Many of the ornamental grasses are drought resistant. You only need to study their natural habitat and see this.
It's strange that in drought conditions, we are normally happy for them to change from their lush green foliage to a straw coloured mass.
If that were to happen on the ornamental lawn of course, the hosepipe will soon be deployed! Yet, many of the lawn grasses will also tolerate drought. We of course, will not - as far as the lawn is concerned!
But, drought tolerant grasses for the lawn, are to be found in a different section - or at least will be soon! Here we discuss Ornamental Grasses that are tolerant of dry conditions, and may even find a way into a dry garden that we may one day be forced to design, as water shortages and environmental pressures start to build up.
Many of the grasses in this section will be resistant to lack of water or rainfall, including the evergreen types. In fact the evergreen grasses often have leaves that are rolled - rather then flat - which helps them to conserve moisture. Festuca glauca and Helictotrichon being two such evergreens.
The Carex evergreen pair of Carex comans and Carex Evergold are also drought resistant - in spite of the fact that the Carex group are sedges and not true grasses.
Many of the grasses that we know as ornamental grasses, are happy in dry conditions - drought resistant - simply because this is their native habitat. Stipa for instance, are naturally found in scrubby woodland, and light soil areas such as hillsides. Hordeum is certainly a dry area group from wild open places. Incidentally, when did you last see a farmer having to water a huge field of Barley (Hordeum) - or any other corn crop! Hordeum in natural surroundings - is a prairie grass!
The most important aspect of planting a dry garden, is to ensure the proper settling in or establishment of the grasses for the first few months. After that, in all but the most prolonged and severe drought conditions, they will be fine. They may lose colour from green through to straw brown - other than the evergreen grasses, but after a rainfall they normally green-up again. very similar to the roadside verges that we see in a hot summer.
You can add a little bit of interest by planting drought-happy perennials such as Rudbeckia as well. Penstemons also clash nicely. Be daring!
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