The garden is on top of rubble filled cellars and only has a thin layer of rather poor soil. It drains freely and is naturally very dry. In summer the garden can become incredibly dry but the plants rarely look parched - many visitors suggest we must spend hours watering - but we do not -
THE GARDEN IS NEVER IRRIGATED!
Taking our cue from the natural environment, the hedgerows and railway embankments that are so pretty no matter the weather, we rely on natural rainfall to water the garden.
The only exceptions to this are containers and new plants - and new plants only while they establish during their first year.
There are many plants that revel in summer dry conditions, just as there are many that require constant moisture. Many garden plants originate from climatic regions with long dry summers and these just do not need water in summer - watering can actually be detrimental to them. We have learnt over the years that it is pointless to grow plants that cannot cope with our conditions and do not choose water-greedy varieties that are bound to fail - there is always an alternative, just as pretty, that will be happy here. Sometimes new plants will fail despite being described as drought tolerant, sometimes plants surprise us with their ability to cope with extreme conditions - we learn by our failures.
We carry out nearly all our planting in Autumn when the ground is moist. The planting holes are well prepared, big and deep and with lots of compost mixed in to help retain moisture - the hole is well watered before planting so there is a reservoir of moisture beneath the plant to give it a good start. These plants can establish and grow good deep roots long before the drought months of the following summer arrive.
New plants will be hand watered occasionally - approximately once a month in the first year. A single plant will receive at least a whole can of water - probably two - and slowly, so that it soaks in. This heavy occasional drenching means the water will soak in below the plant, encouraging the roots to grow deep and be self-sustaining.
Regular light watering only encourages shallow surface roots - these are reliant on continued watering, if watering is then missed in dry weather the plant will soon fail.