The garden beds that surround NIȽ TU,O ‘s buildings aren’t just beautiful; they’re brimming with native plants integral to Coast Salish culture and ecosystem.

Shown above: NIȽ TU,O staff learn about the native plants in the NIȽ TU,O gardens.

In alignment with NIȽ TU,O’s commitment to furthering Coast Salish culture and worldview throughout all areas of the organization and operations, the gardens outside NIȽ TU,O were specifically designed by a local native plant expert.

Planning NIȽ TU,O ‘s gardens took place over the course of several months, where NIȽ TU,O staff and biologist Kristen Miskelly worked to plan, seed and plant the many flower beds that surround NIȽ TU,O’s buildings and parking lot.

Various themes were chosen for each garden bed, like harvesting, food and medicine gardens, weaving gardens, and even a rain garden that mimics a mini-wetland habitat.

These native bushes, plants, trees, grasses, and flowers in NIȽ TU,O’s gardens all play an important part in maintaining the integrity of the unique ecology of the peninsula. Each plant interacts with its neighbours and together, attracts a diverse array of birds and insects that help maintain the health of the overall system.

Likewise, there is a special relationship between each locally occurring plant and its Coast Salish relatives. Many of these naturally occurring plants, like PEPKIYOS/PEPKÍOŦ (snowberries) and KEXMIN /q̕əx̣mín (wild celery) Guckmene have medicinal properties accessed through specific cultural protocols. Other plants like miner’s lettuce, SḴEX̱ (nodding onions) and coastal mugwort are edible, though mugwort can induce labour and should be treated with caution.

Shares Kristen Miskelly, the owner of Satinflower Nursery,

“Hopefully this can be a safe space for harvesting seeds going forward. Having spaces like NIȽ TU,O that are safe spaces for native seeds is critical to the success of our ecosystem going forward.”

Part of the intention of planting these gardens in this way is to help strengthen the bonds between the families and children NIȽ TU,O serves and the plant relatives that have been coexisting together since time immemorial.

As part of the programming for the children NIȽ TU,O serves, visits to Satinflower Nursery where the seeds of the native plants grow, are ongoing. In one of these outings, children participate in selecting the plants to be used in the gardens, tour the nursery, tast some edible plants, observe the interactions between birds and plants and illustrate their learnings in art projects.

Likewise, engagement between staff members and the plants is encouraged. This past May 24th, on an unseasonably chilly spring day, NIȽ TU,O staff also took a tour of Satinflower Nursery, where the plants in NIȽ TU,O ‘s garden beds started off as seeds, some as long as two years ago.

Shown above: staff visits Satinflower Nursery; which specializes in growing plants native to the Saanich Peninsula.

The staff took a tour of the garden, the seedbeds, and the wetlands adjacent to Satinflower Nursery. Next, the staff returned to NIȽ TU,O to tour the garden beds and find out what species are in each bed, what their lifecycle is like, and how they are doing since they have been planted. Then, the staff also planted KEXMIN /q̕əx̣mín (wild celery) in areas that were a bit sparse.

During this visit, it was discovered that the arbutus planted earlier had died and needed to be replaced, which was done by a willing staff member.

Shown above: A NIȽ TU,O team member holds a two-year-old arbutus tree, ready for planting.

In addition to replacing the arbutus, staff also planted gluckmene in areas that were a bit sparse.

Shown above: A staff member plants KEXMIN /q̕əx̣mín (wild celery)

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