In dry gardens, landscaping works wonders

Dry garden landscaping

Dry soil, full of rocks, not a nutrient in sight? Seems like a harsh environment where plants can’t grow! Fear not! Just select plants that evolved specifically to thrive in those environments, and compensate for the worst drawbacks with a few astute landscaping tricks. Discover our tips to create an easy and thriving dry garden!

Plants that love dry soil

There are a great many plants that tolerate drought, they even have just as many flowers as the normal ones! Plants that grew around the Mediterranean ocean are ideal for dry terrain and hot climates. Among the star performers here, you’ll find the olive tree, cypress, oleander, santolina and bougainvillea, to name a few.

Dry soil also seems to promote silver-gray leafage, such as that of lavender and helichrysum. The drier the climate, the more fragrant these plants get!

Also, consider trying a few exotic species out, some of them do quite well in our own latitudes. Agave, aloe, barbary fig, palm trees, cordyline, cactus will all make your landscaping seem to come from another planet.

Mineral power

Rocks and plants complement each other more in dry gardensIn a dry garden, don’t go for a grassy lawn! First of all, dedicate most of the space to decks, walkways, and flower beds.

Mineral elements are much better choices to minimize maintenance. In growing beds, go ahead and spread mineral mulch to ensure water drains well. Stashed between your cactus and succulents, these tiny white or colored pebbles will showcase the beauty of your plant life.

For the terrace itself, large slabs of rock will merge with the rest of the landscaping; a great place to welcome guests and host a barbecue!

Between two flower beds, bedecked with beautiful round-pruned lavender bushes, mark pathways with gravel, or Japanese stepping stones, to leisurely stroll around the garden.

Blissful shade

When there isn't much shade, a pergola helps outDry garden = sun and heat! To still savor the garden, it’s crucial to have a swath of cool shade where you can take refuge from blistering heat.

Evergreen oak and stone pine are two trees that are often found in Southern France and in Italy. With their dense foliage, they offer us a thick canopy under which it’s a pleasure to set up a hammock or a garden furniture set.

Life isn’t only all work and functionality, it’s also nice to have double-purpose plants that are both useful and fun: plant citrus trees!

Orchard lemons provide both shade and fruitsLemon trees, mandarin orange and regular orange all love well-draining soil substrates. However, if your soil is full of limestone, you’ll need to find a compatible rootstock or else your tree will suffer from chlorosis.

Different styles of dry gardens

Zen gardens are great for minimal wateringDry soil can give rise to very different landscaping styles. You can start off by meditating in a zen garden! Though some Japanese landscapers prefer heath plants that love cool soil, others aim for minimalist creations centered around small, mineral courtyards. A few plants in a flower bed dot terrain that’s covered in smooth river-sanded stones, with ornaments nestled here and there. Statues, fountains and lanterns decorate this dry zen garden.

As mentioned earlier, a Mediterranean garden is yet another option. Authentic and fragrant, this style relies on the complementary hues of silver, pastel violet, and natural stone. A chance to plant the famous French lavender!

An exotic garden is one more style that matches dry ground. Off to Mexico! With succulent plants and colorful walls, simply open the door to jump to another continent.

Modern garden suited for dry settingsAs a final possibility, there’s a new, modern designer style: straight lines and patterns that strive to express purity. Rectangular water basins, straight walkways, smooth cement, manicured trees… Pair this design-inspired panel with ground cover such as Zoysia tenuifolia, a great plant to replace lawn grass in dry settings.

A spot with water

To make your garden more alive in summer, nothing beats a little water! It might be a place to swim like a swimming pool, spa or jacuzzi. In the midst of a sweltering heat wave, you can still savor your outdoor realm with a few strokes in the cool water.

Water fountain to cool a portion of the dry gardenIn addition, fountains and rivulets will also provide much-needed solace. Of course, it’s difficult to swim inside. But they bring along the sound of running water, cool air, and are definitely always beautiful to contemplate. Pair them with hose sprays, misters and colorful lights to turn your garden into a light show come evening.

Images: CC BY 2.0: Jeremy Levine; Pixabay: Athar Ya, Greg Montani, Monika Anic, Matthias Lemm, Thomas Auler, Tibor Janosi Moses; Public Domain: Martijn Meijerink