Todd Carnahan delicately pulls a weed from underneath a hanging mass of ribes sanguineum, colloquially known as a red-flowering currant.
Above him, a mahonia aquifolium (tall Oregon grape) shades his back from the light spring sun.
“When you’re using native plants, the birds and butterflies know which species they prefer,” says Carnahan, land care co-ordinator with Habitat Acquisition Trust. “You don’t even need a bird feeder, the plants will attract the right pollinators.”
Now in its third year, the Victoria Native Plant Garden Tour brings together a network of garden owners and professional native plant experts at 10 public and private gardens. On May 4, horticultural enthusiasts will lead tours around Haliburton Farm in Saanich, Fort Rodd Hill in Colwood and Uplands Park in Oak Bay, to name a few.
“This is quite a unique region in Canada, it’s got the Garry oak ecosystem here, which is found nowhere else in Canada, it’s a northern Mediterranean climate,” Carnahan said.
Carnahan will host a tour at his own Queens Street garden this year to show off the diverse ways of utilizing backyard space. Camas, an onion-like edible bulb, grows under a hedge of edible berry bushes. Carnahan’s efforts working 300 wheelbarrows of mulch and a dumpster’s worth of cardboard into the soil has paid off.
“Gardening with native plants is actually a really smart way to go, because these plants evolved in this ecosystem,” he said. “So you’re not using pesticides, they don’t require any special treatments. You can get a beautiful floral display throughout the year if you use the right plants.”
Tour attendees are encouraged to ask for specific information on plant choices, restoration techniques and gardening tips. Habitat Acquisition Trust also offers consultation for homeowners interested in native species conservation and gardening.
Call Carnahan at 250-995-2428 for more information, or visit hat.bc.ca for a downloadable garden tour map.