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Gardening-with-nature

Plan your garden to feed pollinators as well as for beauty

Helping bees, butterflies

Pollinators have great access to food during the summer months, when there is a buffet of flowers blooming on every corner and in every field and meadow. But what about food for them on either end of summer?

We need to make plant choices for our landscapes that are focussed on extending the seasonal banquet table for these vital little critters by choosing pollinator-friendly plants that provide food for them on the shoulders of summer. That should include both native and non-native xeric plants which will require little supplemental irrigation once established, so we’re not wasting any of our precious resource, water.

It’s estimated 90% of flowering plants need pollinators such as bees and butterflies to reproduce. That includes a third of the food we eat, such as nuts, fruit, vegetables and herbs that require insect pollination.

As we pave over wild lands and build on meadows, we destroy natural habitat and food for pollinators, so it’s essential that we pay more attention to planting food sources to keep these little insects alive and thriving and reverse the current trend of their decline.

Recently the Okanagan Xeriscape Association collaborated with Kelowna Rotary Clubs on the creation of two pollinator gardens located at Sarson’s Beach Park and Cameron Park in Kelowna.

These gardens have been a year in the making and it was fantastic to finally get shovels in the ground as OXA, Rotary, and Kelowna’s Parks Department worked together to design and ultimately plant up these spaces.

Both were designed to have both early and late-blooming perennials to support longer access to food for pollinators.

Early bloomers in the gardens are the shrub Amelanchier alnifolia, commonly known as Saskatoon berry, Corsican violets and the native Penstemon fruiticosus or Shrubby Penstemon.

We also included several Achillea millefolium, known commonly as Yarrow, as studies from Simon Fraser University have shown that this perennial, which is native to the Okanagan, is by far the most appealing to the largest number of pollinators.

Achillea millefolium will be visited by Hairy Belly Bees, Sweat Bees, Mining Bees, Butterflies, Flies, Wasps, and Beetles.

With prompt removal of the blooms, we should get three bloom periods from the Achillea millefolium, as well as the Nepeta racemosa that we planted. It’s a standout pollinator perennial.

Blooming later in the season, Asclepias speciosa, Showy Milkweed, will support Monarch butterflies as this perennial is a host plant for females to lay their eggs.

The exceptionally long-blooming Colorado Gold Gazania and Coronado Red Hyssop will round out the season, blooming until frost.

All of the plants selected were purchased from responsible growers as many nursery plants have been treated with toxic insecticides, known as neo-nicotinoids.

The Rotary Clubs of Kelowna have partnered with Rotary Clubs across the B.C. Interior to establish a pollinator corridor stretching from Clearwater to Osoyoos to support the growth in populations of bees, butterflies and other pollinators in our valley. Visit these public gardens to see the bee-friendly gardens in person and consider planting a pollinator garden in your own back yard to provide support for theses little heroes, who are suffering from pollution and climate change.

Many of you purchased pollinator-friendly perennials at our recent OXA Spring plant sale, which was our most successful such fund-raising event yet. Thanks so much to all our purchasers, volunteers and partners for their ongoing support.

For up-to-date information on such sales and other OXA events, or to purchase a membership, go to our website at: www.okanaganxeriscape.org

Join the Okanagan Xeriscape Association volunteers this Friday in the West Kelowna Xeriscape Spirit Square Garden for our weekly Dig with Sig, normally held at our Kelowna UnH2O Garden, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. The West Kelowna xeriscape demonstration garden is located at the Westbank Centre Park on May Street in downtown Westbank, east of the Dairy Queen restaurant.

Dig with Sig is an opportunity to ask gardening questions, swap seeds and plants, all while making new friends, learning about xeriscape and gardening.

Follow us on social media for inspiration on the sustainable beauty that is xeriscape.

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 and can be reached at 778-363-8360 or by email at [email protected].

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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Mother knows best—Mother Nature, that is

Importance of native plants

Native plants naturally thrive in the climatic conditions where they’re growing, so let’s encourage them in our own gardens.

Native plants don’t require supplemental water once they’ve become established, so they are great water conservationists, and they’re beautiful. These plant species have been living and growing in our region for thousands of years. They’re adapted to our local conditions and have deep co-evolutionary relationships with pollinators, birds and small mammals.

By including native plants in your green space, you can create living habitats that offer food and shelter to bees, caterpillars, butterflies, birds and other small wildlife.

In addition to being crucially important for supporting wildlife, native plants are also beautiful and hardy. And through the wonders of biodiversity, there are native plants that will flourish in a broad range of conditions—from sunny to shady to wet.

In the Okanagan, it is particularly important they thrive in extreme heat and dry conditions. Your garden will be more resilient to the changes in our climate with native plants that have already adapted, ones that survive and thrive in this environment.

If this idea interests you, here are some tips to keep in mind as you create your native garden:

1. Get to know local plants, including their proper Latin names. Local resources include the Okanagan Xeriscape Association website and its xeriscape plant database, which lists some local wild plants, as well as e-flora BC, iNaturalist and Seek apps and reliable books, such as Plants of Southern Interior B.C. by R. Parish, Coupe & Lloyd or Trees, Shrubs and Flowers of B.C, by C.P. Lyons. Knowing the Latin names helps you find plants in the same families that have been developed for garden use and are more-readily available in local nurseries.

2. Watch for plants when you walk or hike in the forest and meadows of the region and learn to identify local flowers, shrubs, and trees.

3. Match your garden to a wild spot nearby with similar conditions. The native plants that grow in your reference spot will likely do well in your garden, too.

4. Plan for seasons and succession because timing is everything. Planting with a goal of creating continuous bloom is a great way to attract pollinators.

5. It’s generally not recommended to source your plants from the wild, unless you have permission from a private land-owner to do so. The alternative is to buy from a local nursery that sells propagated native plants. XEN, Wild Bloom and Sagebrush Nursery offer them, and others sell some, as well. Do not remove any parts of plants from parkland. Propagating native plants can be tricky, so do your research before attempting it.

6. Grow it to know it. Recognize that much of what you have to learn can only be achieved through hands-on experience, and there’s no better time to start than right now.

Planting a native plant includes not only annuals and perennials, but also trees and shrubs, such as Ponderosa Pine or Douglas Fir, or large shrubs such as Saskatoon or Mock Orange. That helps create habitat for hundreds of species of insects, birds and small mammals while sequestering carbon, cooling the air, stabilizing the soil, helping manage runoff water and literally transforming a landscape.

Looking for cousins of native plants in local nurseries can also be rewarding. Often they will have similar drought-tolerant characteristics. Do ensure that is the case before expecting them to be xeric. Check the OXA website’s plant database for more information, or the nursery where you are purchasing them.

Follow us on social media for inspiration on the sustainable beauty that is xeriscape.

The Okanagan Xeriscape Association is extremely 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 and can be reached at 778-363-8360 or by email at [email protected].

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



Plant sale fundraiser to offer unique drought-tolerant plants

Planning your plantings

It’s plant sale time of year again.

With spring, everyone with an interest in growing is out looking for something different to try in their garden landscape—so plant sales are on the list of things to do.

The Okanagan Xeriscape Association is offering a variety of unique and unusual plants at this year’s annual Spring Plant Sale on May 6 that are drought tolerant and beautiful as well. Some might even provide a substitute for that water-thirsty green lawn, with its exotic mix of grasses that are not very appropriate for the Okanagan’s hot, dry climate.

Think: no more turf grass. A recent report from Agriculture Canada states the Kelowna and Vernon areas are in “severe drought” after receiving less than 10% of average precipitation in March.

According to Agriculture Canada this occurrence of severe drought is a once-in-10-year event, but it may become more common. Climate modelling predicts our Okanagan summers will continue to be longer, hotter and drier.

So, why do we continue to lay acres of thirsty turf grass on properties all over the valley when there are many drought-tolerant alternatives?

At this year’s annual plant sale, OXA, in collaboration with Wild Bloom Nursery, is offering many lawn-alternative plants as we continue to encourage residents to reduce their turf areas and plant species more suitable to our semi-arid environment.

One of the lawn-alternative species we have been successfully trialing at the nursery is Herniaria glabra, known commonly as Rupturewort. This creeping perennial features dense foliage of small green succulent leaves which act as an excellent weed-suppressant and can tolerate heavy foot traffic.

The green foliage of Herniaria glabra transitions to shades of red and orange as the temperature drops in the fall, adding to its appeal. Herniaria glabra is hardy to Zones 5 to 9, so it is appropriate for planting in the Okanagan and can thrive in the poorest of soils.

This perennial prefers to be sited in full-sun or part-sun and, once established, will only require supplemental water during lengthy periods of drought.

Also available for purchase at the sale will be Cerastium alpinum lanatum or Alpine Mouse Ear.

This is not to be confused with the almost-invasive Snow-in-summer, Cerastium tomentosum. Cerastium alpinum lanatum is much better behaved. This alpine plant is native to the Arctic, hardy to Zone 3, and features fuzzy silver-grey leaves covered in a mass of starry white flowers in early summer.

Cerastium alpinum lanatum is tolerant of drought and poor soils but as with many xeric plants can suffer from root rot in heavy wet soils and will benefit from a mulch of pea gravel around the plants.

Another lawn alternative available for purchase will be Thymus praecox “Coccineus,” Red Creeping Thyme.

This low-growing, mat-forming perennial is an excellent choice for a lawn substitute; drought-tolerant once established and can it weather moderate foot traffic.

Thymus praecox ‘Coccineus’ features fragrant dark-green leaves which are not bothered by browsing deer and it is covered with magenta blooms in early summer. The flowers of this perennial are attractive to a variety of pollinators.

Ideally, Red Creeping Thyme prefers a full-sun location but it will tolerate some shade and is not particular about soil conditions.

Our annual spring plant sale and primary fundraiser for OXA will go May 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Wild Bloom Nursery, 840 Old Vernon Road. A wide selection of xeric plants will be available for sale, a list of which will be posted on our website (www.okanaganxeriscape.org) prior to the event, so you can plan your purchases.

Joining us at the sale will be Wild Bloom Nursery, Xen Nursery, and the master gardeners, who will be on hand to answer all your gardening questions.

We will offer current OXA members a pre-sale on Friday (May 5) afternoon, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

It’s an exciting weekend for gardeners as the Kelowna Garden Club plant sale is also May 6, at Guisachan Gardens in Kelowna, from 9 a.m. to noon and the volunteer friends of the Summerland Ornamental Gardens spring plant sale is May 6 and 7, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at that garden.

Follow us on social media for inspiration on the sustainable beauty that is xeriscape.

The Okanagan Xeriscape Association is extremely 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 and can be reached at 778-363-8360 or by email at [email protected].

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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Scary precipitation stats from Environment Canada

Worrisome dryness

Well, the numbers are in, and they should terrify all of us.

March was an extremely dry month throughout the Okanagan Valley, with Kelowna experiencing its sixth driest month on record. To the north, Vernon had its fourth driest month on record and Penticton had its second driest March on record, with only 1.8 mm of precipitation compared with an average of 23.6 mm.

Those are some troubling numbers, especially when contrasted with a city skyline increasingly dotted with cranes, as Kelowna continues to be one of the fastest-growing cities in Canada.

Recently two Kelowna city councillors, Gord Lovegrove and Mohini Singh, discussed whether the City of Kelowna should declare a climate crisis. It’s no wonder. Yes, this has to be our top priority.

Last Friday, the Okanagan Xeriscape Association held its first-of-the-season weekly Dig with Sig events, an opportunity for volunteers to help out in the demonstration garden, learn about xeriscape and connect with other gardeners.

Once we got our hands in the dirt there were multiple comments about how dry the soil felt. One only needs to look to the water issues plaguing the southern U.S. to see our potential future here if we don’t start taking better care of our most precious resource, water.

One of the easiest steps to take to conserve water is to stop wasting so much of it on our household landscapes. Why do I continue to see new developments where acres of turf grass are being planted, along with thousands of cedars?

These two options have long been the go-to choice for landscapers because they are cheap to purchase and quick to install—but at what ultimate cost? Both are heavy water users and inappropriate for our dry climate.

We need our politicians to say “no more!”

I’m not a fan of rules and regulations, but if the landscape industry continues to make poor decisions, we need to legislate some not-so-common sense. We need a comprehensive strategy to address climate change in this beautiful valley we call home, and it can’t come fast enough.

•••

After years of online classes, I am looking forward to hosting an in-person xeriscape class which will be held April 20 at 6 p.m. at the H2O Aquatic Centre on Gordon Drive in Kelowna, to be followed by a tour of our xeriscape demonstration garden, the UnH2O Garden.

Head to our website at www.okanaganxeriscape.org to register. One of the many benefits of an OXA membership is a discount on classes, so the first thing you should do is join us.

Our annual spring xeriscape plant sale and primary fundraiser for OXA will be held May 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Wild Bloom Nursery, 840 Old Vernon Road. It will feature a wide selection of xeric plants, a list of which will be posted on our website in the coming weeks.

On March 31, OXA drew two names from the updated membership list and presented $25 gift certificates for that plant sale to Denise Oyelese of Kelowna and Edward Wilson of Vernon. Congratulations to both.

Follow us on social media for inspiration on the sustainable beauty that is xeriscape.

The Okanagan Xeriscape Association is extremely 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 and can be reached at 778-363-8360 or by email at [email protected].

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] or call 778-363-8360.

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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