Steele: Centennial celebration for Summerland Ornamental Gardens

Capital News columnist says ornamental gardens hold a special place in her life.

In keeping with the times

GwenThis weekend, there is a big celebration to mark the 100th anniversary of the opening of Summerland Ornamental Gardens.

I’m excited to be participating in the celebrations as a tour guide in the xeriscape garden.

Created in 1991, it was the first xeriscape demonstration garden in Canada, and is still the largest.

The Ornamental Gardens have been a special place to me all my life.

In the 1950s, my grandmother took us there for many family picnics.

Granny would always take a walk through the gardens with her friend the superintendent.

He lived in the big white house which was, to me, impressive and mysterious.

Throughout the celebrations,  that house will be open to the public.

I will let the communication I received from my colleague, Eva Antonijevic, Summerland Friends of the Garden community programs director, help to describe the event.

The Friends of the Gardens will be mounting a series of free weekend long celebration events on July 16 to 17 (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.) inspired by one of Summerland’s greatest community happenings – the historic Farm Picnic.

These events drew crowds by the thousands up to the Gardens in the 1920s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s.

The gardens were established in 1916 and now 100 years on we are ready to inspire once again.

Our Celebrations will harken back to the ‘good old days’ by demonstrating handmade crafts, handmade food (vendor Brodo with True Grain Breads), heritage vegetable gardening, a flower show, acoustic music (Cod Gone Wild, South Okanagan Big Band, Tavis Weir & Co.) and children’s activities – featuring old fashioned games and potting shed activities (plant and take home your own plant).

Informative garden tours conducted by master gardeners, hourly on both days will spotlight our new, environmentally friendly Demonstration Rain Garden, Welcome Garden, Crescent Garden and three Make Water Work Gardens along with our extensive Xeriscape Gardens.

The garden tours will also include a Heritage Tree Tour by Douglas Justice, associate director of UBC Botanical Gardens. Scott Austin, our local accomplished gardener and author who will be giving a very informative garden tour highlighting the important history of the gardens and their role in our gardening community.

Gwen Steele, executive director of Okanagan Xeriscape Association, will also conduct in-depth tours of our demonstration xeriscape garden.

For art and heritage lovers we will be leading tours of the historic superintendent’s house where a Botanical drawing exhibit will be on display featuring the work of Julia Bullock Webster (circa 1890s). There will also be an exhibition of Vintage Apple Box art.

You can bring your own picnic.

If you’d like, come dressed in your favourite vintage clothes.

Join us in celebrating this enduring community touchstone— the South Okanagan’s oldest and most beautiful garden.

A free shuttle bus will provide transit to and from the Gardens from the Summerland Research and Development Centre parking lot.

For more information, go to

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