Steele: Books a valuable information source

Books make wonderful gifts and there is a bewildering array to choose from.

Be sure your choice has zone ratings for plants and that the information relates to our dry, zone 1-6 climate.

Some of my favourites are listed on the resources page at

My top pick for xeriscape information for this area is Creating the Prairie Xeriscape by Sara Williams (don’t be mislead by the title).

This book has been out of print for three years. I’m eager to see the new edition, available January 2012. Mosaic Books has them on order so you can reserve a copy and give a gift certificate.

An excellent resource for plant selection, Xeriscape Plant Guide by Denver Water, is available at Mosaic as well as a good supply of the new book Cultivating the Wild—Gardening with Native Plants of British Columbia’s Southern Interior and Eastern Washington by Eva Durance, of Penticton.

It’s an invaluable guide to using our native plants in cultivated landscapes.

The Naturescape B.C. Caring for Wildlife at Home package is available for $25 from”.

This three-book guide includes lists of appropriate local native plants to attract specific wildlife, what to use in bird feeders and how to build birdhouses for specific bird species.

It’s an amazing resource, great for getting children interested in nature. Be sure to ask for the Southern Interior kit.

Another idea for someone who is keen on native plants is a gift certificate from ILR Nursery in Lake Country (

The nursery has an extensive collection of healthy, local native plants.

I have just discovered my xeriscape ‘bible’ of 20 years, Taylor’s Guide to Water-Saving Gardening, is now out of print but there are many good used copies available at

For someone with a keen interest in perennials, Heritage Perennials—Perennial Gardening Guide is available from Art Knapps, offering in depth information on more than 1,500 of the most popular perennials and ornamental grasses available. Plants have zone ratings as well as details of habit, cultural requirements and a symbol marks which varieties are drought tolerant.

For the keen vegetable gardener, a seed catalogue along with a gift certificate would likely be most welcome.

With most seed companies in the world having been bought up by a few giants like Monsanto, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find heirloom and unusual varieties and organic seeds.

Kelowna’s Sunshine Farms ( has a good selection of certified organic seeds, many of which are heirloom varieties, including John’s specialty —more than 100 varieties of tomatoes.

Seeds are collected at the farm in East Kelowna so are well adapted to our local growing conditions.

West Coast Seeds of Vancouver ( is a popular supplier of certified organic, heritage and open pollinated, untreated seed. They offer gift cards.

Next week, I’ll write about some of my favourite tools and other gift ideas for environmentally conscious gardeners.

Gwen Steele is executive director of the non-profit Okanagan Xeriscape Association.



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