Euphorbia dulcis Phoenix Perennials and Specialty Plants

From the E-Newsletter: July 2006

Phoenix Perennials Sponsors Prizes
for the The Vancouver Up Front Garden Contest

This year Phoenix sponsored the prizes for the Up Front Garden Contest in Vancouver. The first prize winners received a $500 gift certificate, the second prize winners a $300 gift certificate and the third prize winners a $200 gift certificate. The prizes were awarded in front of the winning garden.

Left to Right: The first prize winners, Douglas and Fernando, with Phoenix Owner Gary Lewis presenting them with their gift certificate.

Three pictures of Douglas and Fernando's Garden.

Here is Steve Whysall's article on the contest:

They're the tops: Strathcona garden captures the natural world's beauty and gets top marks in the Up Front contest
Steve Whysall, Vancouver Sun
Published: Friday, June 16, 2006

It is a romantic garden with a charming heritage house at its centre in one of Vancouver's oldest character neighbourhoods.

It is also a garden that catches the attention of children on their way to and from school and thereby serves as a gentle reminder of the beauty of the natural world.

The little corner-lot garden belonging to Fernando Rato and Douglas Cave at 602 Keefer St. in Strathcona is now the winner of this year's Up Front Garden Contest, which is organized by the Vancouver Garden Club and sponsored by the Vancouver park board to encourage neighbourhood beautification.

Each spring, members of the garden club scour the city's 22 neighbourhoods in search of outstanding front gardens -- ones that not only make the neighbourhood a more pleasant place to live but also inspire others to make their own front yards more appealing.

The Strathcona garden was judged to be the best of a shortlist of eight finalists selected from a total of 65 gardens all over Vancouver.

"We are thrilled to have won," said Rato. "We inherited the garden when we bought the house a year ago. It was a little overwhelming to look after it at first, but since January I have been working hard to maintain it."

Contest judges this year were Paul Sangha, Vancouver landscape architect; Marjanne Vrijmoed, co-owner of Free Spirit Nursery in Langley; and me.

Each of the garden finalists were scored out of 100 points in three key criteria: 40 points for appearance (general cleanliness and neatness); 35 points for design (creativity in design and layout of plant material including attention to colour, variety of species, and their relationship to buildings and other landscape elements); and 25 points for impact (how the property contributes to beautification of the neighbourhood as viewed from the street).

Sangha and Vrijmoed gave the Strathcona garden full marks -- 100 out of 100. I was less enthusiastic, partly from having seen it before and also because I spotted a dead tree in the front yard.

But we all agreed that the garden is certainly a treasure in its neighbourhood and worthy of the No. 1 spot.

Last year, it was a runner-up in the competition, but this year it was the best of the bunch.

Sangha thought it was "magical," with a clever layering of plants and excellent use of colour.

"I like its playfulness. It is a garden to enjoy and experiment with and have fun in, rather than a garden that has been developed by stringently following rules," he said.

He was also impressed that the garden helped revitalize a part of town where the possibility of vandalism and theft sometimes discourages people from doing something similar.

"It is wonderful to see this generous commitment of time and energy to beautifying the neighbourhood," said Sangha.

Vrijmoed thought the garden was "charming" and "a garden to fall in love with" and was particularly enthusiastic that children from the nearby elementary school could walk by it every day and have the opportunity to notice the diversity of plant material, from giant leaves of gunnera to the diminutive perennials.

I liked the striking combination of red clematis and bright blue ceanothus as they tumbled together over a blue-green picket fence with a single white foxglove in front.

I also liked the foliage textures of a corkscrew willow, evergreen magnolia, windmill palm and silk tree as well as the generous placement of a fig tree next to the sidewalk so the seductively sweet fruit can also be picked by passersby.

All of us liked the way the garden connected with the 1908 heritage house, especially how the blue and yellow colours of the house blended with the planting scheme to create a sense of harmony.

"No one would ever consider stealing a plant because the garden is so charming," said Vrijmoed.

The second- and third-place winners in the contest were gardens at 3118 Alberta St. and 311 East 11th Ave. respectively.

Each garden impressed the judges as being neighbourhood-friendly and having a unique personality.

The Alberta Street garden in front of a 1912 heritage Arts and Crafts house uses clipped boxwood, yew hedging and containers of lavender to hint at formality while softening the overall look with a relaxed planting of perennials, ornamental grasses, and foliage trees.

Sangha said the garden had "restrained elegance." He was especially impressed by the planting of lavender, hardy geraniums, foxgloves and roses in the lane at the side of the house where you also get peek-a-boo views of the vegetable garden.

Vrijmoed thought the garden was a good example of what a typical Vancouver easy-maintenance garden should look like.

"It is the most suitable kind of garden for this neighbourhood, so it is a very good example for other homeowners," she said.

The garden at 11th Avenue in East Vancouver was also a finalist in last year's competition. Judges again were impressed by a dense planting of conifers and evergreen shrubs around a meandering path of boulders, which is frequently used by schoolchildren as a fun obstacle course.

Sangha and Vrijmoed thought the garden had a "Germanic" or "Bavarian" look because of the extensive use of rock and clipped conifers.

But we all were impressed by the boldness and clear definition of the curving border, the attention to detail in every aspect of the planting scheme, and the way the garden extends a friendly invitation to the entire neighbourhood.

For a complete list of Up Front contest winners in the each of Vancouver's 22 neighbourhoods, visit the park board's website at

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