Scorching summer taking a toll on Playfair rhodos

Saanich Parks official says many plants in the district's parks are experiencing stress but are not endangered

A group of daily Playfair Park dog walkers from left

A group of regular visitors to Playfair Park are concerned that Saanich is letting the treasured rhododendrons die in a summer drought.

Washington state gifted the rhododendrons to Saanich in 1952 where they’ve lived ever since in Playfair Park. But the crew, who are an unofficial group of daily dog walkers, couldn’t help but notice many of the rhododendrons are looking unhealthy despite a new irrigation system.

The park boasts a ‘forest of rhodos’ along its elevated southern border, with springtime blossoms the size of dinner plates.

“We’re a group that loves this park. We meet here every day, some of us twice a day, and we are concerned about the rhodos,” said Eileen Lugossy.

It turns out Lugossy and the group are right. The rhodos are stressed, but they should also be OK.

Jan Gagnon is Saanich Parks acting manager of urban forestry, horticulture and natural areas. He explained the rhodos, and other plants at Playfair, and Saanich parks in general, often experience stress at this time of year due to the lack of precipitation and extreme heat.

“We are in the process of renovating the irrigation system, and some rhododendrons are in drought stress,” he said. “It’s the lack of precipitation, the amount of time between rainfalls that is the problem. Not that they’ll die, but they do react.”

The second stage of the irrigation renovation will happen next year. In the meantime, parks crews will focus on the plants individually.

“We actually watered some shrubs and a couple are coming back,” Gagnon said. “We’ll finish part two of the irrigation for next year. It’s a much better, more modern system.”

One of the challenges for the ornamental rhododendrons is the soil and landscape of Playfair. Rhodos prefer a richer, deeper soil base than what is found on the rocky outcrop of the park.

Currently Saanich is using a subsurface drip irrigation system and an above-grade spray irrigation system. But even some of the native plants, such as 15-foot-tall Oregon grape, with abundant clusters of fruit, are experiencing stress during the summer heat.


“These rhodos are important to us. After all, they are the ones pictured on the new homepage,” Lugossy said.



Just Posted

Federal government actions hurt Sooke hatchery fundraising efforts

Funding denial comes on the heels of fishing closures

SD62 student places third in province-wide French competition

12-year-old Sasha Zandieh won third with a speech on poet Pablo Neruda

Island athlete goes from hoop dreams to icy track

Cyrus Gray hopes to punch his ticket to Olympics in bobsleigh

Jesse Roper learns to create fire in the wild, in Sacred Knowledge web series

Ragnarock Studios production shares primitive skills with Islanders

Oak Bay researcher’s Canadian English dictionary goes to print

How an unknown American hobbyist sparked a Canadian dictionary

Police release photos of suspect in daytime sex assault at Vancouver woman’s home

A young woman, in hers 20s, was followed home by the man, before he violently attacked her inside

Raptors beat Bucks 100-94 to advance to franchise’s first-ever NBA Finals

Leonard has 27 points, 17 boards to lead Toronto past Milwaukee

Third person charged in death of B.C. teen Bhavkiran Dhesi

Inderdeep Kaur Deo facing charge of accessory after the fact to murder

Kamloops girl, 9, recovering from carbon monoxide poisoning now out of ICU

Her mother who was sleeping in the same tent with her did not survive

‘I think he’s still alive’: B.C. mom pleads for help finding son last seen a month ago

Family offering $5,000 reward for information leading to the safe return of Tim Delahaye

New poll suggests one-third don’t want politicians to wear religious symbols

Local politicians shouldn’t be allowed to wear hijabs, crucifixes or turbans on the job, survey suggests

Raptors fans far from home adjust plans to watch pivotal playoff game

Raptors currently lead the playoff series 3-2, and a win Saturday would vault them into NBA finals

PHOTOS: First responders in Fernie rescue baby owl who fell from nest

The baby owl’s inability to fly back to its nest prompted a rescue by first responders

Five takeaways from the Court of Appeal ruling on B.C.’s pipeline law

It’s unclear how many tools are left in B.C.’s toolbox to fight the project

Most Read