We’re having a super hot, super dry summer here in Portland. Like many places, we’re breaking records and are headed until uncharted territory. When planning what to plant here in our garden ~6 years ago, my criteria was: low maintenance, drought tolerant, and multi-season interest. Of course there are exceptions to this, but I try to keep them to a minimum.
But even with drought-tolerant plants, it’s the time of year that any garden can start to look a little rough around the edges with some leaves showing sunburn, or other plants getting a little leggy. Regular pruning and cleanup will help a bunch, but there are some plants that just look good no matter what.
Here’s a combination that delivers for me year-round, no matter what…
That huge swath of glaucous foliage is dianthus, sometimes known as ‘pinks’ — I think it’s a variety called ‘Firewitch’. It has the most intoxicating scent of cloves when it blooms in late spring / early summer. But as much as I love that scent, I grow it because it’s a beautiful, easy ground cover that needs very little from me. Surrounding it are Molinia caerulea ‘Variegata’ (Purple Moor Grass), Sagina subulata ‘Aurea’ (Scotch Moss), Corokia cotoneaster, Calamagrostis, a blue Spruce, Silene uniflora, Euphorbia characias ‘Glacier Blue’, Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’, Sedge ‘Toffee Twist’, Sedum ‘Voodoo’, Gaura ‘Pink Fountain’, and backed by an evergreen conifer hedge along the fence line.
This little section of plants is near our back garden dining area, so it’s important that it looks good whenever it’s nice enough to eat outside. It’s adjacent to a gravel patio, and next to what we call the “Bumpout”, which is basically a raised bed surrounded by a gabion bench and planted with natives.
The only maintenance it needs is to cut back the deciduous grasses in late winter, and trim off the spent flowers of the dianthus when they’ve finished their show.