Steele: Xeriscape class releases unknown passion for gardening

When Ray and Rita Kirzinger moved here in 2011 he was not an avid gardener but a two-night xeriscape class sparked a passion.

Ray Kizinger’s new water-wise garden in June. Swing seat provides him an ideal place for close-up enjoyment of the fruits of his labour.

Ray Kizinger’s new water-wise garden in June. Swing seat provides him an ideal place for close-up enjoyment of the fruits of his labour.

Last fall, Ray and Rita Kirzinger attended my two night xeriscape classes. They were new to the Okanagan, moving to Kelowna in May 2011.

Ray followed my suggestion to ‘start small’ and had great success.

He was not an avid gardener, but the experience sparked a passion for gardening.

He told me: “I’ve been bitten by the gardening bug as a result of doing a garden conversion of a corner in our backyard this spring.”

Although he included a swing seat solely for his wife, he now spends a lot of time there observing the plants and the bees and butterflies that come to visit them.

Ray began with good topsoil, making a raised garden bordered by a six inch wall of landscape blocks.

He laid a stepping stone path leading into the garden and the seat, then planted creeping elfin thyme between the flagstones.

After all plants were planted, the garden was mulched with Nature’s Gold.

Watering has been done with a watering wand as needed.

Plants were chosen from some I showed in my class and from the plant database at

Early blooming perennials include creeping phlox, perennial candytuft (both evergreen), and Oriental poppy.

Early summer brings a show of lavender, and yarrow. Both evergreen, they re-bloom later in the summer.

Various low-growing sedums bloom at different times and add interest with varying foliage colours and textures.

Long-blooming perennials include blanket flowers, Coreopsis, Echinacea, and Rudbeckia.

Seeded, long-blooming annuals are Alyssum and snapdragons.

Additional late season colour is provided by Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and Russian sage.

Ornamental grasses and Artemesia ‘Silver Mound’ add foliage interest.

To allow for easy harvesting, herbs are close to the path and garden wall.

Sage, thyme and chives are perennial. Parsley and basil will need to be replanted every year.

While rosemary and bay leaf plants are extremely drought tolerant, to overwinter they must be potted up and put in a sunny window indoors.

Mint, oregano and lemon balm spread rapidly so may need to be moved to a confined area.

The only shrub is a burning bush.

Ray did a great job of choosing plants to have bloom in all three seasons and some winter interest. This fall, he could add more spring colour by planting spring bulbs.

With his new passion for gardening, next spring may find Ray dividing and moving some perennials to begin another garden.

If you want to get your creativity flowing for next year’s water-wise gardening projects, I invite you to come to my two-night ‘Introduction to Xeriscape’ classes Sept. 24  and Oct. 1. Details and registration information are on the OXA website or call 250-762-6018.


Friends of the Summerland Ornamental Gardens will be holding their annual fall plant sale Saturday, Sept. 15, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Event includes four informative presentations.

More details are available at

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