Native plants free until Monday 

Spring into indigenous, eco-friendly gardening with castoffs

It’s time to let that desire for an indigenous garden take root.

Monday marks the last day a wide variety of plants native to Whistler, including trees and shrubs, will be available to the public. Best of all, the flora is free and plentiful.

"We’ve had a few people go down there, but there are still a lot of plants," says Heather Beresford, stewardship supervisor with the RMOW.

The plants, including Sitka spruce and willow trees, as well as hardhack – a pink flowering shrub – and native roses, are being replaced with vegetation more suitable to the wetland being built across from the Montebello development on Blackcomb Way.

Situated in a coastal rainforest, Whistler offers a wide array of naturally occurring perennials, ground covers, shrubs and trees. By employing local flora, gardeners can improve the habitat options for local animal, bird and insect species. The plants generally do well when domestically cultivated, as they are familiar with the climate and soil conditions. Because of this, they tend to have fewer problems with pests. Native plants also require less watering in the summer as they’re acclimatized to the region’s wet winters and dry summers.

In fact, indigenous gardening first took root in South Africa, where scarce water resources forced plant lovers to look at alternatives to traditional ornamental gardening.

While far from widespread in B.C., the interest in indigenous gardening has grown to a point that naturally occurring plant life is now being cultivated. And the B.C. Landcape and Nursery Association has formed a Native Plant Committee to foster the growth.

Committee co-chair Bruce Peel, is also the owner of one the province’s handful of nurseries specializing in native plants. The Mission-based horticulturist estimates that there are now upwards of 300 native plants being cultivated.

"Over the last 14 or 15 years business has grown steadily," says Peel. "We’re seeing about 10 per cent growth a year."

Peel’s Nurseries is primarily a wholesale operation supplying contractors, landscape architects and municipalities.

"A lot of our plants go to supply stream corridors and parks," says Peel.

While he characterizes the retail sector as weak, he considers it an evolving market. He attributes the sluggishness to people not realizing how they can use indigenous plants. This ignorance extends to many consultants and landscape architects who tend not to think of incorporating local plants when considering design.

Peel sees the greatest potential for the native species is in transitional zones, the area between a natural environment, such as a forest, and an ornamental garden.

That said, he cites the Vancouver Airport’s Chester Johnson Park, an eight-year-old garden featuring almost 90 per cent native pants, as being a stellar example of what can be achieved.

But he cautions that indigenous gardens should not be equated to maintenance free gardens.

"I think there’s a tendency to let indigenous gardens become overgrown," says Peel. "But the ones that are taken care of look good."

Peel suggests that people interested in learning more about indigenous gardening contact Naturescape B.. ( ) or the Native Plant Society of B.C. (

People wishing to relocate the RMOW plants are asked to use only hand tools to remove the plants located in a marked area along the eastside of Blackcomb Way. The plants will be available until the end of the day, Monday, Aug. 23.

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