Canada is often imagined as a country of towering mountains, vast prairies, frozen lakes, and lush forests. However, tucked between two mountain ranges is the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, a semi-arid swath of land containing the country’s sole desert.
Kelowna, Canada, is the largest city in this region, and is subject to the many challenges of developing in an arid valley. Most obvious in these summer months is the dry heat, which makes the upkeep of traditional Kentucky bluegrass landscapes difficult without excessive watering.
The answer to this problem is xeriscaping.
Simply put, xeriscaping is a method of landscape design that minimizes the need for watering. This is achieved several ways:
- A design that considers natural topography for irrigation;
- Amendment of the soil to suit the plants;
- Grouping plants with similar watering needs;
- Ensuring any installed irrigation systems are efficient;
- Mulching exposed soil to prevent evaporation;
- Selecting plants appropriate to the local climate.
Xeriscaping enthusiasts describe the practice as “gardening with the natural environmental conditions you live in rather than fighting against them.” In addition to the environmental benefits of xeriscaping, extension of the natural landscape into the city can also strengthen its image, which can be useful when formulating a local identity or brand.
With the increased focus on sustainability in urban planning and property development, xeriscaping offers a relatively simple way for organizations and individuals to reduce environmental impacts, and the trend appears to be catching on. Here in Kelowna, Okanagan College offers a series of community classes on xeriscaping for home gardens. Several landscaping companies offer water conscious design services, the results of which can be seen in both residential gardens and more recent developments.
Xeriscaping responds well to the challenges of landscape design in a dry and hilly environment. Choosing native plants ensures that the created landscape not only fits in with the region as a whole, but works with the local climate.
Does your city face any unique landscape design challenges? Would xeriscaping principles be beneficial to landscapes and gardens in your neighbourhood?
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.