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Steele: A winning steep hillside garden
The winners of the best professionally designed garden category for the Okanagan Xeriscape Association’s 2011 Xeriscape Garden Contest Awards were Murray and Nancy Ramsden and their son Brad.
The garden was jointly designed by Lisa Masini, of Waterwise Landscape Design, and Brenda Richardson, of Synergy Landscape Design.
The impressive hardscape rock work was built by Patrick Casey, of PMC Stonebuilders who modified the design as needed during the process.
The Ramsdens assisted Casey and did all the planting and mulching.
The property is on a steep slope. “We decided to change the backyard as it always looked awful by mid summer. The grass would burn and it required a ton of water, most of which just ran down to the lake,” Murray recounted.
The old yard was watered with overhead sprinklers. The new landscape is all on drip irrigation and the planting areas are flat or gently sloping. Plants are mostly low water species. Trees planted included Paul’s Scarlet hawthorn and Amur maple.
Bicolour butterfly bush (buddleia x weyeriana ‘bicolour’), beauty bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis), Abbotswood potentilla, black lace elderberry (sambucus nigra black lace) and the native blue elderberry (sambucus caerulea) were the shrubs used.
Perennials included were cloth of gold and moonshine yarrows, Gaillardia dazzler, Hidcote English lavender, Missouri evening primrose and Russian sage. Ostrich fern was used in the dry shade.
The garden is in Poplar Point, an area where the deer population seem to outnumber human residents. Although plants were selected from deer proof lists, the Poplar Point deer did not read the lists. They decided evening primrose was a new delicacy, then moved on to new growth on the young trees which have now been protected in wire cages.
The garden contains many ornamental grasses which are very low maintenance. So far the grasses continue to be deer proof.
Some of these are: Karl Foerster and Korean feather reed grasses, Northern Sea oats, gold dew tufted hair grass, blue oat grass, miscanthus ‘giganteus’ and three varieties of moor grass (Seselaria caerulea, S. heufleriana and S. argentea). After planting all the gardens were covered with a layer of Ogogrow mulch.
The Ramsdens decided to keep a small area of turf that was flat (and therefore easy to water and mow) beside the house for their dog, and for them to walk on barefoot. They also kept a Ponderosa pine to preserve a sense of place, relating to the surrounding natural landscape.
Lilacs that were overgrown and obscured the lake view were removed as were ground cover junipers that were well past their prime.
Murray, who loves to grow veggies, built new raised vegetable garden boxes and filled them with good soil. These are on drip irrigation and surrounded by high wire cages to deer out of the lush produce.
Visit www.okanaganxeriscape.org to view more photos of this garden and others that were entered in the xeriscape garden contest.
Gwen Steele is executive director of the non-profit Okanagan Xeriscape Association.