Phoenix Perennials and Specialty Plants

From the Vancouver Sun: February 2006

Top of the class
This year's Sun Gardeners' School hits new heights with a top-notch array of speakers

by Steve Whysall, Vancouver Sun
Published: Friday, February 17, 2006

We have an exceptional line up of speakers -- the best program ever, in my opinion -- planned for you at this year's Vancouver Sun Gardeners' School, which gets under way next week at the B.C. Home and Garden Show.

Every year (and this will be the fifth year we've done this) we try to put together a lecture series that covers as broad a range of gardening topics as possible to keep you informed about all the latest trends, gardening ideas and techniques.

But the five-day program this time will have a distinctly international flavour with speakers like Giles Clotworthy and Christine North coming from England and Ciscoe Morris and Steve Hootman coming from the U.S.

Yes, I know, you've never heard of them. Well, Ciscoe, perhaps, who is one of Seattle's most popular gardening celebrities. But they all have something very special to offer.

Giles Clotworthy, for example, worked for Britain's National Trust for 30 years, and will tell us all about the spectacular gardens of Cornwall.

Having visited the gardens of Trebah, Trelissick, Eden and the Lost Gardens of Heligan, I know his lecture will be full of stunning images and outstanding planting ideas.

Christine North is a gifted garden designer with more than 30 years experience in horticulture. She won a silver medal at the Hampton Court Flower Show for her design work and is a specialist in topiary and pruning.

She has also worked on the planting and maintenance of large herbaceous borders at various estate gardens in the U.K. and Jersey.

Ciscoe Morris is a whirlwind personality with more energy than a fairground. If you've ever seen him on KING5 TV in Seattle you'll know what I am talking about. What a phenomenal dynamo he is. And with such great gardening knowledge.

He will be giving two talks -- Spectacular Plants, and Art in the Garden. Both will be as entertaining as they are informative.

Steve Hootman is something of a rarity in the world of horticulture today. He is one of a new breed of plant hunters, following in the footsteps of the intrepid greats from the past such as George Forrest, Ernest Wilson, Kingdom Ward, and Joseph Hooker.

As the co-director and curator of the Rhododendron Species Botanical Garden in Washington, he has taken part in numerous expeditions to remote regions of Asia in search of new and rare rhododendrons and other plants.

As well as being on the cutting edge of new plant discovery, he is also one of the world top experts on plants in the Ericaceae family, which comprises more than 3,500 species including many garden favourites such as heather, pieris and rhododendron. His slides will take you into areas of China you have never seen before as well as showing you images of plants growing in their natural habitat.

Along with these guest speakers from abroad, we also have some very engaging local garden experts such as Gary Lewis, owner of Phoenix Perennials in Richmond, Richard White, of Hazelwood Herb Farm on Vancouver Island, and Peter Isaacson, pest management expert with Canadian Nursery Landscape Association.

Lewis has been wowing members of garden clubs in B.C. for the last few years with his information-packed lectures. He has a knack for communicating his passion for plants and sharing his extensive knowledge without talking down to his audience. A talent.

Since opening his nursery in 2004, he has expanded it to offer one of the largest and choicest selections of perennials in the Lower Mainland. His talk is entitled: Weird and Wonderful Plants of the World: Botanically Intriguing Options for Your Garden.

Richard White, who with his wife Jacynthe Dugas, owns Hazelwood Herb Farm in Ladysmith on Vancouver Island, knows more about growing herbs and how to make the best use of them than anyone I know.

He also happens to be a very clear speaker with excellent knowledge, all of which has been gained from actually growing herbs in his own garden and experimenting with them for cooking and making medicinal remedies.

At the nursery, he grows about 450 varieties of herbs, many of which are harvested and used by restaurants in Nanaimo. If herbs are your passion, Richard can help you have more success in the garden.

Peter Isaacson will only be speaking once at the school, but his message is an important and timely one -- all about how to deal with the European chafer beetle, which is causing so many lawns in the Lower Mainland to be damaged by crows and raccoons. Isaacson is an expert on the subject who wants to dispel some myths while offering some practical tips on how to do battle with the beetle in an environmentally friendly way.

Two other speakers at the Gardeners' School are both familiar local personalities: Brian Minter, who really needs no introduction as one of B.C.'s most knowledgeable experts as well as a writer and broadcaster, who always has his finger on the pulse of trends and planting ideas; and John Schroeder, who, as owner of Heritage Perennials, has travelled worldwide looking for new plants and always offers many helpful insights into what's new and exciting in the world of plants.

My contribution will be to show images of gardens that have inspired me -- gardens in England and Italy as well as here in B.C.

I will also be talking about plants and design ideas that can easily be used to turn an ordinary backyard into a delightful garden retreat.

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