. Water will become scarcer & restrictions on its use will become more widespread. So the use of plants that require a lot less water will help to keep our gardens colourful.

Happy gardening!

More blog posts by balcony

Previous post: The Dry Garden

Next post: We got Gold - again!



Thank you for this series of blogs... very interesting :o)

5 Dec, 2010


Glad you find them interesting, TT! :-))

Still a few more in the pipe line yet!

5 Dec, 2010


I thoroughly enjoyed this read, Balcony. This, and your previous blog, certainly gives us quite a lot to consider when planning borders or containers.

5 Dec, 2010


Enjoyed reading your blog, thanks...

5 Dec, 2010


Thanks Balc...that's really interesting, I have been onsidering making a dry border this next year....I wonder if the plants will survive heavy winter snows too? We may end up with Alpine gardens everywhere....:o((

5 Dec, 2010


Thanks for the lovely photos - I especially like the dry garden pic no 001 - what a lovely and huge echeveria ? I didn't know they could grow so big. The same goes for the aloes if that's what the other large plants are.

What a cheery sight in such bad weather.

5 Dec, 2010


I'm happy that you find these blogs of such interest! :-))

Sorry I haven't given more information on the names of the plants but when I took the photos the idea of photographing their labels hadn't yet occurred to me & I didn't have a pen or any paper to write them down. :-((

When I saw the information panels I though it would be a good idea to photograph them to make a blog like the ones I've made lately. The problem is that I took them at a lower resolution & now I find they are difficult to view. I blew them up very big on my screen & then copied the info which I later put in the blogs. Another time I shall know to take them at the same resolution as the other photos!

Climate change I believe is here to stay & we must take it into consideration when we plan for our flowers, veg & fruit in the coming years.

5 Dec, 2010


Very interesting Balcony the more we learn about the habits and needs of indivual plants the better gardens we will become. I dont know if you watched the episode of Gardeners World when Carol Kline was looking at the science of and bhaviour of plants which was also very iteresting;0)

6 Dec, 2010


I quite agree with you there, PP! :-))

I did see that programme & I found it very interesting! I found some of her questions to the experts "leading" as we well know she knew the answers & was clearly following a script. Nothing wrong in that of course, as people with less knowledge may have learnt something new. But Carol has told us some of these things on previous programmes.

I would like her to make a programme where she tells us things in her own way/style, with that infectious way of presenting she has. I wonder if she had taken on the place of Toby as presenter & had been given a freer hand whether GW wouldn't have been a more popular programme.

7 Dec, 2010


thanks Balcony, some reminders of my visit not so long ago. I really will try & get there in the Spring.

11 Dec, 2010


I'd like to make another visit before the end of winter/beginning of spring to see the earliest growth & flowers, rather like my September visit which was the end of summer/beginning of autumn.

We must try & plan a day when we can meet there & visit it together! :-))

12 Dec, 2010

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