Lifestyle

Burnett: Diversity of growing climate even varies in Okanagan

In the gardening world we often talk of microclimates.

For instance, if you live right on the foreshore of Okanagan Lake, you will have a much different gardening experience than someone living in Winfield due to the influence of the lake in both summer and winter.

Even the lakeshore can be variant. For example, Peachland has a slightly milder average winter temperature than only a few miles up the west side of the lake at Traders Cove.

Even in our own properties, whether they are an acreage or a small city lot, there can be different growing conditions presented.

Shady areas need to be managed quite differently than sunny spots and areas protected from the wind are different than those that are exposed.

So given that these microclimates are evident right here in the Okanagan, it stands to reason the growing conditions say at the coast or up north in Prince George or just over the mountains in Alberta can be very different.

Although gardening in Vancouver verses gardening here in the Okanagan have certain parallels—i.e. you can grow tomato plants in both areas—the methods, planting schedules and results can vary tremendously.

During my lifetime, I have been able to experience gardening in many zones from the frost free climate of Mexico, Florida and Bermuda to colder zones such as Edmonton. This is when the differences become a lot more evident.

When a person such as myself grows up and works in the plant business here in the Okanagan, an experience such as I had a few weeks ago in Mexico is eye-opening.

While there I met a man who grew up in southern Florida and spent his working years as a colonel in the U.S. Army.

After retiring from active service, Tommy and his wife Patti moved to Mexico where they began developing a large garden consisting of many tropical plants but mainly palms.

I had the privilege of a private showing of the gardens, an experience this old gardener will never forget.

Tommy had collected palms from all over the world but mainly from the Middle East and Madagascar in Africa.

Other types of plants in the garden included aloe vera, caladium, orchids, desert rose, and agave.

As much as I was interested in all there was to see, I was just as excited about showing my new friends pictures of gardens and native plants we have here in Canada.

Tommy and Patti are going to make a trip north possibly late this summer and I will show them around.

I am so pumped to show off our plants in person to someone who has only experienced gardening in the tropics.

Even though we are at either end of the spectrum, the passion we both have for this wonderful activity is contagious.

I know that something as common as our Ponderosa pine, would be truly exotic to Tommy and Patti. Isn’t the diversity of plants in this world of ours so fabulous?

Just when I get a little complacent, I discover a new plant or family of plants and my enthusiasm fires right back up.

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