Felbrigg’s exotic plants weathering the heatwave

The double borders in the walled garden at Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk

While the hot weather is putting strain on many traditional garden plants, the unusual and exotic planting at Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk is thriving.

With an extended period of high temperatures and lack of rainfall in the region, these sun-loving plants are basking in the sunshine to put on a stunning display.

Felbrigg’s garden has always been about experimental planting and so the garden team made a deliberate decision to introduce plants that would thrive in hot, dry conditions, knowing that spells of this kind of weather are increasingly likely.

Native to the Mediterranean, South Africa, Australia and the deserts of Mexico, these special plants dislike cold, wet conditions so the light sandy soil of the region is ideal, keeping roots drier through the winter, and the sheltered nature of the walled garden helps protect them year round.

A touch of the exotic

Head Gardener, Tina Hammond explains how the garden came about; “When we restored the two glasshouses in the walled garden back in 2005, we were in the exciting position of being able to broaden the botanical interest of the garden.

"We took the opportunity to re-look at the planting in this area and now we’re witnessing it in its full glory. Along with the addition of olive groves, double borders were widened and new beds added as we planted the area with drought tolerant species”. 

Enjoy a walk through the walled garden this summer
Double border in the walled garden
Enjoy a walk through the walled garden this summer
Plants thriving this summer

Those doing particularly well are from Australia: Bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus), wattle (Acacia dealbata) and tea tree (Leptospermum cunninghamii).

From South Africa: African lily (Agapanthus) and Treasure flower (Gazania rigens).

From Mexico: Cestrum (with the rather unfortunate common name of bastard jasmine), Mexican Orange (Choisya ternata) Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia), Echeveria and desert spoon (Dasylirion). 

The Mexican sunflower is also a firm favourite with butterflies
The Mexican sunflower with a butterfly on it
The Mexican sunflower is also a firm favourite with butterflies

The dry spell has been most pro-longed in East Anglia and the South East, rivalling levels last witnessed in 1976 and 1969, making it the first time since the new planting was established that it’s truly been put to the test. 

" However, like many other gardeners, after more than 40 days without rain, we would welcome its arrival."
- Tina Hammond, Head Gardener, Felbrigg Hall

Other plants thriving at Felbrigg in the Mediterranean heat include herbs, lavender, figs, bay tree and myrtles. However, those struggling include woodland plants: Cornus, rhododendrons and azaleas. 

Help your garden survive a heatwave

1.    Plants in containers are the most vulnerable, try moving them to somewhere shady. 
2.    Go steady on the water and just concentrate on watering the plants that need it the most. Plants such as hydrangeas, camellias and Japanese maples, as well as vegetables that need water to swell, so courgettes, tomatoes and potatoes. 
3.    Water in the cool of the evening, so everything stays moist for as long as possible.
4.    Don’t worry about your grass, it’s tougher than you think and will grow back.

The dry hot conditions and sandy soil are proving the perfect combination for some plants
Close up of Agave in the walled garden at Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk
The dry hot conditions and sandy soil are proving the perfect combination for some plants