Community Leader: Gwen Steele

Capital News gardening columnist earns top honour in the Community Leader Award environmental volunteer category.

  • Nov. 21, 2016 12:00 p.m.

Gwen Steele

If you’re at all familiar with Gwen Steele’s background, it’s easy to understand why the Kelowna horticulturalist is so passionate about her life’s work.

As far back as she can remember, Gwen has had a profound connection with nature.

“My parents and grandparents were avid gardeners, and the outdoors were always an integral part of my life,” says Gwen, who was born and raised in Kelowna.

“We would go on picnics, and just be out in nature enjoying the flowers and plants. It’s been part of me for so long, it’s hard to imagine others not being able to appreciate it, too.”

So it seemed like a natural fit when Gwen first embraced the concept of xeriscape gardening in 1992.

Xeriscaping is a method of landscaping or gardening that reduces or eliminates water use, without sacrificing a garden’s beauty.

Since establishing the non-profit Okanagan Xeriscape Assocation in 2009, Gwen has served as its executive director and has continued to provide advice on environmentally-friendly gardening methods and sound water conservation practises.

In short, Gwen cares deeply about our environment.

“I’m passionate about saving the environment in any way I can,” she says. “I can connect people with nature through successful gardening, and it helps them realize the importance of preserving nature.

“It’s nice to be able to get what I’ve learned out to the wider community, and help people figure out how to make their dreams happen.”

Kelowna’s Rosemary Botner counts herself among the many in the community who Gwen has helped realize their gardening dreams.

“In (Gwen’s) quiet, unassuming way she guides and encourages gardeners, businesses, public works, everybody to think before planting in order to preserve our most valuable resource—water,” says Botner.

To learn more about Gwen Steele’s work and the xeriscaping method, go to

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