Sunday, 25 October 2015

Coping with drier winters and springs

Wollongong City Council recently held a public forum about the impacts of climate change on the Illawarra region. Overall it was a fascinating and informative session, covering everything from global changes, through El NiƱo cycles, to predictions about the local climate. 

One of the most interesting findings for gardeners is that, in this region, while overall levels of rainfall are not expected to decline, the seasonal patterns are likely to change. As well as some warming, we will probably get more of our rainfall in summer and autumn, and less in winter and spring. This marks a move towards more tropical conditions. 

For gardeners, plants that benefit from the current relatively even spread of rainfall throughout the year, and that need high moisture levels, are likely to struggle unless you water them more often. 

Plants that can cope with greater variability, such as many of the dry rainforest species, and those adapted to tough conditions such as some coastal plants, will be less affected.
Seaside plants, such as these wind-shaped Swamp
Paperbarks (Melaleuca ericifolia) trees, cope well with
tough conditions including dry spells.
Another seaside plant, Large-leaf Bush Pea (Pultenaea
), that can cope with dry spells. It does best
in coastal conditions, so would be ideal for coastal gardens.
Saltbush, of which there are several local species, are very hardy and will grow in a wide range of conditions and soils. Here's some Sea Berry Saltbush (Rhagodia candolleana) working as an informal hedge alongside a road. 
Sea Berry Saltbush can grow up to 2m tall or more, but is
easily shaped into an informal hedge or shrub. 
Another saltbush, Ruby Saltbush (Enchylaena tomentosa)
has beautiful, delicious berries and will cope with very
dry conditions if necessary.
Further from the coast, a range of woodland and other species are tough enough to survive dry winters and springs with limited water. 
Fairy Fan Flower (Scaevola aemula) forms a dense carpet
of green, covered with purple fan flowers in spring.
It copes well with neglect. 
Everlasting Daisies (Xerochrysum bracteatum) are a tough and
adaptable local species.
Even some ferns, like this Rainbow Fern
(Calochlaena dubia) are tolerant of long dry periods.
Maidenhair Ferns are similarly hardy. 
The climate won't change all at once, but we are already seeing some very dry winter and spring periods in this region. It is probably worth starting to plan now for future change. 

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