Steele: Rare open house at Summerland Research Centre

Find out what they do up on the hill in the agriculture research centre and participate in activities in the ornamental gardens.

Saturday, Oct. 4, will be a very exciting day in Summerland.

It’s a rare opportunity to find out what they do up on the hill in the agriculture research centre and to participate in many activities in the ornamental gardens.

Welcome garden

Both are located at 4200 Highway 97S at the south end of Summerland (Lookfor a big sign on the right at the turnoff).

The Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre (PARC) is celebrating its centennial with an open house of the facility’s labs and field research projects.

This is where many of the valley’s tree fruit varieties are developed.

Other research includes pest and disease control, efficient irrigation methods, and influences of soils and climate on the valley’s agriculture.

At the same time (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), further up the hill, the Friends of Summerland Ornamental Gardens (FOG) are will also hold a series of public events.

The gardens were begun in 2016 to demonstrate to Okanagan settlers what ornamental plants they could grow.

As a child, I went for many picnics to what was then called the Summerland Research Station with my grandmother, an avid gardener. It has been a favourite place all my life.

In the late 1980s, the government ended the ornamental horticulture program.

Then in 1991, a non-profit charitable organization, Friends of Summerland Research Station Gardens (FOG), was formed to conserve, enhance and maintain the gardens in collaboration with PARC.

Today the 21st century mission of FOG is to educate the public in ornamental horticulture and effective water use, by demonstrating water conservation methods and the range of plant species possible in the Okanagan.

On Saturday you can take any of a series of tours, guided by experts:

10-11 a.m.—‘Xeriscape in the Gardens’

11 a.m. to noon—‘The New Welcome Garden and Rain Garden’

Noon to1 p.m.— ‘Grasses in the Gardens’

1-2 p.m.—‘Trees in the Gardens’

2-3 p.m.—‘Highlights of the Gardens’

Tours start from the Hummingbird Information Centre. Donations are welcomed.

There will also be guided tours of the historic superintendent’s house where FOG will be serving refreshments. It’s rarely open to the public.

While there, you can bid on many wonderful silent auction items. Donors include local wineries, restaurants, and artisan food producers.

Be sure to check out the perennial plant sale.

There will be some rare and unusual varieties including species found in the Gardens and xeriscape plants.

Fall is a great time to plant so plants establish good root systems before next year’s dry summer.

FOG is not set up for debit or credit cards so come prepared.

For more information see summerlandornamental-gardens.org.

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