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
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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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
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
Seeded and sodded lawns……………....…………….
Perennials, ground covers and vegetable gardens…12"
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.