Thursday, April 7, 2016

April in Summerland, BC

Arrowleaf balsamroot and Saskatoon berries (white shrubs) in bloom, April 7, 2016
The appearance of April-blooming wildflowers is a sure sign of spring in the Okanagan.  The sunflower-like blooms of the arrowleaf balsamroot are appearing everywhere in wild areas, among the grass, sagebrush and ponderosa pine.  They were of great value to native peoples of the area, who used nearly every part of the plant.  They bloom at the same time as the Saskatoon berry shrubs, providing a short but beautiful show this time of year.

I purchased a dozen of the arrowleaf balsamroot plants at a native plant nursery in Oliver recently.  I had been meaning to get to Sagebrush nursery for the last 2 years, and finally got myself there after an impulse to drive somewhere on a sunny morning.  If you had any ideas about transplanting these from the wild, just abandon that thought.  Like many dryland plants, these have very long taproots and therefore don't transplant well (and there's also the disturbance that digging in wild areas will cause).  Mine were fairly small plants and as such, seem to be doing well after being planted in my yard.  They are the ultimate in drought-tolerant plants and will not being needing additional water once established.  They dry up to little crisps in the summer, so I think that planting other things around them will be a good idea, much like disguising the dying foliage of spring bulbs with other perennials.  We have predominantly sandy soil, which this plant likes.  Also, I am planting them on slopes, which seems to be consistent with where they like to be in the wild. 

Did you know the arrowleaf balsamroot is not destroyed by fire, and may actually increase due to fire?  The top part of the plant is burned, but the deep taproot (up to 8 feet) survives unscathed to grow again the next year. 

Looking north from Sumac Ridge, Summerland     

We have had nice sunny and warm weather here in Summerland so far this April, excellent for all the tourists we see cruising by (we see those cameras).  For all the prairie people, you should know people have been golfing here for a couple of months already!  The grass is green and lovely.  

While they may be hated as pests by the fruit-growers, we like to watch the yellow-bellied marmots hanging out on their stack of old logs.  Otherwise, they are often seen sunning themselves on the top of concrete barriers at the sides of highways.

Poles going in for new apple orchard
Back on our property, we ripped out a couple acres of old red delicious apple trees (economically worthless variety) and are replacing them with a high-density Ambrosia apple orchard.  The trees are not quite all planted yet.  This is a LOT of work and we will be very happy to see all the trees settled in with their watering system soon.  In the meanwhile, our new puppy dog is miserably residing in a large pen during the day (rather than roaming the property), away from all the heavy equipment.  He too will be happy to see the end of the re-plant. 

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