It is always better to work with the existing conditions rather than attempt to alter them, although it is possible to improve extremes as already described. However, to cope with the varying extremes such as dry shade, moist shade, dry sunny aspects, moist sunny aspects, shallow thin soils or deep rich soils, a careful choice of plants is essential to avoid a struggle with nature.
For lists of plants for specific sites I find a good reference is The Hillier Manual of Trees and Shrubs which at the back has heading for various conditions and lists plants suitable for each one. Ground conditions affect the type of growth in any plant and often determine the degree of extreme weather which can be withstood. For example, Lavenders and other silver leafed plants which have very fine hairs on the stems and leaves which give them the silver appearance can be severely damaged or killed outright by low temperatures. In well drained soils it seems they are able to withstand lower temperatures, whereas growing in heavier poorly drained ground these are more prone to winter loss. Therefore, if you are having problems with growing plants which have border-line hardiness in your area and the ground is prone to staying wet during winter, improving the drainage or openness of the ground may increase the chances of survival.
The condition of a plant at the time of adverse conditions will also have a bearing on its ability to survive. Soft sappy growth on woody plants in particular, is prone to damage by low temperatures and cold winds, so as autumn approaches reduce feeding and avoid doses of high nitrogen feed towards the end of summer. Regular feeding should start late spring and finish by mid-summer.
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