Drought has been called the “slow motion disaster”. Tornadoes, hurricanes and floods happen in a matter of minutes or hours; drought unfolds over days, weeks and months. This drought of 2012 is truly historic; some compare it to 1930 dust bowl. In Illinois, all but three counties have been declared disaster areas- Cook County is one of those that has avoided disaster status because of the few meager rains we have received.
Many people have irrigation systems, most others have dragged hoses around to keep their gardens alive. We at NPL have been watching and warning our customers to Water, Water, Water. Amazingly, many gardens are looking great; perhaps plants like the seemingly endless supply of sunshine and 90+ degree days if you can give them water!
Several years ago we had a project where we planted 60 street corners near our office here in Evanston with perennials and ornamental grasses. These corners are at the street intersections, sort of a “no man’s land”. Nobody actually owns these corners, they are the City’s property, nobody has watered them, the corners are just here for the neighborhood. The most wonderful thing is that during all this hot, dry weather they have continued to flower and flourish. We think everybody should know what these incredibly hardy plants are, and should consider them blessings in any garden.
Purple Pavement Rose, Rosa rugosa “Purple Pavement’ is a tough, easy-care shrub that bears fragrant, purplish-red blossoms in summer, followed by attractive rose hips that turn dark red later in fall. 4-5′ tall. Full sun.
Walker’s Low Catmint, Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’, has fragrant, steel blue foliage and sprays of blue flowers that keep going all summer long. Truly a tried and tested perennial. 18-24″h. Full sun.
Summer Beauty Allium, Allium ‘Summer Beauty’, features pink blooms on upright, glossy, strap-like leaves. Drought-tolerant and long lived. 18-24″h. Full sun.
Happy Returns Daylily, Hemerocallis ‘Happy Returns’, is a re-blooming daylily with soft yellow blooms. 12-18″h. Full sun.
Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass, Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’, is an ornamental grass with a strong vertical habit, and bears tall, tight feathery plumes of purplish-gold in summer 36-48″h. Full sun.
Northwind Switch Grass, Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’. A stately, columnar ornamental grass with greenish-blue leaves and delicate sprays of seedheads in late summer. Tolerant of a wide range of soils. 4-6′ tall. Full sun to part shade.
Northern Sea Oats, Chasmanthium latifolium, is a shade-tolerant ornamental grass with bright, chartreuse green foliage, bearing distinctive, quaking seedheads on arching stems in August and September. 24-36″ tall. Full sun to part shade.
Hosta species, Hosta spp., come in hundreds of varieties, from the miniature ‘Blue Mouse Ears’ to the magnificent ‘Blue Angel’ (shown above), which grows 4 feet wide by 3 feet high. Most varieties perform very well in the shade garden; certain varieties like ‘August Moon’ and ‘Sum and Substance’ tolerate sun.
Zagreb Coreopsis, Coreopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb’, has finely textured foliage and vivid yellow flowers from May to June. 18-24″h. Full sun.
Willowleaf Amsonia, Amsonia tabernaemontana salicifolia, is a tall, upright plant covered with steel blue flowers in late spring. Leaves turn a striking golden yellow in the fall. 24-36″h. Full sun-part shade.
Ladys-Mantle, Alchemilla mollis, is an easy-to-grow perennial with sprays of lime green flowers in June. Leaves hold dewdrops beautifully. 12-16″h. Full sun to part shade.