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Gardening-with-nature

Choose native plants to combat extreme weather

Climate appropriate plants

One sensible method of adding climate resilience to your garden, and combatting the effects of the extreme weather conditions we’ve experienced the past couple of years, is to choose plants native to the area.

One of the most significant benefits of plants native to the Okanagan, is their adaptability to the local climate and soil conditions. Thriving in the environment where they evolved, these plants require minimal maintenance once established, reducing the need for excessive watering, fertilizers and pesticides.

This resilience is especially vital in the face of climate change, where erratic weather patterns demand plants withstand extreme fluctuations in temperature and precipitation. Native plants are vital for maintaining biodiversity as these species provide essential food and habitat for local wildlife, from pollinators like bees and butterflies to birds and small mammals. They also play a crucial role in water conservation, adapted as they are to our semi-arid environment.

With their deep, extensive root systems, native plants successfully reduce runoff and effectively prevent soil erosion.

If you are searching specifically for native plants, or their cousins that have been hybridized, look no further than the annual Okanagan Xeriscape Association’s Spring Plant Sale this weekend, where we will have a large variety available. It wil be held May 11 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Wild Bloom Nursery, 840 Old Vernon Road in Kelowna.

As in previous years there will be a member-only pre-sale at the same location from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. fFriday evening (May 10) with a Happy Hour welcome table.

Consider becoming an OXA member for this benefit and many others listed on our website at www.okanaganxeriscape.org. We will have hundreds of xeric plants available for purchase and experts in xeriscape on hand to answer all your questions.

Both XEN and Wild Bloom nurseries will be in attendance as will the master gardeners, who can answer all your questions about gardening and plants. For those looking for a Mother’s Day gift, visit the OXA table where we will have a membership package, including gifts as well as a membership in OXA.

A few of my favourite native perennials which will be available are Allium cernuum, Aster conspicuus, and Geum triflorum.

Allium cernuum or “Nodding Onion” is easily grown in dry, well-draining soil in full sun or part-sun.It features grass-like foliage to a foot high with nodding clusters of lilac blooms appearing through the summer. Allium cernuum does not suffer from any serious pest or disease and its oniony fragrance acts as a deer deterrent.

Aster conspicuus, known commonly as “Showy Aster,” features blue-purple flowers reaching two feet high with a width of up to three feet. This aster is extremely long-blooming, beginning in June, (earlier than many asters) and continuing well into fall.

The common name for this aster indicates just how much value it gives both to you, and the many species of pollinators attracted to its flowers.

Geum triflorum, commonly referred to as “Prairie smoke” or “old man’s whiskers,” is a spring-blooming herbaceous perennial bearing clusters of nodding reddish-pink flowers on stems reaching 12 to 18 inches high. Almost more interesting than the blooms are the silvery seed heads which follow, resembling puffs of smoke and leading to its common name. Its fern-like foliage remains attractive all season and turns deep red as temperatures drop in the fall.

We will have a complete list of all the plants available at our sale on the website at okanaganxeriscape.org.

Consider setting aside a portion of your garden in which to include and appreciate the beauty of Aster conspicuus, Allium cernuum, and Geum triflorum, which extends far beyond mere aesthetics. These native plants are integral to our local ecosystem and in embracing them we foster a deeper appreciation for our beautiful Okanagan Valley and a sustainable approach to gardening.

The Okanagan Xeriscape Association is grateful for the ongoing financial support of the Okanagan Basin Water Board and is proud to be collaborating with them on their Make Water Work campaign.

Sigrie Kendrick is a master gardener and executive-director of the Okanagan Xeriscape Association.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



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Glorious ground covers for your Xeriscape garden

Covering garden ground

It has been said nature abhors a vacuum, and I have often reflected on this old adage when planning and planting gardens.

If you have a plant there, chances are, you won’t have a weed. This is especially true when considering ground covers, which act as an organic, living mulch and don’t need to be constantly topped up, as you would with a composted mulch such as Glengrow or Nature’s Gold.

These living mulches mimic what happens naturally on the forest floor and include all the benefits we associate with mulch, in that they act as a weed suppressant, they moderate soil temperature, and they conserve soil moisture.

We will have a variety of ground covers available for purchase at the Okanagan Xeriscape Association’s Spring Plant Sale on May 11. If you have either a baking, hot, sunny location or a spot with deep shade, we will have a ground cover to meet your needs.

For instance, the Moroccan Pincushion Flower, or Pterocephalus depressus, is a fantastic choice for those hot, sunny areas in your garden. This distinctive ground cover features greyish-green crinkled leaves which are tolerant of light foot traffic such as when used in-between flagstones.

Pterocephalus depressus is hardy in Zones 4 to 8, where it will form an evergreen mat a few inches high with a spread of 18 inches.

This ground cover flowers in late spring to summer with silvery-pink blooms similar to Scabiosa, which then transition into attractive silver seed heads. The blooms of Pterocephalus depressus are a magnet for a large variety of butterflies.

One of my favourite ground covers for a sunny to part-shade location is Persicaria affinis Dimity.

Also known as Himalayan Knotweed or Fleece Flower, this ground cover is as the common name suggests, native to the Himalayas, where it is found at altitudes up to 15,000 feet.

In our hot Okanagan summers, this Persicaria benefits from some afternoon shade where it will put on a display of rose-red blooms, ageing to pale pink, from July to October.

Ultimately, the flowers turn brown and remain on the plant, offering winter interest as well.

Persicaria affinis reaches a height of six to eight inches and a width of two feet. The leaves of this perennial turn brilliant bronzy-red as the temperature falls in the autumn, further adding to its value.

Lamium maculatum, known commonly as Spotted Dead Nettle, is an extremely versatile and easy-to-grow ground cover for a partial or full-shade location. This herbaceous perennial is hardy in growing Zones 4 to 8, completely appropriate for gardens in the Okanagan, where it will brighten a shady area with its heart-shaped variegated leaves even when not in bloom.

The cultivar “White Nancy” features silvery green leaves with a thin dark green margin and small white, hooded flowers. Lamium maculatum is extremely long blooming, beginning in late spring and continuing for months with some re-bloom in the fall. This ground cover is virtually disease and pest-free and is not favoured by deer.

It is extremely easy to propagate Lamium maculatum by stem layering. Simply push a stem, which is still attached to the mother plant, into the ground and cover it with soil, leaving only the tip visible. This tip will soon form a new plant.

•••

We’ve set May 11 as the date for our annual spring plant sale, to be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Wild Bloom Nursery, 840 Old Vernon Rd., Kelowna.

As in previous years, we will hold a members-only sale with refreshments on the day prior. Consider becoming an OXA member for this benefit and many others listed on our website at okanaganxeriscape.org. Stay tuned to our social media accounts for all the upcoming details.

The Okanagan Xeriscape Association is grateful for the ongoing financial support of the Okanagan Basin Water Board and is proud to be collaborating with them on their Make Water Work campaign.

Sigrie Kendrick is a master gardener and executive-director of the non-profit Okanagan Xeriscape Association.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



Want to add colour to your garden? Think pink.

Pretty in pink

If pink is your colour, we have multiple options for purchase at our upcoming plant sale.

I recently discussed my new-found appreciation for this colour while gardening with my master gardener mentor and she joked it was a reflection of ageing, a suggestion which, of course, I vehemently disputed.

Even as a young girl I was not partial to pink, but maybe it’s a holdover from the depression and isolation of COVID, I’m now willing to include pink in my landscapes. It’s a colour I associated during the pandemic with hope, joy and renewal.

If those of you out there share either a new-found appreciation or a traditional love for this hue, you will find much of interest available at our upcoming Okanagan Xeriscape Association Spring plant sale. We will have plants in a variety of shades of pink to include in your spring, summer and fall garden.

One of the early stars of the spring garden is Phlox hybrida ‘Woodlander Pink’. This hybrid between Phlox subulata and Phlox stolonifera produces an exceptionally-colourful ground cover after months of dreary grey.

The flower production is large and abundant and although it is an excellent source of early nectar for pollinators it is seldom bothered by deer.

Phlox hybrida (“Woodlander Pink”) is hardy in zones four to eight, so it is reliably winter-hardy even given our last two years of extreme winter weather events. This perennial is ideal for use in the front of a mixed border or cascading over a rock wall where it prefers a partial shade location.

Scabiosa columbaria (“Flutter Rose Pink”) is one of those perennials that appeals to those of us who aren’t bothered by a bit of unruliness as the blooms have a tendency to choose their own direction. Also known as “Pincushion Flower,” this perennial blooms non-stop from spring through late summer on compact plants reaching a foot high by an equal spread.

The flowers, as the common name suggests, resemble pincushions and bloom in a delicate shade of pink with a tidy habit and refined leaf texture, even when this perennial isn’t in bloom. These are best sited in a full-sun location for optimal bloom production and work wonderfully in the front of either perennial beds or rock gardens.

Continuing with the pink theme, and blooming from summer and well into fall, is Echinacea purpurea (“PowWow Wild Berry”).

The Echinacea hybridizers have been going crazy producing new Echinacea cultivars and this is one you will certainly want to include in your garden. PowWow Wild Berry was an all-American gold medal winner for good reason. It thrives in full-sun locations and is drought-tolerant once established, featuring magenta blooms above sturdy two-foot tall stems.

The exceptional branching habit of this cultivar results in more blooms per plant and these blooms do not fade but retain their brilliant colour as they mature. It makes a beautiful cut flower and is favoured by a large variety of pollinators but not grazing deer.

Plant sale date set

We’ve set May 11 as the date for our annual spring plant sale to be held at Wild Bloom Nursery, 840 Old Vernon Road in Kelowna.

As in previous years, we will have a members-only pre-sale on the day prior to the sale. Consider becoming an OXA member for this benefit and many others listed on our website at www.okanaganxeriscape.org. Stay tuned to our social media accounts for all the upcoming details.

The Okanagan Xeriscape Association is grateful for the ongoing financial support of the Okanagan Basin Water Board and is proud to be collaborating on the Make Water Work campaign.

Sigrie Kendrick is a master gardener and executive-director of the non-profit Okanagan Xeriscape Association.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



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Cheery, easy-to-grow plants for your garden

Colourful garden plants

Well, it’s that exciting time of year again when we begin to get ready for our Okanagan Xeriscape Association spring plant sale.

Last week, I picked up the first set of plant plugs from the wholesaler. Plugs are essentially baby plants that we then pot up to grow larger, in preparation for you to buy them at the sale. Depending on the size and strength of the plugs they are either potted up into four-inch pots or gallons.

This year we have three different types of Coreopsis available. Coreopsis, also known as Tickseed, is a genus of herbaceous perennials in the Asteraceae family.

Asteraceae or Compositae is the largest family of flowering plants and includes the daisy, sunflower, and aster families.

The genus name originated from the Greek words for ‘bug-like’ and refers to the seed heads which resemble a bug or tick.

Coreopsis is a stunning addition to your summer perennial border as they require little but provide a lot. Their reliable, long-blooming daisy-like flowers are produced from early summer through to fall if deadheaded after their initial bloom.

Coreopsis will provide the best show when sited in full sun, so at least six hours of direct sun, but they can tolerate partial sun but you’ll simply see fewer blooms.

These perennials are not fussy about soil and will tolerate both poor and rocky soils. Coreopsis will welcome bees, butterflies and birds to your garden and over time will naturalize to provide you with years of beauty.

They do not suffer any serious pest or disease issues but may develop crown rot when over-irrigated in heavy clay soils.

It is increasingly difficult to label anything in the garden “deer-resistant” but generally Coreopsis is ignored by deer. All of the Coreopsis mentioned below will normally survive Okanagan winters.

• Coreopsis pubescens “Sunshine Superman” or Star Tickseed is a clump-forming perennial native wildflower in the Central and South Eastern U.S. where it is found in areas with rocky, dry soil.

Sunshine Superman is more compact and floriferous than the species Coreopsis, reaching a height of one foot and growing to eight inches wide. This herbaceous perennial features a profusion of one-inch golden yellow flowers with notched petals and an orange central disk. Sunshine Superman is ideal in a meadow planting or naturalized area.

• Coreopsis hybrida “Uptick Cream and Red” wows with an impressive display of large pale cream blooms with a deep burgundy central patch and a yellow eye. These pollen-rich flowers attract a wide variety of beneficial insects with the plant reaching the height and width of one foot. ‘Uptick Cream and Red’ is ideally situated at the front of your perennial border.

Over the past few years the Uptick series has won an impressive list of landscape industry awards.

• Due to my love of all shades of red, my personal favourite is Coreopsis verticillata “Sizzle and Spice Hot Paprika.” Coreopsis verticillata or Threadleaf Coreopsis is native to Eastern North America and features thread-like, dainty foliage which provides a nice contrast to plants with heavier foliage even when not in bloom. The cultivar Sizzle and Spice Hot Paprika is diminutive enough to fit into smaller gardens reaching a height of 18 inches with a width of two feet with eye-catching 1.5-inch blooms of a rich deep red.

Date set for plant sale

We’ve set May 11th as the date for our annual spring plant sale to be held at Wild Bloom Nursery located at 840 Old Vernon Road. Membership to OXA has many benefits and as in years past we will be having a member-only presale on the Friday afternoon prior to the sale. Stay tuned to our social media accounts for all the upcoming details.

The Okanagan Xeriscape Association is grateful for the ongoing financial support of the Okanagan Basin Water Board and is proud to be collaborating with them on their Make Water Work campaign.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.



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About the Author

I inherited my passion for gardening from my Australian grandfather, a renowned rose breeder in New South Wales. My interest in water conservation started early after a childhood spent growing up in the desert of Saudi Arabia, when a day of rain was cause for a national holiday.

After meeting Gwen Steele, co-founder of the OXA through the master gardener program, I became passionate about promoting xeriscape. I joined the OXA board as a director in 2015 and became executive director in 2019.

When not promoting the principles of xeriscape and gardening for clients throughout the valley, I can be found on a rural property outside of Kelowna where I harvest thousands of litres of rainwater with which to water my own xeriscape gardens.

Connect with me at [email protected].

Visit the website at: www.okanaganxeriscape.org

 



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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