Steele: New columnist promises great landscapes with less work

Imagine you have a beautiful landscape around your home, but one which costs you less time and money to maintain than your neighbours’ expanses of lawn.

Impossible, you think? Make a habit of reading this column and I’ll tell you how.

I’ve gardened all my life in Kelowna. While I love to garden for hours on end, I’m also a lazy gardener. I want to get the utmost results for my effort and money.

In 1992, when I began working at Burnett’s Nursery, I was constantly asked what would grow in a dry sunny place with little water.

My only gardening book was Sunset Western Gardening. It had a one-page list of such plants, but most of them were not hardy in the Okanagan.

I went looking for more. At the library, I found Taylor’s Guide to Water Saving Gardening. This book not only changed my way of gardening, it transformed my life.

In it I discovered the term xeriscape, which means gardening with the natural environmental conditions you live in rather than fighting against them.

I quickly understood that by following the seven principles of xeriscape, I could indeed get amazing results for my time and money.

Looking at the pictures, I realized I could have a beautiful water-conserving garden in almost any style that took my fancy, from an English Country Garden to a Mediterranean style, a native plant garden or beautiful, easy-care ground covers.

There were many wonderful plants to choose from, including old favourites as well as many that were new to me. I was hooked on this new idea.

As I experimented with plants and these new gardening principles, I got very excited.

This led to a move to a small acreage in North Glenmore to start a plant nursery.

Using the principles of xeriscape, we created large testing and demonstration gardens.

I planted hundreds of varieties of plants to test how little water they needed to thrive.

The results were amazing.

You’ll learn more about these plants and about xeriscape by reading my new column in the Capital News.

To register for my next xeriscape classes, beginning April 6, April 20 or May 4, go to

Gwen Steele is executive director of the non-profit Okanagan Xeriscape Association. Learn more about Gardening with Nature and plants for the Okanagan on the website




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