Rainproof plants

It's a rotten summer so far — go for patio plants that drain away the moisture
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© Gap Photos/Friedrich Strauss
Lush and leafy: plants with tough, resilient foliage such as yuccas and aloes thrive in wet weather
You have to feel sorry for the sweet peas and the sunflowers, struggling through too little sun and too much rain. Petunia flowers simply rot when wet and even pelargoniums have been looking soggy.

To make matters worse, when it's wet slugs and snails come out to play, wreaking havoc; dahlias have had a particularly rough deal this summer. Most runner bean plants barely left the starting post before being chewed to bits by snails or ripped in high winds.

'Sempervivums, the hardy plants of the succulents world, are famed for their drought tolerance, but they'll also endure whatever the heavens might throw at them'

If you're growing Italian or heirloom tomatoes, don't expect plump, sweet fruits any time soon or even in September, but small cherry types like Tumbling Tom should still produce a tasty crop.

Finger-size outdoor cucumbers as well as courgettes are growing at a cracking pace, and do well in containers; many garden centres are still stocking young plants. Salad leaves don't need sun to grow but they do need protecting from slugs and snails by running rings of grit around them.

Plants that have good drainage will fare better through excesses of rain, so make sure any potting up you do includes crocking the base with chunks of polystyrene or pebbles, and topping the compost with a layer of grit.

Develop a swish patio

Foliage that is thick, not flimsy, and that sways, not snaps, in the wind is what is needed. Turning your terrace into a rainforest or your balcony into a verdant jungle may not be what you had planned in May, but it is the only way to go when faced with a monsoon summer.

Nandina domestica, heavenly bamboo, looks great in the rain, rustles and swishes in the wind and, in long planters on the patio, will screen whatever horrors lurk in the wetlands beyond.

Fuchsia Thalia
© Gap Photos/S&O
Fuchsia Thalia has staying power and provides a touch of the tropics
Bring out the Swiss cheese plant, which rarely looks good indoors, but outside, suddenly looks like the most exotic of tropical plants. Sansevieria — mother-in-law's tongue — is another houseplant that is transformed when potted into a terracotta long tom and added to the patio display.

If, like me, you have a yucca that spends its life parked by the sofa, pull it out on to the patio and just watch it flourish. Plants need a change of climate, just like we do.

Add deep red foliage that will glow when the sun does put in an appearance, so if possible, place where the low late rays can light it up. The reedlike leaves of deep red phormiums and cordylines filter the wind and are unaffected by rain. Ricinus communis Carmencita has gorgeous bronze-red foliage, rather like large maple leaves, and makes a great statement plant. I have three on my terrace that are proving resilient.

Garden centres and even market stalls sell the wonderful red Abyssynian banana Ensete Maurelii which has rich plum leaves that resemble huge paddles and will grow through the season, whatever the weather. A pair of these on the patio and you'll think you're in Tahiti.

Step up the tropical flavour with vibrant bedding flowers that have staying power. Fuchsia Thalia, with its narrow, tubular tangerine bells, gold and scarlet Lantana camera, pink and scarlet New Guinea Impatiens and pretty much any large-leaved begonia are the way to go.

© Gap Photos/Mark Bolton/Design: Marney Hall
Sempervivums look impressive and will withstand the wettest weather

Succulents success

Dress the garden table with a few low, wide bowls of sempervivums, the hardy plants of the succulents world. They're famed for their drought tolerance, but they'll also endure whatever the heavens might throw at them.

Every so often — right now, for example — instead of producing yet more rosettes in shades of fir green to crimson, they grow upwards instead, forming fascinating towers, topped with fuzzy pink flower clusters.

Best of all, if you're jetting off to warmer climes, you can be assured that whatever the weather is doing on your patio while you're away, these heroes will greet you on your return, just as perfect as when you left them.

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