Drought tolerant Climate compatible Gardens

Plant for the Australian climate

Beautiful gardens that work with the Australian climate, rather than battle against it, are easier to create than you'd think. A broad palette of stunning and unique plants can be combined for a beautiful and productive garden also suited to our climate. 

With smart gardening principles and practices, gardeners can create beauty throughout the whole year, with less work and watering.  

Microclimates in your garden 

The climate, soil type and region you live in, and the orientation of your site, will create microclimates within your garden. For example, gardens facing south will typically receive less direct sunshine, resulting in shadier, cooler and damper areas of the garden. West facing areas, however, receive the harsh afternoon light of summer and can be tough hot positions for plants. North facing gardens often have full sun during the day, without the harsh afternoon light.

Direct sunshine (and therefore the microclimate) will be impacted by tree canopies, fences, houses and neighbouring buildings and structures. Observe how the sun travels in your garden over a year and you will get insights into the different microclimate areas in your garden. Understanding the light and conditions of the microclimate - full sun, part sun, full shade, will guide you to the plants best suited to perform and thrive in your garden.    

Plant selection for drought tolerant gardens 

Plants which originate from countries with Mediterranean climates are well suited to Australia's corresponding drier and warmer climatic areas. Think Southern Europe (Greece, Southern Italy and Spain), North America (California), South Africa and drier climates of Chile. Simply, plants which have evolved in similar conditions need less TLC to thrive and survive in an Australian garden. Less fuss and water is required for them once they have established, in comparison to plants which have originated from damper and cooler countries and climates (like the UK).    

Plant adaptations for drought tolerant gardens

In hotter drier Mediterranean climates, plants have evolved to thrive and survive. Examples of plant adaptation for Mediterranean climates include silver foliage (which reflects heat) and the fine hairs of plant leaves giving them a ‘felty’ feel (which reduces evaporation). Some plants have adapted with a hard waxy cuticle on the leaf surface (to protect from harsh conditions), while other plants have evolved with succulence (allowing the plant to store water). See images below.

Silver Foliage - Wormwood ' Powis castle', Artemisia aborescens Powis Castle

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Hairy Foliage - Lambs EarsStachys byzantina 'Big Ears'

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Hard Waxy Foliage - Bay Tree, Laurus nobilis.

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Succulent - Echeveria Imbricata.

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Plant suggestions for drought Tolerant Gardens

  1. Trees: OaksCalifornian BuckeyePistachio 'Chinese' & Chinese Elm
  2. Shrubs: RomneyaHoney Bush, WigandiaCeanothusEchiumsArtemisiaSmoke BushRugosa RoseBallota 
  3. Perennials: LavenderSalviasPhlomis, Catmint, Euphorbia, Statice, Gaura, Evening PrimroseScented GeraniumsSantolinaKnifophia & Agapanthus.
  4. Succulents: CotyledonSenecioEcheveriaKalanchoeSedumSun Rose.
  5. Bulbs, tubers & rhizomes: Bearded IrisLiliums, Dry climate spring flowering bulbs (Freesias, Gladioli) & Autumn flowering bulbs. 
  6. Annuals: Californian PoppiesCosmosZinnia & Poppies. 

Dry shade solutions 

Dry shade microclimates can be some of the more difficult areas in a garden to select plants for. Plants such as Clivia, New Zealand Lily, Geranium manderses, Anenome, Veltheimia, Tradescantia and Hellebores, all have a hardy nature and good plant structure to thrive with the odd seasonal watering during a dry period. 

Edible can be ornamental: Dual purpose plants 

Beautiful Mediterranean champions have been prized for their performance in the garden alongside their culinary uses. The dual purpose nature of these plants (edible and ornamental) adds value for all gardens especially in those where space is tight.

Edible Mediterranean plants for a beautiful drought tolerant garden

  1. Trees: Stone pineFigOliveCarobCitrusAlmondPersimmon.
  2. Shrubs: PomegranatesBay treesFeijoaNatal PlumLemon Verbena.
  3. Perennials: RosemaryThymeArtichokesCaper BushRock Samphire.

Shop our drought tolerant selection

Gardening in our tough ever-changing climate can be a challenge for all levels of gardeners, but here at Diggers we have been trialing drought tolerant plants for over 30 years and offer an excellent range for all Australian gardens.

Browse the collection today.

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Join Merilyn Kuchel, President of the South Australian Mediterranean Garden Society as she discusses the successes and failures in making gardens suited to our Mediterranean climate. 

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Download our guide to water saving

Download our tips and tricks to save water in your garden and promote healthy, thriving plants. 

Download our guide here.

Things to consider

Top drought tolerant gardening tips 

  1. Embrace the Australian climate in which you garden. 
  2. Understand microclimates in your garden and plant to them.  
  3. Select plants suited to the climate and conditions in your garden. 
  4. Plants adapt to climates they originate from. These adaptations allow plants, particularly from the Mediterranean, to survive and thrive in hot dry climates.
  5. Soil improvement and mulching are techniques which assist a gardener to successfully establish and tend a drought tolerant garden.  
  6. Edible is ornamental. Many beautiful plants from Mediterranean regions are dual purpose.

Design principles for a Mediterranean climate compatible garden 

  1. Garden within the constraints of our climate and celebrate what it offers.
  2. Plant selection is crucial.  
  3. Consider the following elements for a well planned garden; shade and tree selection, clipped/hedged plants, natural materials and features and access to water. 
  4. Inspiration can be taken from different cultures of the Mediterranean for an overall layout.
  5. Sensory elements, sound and especially smell from aromatic plants, add powerful emotional elements to a garden. 
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