Steele: Enjoying Okanagan’s natural beauty

April 22 is Earth Day, a perfect time in Kelowna to reflect on how best we can be stewards of this land for future generations.

Okanagan sunflowers are abundant on the hillsides.

Spring is the most beautiful time of year in our abundant valley.

I cannot get enough of walking among the wildflowers blanketing our hillsides. I encourage you to get out and hike amidst the blooms of Okanagan sunflowers (arrow-leaved balsamroot), Oregon grape and Saskatoons.

Nearby places to see them and have a good hike include Knox Mountain Park and Kalamoir Park.

For those with mobility challenges, Dilworth Mountain Park on Chilcotin Crescent is a flat, easy walk. How fortunate it was preserved as a natural park when Dilworth Mountain was developed.

Natural areas such as these, within the city, are invaluable to residents and nature. And unlike landscaped parks, they save tax dollars and water as they require minimal upkeep and no irrigation.

While you are enjoying the natural landscape, observe the colours, textures and scents.

Consider how you might mimic them in your own yard to create a landscape that celebrates the natural Okanagan landscape. With Friday, April 22, being Earth Day, this makes next week a perfect time to reflect on our good fortune to live here and to consider how best we can be stewards of this land so that its beauty and abundance will be here for future generations.

Some ways individuals can help are:

1) Encourage the preservation of natural areas

2) Read “Building With Nature: a Guide for Home-owners, Contractor and Architects” by Andy Wasowski to find out how to preserve natural vegetation while building a house

3) Encourage the use of native and water-wise plants in public and commercial landscapes

4) Use Okanagan native plants in your garden.

You can purchase some of these at OXA’s Xeriscape Plant Sale on April 30 (9 a.m. to noon at the unH2O Garden in front of the H2O Aquatic Centre, 4075 Gordon Dr. ).

These will be for sale:

• Nodding onion (Allium ceruum) has pink flowers in May and June. All parts of the plant are edible

• Showy Aster (Aster conspicuus) has blue flowers from June to frost. It’s especially attractive to pollinators

• Orange arnica (Arnica fulgens) has yellow daisies in May and June

• Bluebunch wheatgrass, our native meadow grass, has fine-textured clumps that are exceptionally beautiful right now.

All can be used to create a natural meadow. They self-seed readily so will fill in well to create a low maintenance, water-wise landscape.

However, do not plant them in your garden as they will overtake your other plants.

Tanis Gieselman, of SeedCo, will be at the sale selling Okanagan native plant seed including milkweed and other seeds that could be used in a wild meadow.

She will also have an information display for the Okanagan Collaborative Conservation Program.