Garden Plants For Every Season

Posted on: 03 July 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves

Which plants can survive floods but tolerate minimal watering in summer? Gardening expert Maxine Farmer gives her verdict.

What plants or flowers can I put in a border which gets lots of sun, is bone dry in summer and floods in winter?  When the border floods the water has nowhere to go so stays in the border until it dries up.  Is there anything I can do to cure this?

Maxine replies, I sympathise as I garden in exactly these conditions.  And with our predicted hotter summers and wetter winters, more and more gardeners are going to be experiencing the same challenge: what plants will survive these extremes?  Drought-tolerant plants are useless in wet claggy soil, while moisture-loving plants will not be happy in a bone dry border.  I’ve spent the past 15 years experimenting to find out which plants can survive floods but tolerate minimal watering in summer and the good news is that there is plenty of choice.

Examples of flowering perennials are: hemerocallis, iris sibirica, sedum, physotegia and camassia.  Robust shrubs to try include: cornus sibirica (a type of dogwood), sambucus (elders) and symphoricarpos, the coralberry.  If you like ornamental grasses, then I heartily recommend miscanthus sinensis and miscanthus sacchariflorus, which in my garden put up with winter floods and being totally ignored by my watering-can in the summer.

If readers want to email me at then I have a fact sheet I can send by return, detailing plants that are best placed to survive wetter winters and hot summers.

However, you may also want to consider changing the nature of the border completely.  I’m a big fan of raised beds, as having plants’ roots just a few inches above average ground level will improve their drainage enormously.  Yes, it’s a lot of work, but well worthwhile.  Alternatively, why not turn a problem into a garden feature?  How about turning the border into a pond or a bog garden and creating a natural haven for wildlife at the same time?

Good luck!

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