DRY WEATHER GROWING
I have two small Acers that I planted last year, before I knew how dry the garden would become. Before I went away in holiday I watered them, then mulched the base with compost. On my return I found that the mulch had been spread far and wide, having a negligible impact on soil water conservation. The birds had discovered the worms in my nicely decomposing compost, and had enjoyed an unexpected feast, spreading the mulch everywhere (I actually saw them doing it later). So what to do? All I can think of doing next time is to put stones or netting over the mulch round the base of the plant.
No doubt you are all now very well aware of which plants will survive best in drought conditions. There has been plenty of advice in the media! Some annuals that I found survived well included Limonium sinuatum, Bracteantha bracteata, Cosmos bipinnatus, Senecio cineraria, and Verbena bonariensis. On the rockery Leucanthemum, Arenaria, Tanacetum and Arabis varieties did well. Many of the herbs and shrubs were fine, but the much recommended Alchemilla mollis and Heuchera micrantha were very unhappy. The succulents, as expected, survived well, so I shall be trying to grow more Sempervivum, Delospermum, Sedum and Aeonium next year. I need more organics in the soil, but it is difficult to change the soil left by the builder, which consists principally of clay and stones.
Further to my comments on grow bags, I received an excellent reply from the Chief Scientist of the 'bord na Mona Horticulture (Shamrock T.M.)' in Ireland who supply the B&Q bags. The peat free bags are based on bark composted for 12-16 weeks with added nutrients and water retaining gel. Plant trials are also carried out as part of the quality control. The peat bags have 15-20% composted green waste material, and a wetting agent. More detail is available if anyone wants it.