Volunteers planting the Xeriscape garden outside of the Alex Fraser Research Forest Office on July 4.

Research forest opts for sustainable xeriscape garden

For years the Alex Fraser Research Forest office in Williams Lake struggled to keep their lawn green and lush.

For years the Alex Fraser Research Forest office in Williams Lake struggled to keep their lawn green and lush.

Its sloped location was terrible for a garden, proving consistently too hot and dry for a proper lawn, said Kylie Green, administration manager at the forest centre. Due to the large quantity of water and maintenance it required, Green said the forestry service started looking for something that would suit them better.

After consideration, they decided upon xeriscaping, according to Green, a style of gardening and landscaping that reduces or completely eliminates the need for regular irrigation and watering. Through a combination of design and seeding plants suited to the local climate, xeriscape gardens avoid runoff and evaporation, often on slopes just like the one outside of the office building.

Read More: Many ways to approach xeriscaping your yard

“It aligns with what we are trying to achieve in this area. We wanted something that was eco-friendly, drought resistant, FireSmart and a landscape that didn’t require much maintenance,” Green said. “The less we have to do around the building the more we can focus on our other duties.”

In addition to environmental sustainability, Green said that it has been shown interacting with plants and gardening are incredibly effective at reducing stress and was a fun way for them to give back to the community.

Using funding from UBC’s Healthy Workplace Initiatives Program (HWIP) Green and her colleagues set to work designing the garden with local partners right away. HWIP has funded over 300 similar grassroots initiatives since 2008.

Read More: UBC Alex Fraser Research Forest manager retiring after three decades

Local landscaper Sarah Fulton of Naturally Organic Land Care was hired to handle the garden’s design. She helped bring the office’s vision of a sustainable, locally sourced plants, to life.

“We wanted as many native species as possible and for what was available at the time, it’s as specific to Williams Lake environment as we could manage,” Green said.

On July 4 Green and the office held a work bee and were amazed at the enthusiasm shown by the 13 volunteers and employees that came out to help build the garden.

Within a few hours, Green said, they dug a dry creek bed, moved six cubic metres of river rock into place and fertilized the ground and planted, all on soil with the consistency of set cement, using only wheelbarrows and hand tools.

While they did need to water the garden this year to help it establish roots, Green said by its third year the garden should be completely self-sufficient relying purely on rainfall and groundwater year round.

Green said she thinks the office’s new garden will help pioneer an alternative to lawns within Williams Lake. In addition to needing less maintenance and providing a more vibrant visual treat, Green said it would be key in water conservation efforts within Williams Lake.

The City’s water consumption increases two-fold in the summertime, according to the Cariboo-Chilcotin Conservation Society, and much of this extra use can be directly attributed to watering lawns.

“We just wanted to do our bit to reduce that, because this lawn we had we were trying to keep it alive and green and it was a feat,” Green said, “We thought we’d do this garden instead and show people that you don’t have to have this green grass, this lawn in front of your home.”

The reaction from the community thus far has been very positive, Green said, with many of their neighbours coming by and asking questions about it.

She hopes that should the garden become self-sufficient as planned, more people within the community will adopt a similar landscaping philosophy.


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