Spending less time mowing and watering? What’s not to like about that? With the expert gardening advice and creative landscaping suggestions featured in Metro Vancouver’s new Grow Green Guide, it’s easier than ever to enjoy a great outdoor space that reduces water demand, supports pollinators, and looks great too!
Metro Vancouver’s Grow Green Guide was launched in the Spring of 2016, with the help of the UBC Botanical Garden. Douglas Justice, curator of collections for the Garden, explains how they got involved.
“Metro Vancouver approached us to help fill out the Grow Green Guide because in the Botanical Garden we have experience with a wide range of exotic, and local, and food plants and ornamentals and we not only have that knowledge within, we also know who else around us has that knowledge. The Grow Green platform was really an excellent way to get the message out there. We were all working very hard for exactly the same purpose and it was just really nice to work with people who have the same kind of values.”
The interactive website provides gardeners with plant suggestions and landscaping advice based on their specific requirements — so they can utilize local species that are a good match for our region’s climate.
“It’s kind of a catalogue of the best plants that can be grown in this climate,” explains Justice. “But it also has the design element, which was to put those plants together in beautiful innovative designs, so that people could kind of imagine what it’s like to grow those plants in their own backyard. A lot of times people, they see plants and they just don’t know in what context they would look good. The great thing about this technology is that it allows these little vignettes to be presented. It’s not a lot of information. It’s a little bit of information and it’s easily digestible. People can look at it and say, ‘I don’t like the design, what’s the next one? I like that design, I don’t like the colour scheme, let’s go on to the next one I like that design, I like that colour scheme, I like those plants, let’s look into it a little more deeply.’”
Justice takes us for a walk through the Botanical Garden, to see some of the plants featured in the Grow Green Guide.
“So here we have a native onion. The reason it’s in the Grow Green Guide is that it’s a very, very good performer in this climate. We have a lot of them planted here and they tend to colonize an area a little bit like chives, if you’ve seen the way chives grow, although not quite as aggressive. It’s an edible onion, it’s actually quite a mild onion.”
“So one of the great things about the nodding onion is that it’s attractive to our native bumblebees as well as the European honeybee so on a sunny day this will be visited by all manner of bees. What this does in the garden of course is create all kinds of movement and obviously it’s beneficial for the onion, but it’s also going to attract the pollinators for other plants, so if you have vegetables this is a real magnet for the pollinators and they are going to visit other plants.”
The Grow Green Guide isn’t just for people with vegetable gardens and big backyards. Planting suggestions for townhouse, condominium, and apartment dwellers are a key feature of the guide. Douglas Justice shows us a species that made the Grow Green Guide because of its suitability for shady locales.
“If you want a small plant for a shady balcony, your first choices should probably be something in the native plant arena. And the reason that I say that is that woodland plants from this part of the world can both tolerate summer drought to a great degree but they are also adapted to being mostly under forest canopy and so they can tolerate shade. Hostas are excellent plants, they are surprisingly drought tolerant, they are certainly shade tolerant, they come in a huge array of colours and sizes and leaf patterns and the great thing about hostas is they are very good container plants, they associate well with native plants and with ferns generally, so that nice bold leaf pattern goes really well with the finer texture of ferns. This is one that is called halycon and it’s typically very very blue. The great thing about hostas (is) very, very tough leaves. Once the leaves are expanded they don’t really need much in the way of watering, they can tolerate extended periods of drought and then summertime we have these attractive flowers and we’ve seen hummingbirds go for these flowers. Great in containers, great in the garden as well.”
“I would say with respect to novice gardeners, is just to jump in, once people start doing it, they say, hey this is not hard, why did I think it was difficult? So that’s why I’m a real booster for the Grow Green Guide.”