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Gardening-with-nature

Choose deer and drought-resistant hedging

Better hedges deter deer

Deer, deer everywhere. Wow, does the deer population of the valley seem to have exploded recently.

With the sudden early snow limiting grazing options for them in the wild, many deer seem to be munching on anything they can get their teeth into in the valley bottom.

I see many homeowners resorting to wrapping their Thuja occidentalis, commonly known as Eastern or Northern white cedar, hedges with burlap, netting, or snow fencing in an attempt to fend off these hungry grazers.

What a hassle. It’s not pretty and it doesn’t always work.

Even though I personally enjoyed our recent warm fall weather, I was concerned about the implications for our watersheds and now that the data is available—with good reason.

According to meteorologist data, October saw only six mm of precipitation compared to a normal of 29.2 mm. The average temperature was 12.1 C compared to a normal of 7.3 C.

Those are shocking statistics. We know our climate is warming and changing, so why are we continuing to choose unsustainable hedging options such as cedars which are not drought-tolerant and are also fodder for deer?

Why aren’t we making better choices?

Thuja occidentalis is native to Eastern North America where it prefers moist soil and is intolerant of drought.

(Just for clarification I use the common name cedar which should not be confused with the genus Cedrus, true cedars.)

Many gardens are planted with these Eastern white cedars, but perhaps our choices indicate a lack of knowledge about botany, or perhaps we’re just not considering how wasteful it is to plant such thirsty trees in the arid Okanagan.

It’s easy to educate yourself about better choices in the Okanagan’s dry climate. Just pay a visit to our website at www.okanaganxeriscape.org to learn about more-appropriate hedging options that are better suited to our semi-arid valley.

Our website features a blog called On the Dry Side, which discusses all things xeriscape, including the issues with the thirsty Thuja occidentalis. There are lots of alternative hedging possibilities, with both native and non-native options discussed. Also, visit our demonstration garden at 4075 Gordon Drive in Kelowna to see some of these hedging options in person.

Our extensive plant database on the website represents a wealth of knowledge, with 26 search categories available, including deer resistance. Let us help you do away with the onerous task of wrapping up your cedar hedge every fall, and wasting gallons of precious water on it every hot, dry Okanagan summer.

If you find our database useful, please consider supporting our non-profit organization by becoming a member of the Okanagan Xeriscape Association. Membership makes a thoughtful holiday gift for any of the gardeners in your life and has many benefits, as outlined on our website.

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 its 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.





Engaging young minds in the garden

Passing on gardening skills

Recently the Okanagan Xeriscape Association was approached by the Okanagan Christian School to consult on a sustainable school planting and provide a xeriscape presentation to a class of Grade 5 and 6 students.

I have given xeriscape presentations to a wide variety of organizations over the years, but I had never spoken to young people like this. I was simultaneously excited and terrified.

Reminiscing about my own schooling, and considering the educators who had had a profound influence on me when I was growing up, I realized one of those influential people was my Grade 5 science teacher. To this day I can recall his name and, in doing so, realize the huge opportunity with which I was presented.

Not only could I teach this class about xeriscape, proper plant selection and planting methods, but hopefully I could learn how to more-effectively engage these young minds—our collective future.

Learning is a lifelong process and it can offer countless opportunities for personal growth at any age. I remember my mother saying the day one stops learning is the day one begins to die.

Some, not all of the terror, abated.

I met with the teacher who approached OXA about the collaboration, to view the planting area, and to say it was a challenging one would be an understatement. The berm was the site of an old volleyball court, so it was almost completely sand, extremely fast-draining. It was also weed-infested.

The teacher mentioned that over the years they had tried to grow a number of ground covers, with little success. The plants selected for the site would have to be extremely drought-tolerant in order to survive and flourish in the tough existing conditions. It was decided we would have the best success by choosing species native to our Okanagan Valley.

I would be remiss without saying a huge thank you to Xen Nursery, the native plant nursery in West Kelowna that donated many of the plants used in the project at the Okanagan Christian School.

You can find plant profiles on many of the plants used on our plant database at www.okanaganxeriscape.org simply by clicking on “Native to the Okanagan” under plant features in the database’s search engine.

The weekend prior to the presentation and planting, the teacher, OXA volunteers and I spent hours clearing the site of the substantial collection of weeds. I planned a condensed presentation fearing the subject might not be of interest to the students. I ended up being pleasantly surprised.

Of course, there will always be the class clown and disrupter but many of the students showed an interest in, and knowledge of, xeriscape. I did not expected that.

Several shared experiences of their own gardens, whether edible or ornamental, and a few were actively composting in the garden. My misconceptions about my audience could not have been further from reality.

The real fun began when we got outside to start the planting and the students were armed with shovels and buckets of water. A bit of chaos ensued but eventually everyone calmed down and I was able to educate them on proper planting techniques.

I instructed them on the planting method I learned years ago from Gwen Steele, OXA co-founder and long-time mentor of mine. No matter how heavy your plant pot may feel, I always begin by submerging the plant, pot and all, in a five-gallon bucket of water until all of the air bubbles dissipate. That ensures that water has reached the middle of the plant’s root ball, which is often surprisingly dry.

I taught them the importance of properly preparing the planting hole by filling it with water and allowing the water time to drain into the surrounding soil. I encouraged them to tease the root ball open, encouraging the roots to quickly move into the surrounding soil and to speed root development.

After all of the plants were situated properly, I explained the importance of creating a little soil berm on the low side of the planting area with which to catch any moisture—be it irrigation or nature-provided. There was no quiz at the end of the day but I would like to think that if given, most of the students would have passed with flying colours.

Personally, I learned these young minds were willing to be engaged in learning about water conservation, a necessity given the world they will inherit.

The Okanagan Xeriscape Association is extremely grateful for the ongoing financial support of the Okanagan Basin Water Board and is proud to collaborate with it on its 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.



Try a new, easier fall clean-up in the garden

Fall yard work

Leave the leaves.

I’m here to question why, as gardeners, we are so obsessed with the big fall clean-up, including raking or blowing all the fallen leaves into piles, shovelling them into plastic bags and sending them off to the landfill—or even to be composted centrally.

It’s a tradition we really should re-consider. In fact, it is counter-productive behaviour. Instead, I would like to educate everyone about the many benefits of leaving the leaves where they fall in the fall.

Let us mimic what occurs naturally, in contrast to our need to clean, control and manipulate our natural environment.

There’s a reason for everything in nature. For example, with the shorter days of light in the fall, the leaves of deciduous trees and shrubs fall to the ground and act as a mulch, which suppresses weeds, protects the roots of perennials from the winter cold and feeds the soil as they decay.

Leaving your tree, shrub and perennial “mess” in place over the winter provides a source of food and sanctuary for a whole host of small mammals, birds and insects.

If you can’t bear the sight of the perceived mess, consider adding your fallen leaves to your own compost. They will serve as the “brown” component of your compost. Add the last of your grass clippings to provide the “green” component and you are on your way to making nutritious compost that can be used for top-dressing your garden next season.

Improving your soil health is one of the seven principles of xeriscape and is an important step in creating soil with better structure and moisture-holding capabilities.

Visit okanaganxeriscape.org to learn more about the principles of xeriscape. Read our blog, peruse our plant database and and learn about the many benefits of membership in the Okanagan Xeriscape Association.

•••

Last weekend, volunteers, board members and contractors planted almost 150 new shrubs and perennials in a new area of the UnH2O Xeriscape Demonstration Garden, located in front of the H2O aquatic centre on Gordon Drive in Kelowna.

The Okanagan Xeriscape Association is excited to showcase these new plantings, so why not stop by and check out our progress as this new xeriscape demonstration bed evolves?

If you live across the big lake, consider visiting our recently-opened West Kelowna Xeriscape Spirit Square Garden, located at Westbank Centre Park on May Street.

The OXA is extremely grateful for the ongoing financial support of the Okanagan Basin Water Board and is proud to be collaborating with it on its 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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Plant now for spring garden colour

Drought-tolerant planting

The Okanagan Xeriscape Association is extremely thankful for all of the support from both volunteers and the community last weekend at our first-ever fall plant sale.

It was a big success and will be repeated next autumn, as we continue to educate gardeners about the many benefits of planting perennials in the fall.

I would love fall, if it were not followed by winter. To me, in addition to perennials, fall is the ideal time to get a jump on next year’s garden by planting bulbs for early spring colour. There are many drought-tolerant bulbs available to consider which will enliven your early garden with pops of colour.

Drought-tolerant, or technically drought-avoidant, bulbs bloom before the heat of the summer season and benefit from dry conditions once they have finished blooming. Because our mandate is to help educate people about ways to conserve water used on the landscape, promoting spring bulbs is right up there with hiking for a fun fall activity, in my books.

One of the earliest bulbs to appear in spring is Winter Aconite (Eranthis Hyemalis), which pokes its cheery yellow head up as early as late February, often in the same time frame as snowdrops, although it is not as common. It is well worth searching out this bulb as it will naturalize in your garden and in time allow you to share some bulbs with your friends.

It seems that few gardens in the Okanagan are untouched by marauding deer so homeowners are always on the lookout for plants those pesky animals tend to shun. Another great bulb for the spring garden is the Turkestan onion (Allium karatievense), a member of the onion family. That means it is “stinky” to deer, although not to us, and as such it’s usually not on the menu for our four-legged friends.

Another bulb they tend to go by without nibbling is the narcissus family. These can provide up to six weeks of bloom with a selection of early, mid- and late-flowering varieties, plus they are readily sourced at nurseries or big box stores.

One of the varietals we planted recently in the OXA UnH2O Xeriscape Demonstration Garden on Gordon Drive is the absolutely-stunning Narcissus poeticus, which is, ironically, one of the oldest daffodils to be cultivated, dating back to ancient times.

I'm enamoured with its simple shape and pure white petals, so different from the brassy yellow we usually associate with daffodils.

No matter what you decide to plant this fall, the anticipation of a colourful array of spring flowers from your fall bulb planting will help you through the dark winter days to come.

Consider joining us and enjoy some of the many perks of membership with like-minded gardeners.

Details and perks of membership are available on our website, www.okanaganxeriscape.org, along with an extensive plant database of xeric plants.

•••

I am aware that many of you are having your irrigation blown out, a typical October occurrence, but please remember we have had an extremely long period of drought in recent months with no measurable precipitation expected in the near future.

Sending your garden into winter dry is a sure recipe for plant loss as even dormant plants require water to maintain plant health. Water acts as an insulator in the garden with moist soil staying warmer than dry soil. Also, plant cells that are turgid will be better able to weather cold damage.

Please make sure everything is well-watered before the ground freezes even if that means dragging around the hose.

The Okanagan Xeriscape Association is extremely grateful for the ongoing financial support of the Okanagan Basin Water Board and is proud to collaborate with its Make Water Work program.

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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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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