Steele: Garden season ending

The timing was good to clean up the unH2O Xeriscape Garden as everything froze four days later.

On Nov. 16, nine volunteers completed the fall clean-up at the unH2O Xeriscape Gardens.

Some flowers were still blooming so it was hard to cut those plants back. However, the timing was good as everything froze four days later.

The garden is entirely cared for by volunteers —a big thank you to all of them.

This year we have had a new challenge. It began in March with the discovery that voles had found the garden and feasted on the roots of Rudbeckia ‘Goldsurm’, blue gramma grass (Bouteloua gracilis), thrift (Armeria maritima) and ‘Red Riding Hood’ tulip bulbs.

Everything was cut back, plants were replaced (except the bulbs).

The damage stopped and we crossed our fingers. Through spring and summer there was more tunnelling and partial damage to some plants.

In mid-summer, voles found the spectacular ‘Fire of Love’ tulips and carefully excavated and feasted on each one.

This fall a large evening primrose (Oenothera missouriensis), in the midst of a group, was suddenly lying flat and dead.

Further examination revealed it had been chewed off at the roots.

While cleaning up the garden, we found tunnels and mounds of earth everywhere.

Five large Aster frikartii in two different gardens stood nicely, looking frost-killed like their neighbours, but needed no cutting back, having been chewed off at the roots.

The same had happened to a large Sedum ‘Autumn Fire.’

Several ornamental grasses were partially chewed.

This was very discouraging. The voles have invaded from a weedy, naturalized area across the road from the garden.

To dissuade them from inhabiting the garden this winter, everything has been cut back leaving no place to hide from predators—the garden is now looking very barren.

Normally, plants that have winter interest such as ornamental grasses, tall sedums, and rudbeckias are left standing until spring.

All the evergreen plants (which cannot be cut back without severely damaging or killing them) such as lavender along with the stems/trunks of shrubs and trees have been sprayed with an organic, non-toxic repellent.

Two kinds are being tested to see if either work.

If you have had success with deterring these little rodents, please let us know what worked.

To help with ideas of what to give to a gardener for Christmas, I have just posted a new Tip of the Month, on the Okanagan Xeriscape Association  website home page, with lots of suggestions, both large and small.


This is my last column for 2013.

I’ve enjoyed having the opportunity to share my gardening knowledge with you and write about gardening events.

I’ll resume writing the column next March.

If you have ideas for topics you would like me to write about, or comments you wish to pass on, please contact me at

Best wishes for a happy, and successful gardening New Year.

Kelowna Capital News