Great Garden Choices


Article by Sigrie Kendrick

Great Garden Choices

Clearly, change is afoot when it comes to gardening in the Okanagan.

Many of you may remember a column two years ago, in which I decried some of the garden choices featured on that summer’s public garden tour.

The chosen gardens were stunningly beautiful, of course, but featured plantings which would be unsustainable, when, not if, stringent water restrictions were implemented.

One garden was all hydrangeas, which require considerable water, and another consisted of 10 acres of turf grasses, beautiful in their own way, but by no means sustainable in our hot and dry summers.

I was elated this year to see many gardens on the FlowerPower garden tour focusing on both sustainability and water-wise gardening. Four of the nine gardens featured had no turf in their front yards. That’s right, no grass.

One had an enormous patch of flowering thyme, which was absolutely beautiful. If no one had been watching, I would have laid down in it so that I arose clothed in its delightful aroma.

Another garden featured a stunning meadow planting comprised of native and non-native xeriscape plants. I was in heaven.

Meadow plantings look deceptively easy but they are actually one of the hardest to master and this design team did master the meadow garden.

Yet another garden featured beds of drought-tolerant plants and shrubs accessed via a path planted with xeric groundcovers.

There was a cactus garden. Another featured garden was planted with xeriscape plants that also had to be wildlife-resistant. In fact, mere minutes after the tour ended and we left that property, the owner took a video capturing a young bear swaggering past.

A xeric landscape in Kelowna- replacing lawn with thyme

Wow, what a difference a couple of years have made. Rather than leaving the tour disheartened and despondent, I left higher than a kite, grinning from ear to ear. Thank you to all involved for acknowledging today’s reality and showcasing gardens created by gardeners, for gardeners, gardens which are not only aesthetically-pleasing but also environment-conscious.

Typically, volunteers working on the tour are given a pre-tour, enabling them to see all the gardens on the day prior. There was something different this time. The energy was new and fresh. The gardens featured were vastly different from each other but all were stunningly beautiful and thought-provoking.

If these gardens are any indication, then we are actually changing, We, as gardeners, are making choices that are not based on an outdated perception of beauty. Instead, we are seeing beauty in the imperfect, the uncommon, the sustainable, in plant selections chosen less for our eyes and more for the benefit of pollinators and even edibility. What a monumental shift.

Xeriscape gardens suffering from extreme weather in 2023

Many of the plants featured on the tour can be found on both our plant database and at This spring, the Make Water Work Plant List was updated to include FireSmart indicators for the plants on the list, thereby allowing you to choose both drought-tolerant and fire-resistant plants.

The Make Water Work challenge encourages homeowners to pledge to make water work smarter on their landscapes. Think about how you use your water and how you can make better choices about that consumption. 

I will be touring Okanagan nurseries and garden centres throughout the gardening season, supporting the many benefits of the Make Water Work plant list and campaign. Keep an eye on our social media for my schedule and stop in to say “hi” and to talk all things xeriscape.

Plant in the late summer or fall

Instead of front lawn, this Kelowna homeowner opted to plant a wild meadow with drought-tolerant gaillardia and blue flax, along with other perennials, for this showy front yard that was part of this year’s Kelowna Garden Tour.

The Okanagan Xeriscape Association is grateful for the ongoing financial support of the Okanagan Basin Water Board and is proud to be collaborating with them on their Make Water Work campaign.

Sigrie Kendrick is a master gardener and executive-director of the non-profit Okanagan Xeriscape Association.

As a group blog and forum, we really appreciate your contributions and comments and hope to create a blossoming community of xeriscape gardeners well as a valuable archive of articles.


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