The average rainfall in Osoyoos is between 10 and 12 inches per year. For the gardener and farmer that means a lot of irrigation is required, not only due to the low rainfall but also because here is probably the warmest place in Canada and our soil is sandy and porous. That usually means one heck of a lot of water which has to come from somewhere.
Water resources in the Okanagan have been pushed to their limits by continued development and ever-increasing demand, and it’s highly likely we’re in for many more years of hot summers with watering restrictions and more people looking for alternative options. Xeriscaping is fast catching on in the south Okanagan!
‘Xeriscaping’ (pronounced zerry-scaping), is a concept developed 30 years ago in the USA which quite simply refers to the idea of planting drought tolerant species that are native to their area or drought tolerant exotics. ‘Xeri’ means ‘dry’ in Greek and is sometimes mispronounced as zeroscaping.
In addition to saving water (up to 75%) and money, xeriscaping is low-maintenance. It requires less weeding, less fertilizing, less pruning, less mowing, and fewer pesticides. The time you save can be used to relax and admire your beautiful (low water-use) yard. And the plants can be just as attractive as the more exotic non-native ones, providing plenty of flowers and colour to suit every taste.
Traditional lawn grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass, coupled with traditional ornamental flowers, shrubs and trees are for the most part not acclimatized to this area and can suck up 40 inches of moisture per year. Try dryland turf grasses or bunchgrass: they’re cheaper and much hardier and don’t have to be nurtured. Mulches, such as bark chips or pine needles will hold water and withold weeds. There are hundreds of attractive shrubs and trees that are well-adapted to the Southern Interior and will thrive in your garden – and a nice side effect is they’ll encourage more wildlife such as hummingbirds and butterflies.
Specialty garden centres such as the Wild West Nursery and the Sagebrush Nursery are a good starting point for advice and a wide variety of the plants you need.
Also check out the Pioneer Walkway in Osoyoos, and the nearby Veteran’s Park near the bridge for some fine examples of xeriscaping.
The Native Plant Garden at the Osoyoos Desert Centre has a good selection of native plants that are clearly identified by name.