know how

Land­scape de­signer Franch­esca Wat­son shares her top plants for a drought-proof gar­den

Condé Nast House & Garden - - CONTENTS -

Franch­esca Wat­son’s drought-proof plant choices


This suc­cu­lent is on ev­ery­one’s wish list: Its round, bright green leaves add great tex­ture and pat­tern and it has bur­gundy peti­oles – a de­signer couldn’t have done bet­ter. The trick is to trim it into hedges or un­du­lat­ing shapes, oth­er­wise it can be a bit form­less and awk­ward.

BOUGAINVIL­LEA an all-time favourite for colour and drought-re­sis­tance, this plant ac­tu­ally thrives on a bit of abuse in terms of glar­ing heat and lit­tle wa­ter. great for se­cu­rity, too. Just re­mem­ber, bougainvil­leas are big things – they need a lot of space or firm train­ing, or both.

SCHINUS MOLLE ever since I first went to Matjies­fontein years ago, I have been in love with this in­cred­i­bly wa­ter-wise tree. ev­ery sin­gle one de­vel­ops char­ac­ter, and it has great fis­sured bark, fas­ci­nat­ing bendy branches and a cloud-like canopy of fine, trail­ing mist.

OLEANDER dare I say it – I adore ole­an­ders. not the pink one that is such an in­vader, but the ster­ile white ones that don’t spread and the small hy­brids in reds and apri­cots. It flow­ers con­stantly and is eas­ily man­aged, as it only needs a good prune ev­ery cou­ple of years.


My pas­sion for this agave just goes on and on. It takes full sun and a lit­tle shade, has a won­der­ful sea-green colour, the smartest rosettes of leaves ever, and can be planted as a cut­ting with­out roots. how­ever, it doesn’t like to be bashed around – the leaves will bear scars for­ever so avoid po­si­tions where it can get dam­aged by peo­ple or an­i­mals, although it will hap­pily take a lot of wind.

SERSIA genus OF SHRUBS apart from Rhus cre­nata so beloved by the nurs­ery trade, there are a num­ber of other mar­vel­lous ones like the ro­bust olive green Rhus an­gus­ti­fo­lia – lovely for big, wa­ter­wise hedges or wind­breaks. I’m also mad about Rhus glauca, which has a fas­ci­nat­ing pow­dery blue tinge – also hard to get hold of, but truly mar­vel­lous.


This large, happy protea is rel­a­tively easy to grow. It has a pink and a white form, and I love the shape of the leaves – the gor­geous flow­ers are just a big bonus. and the sun­birds will be so happy.

FRANGI­PANI a won­der­ful, trop­i­cal-look­ing small tree which will no doubt bring back child­hood mem­o­ries. With a great form and scent, it will take drought and wind, prop­a­gates from cut­tings and looks in­cred­i­ble lit up at night.

ARTEMESIA AFRA need­ing only mod­est wa­ter, I like this plant for its colour and tex­ture, and use it to bring a frothy note into mixed shrub­beries. It does not have enough form to re­ally stand alone, so needs to be grouped and sur­rounded with other plants. a re­ally good cut back fairly of­ten will help it de­velop some shape.

INDIGE­NOUS GRASSES grasses will sur­vive most drought con­di­tions. Choose the ones that go blonde rather than brown and ad­just your aes­thetic stan­dards – it helps if they are mass planted. and watch them go when the rain does come.


I am crazy about th­ese new Zealand flaxes, but hate them dot­ted around like you gen­er­ally see them used. It is won­der­ful in big swathes, and come in all sorts of jazzy colours and stripes now. Big, bold and very mod­ern.

Franch­esca Wat­son n

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A beau­ti­fully cu­rated ur­ban gar­den, de­signed by Franch­esca Wat­son, in­cludes drought-tol­er­ant plants such as a Frangi­pani tree (fore­ground) and a wrap­around clipped Sersia cre­nata hedge

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