Phoenix Perennials and Specialty Plants


The Phoenix Perennials E-Newsletter
August 2007

Hello from Phoenix Perennials!

I hope everyone is having a relaxing summer and not dwelling too much on the weather. Certainly most garden plants have been enjoying the ample moisture, even if we haven't!

In this issue I include an article of Steve Whysall's from late July about sprucing up the tired garden in high summer. If you read to the end you'll find some of the suggestions I offered to Steve and the picture that appeared with the article -- I won't be on Canada's Next Top Model any time soon! There is also information about our two upcoming fall workshops, our regular installment of Fabulous at Phoenix and an announcement of some select items currently on sale at the nursery.

Cheers, Gary and the Phoenicians

PS. Get ready for bulbs arriving in early September. And remember that fall is just as good a planting time, if not better, than spring. So if you're thinking about tweaking your beds or putting in a new one you might want to start planning. Fun!

Tulipa 'Little Beauty'

In this Issue

1. Summer's Second Wind: Keeping things fresh deep into summer by Steve Whysall
2. Selected Plants on Sale through August
3. Two Fall Workshops
4. Fabulous at Phoenix


Summer's Second Wind
Keeping things fresh deep into summer

by Steve Whysall, Vancouver Sun
Published: Saturday, July 28, 2007

Burnout, even after a few days of rain. It's what can happen to gardens at the end of July. Lobelia burns out. Diascia burns out. Roses need deadheading. Astilbes are faded. Many perennials are past best.

There is still much to admire and dote on in the garden, but it is also true that this is the time when gardens need to find their second wind -- a lift to carry them through the latter (and most overheated) part of summer -- August.

The aim is to revive the garden with some boosts of selective planting to bring it beautifully through to the final hurrah of blooming in September.

The first and most basic job is to give everything a good trimming. The exuberance and excessive flamboyance of June and July can be overwhelming, a little over the top for some people. "There are just too many flowers" is how one person once expressed it to me.

Hardy geraniums have gone wild with enthusiasm and could benefit from a haircut. Roses left unattended look like a dishevelled debutante back from a wild night on the town.
Faded blooms need a firm hand, a willingness to snip and snap their stems to achieve a much cleaner presentation.

You'd be amazed at how good things can look after a simple tidy round -- think of how good an unkempt, overgrown lawn looks after a crisp clipping.

The other key to second-wind gardening is to plug gaps in beds and borders with new, zesty plant material.

Instant gratification is the order of the day. Nobody has time to wait weeks and weeks for juvenile plants in four-inch pots to mature and expand.

The need at this stage of the game is for instant fillers -- plants that take the place of a faded bloomer and look fantastic immediately.

Ed Leong, of Leong's Nursery in Burnaby, is well aware of the need for second-wave replacement plants.

He has just produced his seventh crop of vivid blue-flowering Lobelia 'Crystal Palace', grown specifically as rejuvenation material for the midsummer market.

"Lobelia is one of the first bedding plants to burn out," he says. "It matures early, blooms beautiful but always tends to burn out by August. This happens in borders as well as in hanging baskets and planter boxes."

Leong has also produced a whole new crop of pelargoniums (more commonly known as geraniums) to be used as replacement and filler plants in tired-looking window boxes, planters and flower borders.

"All sorts of gaps start to appear in the garden at this time of year. The answer is to fill them with mature plants that give you a finished look straight away," he says.

Dahlias, especially the dark foliage kinds, are very popular filler-plants along with coleus, which are available in a wide range of foliage colours from burgundy to orange, red to purple-green.
Spider plants (Cleome hassleriana) are also standing in the wings waiting to be plonked directly into flagging herbaceous borders.

Leong is most excited, however, about his crop of everbearing strawberries -- 'Pretty in Pink', 'Berries Galore' and 'Berry Basket' -- in 10-inch hanging pots.
These plants will deliver loads of fat, juicy strawberries all through August and up to the first frost.

For less than $10 a pot, these can be dropped into urns or grouped together in tubs and containers to give a sensational treat as well as lovely pink and white flowers. The strawberry pots are available at all IGA or Choices stores.

Scott Pearce, of the GardenWorks chain, says many people want to upgrade their gardens in August either because they have parties or special events planned, or just because they want to freshen everything up before they run into the quieter, cooler days of fall.

"Plants are often available in bigger pot sizes which give a bigger bang for the buck," he says. "Larger plants are also better for plugging holes. Ideal are things like coreopsis, echinacea and rudbeckia, all of which bloom well until frost."

The end of July is also a great time to check out hydrangeas and buddleias, he says, which happen to be at their peak right now and are also great plants for long-lasting flower colour.

Gary Lewis, of Phoenix Perennials in Richmond, is a big fan of purple-leafed dahlia, especially the "bishop" series ('Auckland', 'Canterbury', 'Leicester', 'Llandaff', 'Oxford' and 'York') as well as the "happy" series ('Flame', Juliet', 'Kiss', 'Party', and 'Romeo').

"There are many new colours [of Sedums] with great chocolate, burgundy, purple and near-black foliage and others like 'Blade Runner' with its classic blue-green foliage and sharply serrated edges."

The exotic, tropical-looking leaves of canna lilies, the striking colours of the Big Sky series of echinacea, and the beautiful blue or white flowers of agapanthus can also help to lift the garden from the midsummer doldrums, whether these plants are placed in the garden or simply inserted into borders in pots.

"Not everyone can plant their garden perfectly," says Lewis. "Most of us end up having to tweak the garden a little bit at this time of year to freshen things up."

Lilies play a major role in the garden from early summer through to fall, but Oriental lilies are especially useful for delivering colour and fragrance at the end of summer.

They are one of the best second-wind plants for a garden flagging in colour or a perennial border that's starting to run out of steam.

Gary Lewis says his top choices are 'Casa Blanca', 'Conca D'or', 'Dizzy', 'Mona Lisa', 'Starfighter', 'Stargazer' and 'Montezuma'.

Given a little lift, a garden can sail through the rest of summer by which time it is not at all unusual to find roses, perennials and some shrubs producing a second-wave of blooms during the cooler days of September and even into the early part of October. But it is the gardeners' duty right now to press the "refresh" button.


Selected Plants on Sale through August

25% Off

Hydrangeas, Inulas, Dahlias, Echeverias, Lavenders

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Jogasaki'

Dahlia Bishop of Leicester and Bishop of Oxford


Lavandula stoechas 'Pastel Dreams'




Two Fall Workshops

Workshop at the Nursery
Grasses that Captivate
The transformative powers of ornamental grasses

Instructor: Jo Turner
Saturday September 15th, 10am | $15 |

The popularity of ornamental grasses continues to grow as gardeners discover their many virtues. Don't get it yet? Come to this informative talk and learn what grasses can do for you and your garden. Already enamoured with ornamental grasses? You'll love this workshop too. You'll get tips on using them for best effect in your garden design. As well, you'll be introduced to several cultivars you might not have seen before.

Special Offer
Sign up for our Grass Workshop and bring a friend for free!



Workshop at the Nursery
Winter Containers
Plant up a container to create winter interest

Instructor: Cliff Thorbes
Saturday October 6th, two workshops starting at 10am and 2pm | $20 |

This is a fun hands-on workshop for gardeners of all levels who are interested in learning how to successfully create gorgeous perennial containers that will provide months of winter interest and an antidote against the dark, cold days of the year. After some practical and design instruction each participant will plant up and take home their own container. Please bring your own large pot (minimum 12-14 inches in diametre) with enough space for at least 3 to 5 one gallon perennials. A large, black, seven gallon plastic pot can be provided at an additional cost of $6. Please order your pot when you book your workshop.


Spaces are limited. Please call (604-270-4133) or visit the nursery to book your space. Payment is required when booking. Each workshop requires a minimum of 10 people and a maximum of 15-25 depending on the workshop. Workshop participants will receive a 15% discount on any purchases they wish to make the day of their workshop.

Meet your Instructors

Jo Turner (Dip. Hort. Cap. College) is a Vancouver gardener beginning her second season at Phoenix. She has a passion for gardens, plants, books, and the people who tend them. Her interests have led to several years experience in a variety of horticultural pursuits, usually involving mud.

Cliff Thorbes is a certified horticulturalist, artist and designer. He is passionate about container garden design and integrating original art into the garden to create a unique and personal statement. Cliff returns this year to reprise his popular seminars on design and on the secrets to creating containers that will captivate the senses.


Fabulous at Phoenix
Gary's Picks of New, Notable and Luscious Plants at the Phoenix Candy Store

Fragrant Hostas -- Hosta plantaginea 'Diana Remembered', H. 'Fragrant Bouquet', and H. 'Guacamole' -- These wonderful hostas provide great foliage in the shade garden, attractive lavender or white flowers and the added but uncommon bonus of fragrance in a hosta. They are also great because there are few plants, if you think about it, that are both fragrant and suited to the shade garden.

Hosta plantaginea 'Diana Remembered'


Campanula 'Plum Wine' -- Bellflower -- ‘Plum Wine’ has a lovely combination of red winter leaves, wine darkened silver summer leaves, and light pink, tubular bell flowers in summer. Easy to grow with a creeping, groundcovering habit. Best in full sun.


Phlox paniculata 'Laura' -- Tall Garden Phlox -- The deep lavender-magenta white-eyed flowers of this tall garden phlox are deliciously fragrant. The plant’s foliage also has excellent mildew resistance making it a wonderful, low maintenance garden phlox.


Agapanthus 'Storm Cloud' -- Lily-of-the-Nile -- This beautiful cultivar is big and bold with loose spheres of cobalt blue flowers that rise up to six feet above the long, straplike foliage. Wonderful in beds, en masse or in pots.


Geranium cinereum 'Ballerina' and G. cinereum 'Purple Pillow' -- Cranesbill -- Topping tidy, low-rowing bluish grey-green mounds of deeply lobed, attractive foliage, the enticing cup-shaped flowers are distinctively coloured in lavender-pink ('Ballerina') or reddish plum ('Purple Pillow') accentuated by a close network of darker veins that converge towards a dark central eye. The bountiful blooms keep coming all summer long, and there’s an autumn encore when leaves take on shades of purple, red or orange. Carefree.

'Ballerina' and 'Purple Pillow'


Heuchera 'Silver Lode' -- Coral Bells -- This large and vigorous new cultivar has leaves with the upper side mottled in matte silver outlined with veins of dark bronze-green. The underside is reddish purple.


Musa basjoo -- Hardy Japanese Fibre Banana -- If the palm tree is the king of the subtropical garden then bananas must surely be the Queen. Musa basjoo, the hardy japanese fibre banana, adds subtropical flare and drama in spades! Reportedly ground hardy to zone 5 (but don’t tell anyone in Ontario!). Maintain height for next season by protecting the stems with an enclosure of leaves or bubble wrap. At the very worst after a cold winter your banana will resprout from the ground.


Arisaema barnesii -- Cobralily -- This species from southern India and Sri Lanka has a dark purple or green spathe with green or white stripes.The leaves have five to nine leaflets with prominent veins and wavy margins.


Cyclamen hederifolium -- Ivyleaf Cyclamen -- This delicate shady perennial has charming pink flowers with a magenta V at the base of each petal. The leaves are ivy shaped, dark green and often marbled with light green. C. hederifolium is summer dormant coming into leaf and bloom between August and October. It remains evergreen throughout the winter. Grow in light, well-drained soil in shade or part shade. Plant en masse for a superb woodland effect. Widely distributed along the Mediterranean from France to Turkey.


Tricyrtis 'Taipei Silk' -- Toadlily -- This gorgeous new hybrid has glossy dark green leaves and spectacular multi-coloured flowers. The pistils are orangey red, the stamens dark yellow, the petals are yellow at the base, white down the centre, edged with royal blue then rich purple and lightly spotted. Fantastic! Grow in bright shade to part sun to bring out the fullness of these colours.




Share this E-Newsletter with a Friend

So many of our new visitors come to us through word of mouth. If you like what we're doing at Phoenix Perennials, please consider telling your gardening friends about us.

If you have any other questions please contact us at

Phoenix Perennials and Specialty Plants Ltd.
One of the largest and most exciting selections of perennials in the Lower Mainland.
Specializing in distinct perennials, fragrant shrubs, hardy subtropicals and the botanically intriguing.

3380 No. 6 Road, Richmond (Between Bridgeport and Cambie)

Please visit our web page for information on the nursery, driving directions and a map.
We are near the south end of the Knight Street Bridge and very easy to get to from all of the surrounding municipalities and beyond.

Seven Days a Week 10am-5pm
March 2nd, 2007 through October 31st, 2007

Copyright Phoenix Perennials and Specialty Plants Ltd. 2007

Back to the Articles Page

Contact Us | Home | © Phoenix Perennials