Earth friendly gardening in the Kootenays region of British Columbia, Canada

Kootenay Gardening

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Gardening for Life

Do not travel thousands of miles to see a saved nature in Costa Rica or other similar lands. Save your own nature right where you are. Ecology starts at home. - Robert Muller

Native Plants and Mushrooms growing on my property

    There are many native plants growing on my property here in the Kootenays. I am happy to have them and encourage them to grow and spread. For me beauty lies in diversity.

    First of all, grasses. The restoration of common, humble native grasses is my foremost goal here. From my observation, those grasses are disappearing with great speed, replaced by the most desirable for conventional lawns, robust foreign varieties with creeping roots, capable to spread and multiply without setting seed. They often manage to escape, though. If not mowed, they grow to became most ugly and untidy, and they are taking over. Only most robust weeds can grow in their company. Together they create very sad and ugly unnatural "ecosystems", posing a serious threat to biodiversity, supporting pests and draining nutrients from the soil. They further contribute to the loss of native varieties through hybridization.

    This was originally the situation at my place, too. Slowly, I managed to restore more delicate native vegetation.

       My favourite grass that I managed to restore doesn't have the ability to spread by stolons or by rhizomes, it needs to bloom and set seed, otherwise it would disappear. It would not survive in a frequently mowed lawn. It looks beautiful though when allowed to mature, and the area, undisturbed by mowing, supports a very healthy insect population. I don't complain on the lack of pollinators for my garden. I allow Red Clover and other not invasive plants to grow together with the grass. I mow my grass once a year, in late summer. I mow more often only a small part of the lawn because I need clippings for mulching in my garden.

Fruiting native shrubs with edible berries

    Besides the grasses and native to this area trees like Pines and Firs I have growing here many native shrubs and perennials, some of them quite ornamental, as well as mushrooms. My native plants not only provide seeds and berries for birds and other wildlife. They also support a variety of insects, many of them beneficial, that protect my garden from pests and are a source of protein for other life forms. During the summer months most of smaller wild birds live almost entirely on insects and their larvae. They also feed their young on insect food.

Oregon Grape (Mahonia)

Utah Honeysuckle (Lonicera utahensis)

Saskatoon (Amelanchier alnifolia)

     I believe what grows on my property is a cross between Tall Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium) and Creeping Oregon-grape (Mahonia repens). Both species cross-breed easily. My plants are taller than the creeping varieties but have a creeping habit, without being invasive, though. They are evergreen, or rather I would say ever-leaved, since in fall the leaves change colour to reds and bronzes. The shrubs bloom in May. The bright yellow flowers of a size and shape of the Lily-of-the-valley grow in clusters. The fruit is small, dark purple. It ripens in August. Sometimes I use the berries to make jam. They have distinct lemony flavour, but are rather too seedy. The plants like my dry, acidic soil.

    Although I have seen a lot of Oregon Grape growing in the area, I have never seen another Utah Honeysuckle. My plant is small, about 60 cm (2 ft.) tall and looking very delicate, as if lacking something needed for more robust growth. Probably the soil here is too dry for its liking. I will put a good layer of mulch around it this year to protect the soil from drying too quickly. Hope it will help. My Utah Honeysuckle blooms in May, fruit is ripe in about two months, in July. I like the shape and colour of the berries. They are juicy and edible, but somewhat insipid. They grow in pairs, hence the common name Red Twinberry.


    Probably everybody knows this one. Yes, it is a native plant here. I have quite a few bushes of Saskatoons. They are not fussy regarding the soil and water supply and are quite happy growing in the ash-dry, sandy soil on the NW facing  slope, where they have cool feet and lots of sun at the top. They could probably do a little bit better if they had more moisture there, though. Butterflies love their flowers and birds never leave any berries for the winter. I harvest them occasionally, too. Deer has no contempt for the leaves and young shoots, either. So there is something for all of us. I like the plants the most when early in May they completely smother themselves in flowers.


    On the pictures below you see beautiful 'flowers', or 'fruits', of wild mushrooms. Mushrooms are living organisms that are neither plants, nor animals. They belong to a separate kingdom of Fungi. Most of the growth of a fungus happens underground. What is visible above the soil surface is only the fruiting part of it, whose function is to produce and disperse spores.
    Most of those 'fruits' are edible, but same are not. Many are poisonous, though only small number are deadly. I eat my mushrooms, of course, they are delicious, but only when I am absolutely sure they are good. Otherwise I feed only my eyes with the view of those interesting life forms that are becoming, in the world increasingly filled with plastic, more and more unfamiliar to many people.
    Probably Tricholoma sp. Growing in early October close to Pine trees. I wasn't going to eat them and didn't bother to find out exactly what they were.     Lactarius sanguifluus. Also growing in early fall, close to Fir trees. Absolutely delicious when fried in butter and served on a slice of my favourite sourdough bread.     Probably Agrocybe praecox growing in June on my ornamental bed, close to Juniper. Probably edible, but I wouldn't try them without first making absolutely sure what they really are.

Scented native plants

    Unlike conventional plants, that are more and more often devoid of scent, native plants (and heirlooms, too) still have this amazing ability to fill the air with a sweet aroma. Like with everything in the natural world, it is on purpose. Through its scent the plant lets know associated with it insects that the flowers are open and the time of feast has come.
    I love scented plants. Scent is as important to me as are shapes and colours of the flowers. I inhale the scents deeply and feel refreshed and rejuvenated, like after taking the best medicine in the world. For me it is a true aroma therapy.

Spreading Dogbane (Apocynum androsaemifolium)

    Dogbane is sometimes considered a weed. I have never seen any bigger infestations of the plants, though, and they are not invasive. I welcome them on my property. They like my dry, coarse soil. They grow always in the same spot without trying to spread or take over.  I love their delicate pink flowers. When in bloom, in July, they fill the air with a sweet, fresh fragrance. I inhale the scent, but, since Dogbane is poisonous, I avoid touching the plants. As it is with many poisonous plants, Dogbane is used for a  variety of medicinal purposes.

    Snowbrush is doing well on my property, too. It likes coarse soil. It also fixes its own nitrogen, so the deficiency of nitrogen in my soil doesn't bother it. It does better with a little water I try to give it from time to time. The plants are evergreen. At the end of May and early in June they develop panicles of tiny white flowers with a lovely, strong, honey-sweet scent, very attractive to beneficial insects.

Snowbrush (Ceanothus velutinus)


I will be adding more pictures later

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