British Columbia: Seeking recommendations for Osoyoos Arid Biotic Zone desert landscaping

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by bandgit, Mar 18, 2011.

  1. bandgit

    bandgit Member

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    Hello all!

    My location is close to Osoyoos and Oliver BC, so I'm right in the middle of the Osoyoos Arid Biotic Zone which I understand is 7a but is sometimes listed as 6b. Precipitation is barely a foot a year here and the climate is very close to Flagstaff AZ, so I want to landscape my entire property in a "northern Arizona" style. I lived in the California desert for 20 years so I love cactus and desert grasses. I'd appreciate recommendations as to what would be the best plants to use to create a complete northern AZ - NM style of landscape.

    I've been doing some research on the climate and I've found a near perfect match (for growing conditions... min temp + precip) with Holbrook, AZ!

    Thanks in advance! :)
     

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  2. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    One difference that's conspicuous between the two, your much lower winter daytime high temperatures compared to Holbrook. A -6 typical January night at Holbrook rises to +11 in the sun the next day, but you stay around freezing. This may not matter for some plants, but it is important for others; many desert plants (including cacti) are well able to tolerate severe night cold, provided it is short-lived with a respite thaw each day. They won't always get this in Osoyoos. A related factor is that the lower daytime temperatures in winter combined with higher winter precipitation will keep the soil in Osoyoos moister than in Arizona, so root rot problems are likely to be worse.

    A look around Holbrook on google earth / panoramio shows the local vegetation to be sagebrush steppe and grass, no cacti visible.
     
  3. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    A pretty good match -- one significant difference, though (and others will be able to speak to it more intelligently as to what it may limit) is the average high temperature is significantly different, so this would affect degree-days.

    ....and I see Michael has already addressed it more intelligently!

    That said, you'll certainly be able to approach what you're looking for.

    Go visit the Sunrise Cactus Gardens in Keremeos for some local-to-you expert advice. I note on that page that they mention "NOTICE: Our cactus collection of indoor and outdoor cacti is for sale." but I have no idea of how out-of-date that might be.
     
  4. bandgit

    bandgit Member

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    Thank you for your replies, gentlemen. Much appreciated.

    The high Holbrook temperatures in the daytime will certainly help to warm up and dry out the various plants, so that is a consideration to be taken seriously. I have been all through Arizona on several occasions and although the Holbrook area is hardly Tucson with its towering saguaros, there are some naturally occuring low-slung succulents.

    I had dabbled with the possibility of setting up all the cacti and the other more sensitive plants in a particular section of the garden near the house and run an in-soil series of copper tubes running warm to hot water. This would be thermostatically controlled so that as the temperatures approached 0C, the water would serve to warm up the soil and hopefully that heat would radiate upwards to a point where it could warm the actual plant body above grade. Do you think that could be an effective way to keep these precious plants alive through the handful of arctic outflow days we experience in these parts?

    I've checked the Sunrise Cactus Gardens site and unfortunately their Catalogue link is dead, but I've emailed the webmaster for more information. I would love to find out more about how they are able to keep their cacti healthy, and look forward to visiting them.

    Thanks again for your assistance! :)
     
  5. elgordo

    elgordo Active Member

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    There's the native Opuntia fragilis that seems to be ubiquitous in that region. I dug some up when I was passing through Spences Bridge. The farmer who gave them to me told me they were a real nuisance, though, as they are prolific growers with wicked spines; but he and others told me the flowers in the spring are gorgeous.
     
  6. bandgit

    bandgit Member

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    Yes, now that you mention it I have a friend who lived in Ashcroft and his yard was literally wall to wall with it. I'd forgotten all about that! Since we are more "desert-y" here that should do fine here! Thanks for the info!
     
  7. elgordo

    elgordo Active Member

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    And there are may other varieties of cacti that are well-suited for your climate, including other Opuntia species. The main obstacle in growing cacti is the damp, so here on the South Coast we can only grow them in rock gardens and overhangs. Also, you might want to look into growing Agave parryi - I hear they are hardy to zone 6.
     
  8. bandgit

    bandgit Member

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    Great ideas. Thanks for the tips. Here we get less than a foot of precip all year 'round which is a good weekend in White Rock. And I've been checking around and it seems that the exact area that I'm in is a microclimate of 7a, so I'm sure that they'll all do fine. I really want to set up the south facing, fully sheltered cactus garden with the underground hot water pipes and I'm just hoping and praying that it's going to radiate enough heat upwards that when we do get our occasional -10C blast, everything will survive. Can you imagine if I could grow a saguaro? (I'm not really expecting to but just the thought is amazing!)
     
  9. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    The Opuntia at Ashcroft and Spence's Bridge is not "pure" Opuntia fragilis -- seems to be some sort of messy hybrid.

    Opuntia fragilis in the stricter sense can be found near Osoyoos -- but the two locations I know for seeing it would be no-collect zones (an ecological reserve and First Nations reserve). However, I can't imagine it would be difficult to locate some growing in a cut bank (ditch) with a southern or western exposure along some of the roads, higher up toward the hills, and collect a pad or two.
     
  10. elgordo

    elgordo Active Member

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    Bandgit, you won't need any kind of heating system if you select the right kind of succulents, ones that will really give that Southwestern Desert look. Daniel, do you think the variety I have is a messy breed? Will it cause me trouble?
     
  11. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Messy only in the sense that there isn't a lot of clarity as to what is going on with those genetically (though I know a few people are trying to figure it out).

    This is a great article on the subject.
     
  12. elgordo

    elgordo Active Member

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    Thanks, Daniel! That's really cool.
     
  13. bandgit

    bandgit Member

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    Thank you for your information! I was just in Oliver in a relatively new subdivision where 90% of the houses have xeroscaped yards. Several of the front yards have planted cactus that seems to be doing fine. Here are the photos:

    I've also shown a diagram of the "suggested plan" for the house.

    elgordo: Do you think that sheltering in this way might be sufficient for a few less hardy breeds? With or without in-soil heating?

    Daniel: That article was very educational! Thanks for the advice on finding cactus. I'll definitely keep my eyes peeled when I'm out and about. My wife might think I'm nuts if I suddenly pull over and go jump in a ditch, but for cacti it's more than worth it!
     

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  14. elgordo

    elgordo Active Member

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    It would seem that some species of cacti/succulents that are bordeline would have a better chance of survival if their feet are kept dry; but in your case, I wouldn't imagine you would need to plant any borderline plants due to the abundance of choice for your climate. There are many cacti that are sufficiently cold-hardy for your climate; here, the temps would be sufficiently mild, but the wet would destroy them, hence the underhang planting.
    I have an Agave americana growing under the eves along with an Opuntia engelmannii, and both breezed through the winter, which suggests that dryness aided in their survival. When it got really cold in November, I passed a rope of X-mas lights (not the energy efficient ones) alongside them, and I think that helped too. So it's a lot of trial and effort.
    That article that Daniel linked is full of good ideas for hardy cacti for you.
     
  15. elgordo

    elgordo Active Member

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    As for your wife thinking you're crazy, mine did too when I asked a farmer at a fruit stand if he had any cacti on his property! As matter of fact, he himself thought I was a little crazy. But he said some folks like to burn off the spines and eat them like a vegetable.
    Those are some beauties you posted; what is the tall skinny variety?
     
  16. bandgit

    bandgit Member

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    Xmas lights! What a great idea to ward off the chill! I've had lots of nopales and if you prepare them properly to get rid of that okra-like sliminess, they're actually quite good. As for those cacti, I have nooooooooooooo idea what they are. The closest nursery to Oliver is Sagebrush, and I'm still waiting for a reply on my email to the Keremeos Cactus place, so I'm definitely getting an education and I'll be able to track down where those people got those cacti! :)
     
  17. elgordo

    elgordo Active Member

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    As soon as you know, let us know! They look interesting. Yes, the lights work wonders. They even helped my Washingtonia robusta (the least hardy one) overwinter, albeit with some damage.
     

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