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Plants can take the heat.

Byline: Paul ROGERS

COLUMN: ROOTS OF WISDOM

It comes as no surprise that plants differ in their ability to tolerate dry weather conditions. As you know, individual plants exhibit widely differing susceptibilities and tolerances for each of the factors governing growth. Some plants love to grow in ground that is soggy. We refer to them as "bog plants." Most plants cannot tolerate wet feet. Some plants demand the sun; others hide in the shade.

We have plants that survive salty soils, ones that are cold-hardy, and still more that prefer a deep rich loamy soil where their roots can run far and wide. The plants can be trees, shrubs, vines, vegetables, annuals, or perennials. That plants differ widely in their tolerances is understandable when we consider that each has originated in a distinct geophysical region of Earth.

Currently, our area is experiencing a drought. The prolonged dry spell has stressed plants. Yet, it is easily seen that some plants (including many weeds) are displaying few indications of water restriction. Likely, these plants are genetically equipped to function in a drought, perhaps because they originated in dry areas of the world.

The good news is that numbers of ornamentals also contain a genetic capability to cope with dry conditions. When considering drought-tolerant perennials, the sedums come to mind. From Sedum Golden Acre - that grows only an inch or so high but spreads nicely - to the overused but still spectacular Sedum Autumn Joy that tops off at 18-24 inches, the sedum group has something for everyone who has a sun-drenched spot. All the Sedum spuriums such as Dragon's Blood, John Creech and Tricolor are rapid-growing groundcovers. Sedum sieboldi is a choice blue-leaved, prostrate-stemmed, rosy flowering plant to be placed in a location of honor. Voodoo, Kamtschaticum variegata, Vera Jameson and a dozen other sedums would luxuriate on, between, and over rocks.

While you may be familiar with only one or two forms of Hens and Chickens, Sempervivums, most nurseries will offer a half-dozen different kinds - and specialists list 60 variant forms, from huge to tiny cobwebbed. A visit to Garden In The Woods will allow you to view several cacti that are hardy in New England, flowering and fruit-setting reliably in our area.

To enlarge your planting palette, think gray foliage plants. Stachys Big Ears and Silver Carpet both have woolly, silver-white leaves. Hummelo has dark green foliage and a cluster of rose-lavender, long-blooming, deer-resistant, 2-foot tall plants. The lavenders, sages, sea hollies, several to most of the Nepetas (catmints), Artemisias, and, naturally, the Achilleas-like Coronation Gold are all easy to maintain.

You also need to look at the early spring-flowering plants as their growth is completed before normal droughts hit us. Include our natives, as many laugh at drought (think aster, goldenrod and daisies), and do not forget plants that grow from bulbs - both spring blooming and those that are summer flowering.

Is the list of drought-tolerant plants long? Yes, it is as long as the world is round.
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Title Annotation:HOMES
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Sep 9, 2007
Words:498
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