Steele: Choose drought-tolerant plants to reduce water waste

Shrubby penstemon  and perennial alyssum create a vibrant display in the lovely lakeside setting of Marina Way Park Xeriscape Demonstration Garden  in Penticton.

Shrubby penstemon and perennial alyssum create a vibrant display in the lovely lakeside setting of Marina Way Park Xeriscape Demonstration Garden in Penticton.

Last week, I spent an enjoyable four days leading a group of volunteer gardeners from B.C. and Alberta in cleaning up all the gardens at Naramata Centre.

On my ‘free’ Wednesday afternoon, I had a great time exploring the South Okanagan for water-wise gardens and nurseries.

Penticton has a well established xeriscape demonstration garden in Marina Way Park on Okanagan Lake, beside the city’s art gallery.

The gardens are organized by water needs with the driest in the centre and the most water thirsty in the outer ring closest to the lawn.

Last year, they put up excellent signage and plant labels. A box mounted on the main signpost contains an extensive brochure.

At the north end of Oliver, I visited the valley’s oldest native plant nursery, Sagebrush.

The nursery recently added many non-native xeriscape species to their excellent collection of Okanagan native plants.

Back on the highway, I discovered Future Gardens, a gem of a nursery with very healthy plants, including lots of unusual varieties.

Future Gardens carry all types of plants but have a keen interest in promoting xeriscape.

Several displays illustrated creative ways of using stonecrops and hen and chick species.

Although I hadn’t time to stop, I noticed several examples of attractive xeriscape plantings in public areas along the main road through Oliver.

Further on down the highway into Osoyoos, I found Sandhu Greenhouses & Nursery.

It is a very large operation with an amazing collection of hardy cactus and yucca species.

The highlight of my day was my first visit to the Desert Centre in Osoyoos.

Masses of Antelope Brush were in full bloom and the air was filled with bird song. There is an interesting native plant garden at the entrance and an excellent interpretive centre.

I did not stop in Summerland on my way home, but I have made many visits to the Summerland Ornamental Gardens dating back to my  childhood.


In the early 1990s,

three acres of gully became the first xeriscape planting in the valley.


Hundreds of species were assessed for their ability to live in this climate without supplemental water.

About eight years ago, a small demonstration garden was created at the entrance to the ornamental gardens. The site is a lovely place to go for a picnic.

Six years after opening, Grasslands Nursery in Summerland is now the valley’s oldest xeriscape nursery.

With a wide selection of both Okanagan native and non native xeriscape plants and their demonstration garden, it is definitely worth a visit.

Back in Kelowna, I made a delightful discovery. The Greenery has built a new outdoor section for its large perennial ground cover collection.

Most of the plants are low water users. I was amazed to find about 100 varieties of stonecrop (sedum) and hens and  chicks (sempervivum)—the ultimate in easy to grow xeriscape plants.

Gwen Steele is executive-director of the non-profit Okanagan Xeriscape Association. Learn more about Gardening with Nature and plants for the Okanagan on the website:



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