Drought Tolerant Design: increasingly relevant to our Comox Valley


Perovskia, Russian Sage – a tough as nails long blooming perennial

Growing up on Vancouver Island my winters as a child were interminable – months of drizzly grey cold incessant rain, punctuated every so often with very vivid memories of heaping piles of white snow. Rain gear dominated our fashion items at school (my gumboots really were prettier) and I had seemingly endless mornings of trudging to school alongside turbid ditches swollen with rainwater. Later on it was standing in the rain, waiting for buses to take me to college and wondering why it was STILL raining. Hadn’t it always been raining? Perpetually?

Our reality is changing folks, and changing fast. A few local fun facts to illustrate:

  • The Comox Lake is at a shocking low level – February recorded the lowest water intake in 50 years, and the lake is 1.5 METERS below average.
  • Salal is looking terrible. In April! That quintessential vivid glossy green leaf that is the under-story of our sky-piercing forests, is withered and brown.
  • I’m pretty sure our Comox Glacier was a lot bigger 30 years ago.
  • Western Red Cedars (Thuja plicata) look as though they are slowly rusting away, turning cinnamon brown, and dying, from years of summer drought
  •  Apparently we are going into Stage 4 Water Restrictions for the entire CVRD for April 12-22, due to a water line leak. This is going to directly impact projects that I am involved with, as planting will need to wait until after this is lifted. My question is why aren’t we in serious restrictions already!?

Euphorbia ‘Ruby Glow’ – a spurge with many colourful cousins

I’ve always assumed that even if our summers (and maybe autumns) were dry, we would have plenty of water in winter and spring to see us through, if only we could store it in the landscape in the many ways that are available to us. If we are smart and creative, we can manage. But with the changing climate comes instability and unpredictable weather patterns, and this winter we’ve seen our share of it. I’ve never heard the term ‘Winter Drought’ applied to our island before, but this year it has been a buzz word.

Drought tolerant landscaping is one way of creating resilient gardens that can adapt to our ever more ‘mediterranean’ type climate and decrease the impact on local water resources. One of the challenges that we face here in the Comox Valley is that we often  DO have wet winters and many of the desert plants often used in Xeriscaping (landscaping using plants with extremely low water requirements) will rot over a wet winter.


I’m passionate about improving our outdoor living spaces, and equally invested in reducing the water requirements of the landscaping industry.

If you are interested in having a drought tolerant oasis in your outdoor space, contact me to set up a meeting, and we will design our way to resilience, one drop saved at a time.


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