Hosepipe bans and your garden

Posted on: 12 April 2012 by Maxine Farmer

Maxine Farmer offers advice on how to manage your garden and plants through drought.

Gardening during droughtSo, for lots of us, the much-publicised 2012 hosepipe ban has now started. There is a welter of great advice out there about plants that will tolerate drought and while this is all very useful, it doesn’t address a very big issue. Interspersed between those periods of bone-dryness are occasional very wet spells of weather, at the very least causing waterlogged soil and at the worst, localised flooding.

So, wouldn’t plants that can survive both extremes be preferable?  Especially if we can expect these conditions to persist in the years to come?

I speak from experience, because I live on a riverside plot that is regularly inundated, but equally, I have to be mindful that the soil can be pretty dry in the summer.  Over the past 18 years, I’ve carried out my own extensive research and experimentation and while my shortlist of plants that will survive wet-and-dry extremes is no guarantee, in my personal experience these plants have survived well in our garden.  

There are some caveats:  plants with well-established roots, in borders that drain freely are more likely to survive.  I’ve had plants withstand several floods, then succumb in the next one. Some plants can withstand weeks of having water around their roots, others cannot.  Winter flooding seems to cause less damage than summer flooding, presumably because so many plants are dormant.  With those provisos in mind, the list of plants below has stood me in good stead.  Good luck!


  • Berberis – the deciduous variations of this shrub family are pretty hardy
  • Chaenomeles – the ornamental ‘Japonica’ is a tough plant with exquisite spring flowers
  • Euphorbia – really a sub-shrub genus, with dramatic foliage - most varieties deal well with flooding, though Euphorbia Robbiae less so
  • Cornus Sibirica – the elegant dogwood family will put up with a lot of hardship
  • Viburnum – with the exception of Viburnum Davidii, most viburnum are tolerant of inundation


  • Aster Novae-angliae – a hero plant for late summer and autumn colour
  • Camassia – a favourite spring flower of mine, with wonderful sky-blue spires in April
  • Crocosmia – another bulb and one that likes dry, but surprisingly resilient of flooding
  • Filipendula Ulmaria – the native Meadowsweet, with pretty fluffy flowers in summer
  • Veronica Prostata – this variety of Speedwell delivers delicious blue flowers for weeks on end in summer

Grasses & ferns

  • Carex Pendulata – it can be a bit of a thug when it’s happy, self-seeding itself everywhere, but it is a great space filler
  • Cortaderia – the much-maligned Pampas grass.  Only plant it if you can give it space.
  • Drypteris Felix-mas – a wonderful native fern that when settled, will give you generations of ferns to give away to friends
  • Luzula Nivea – the woodrush is a great low-growing space filler especially in light shade
  • Miscanthus sinensis – a beautiful ornamental grass.  Cut it down in Spring not autumn, because last season’s growth – while technically dead – hold their structure to provide Winter interest.


  • Akebia – also known as the Chocolate Vine, this bears pretty blue flowers in spring
  • Clematis Polish Spirit – most clematis are relatively flood-hardy, this one particularly so in my experience
  • Humulus Lupus – the Golden Hop is a good choice for light shade
  • Lonicera – the honeysuckle family seems to be pretty flood-tolerate in our garden
  • Rosa Paul’s Scarlet – this is a very free-flowering  rose with red blooms that persist throughout the summer

I'll be back next month with more hints and tips for your garden. In the meantime, if you have a question or comment email editor@50connect.com or leave your comments below. Bye, for now.

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