Growbag Blog

We’re making new plans for our gardens

Has your mind been ever so slightly blown by the weather this summer?  And more importantly, what it’s done to your garden!  Laura’s front garden, our feature photo, this week, is a point in question.

Obviously there is a danger of being a little too ‘knee-jerk’ about drought (or flood). but the signs are there that we are going to be dealing with more of both in the coming years. And we 3Growbags are planning to make some changes – as usual we have radically different approaches to dealing with the changing climate, but you were expecting that, right?


A couple of weeks ago, we drew up a list of drought-tolerant plants that we rated (and lots of you added to – thank you!) – link is at the end if you missed it. So rather than discuss specific plants (although I have to say, almost all the roses, for instance, have been FINE!), I want to talk about how I think my gardening management is gonna have to change.

Roses like these R. ‘Roald Dahl’ are deep-rooted – they will weather a drought pretty well- hurray!

Soil – my perennial/shrub borders were basically okay in the extreme heat of July. Yes, they flopped and went to seed too early (any connection to the3Growbags is entirely coincidental…….) but they covered the ground thickly, thus shielding the top layers of soil from the sun. The soil was also good to start with, has had masses of homemade compost dug into it over the years, AND had a thick mulch of cocoa shell applied to it at the end of last year.  

Going to seed a bit early, but many plants coped with the drought well if the soil was rich and moisture-retentive

But on the other side of the garden, it was a different story.  Poor soil that I just hadn’t looked after enough.  And I got found out this year. I looked across the dry limp plants gasping in bare baked earth, and felt very guilty. I’d forgotten the mantra that gardening is actually ALL about the earth.  This winter, soil in that part of the garden is going to get so much TLC, I’ll be able to grow pumpkins the size of the Millennium Dome. Or something.

Annuals – From now on, I am going to be super-selective about which annual flowers I grow.  I grew tithonias in pots from seed this year, and they leapt up into 4’ high mounds of leaves with narry a flower-bud on them. Yes, I know they are supposed to flower late, but they were so thirsty! By lunchtime, they had lapped up all the washing-up water I could chuck at them, and were hanging their leaves drearily again.  I dug ‘em up a couple of days ago. Californian poppies and verbascums – that’s the way forward.

Tithonia rotundifolia ‘Torch’
My tithonias were just too thirsty – they had to go!


Give up. My solution to our climate change issues is much more radical. I’m simply going to give up gardening. There’s no way I’m going to be endlessly shifting barrow-loads of compost just to keep a few herbaceous perennials in the luxury they’ve become accustomed to. In Monty Don’s ‘Ivington Diaries’ he refers to having 40 tons of mulch delivered each spring which, in his words, ‘takes ten man-days of solid eight-hour graft to spread it’ – Ye Gods! I thought gardening was supposed to be a relaxing hobby, not forced labour.

No, henceforth I am going to treat my garden as an ecological habitat given over entirely to the forces of nature, which will find its own equilibrium over time. The prima donnas will fall by the wayside and those plants which can stand the heat, drought and poor soil will proliferate (they know who they are – they’re on ‘The List’).

I’m giving up gardening and letting nature take over

Ecological explosions. For future planting I’m going to go full ‘Nigel Dunnet’ and explore bulbs and deep-rooted plants from other inhospitable habitats such as central Khazakstan (botanical tulips, fox- tailed lilies etc) and plant them in scattered profusion across the site. So we’ll have ecological explosions of drama and colour when conditions are right.

Professor Dunnett’s ‘steppes’ planting at the Barbican erupts into vibrant colour each spring, there’s no reason why this can’t happen in my garden too.

My chief pleasure will be watching the wildlife that moves into this regenerative habitat formerly known as my garden.

I’m even thinking of ripping up the moth eaten back lawn this autumn and sowing it with ‘Environmental Stewardship Winter Bird Mix’ pinched from my farmer husband’s stash. Out on the farm this mix of millet, quinoa and brassicas has stood up well to this summer’s baking conditions and I could bring it’s benefits closer to home providing winter seeds for flocks of songbirds, finches and possibly, according to the label, a covey or two of grey partridge.

I’m giving up conventional gardening in favour of designed ecology and wild bird seed plants like this bountiful millet


What drama queens my sisters are. A few weeks without rain and you’d think it was Laurence of Arabia joining our Zoom calls. ‘Can’t….last…another…minute. Got to sacrifice my rodgersias’.  Dear me. And it’s obvious to the rest of us that the desert gardens they’re now busily preparing will get washed away by daily deluges from April to September next year.

Collateral damage – Laura’s rodgersias were sacrificed as other plants got ‘watering-can’ priority!

Grow more from seed. In Scotland where we’re used to weather extremes, it’s inflation and the cost of plants that are my biggest challenge for next year. For the first time I, too, am sowing perennial seeds for next year and taking rose and lavender cuttings. I‘ve even gathered and sown some of my meconopsis seeds. That’s garden expertise normally well above my pay grade, but I really can’t see me spending £10-£15 per plant for any sort of garden make-over next year.

Buy bargains. It is a good time to make plans for 2023, but in my book that means buying 12 plants for £20 from catalogues touting their great perennial sell-off. You need a glass of wine and a laptop – my kind of gardening!

What about you? Do you have any plans to change the way you garden next year? Send us your thoughts in the comment box below….

Here is the link to our updated drought-tolerant plant list – might come in useful in the future!

NB I think we’ll have to add Louises choice for her ‘Great Plants this Month’ column to ‘The List’ as its many virtues include a remarkable resilience to the heatwave that belies it’s pretty appearance. Click on the box below to find out what it is.

More NB If you’re not already a subscriber and you’d like a bit more gardening chitchat from the3growbags, please type your email address here and we’ll send you a new post every Saturday morning.

By the3growbags

We're three sisters who love gardening, plants and even the science of horticulture but we're not all experts. We'd love everyone even remotely interested in their gardens to be part of our blogsite.

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