The breaking news from Chez Blueday - no-one has done the dishes today. Again. I am beginning to lose faith in the dishes fairy. Here in my little corner of Tasmania we are sweltering through the long, bright afternoon of the hottest December day on record, which, admittedly is ten degrees cooler than most other parts of Australia right now, but here in Tassie we think we are about to die. Luckily last week I bought a fan at the op-shop, which works well, all except the louvre bit, which says no, so I am being bombarded with a constant breeze, hardly the worst thing that could happen. As well as over-heated, we are very dry - in an average year in December we get 46mm of rain here in Launceston. This year we have had 2.2mm. The lowest December rainfall on record is 6.1mm. There is a rumour of thunderstorms with rain tonight. We might, just might, scrape up enough rain to prevent this December from being the new driest on record, but I'm not holding my breath. This is a story, of course, that is being repeated right around the country, except that here and now, our entire state is not on fire, unlike most of the rest of Australia. Whenever two Tasmanians get together these days we complain about some aspect of the weather (nothing new there), and then immediately add, but at least our homes aren't burning down around us.. and then we knock on wood.
One of my very slow projects this year has been to create a section of dry garden that I won't water at all during the year. Because I am poor and also enthusiastic about plant experiments, I decided to grow all of the plants from cuttings, which has taken most of the year, but which is free and fun. I have taken most of my cuttings from town verge plantings, none of which receive anything but rainwater. I mostly have a bunch of correas (a local native), which responds well to shaping. There is topiary in my future! Non-natives which are thriving in my dry garden are the South African diosma, South African Fortnight Lily (actually an iris, Iris iridioides), seaside daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus) from Central America, Chinese sedum spectabile, Autumn Joy, some Italian lavender, Lavandula stoechas, and the biggest rosemary bush, enough to provide most of my suburb with rosemary sprigs for the Sunday roast. I did splash out and buy a couple of the smallest, cheapest olive trees I could find, and they are flourishing and have several minute olives growing on them already. I'm not sure how long they will take to grow into trees - they are about a foot high, currently, but at least I won't have to water them much while they get on with growing. The other flowers visible in this photo are a beautiful purple oregano, which is also quite a sturdy dry plant, but currently it is in a pot with the bay tree, so receives regular watering. As you can also see, I have mulched the whole plot with several inches of free, chipped tree mulch, which is the gift that keeps on giving. I received another truckload just before Christmas, the last remains of which are still on the street. 87 barrow loads have been carted down the stairs so far.. so many garden projects in my future:)
Some of the toughest flowers I have found, which also have the advantage of being rampant self-seeders, are the orange California poppies and the beautiful, towering Verbena bonariensis. These two love to pop up between cracks in the concrete, thrive on no water, and are beloved by bees.
Verbena bonariensis (sometimes known as Argentinian vervain) and friend.
I would love to hear how the rest of my Australian friends are getting on with their gardens in these outrageous gardening conditions. What works for you that doesn't need very much water? And those of you elsewhere in the world, what do you plant to withstand dry summers? It's something many of us will be contending with for the forseeable future..