Excerpt from Capital News column “Gardening with Nature” by Gwen Steele November 25, 2011
“A Winning Steep, Hillside Garden”
The winners of the best professionally designed garden in the Okanagan Xeriscape Association’s 2011 Xeriscape Garden Contest Awards were Murray and Nancy Ramsden and their son Brad.
The garden was jointly designed by Lisa Masini of Waterwise Landscape Design and Brenda Richardson of Synergy Landscape Design.
The impressive hardscape rock work was built by Patrick Casey of PMC Stonebuilders who modified the design as needed during the process. Brad and Murray assisted Patrick and did all the planting and mulching.
The property is on a steep slope. Murray stated “We decided to change the backyard as it always looked awful by mid summer. The grass would burn and it required a ton of water, most of which just ran down to the lake.”
The old yard was watered with overhead sprinklers. The new landscape is all on drip irrigation and the planting areas are flat or gently sloping. Plants are mostly low water species.
Trees include ‘Paul’s Scarlet’ hawthorn and Amur maple.
Bicolour butterfly bush (Buddleia x weyeriana ‘Bicolour’), beauty bush (Kolkwitzia amabilis), ‘Abbotswood’ Potentilla, ‘Black Lace’ elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’) and the native Blue elderberry (Sambucus caerulea) were the shrubs used.
Perennials included were ‘Cloth of Gold’ and ‘Moonshine’ yarrows, Gaillardia ‘Dazzler’, ‘Hidcote’ English lavender, Missouri evening primrose and Russian sage. Ostrich fern was used in the dry shade.
The garden is in Poplar Point, an area where the deer population seem to outnumber human residents. Although plants were selected from deer-proof lists, the Poplar Point deer did not read the lists. They decided evening primrose was a new delicacy, demolished them and then moved on to new growth on the young trees which have now been protected in wire cages.
The garden contains many ornamental grasses which are very low maintenance. So far the grasses continue to be deer-proof. Some of these are: Karl Foerster and Korean feather reed grasses, Northern sea oats (Chasmanthuim latifolium), gold dew tufted hair grass (Deschampsia ‘Glodtau’), blue oat grass (Helictotrichon sempervirens), Miscanthus ‘Giganteus’, and three varieties of moor grass (Seselaria caerulea, S. heufleriana and S. argentea).
After planting, all the gardens were covered with a layer of Ogogrow mulch.
The Ramsdens decided to keep a small area of turf that was flat (and therefore easy to water and mow) beside the house for their dog, and for them to walk on barefoot. They also kept a Ponderosa pine to preserve a sense of place, relating to the surrounding natural landscape.
Lilacs that were overgrown and obscured the lake view were removed as were ground cover junipers that were well past their prime.
Murray, who loves to grow veggies, built new raised vegetable garden boxes and filled them with good soil. These are on drip irrigation and surrounded by high wire cages to keep deer out of the lush produce.
Photo credits: Murray Ramsden