I learned a lot about designing drought tolerant gardens and xeriscapes while I was vacationing in Osoyoos, BC, this past week. The thing that stood out the most was that you can have a colorful garden—full of flowers and wildlife—that requires much less water. Join me on a tour of drought tolerant landscapes and pick up some ideas for your own garden.
I live in a rain forest. Well I used to live in a rain forest. I’m not sure the powers that be are quite ready to change the classification of our climate just yet, but it certainly is changing here in Vancouver, BC, Canada. This past winter we had an uncharacteristically warm and dry winter. While it was lovely it definitely had its price. The cost was water.
With little snow pack on the mountains and not enough rain collected in the reservoirs this summer, combined with a raging wildfire season, meant that much of the province ran into stage 3 or 4 watering restrictions (stage 4 is the most restrictive). This didn’t really change the landscape the way has in California (with the exception of the areas damaged by fire) but what it has done is made a lot of us who live here think a more about the value of water and water conservation.
Visiting Osoyoos showed me that you can have fabulous gardens with plenty of plants that support wildlife and beneficial insects, gorgeous landscapes, and fabulous gardens all while preserving precious water.
This is what it says about Osoyoos on the Osoyoos.ca website:
Osoyoos is located in one of the most unusual geographical regions in Canada.
The community lies in the shadow of the Cascade Mountains creating a hot, sunny, dry climate. For this reason, the area boasts its own climate zone called “Osoyoos Arid Biotic Zone.” Canada’s lowest annual precipitation, warmest annual temperature, and warmest fresh water lake can be found here. This arid zone is the northern tip of the Sonoran Desert which extends from Mexico into Canada.
It is biologically classified as Canada’s only desert because of the unique flora and fauna that call the area home.
Changing our gardens, and changing the way we garden, is the best way to adapt to changing climate demands. I must stress that removing gardens altogether and replacing lawn with plastic turf is far worse for our environment than adapting to drier climates and changing water supply.
To remove all plants from your home landscape removes the food and shelter for the insects and wildlife that share the space with you. Allowing trees to die from drought, removes essential shade and air filtering. If you want to grow your own food you need pollinators. If you want to enjoy parks under shady trees you need birds and critters. Even urban centers without plants become “heat islands” with concrete absorbing and radiating heat that can become unbearable for residents.
One thing I do support is replacing lawns with gardens or, at very least, managing those water-guzzling lawns with less. I’m grateful to see that most of our city let their lawns go brown the summer. I’ve been doing this every year for as long as I can remember because as I wrote in this previous article about organic lawn care, turfgrass actually needs to go dormant when it’s hot in the summer to survive and maintain health. Allowing grass to go brown in the summer is not allowing the grass to die! It’s allowing it to go dormant and you can read more about that here.
We can still grow plants, have gardens, and create a beautiful environment as long as we adapt and change. As you can see from the photos in this post there are many beautiful options for landscaping for drought.