A hose-less garden

The Dry Garden at Lambley Nursery. Janna Schreier

The Dry Garden at Lambley Nursery, Victoria

The joy of summer can quickly turn into the dread of the hose.  I’ve spent weekends getting tied up in hundreds of metres of drip irrigation hose and months trying to find just the right settings, but automatic systems just don’t give that even soaking that we need. And whilst it’s fun to water by hand, closely examining all your lovely plants as you go for the first few times, the novelty can wear off when you have client deadlines, an assignment due, no food in the fridge and worst of all, it is lightly drizzling.

Salvia nemorosa at Lambley Nursery. Janna Schreier

Purple spikes of drought tolerant Salvia nemorosa

I find myself watering in the rain reasonably often.  It is most irritating, but Australian gardeners will understand.  When the garden is parched and you are forecast 1mm of rain, it’s just not going to cut it for another day.

Eschscholzia californica at Lambley Nursery. Janna Schreier

Eschscholzia californica – how ever common they are, how ever weedy they are, I still love California poppies. The rich, deep, intricately toned colours, the proliferation of flowers, the way they unfurl like a rose, the way they battle on regardless

And so over time, I plant more and more drought hardy plants.  I get excited that they actually want to be in my garden.  They don’t complain, resist or wilt on me; they just happily grow away and flower contently.

Mixed border at Lambley Nursery. Janna Schreier

Mixed border at Lambley Nursery showing lovely contrasts of texture and form

I buy many of my drought hardy plants using Lambley Nursery’s postal service.  And so when we were recently in Victoria, I thought it would be great to pop in and see them.

Clematis at Lambley Nursery. Janna Schreier

Bright clematis at Lambley Nursery – slightly less drought tolerant than some of the other plants, but quite beautiful

Lambley is located in a very dry part of the country, which also suffers both from frosts and temperatures in the 40s.  The myriad colour on display here is all the more refreshing for it.

Sweet peas (Lathyrus) at Lambley Nursery. Janna Schreier

Sweet peas (Lathyrus), poppies and lupins in the colourful beds at Lambley Nursery

Most production nurseries contain lines and lines of identical green shrubs, but Lambley feels like an allotment filled with cutting flowers.  Each plant is carefully labelled and in fantastic condition – you would struggle to do better if you wanted to view ideas for drought tolerant, colourful, flowering plants.

Green and yellow border at Lambley Nursery. Janna Schreier

Green and yellow border at Lambley Nursery. I like the contrast of the deep cypress green with the pale Kniphofia heads. The green bench sits harmoniously within the garden

There are also a few ornamental gardens here, although the nursery is a long way out in the middle of nowhere to visit for this alone. The Dry Garden is their jewel in the crown and gets watered no more than four times a year, which is quite an inspiration if you are keen to put down your hose.

Pears and salvias at Lambley Nursery. Janna Schreier

The formal garden with pears (Pyrus) and Salvia at Lambley Nursery.  I am not sure I would have gone for quite that blue of the bench – does it work for you?

Lambley are very big on salvias, and the formal garden is quite striking with its bright blues and whites.  They currently have 16 different salvias available, some shrubby, some subtropical, some more Mediterranean in style and it was great to see all the different shades of blues, pinks and reds.  It is so hard to get an accurate idea of colour from a photo and a couple of them quite surprised me. They are such a great plant for dry climates.

Step over apples at Lambley Nursery. Janna Schreier

I love these step over apple trees at Lambley Nursery

Fresh apple growth developing. Janna Schreier

There is nothing quite like fresh, new leaves and perfect, baby fruit

If you are after ‘dry colour’, this nursery is one of the best we have and if you happen to be in the vicinity, it’s worth popping in to see the biggest cutting flower garden you will probably ever see.  If you are further away, fear not, their website has an extensive catalogue just waiting to inspire you!

The Dry Garden at Lambley Nursery. Janna Schreier-2

The Dry Garden at Lambley Nursery. I think I had asked Paul once too often to get out of my photo, so here he is!

10 thoughts on “A hose-less garden

  1. Adriana says:

    Agreed Janna – I too have a garden full of Lambley plants, plus others of course. I water about 3 times over the summer for established areas, but more often for new plantings in the first year. Lambley’s species, mixed with natives such as Poa, Dianella and Lomandra, Westringia etc., seems to work quite well – with the odd exception; 3 x Salvia ‘Silke’s Dream’ have proved a great disappointment in my new driveway garden (even with watering) (they grew fast, producing long woody growth before I even had a chance to prune them into shape, and then succumbed to insects and disease and to be blunt look terrible!). Never to be defeated, I will replace those with more of the lovely S. ‘Royal Bumble’ – a much better and tougher performer. Hand watering does give you the opportunity to insect your babies closely but with a large garden, you can spend hours at it!

  2. Helen Johnstone says:

    It looks wonderful. It is important to plant for your environment but sometimes that environment doesnt seem to let us grow what we really want to. Whilst I am sure the UK ‘dry’ isnt the same as your dry I wondered if you had read Beth Chatto’s dry garden – its much acclaimed here

    • jannaschreier says:

      Thanks, Helen. It is interesting that we actually get far more rain here than you do; it’s just the evaporation rate that gets us. I am very familiar with Beth Chatto’s garden, although having said that, I don’t think I have actually read her books. Can’t think why. A great prompt for me to do so – thank you!

  3. Patterson Webster says:

    I would not have painted the bench that shade of blue. Definitely not. To my eye it neither blends nor contrasts pleasingly. So what colour instead? I might choose a golden terracotta or a muted lime. Or possibly even fuchsia. The choice would depend whether I wanted the bench to be the main attraction or a supporting character, enhancing the flowers and trees around it.

    • jannaschreier says:

      Not just me then, Pat. I always wonder if I am missing something! Your warming tones sound fabulous with the cool-coloured flowers, although I wonder if a muted lime would indeed be my favourite. Something sophisticated as a subtle focal point rather than a dominating feature.

  4. catmint says:

    dear Janna, thank you so much for this post! I have bought quite a few plants from Lambley and plan to visit but haven’t got round to it. I haven’t had a lot of luck with all my purchases, because many of the plants wanted more sun and less shade than I provided. I also buy plants from Diggers. They also have a dry garden and also specialize in dry garden plants. Anyway, your photos have inspired me, and given me ideas to follow when the weather cools down. That Phlomis is divine.

    • jannaschreier says:

      Thanks, Sue. So glad it has prompted you to think of some new ideas for your garden. The Phlomis is lovely, isn’t it? I also lost a Salvia ‘Kate Glenn’ from Lambley due to too much shade. We all try to stretch what is possible when we want to squeeze in a new plant that we like!

      • catmint says:

        We do, but I’ve found that sometimes plants that are supposed to need sun do OK in shade. Sometimes it’s worth experimenting. After all, they can’t read their labels! One plant I got from Lambleys that is definitely underwhelming is a clematis.

        • jannaschreier says:

          You are so right. If we don’t experiment, we never learn. I have a Rhaphiolepis on the south side of a 3 metre high conifer hedge, planted at the base of a 20 metre gum tree. It is the happiest little shrub, in such a tough spot, despite all books saying that it needs sun – goes to show that the labels are often misleading.

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