Beautiful way to conserve water and reduce gardening use of pesticides

Twenty-four percent of all water used in this valley goes onto residential yards.

To the editor:

In response to recent letters to the editor, I would like to comment on xeriscapes.

Twenty-four percent of all water used in this valley goes onto residential yards. Seven percent is used inside homes. The biggest waste is keeping vast expanses of lawn green. Mowing and tending those lawns is the highest maintenance job in a landscape. For these reasons, some people are beginning to consider changing to a xeriscape landscape.

The word is often mispronounced as ZEROscape, which adequately describes the common misperception that a xeriscape is created by covering an area with rock and a few struggling plants.

This results in much more heat being reflected back onto plants, people and buildings.

When leaves drop in the fall, it’s hard to clean them out of the rocks.

Inevitably soil and weed seeds lodge in the rocks and weeds grow. It is much harder to weed out of rocks than out of soil.

The true definition of xeriscape is gardening with nature—with the climate that you live in. It could also be called water-wise gardening or sustainable gardening and it can save you time and money.

A xeriscape landscape can be created in almost any style from the lowest maintenance of ground covers to the highest maintenance of an English country garden-style flower bed, and everything in between. A very drought-tolerant, low maintenance garden can be made using beautiful Okanagan native plants.

In a xeriscape, plants are grouped by water needs so only those needing it, like vegetable gardens, get water.

Drought-hardy turf and lawn seed (containing deep-rooted fescue grasses) are available if you need turf.

Plants in their ideal conditions thrive and don’t attract pests and diseases.

Planting a diversity of plants ensures birds, butterflies, and beneficial insects will visit and eat any pests.

Mulching with organic matter (compost, manures, etc) provides all the fertilizer needed and builds up the soil.

The Seven Principles of Xeriscape are a wonderful tool to help anyone garden successfully. These are: planning and design, soil preparation, practical turf areas, efficient irrigation, appropriate plant selection, mulching and garden maintenance.

After attending my two-night xeriscape class last October, Ray Kirzinger wrote me this summer:

“I’ve been bitten by the gardening bug as a result of doing a garden conversion of a corner in our backyard this spring. I spent almost 30 years practicing law and did some yard work during that time but approached it mostly as a burdensome task that had to be completed. I could go on and on about the enthusiasm for gardening I’ve developed, but think I can say it best by sharing that I’ve come to recognize and experience a joy, serenity and almost a type of spirituality associated with gardening—and I’m astounded to be able to say that!”

The non-profit Okanagan Xeriscape Association has a wealth of information on its website—www.okanaganxeriscape.org—including garden examples, book and website resources, details about the principles and a very informative plant database to help you find appropriate plants.

We also offer presentations, classes and a weekly column Gardening with Nature in the Capital News.

To see a colourful, lush xeriscape garden, visit our unH2O Garden in front of the H2O Aquatic Centre, 4075 Gordon Dr.

It has five theme gardens to help you see what you could do. Plants are labelled.

For a complete list of the plants, pick up a brochure from the box in the raised garden.

Gwen Steele,

Kelowna