Steele: Choose the right mix of plants for a waterwise garden

Some plants' self-seeding is so promiscuous and far-flung that they overtake other plants.

  • May. 29, 2014 1:00 p.m.
Bumblebees and plants have a symbiotic relationship

Bumblebees and plants have a symbiotic relationship

I began my front garden after removing all the lawn in 2006.

It is a slow and interesting process, testing plants and procedures to see what works best in sandy, dry soil under a beautiful, mature honey locust tree.

At first, the big empty space was daunting, so vigorous self-seeding perennials that thrived were welcome:

• Lamium ‘Beacon Silver’, ‘White Nancy’ and ’Chequers’ bloom all summer.

• Tradescantia (Spiderwort) has spikey, grass-like foliage topped with small flowers most of the summer.

• Geranium phaeum has interesting black markings on its maple-shaped leaves. June-blooming, black flowers produce lots of seedlings.

For the past year I have been digging all these plants out.

I appreciate their good points but their self-seeding is so promiscuous and far-flung that they are overtaking other plants.

The only real weeds I found this spring were some spindly dandelions.

It was a hard decision to ruthlessly remove plants. I especially miss the bright silver lamium foliage.

I liked the wild informal look and now am left with blank spaces.

However, in future, ‘weeding’ will be much easier and there’s room to try new plants.

It’s great fun to watch the garden wake up after winter and see the constant change.

Mother Nature always has a few twists to add to the anticipation.

First came yellow winter aconite (like wild buttercups) and snowdrops.

Next grape hyacinth created meandering spikes of blue and drew the eye to  emerging bright yellow foliage of variegated German iris, golden ninebark,’ and Euonymous ‘Green and Gold.’

Then old red tulips from my first garden in Oyama, bloomed. The local deer must have been on another street as tulips are notorious deer candy.

Dwarf German iris bloomed next. Among the purple, deep and pale blues there was a surprise of a few yellow ones I don’t remember.

The pink Bergenia were striking. Now done, the pink theme is carried on by a mass of ground-cover, big-leaf geranium.

When they are done, smaller ground cover, Geranium ‘Cambridge’ will begin.

The garden is alive with pollinators. I expect hummingbirds to visit red coral bells, geraniums, catnip, daylilies, and culinary sage that are all coming into bloom.

Part of the enjoyment of tending this garden is all the visitors – insects, butterflies, birds and the people who stop to chat.


The 17th annual Kelowna Garden Tour will be Saturday, June 14, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Some gardens will have artists, food and wine tastings.

Funds raised from this self-guided tour of private Kelowna gardens will be donated to:

• Growing Chefs, an elementary classroom gardening and cooking program sponsored by the Okanagan Chefs Association

• The Central Okanagan Community Gardens, helping neighbourhoods and communities create sustainable green spaces for gardening, food production, gathering and education.

Tickets: $35, available at local nurseries. Early bird rate: $30 (ends May 31). Check for more information.

Gwen Steele is executive director of the  Okanagan Xeriscape Association. Learn more about gardening with nature and plants for the Okanagan at


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