Master Gardeners study drought-surviving flowers

Published 11:20 am Wednesday, April 12, 2017

By JOYANNA LOVE/ Senior Staff Writer

Creating gardens that can withstand a drought was the focus of this month’s Chilton County Master Gardeners meeting.

Jason Powell of Petals from the Past said many of these plants are older varieties used in gardens generations ago.

“They are survivors. They are still here today because they’re tough,” Powell said.

Powell called his presentation “Tough as Nails Plants for the Southern Garden.”

He said the Chilton County area and Alabama will likely continue to experience extremes in hot and cold as well as wet and dry conditions.

“It makes it all the more important that we look for plants that have stood the test of time,” Powell said.

Because of Chilton County’s climate, perennials can grow year round. Powell said while they will not be in bloom all year long, they will be green.

He said he did not install an irrigation system when he created the display garden at Petal from the Past “because I want to know who can survive a drought.”

Johnny Jump Ups are a good example of a perennial that can survive. Powell said

the plant blooms and the flowers fall off when gets too hot.

California poppies can also survive a drought. Powell said the seeds of these plants fall in the ground and then germinate the next season. He said spring flowering bulbs also did well this spring despite the lack of rain.

Antique roses were highlighted as drought resistant and disease resistant plants.

“An antique rose is as any variety of roses belonging to a classification introduced before 1867,” Powell said.

He said these varieties have a stronger fragrance than long-stem roses.

Because antique roses can survive in drought, they do not need an irrigation system. Some examples are China roses, Duchesee de Bradant and climbing pinkie. The Katy Road Pink rose is disease resistant and can survive Canada winters and Texas summers. Many of these are shrub forms. Because roses cross pollinate easily, Powell said there are new natural occurring species still being found.

Many antique rose bushes grow several feet high.

Perennial petunia, Hardy Blue Plumbago and Verbena Blue Princess have been able to survive drought conditions.

Powell said Salvias can survive drought conditions and are good for home gardens because they attract butterflies, but do not attract deer.

Compost and mulch are important to helping a plant survive a drought. Powell said the mulch helps the plant retain water, while keeping the root system cooler.