Steele: Library to host free xeriscape forum

Amazingly, there were already about 35 plant species blooming around Kelowna and in the Okanagan.

Lavender blooms in June and late August accompanied by summer-long blooms of Coreopsis ‘Golden Gain. Delospermum cooperi has fuchsia pink flowers from June to frost in the Mediterranean Garden at the unH2O Xeriscape Garden.

I was joined by 70 garden enthusiasts in the unH2O Xeriscape Garden for a talk on xeriscape and a show and tell about the plants in bloom last Tuesday evening.

It was delightful to be with so many people who are eager to garden in harmony with the environment.

Amazingly, there were already about 35 plant species blooming.

By next week, many more will open to add to the abundant and colourful display that continues until frost.

Also many species of pollinators were busy in this great bee habitat.

Next Tuesday, I’ll be giving another free talk on xeriscape plants, using my slide collection.

It’s at 7 p.m., May 24, in the downtown Kelowna Library  meeting room,  1380 Ellis St.

The event is co-sponsored by the Okanagan Regional Library and the Okanagan Xeriscape Association.

The 45-minute presentation is titled Plants that Shine: My favourite water-wise plants, chosen for easy-care, long-bloom and/or long season of interest.

My focus is on plants that can grow without supplemental irrigation once established.

They have evolved to be my favourites because I don’t like to water and my current garden is in fast-draining, sandy soil.

I don’t have an automatic system, so I’m a hose dragger if water is needed.

Many of these plants can thrive in the reflected heat of rock mulch.

While I am not a fan of rock mulch, it’s important to use plants that do well in such conditions.

It’s also important to use the appropriate rock product to minimize maintenance tasks.

Pea gravel or screened crusher chips are both easy to weed out of and act like soil.

A few large feature rocks could be added for structural interest.

Lava rock, river rock, shale, etc., are all difficult to weed out of.

Even with landscape fabric under them, weed seeds and soil will blow in. Weeds will grow, creating a nasty maintenance chore or, if left, an ugly mess.

Another consideration when using rock mulch is to avoid using plants that drop a lot of debris or seeds into the rocks, making for difficult clean-up and the growth of unwanted seedlings.

The worst place to use rock mulch is under a deciduous tree.

A friend solved the problem of autumn leaf drop into rock mulch by placing unsightly tarps under his huge tree from September to November.

On Tuesday, I will demonstrate the OXA plant database ( to illustrate how to select plants for your garden conditions and the criteria you are looking for such as colour, blooming time, deer resistant, etc.

We will have OXA memberships ($25) available and my favourite xeriscape gardening book, “Creating The Prairie Xeriscape” by Sara Williams ($35).

Space is limited so please reserve your seat.

RSVP to Terry Short online,


Tickets for the Kelowna Flower Power Garden Tour, June 18, are on sale now.

Look for more details about the garden tour online at

Gwen Steele is executive director of the non-profit Okanagan Xeriscape Association.