Growing wild and weather-conscious
This is sort of a extension of the discussion Jeanie started about wildflowers. Maybe I should have said "conditions conscious" instead of weather, since the soil must obviously also be taken into consideration. Please pardon the rambling dialog. I'm just tossing thoughts out to see what comments and ideas may come back.
I've pretty well decided that I'm not going to try for a xeric garden, exactly, because I'm apt to lose a lot of it if we have a wet and normal year. What I'm going to aim for is a water-wise garden that can make the best use of the worst conditions (heat, drought, flooding, chill, clay soil, etc) and can still make it when the conditions change. I'm not sure that any plants at all can survive against all of those things, but more careful selection and care in siting surely will make a big difference.
Driving into town yesterday (Shawnee) was a serious wake-up call. It's about 15 miles to town and through pretty heavily wooded country. What's happening to a lot of old growth is really scary. If I had to make a guess, I'd estimate that about 15% of the established trees are in trouble. I saw oaks, sycamores, mimosa, redbud and pines in rough shape everywhere I looked. The pines seem to be the hardest hit, but so many others are not far behind.
Fields that are in bottomland with a good water table are still modestly green, but they are the same areas that flood in the spring and send the big round bales floating away. Catch-22.
So, rather than put in the stuff I want and like, as I had been doing, and suffering the subsequent losses, I've begun looking around for suitable substitutes. Say, in place of the dogwood that probably would struggle, I'll get a doublefile viburnun that looks very much like it but is a lot tougher.
My hydrangeas this year have had a running battle with the heat. Some are clearly tougher than others, and I'm becoming very conscious of survivability, without, as Jo said, spending hours in watering every day. Between the hydrangeas and the hibiscus it's a constant struggle to keep them going. I love the hydrangeas, but would also trade them for a couple of nice big showy salvias that could keep right on trucking and bloom all summer.
The maple trees are getting up to the point where they are beginning to cast some shade, but even one of those has been in trouble this year. Even my Goldflame honeysuckle has quit blooming and is looking less than pleased about the heat, and it can usually tolerate just about anything and stay showy.
Speaking of trees, has anyone tried gleditsia triacanthus (thornless locust) here? Are they too brittle to survive the winters and the wind? I've always liked them for a garden because the leaves are small enough that things can survive under them, although they can sometimes send out surface roots.
Cactus really got me going with the photos of her wonderful native garden. Mine won't be the same, but I'm certainly going to take a page out of her book and begin to be a whole lot more selective in what I plant, and where. The result will probably end up being sort of cottage-y and sort of xeric. I don't care if it has no specific style - as long as it lives happily and is a garden.
I just got or ordered a couple of the books by Scott Ogden and Lauren Springer and will be paying a lot more attention from now on. Since we've had two winters of respectable snow, and now the drought conditions, it's beginning to look like a serious heads-up for changing climate conditions.