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Zones and What They Mean

You will notice that many of the plants listed in the database have hardiness zone ratings. A short explanation will help you interpret their meanings. British Columbia has zones ranging from one to nine, one being the harshest climates such as Puntzi mountain while zone 9 climates can be found around Vancouver island. As the map indicates most of the Quesnel, Williams Lake and Prince George regions fall into the zone 3 and 4 range. There are exceptions to this, for example areas of higher altitude with exposed locations such as Milburn Lake will most likely be a zone 2 while protected areas along the river basins may be a zone 5. Several micro climates may exist on one property. South and west slopes are not ideal for fruit trees as early budding is a common problem. Plants on these site may need a late fall or early spring mulch to hold them back a little, also low spots are often frost pockets that may reduce your growing season by a month or more. Typically lower growing plants will survive in climates harsher than their own climate ratings provided they are provided with a fall mulch or adequate snow cover.

The thing to consider when choosing plants is the risk factor you are willing to take, many new plants have been introduced and proven in the Cariboo by gardeners that are risk takers and enjoy a challenge. If your not so brave check with our staff on the suitability of your plant selections.

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"A stitch in time saves nine"

We’ve all heard the expression and nobody appreciates it more than a gardener who has spent time re-doing a planting. Always pay close attention to the eventual height and spread of plants when selecting the area you want to plant your shrubs. Although they look quite small now, most of them will grow quite quickly and are often placed too close together or in the wrong spot (in front of low windows) and eventually have to be removed. If a planting looks sparse fill in with annuals until the shrubs start to fill out, usually in the second year.

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Landscaping Tips

As with all construction projects, start with a well thought out plan. Plot your property, special features and elevations, and plan, plan, plan! Spending 5% of your budget on design may save you many times that amount in the end.

Houses in the Cariboo seem to be built lower than they should be. Very seldom is enough allowance given for the minimum desired slope of 2% for lawn and shrub areas to facilitate run off. When building or designing drainage allow for additional topsoil and mulches, as suggested later.

The Cariboo has various soil conditions, many of which are not conducive to healthy plant growth. Our clay soils tend to drain poorly and warm up slowly in the spring. Many sites are stripped of any soil that had life, leaving the homeowners with "Cariboo gum" that is very difficult to work with.

The best solution for tough soil conditions is to add the recommended depth of prepared topsoil over a scarified base or to work copious amounts of organic material, such as peat soil or manure, into the existing soil. In heavy soil I find the best results are obtained when one creates raised mounds and grouped plantings. Add six inches of organic matter, with fertilizer, to your base. Then, dig this in to a depth of two feet, with a backhoe; plants will thrive. On the other hand, when you dig a hole in hard clay and fill it with wonderful potting mix you have just created a container, often without a drainage hole; your tree or shrub doesn’t stand a chance.

Proper soil preparation is the key to a successful planting project. A good garden soil usually consists of a mix of sandy soil and peat soil. For lawns, use about 75% sandy soil, for shrubs, 50% of each is a good mix. 50% of each is a good mix. You will need to add a good, all-purpose fertilizer, as local soils are very low in nutrients. Recommended depth of soil varies according to use. For ideal plant growth follow these guidelines:

    1. Seeded and sodded lawns……………....……………. 6"

    2. Perennials, ground covers and vegetable gardens…12"

    3. Shrub plantings……………………………….......…….18"

    4. Mulch planting beds with 3" of bark mulch, leaf mold or compost.

Creating large, mounded areas will make soil preparation easier, will produce a more effective, visually pleasing planting and will be easier to maintain. Instead of planting two or three shrubs in your lawn area, why not try three trees planted in a raised bed with an under planting of shrubs and ground covers? Plant in groups and repeat. Avoid over use of specimen and oddly coloured plants; what is most pleasing to our eyes is what Nature has provided, mostly a monochrome of green with contrasts in colour and texture.

While I have started with plants and soil, because that is what a nursery is preoccupied with, most landscapes also have hard materials, such as paving and patios. Much of our contracting work involves hard landscaping so I have also included some pointers on this.

Just as clay is bad for plants, it is also a disaster under pavement, concrete and paving stones. For paved driveways you should have at least 12" of good, granular sub-base. If you encounter spongy areas dig deeper and use a good geo-textile to separate the clay from the gravel. This material also stabilizes the base.

If pouring concrete, lay out control joints in a square pattern and use lots of re-bar to prevent excessive cracking or uneven joints. Paving stones offer a very durable finish and extra flexibility. If the ground heaves, little damage is done and they settle back into place in the spring. A good sub-base is the key to a successful paving project and is generally a good part of the work and expense.

Most of you are familiar with sectional block retaining walls. The most critical factors are base, backfill and drainage when constructing these walls. In theory, you should be able to remove the blocks and, apart from minor surface erosion, the bank would stay. The blocks offer no structural support. The combination of a sloped front and compacted gravel behind the wall are what make them a fully functional and safe system. Walls up to four feet in height, with no upper surcharges are fairly simple to construct and do not require a concrete foundation. For walls higher than this, on sloped ground or with special soil conditions, engineering is required.

Provide for irrigation, lighting, etc, by placing conduits under hard surfaced areas. Cap and mark these conduits for future use. Irrigation can be installed any time, but the easiest is just after soil preparation. Again, a proper design, with adequate sprinklers and zones, gives better value.

I hope you find this advise useful and that these brief pointers will help to ensure a successful landscaping project. If you require further help please feel free to call me, or any of our staff, for help with your design, plant selection or landscaping price quotes.

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Fruit Trees

Fruit trees are not just for warmer climates, such as the Okanagan, Richbar Nursery carries many different varieties of Cariboo hardy fruit trees. As well as carrying apples, cherries and plums we also stock items for the more adventurous, such as apricots, pears and walnuts. Some varieties of fruit trees are better suited to the Cariboo’s climate than others. Most apple trees that we carry will grow successfully in the coldest areas of the Cariboo. For help making the best selection for you, come see the informed staff at Richbar Nursery, because what could be nicer than having fresh fruit right outside your back door?

The preferred location is on an east or north facing gentle slope. This will provide good drainage; no frost pockets. South and west slopes should be avoided but if this is not possible a mulch of sawdust or straw should be placed on the snow, around the base, in early spring. This keeps the frost in the ground longer and prevents early bud break. Most varieties need to be cross-pollinated to bear fruit. Two or more different varieties should be planted for best results. All apples require cross-pollination.

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