Phoenix Perennials and Specialty Plants


The Phoenix Perennials E-Newsletter
July 2006

Hello from Phoenix Perennials!

Summer is upon us! The nursery is at its height! You should see the colour.

We hope that at least one of the items below will entice you to come visit. This month we introduce our new annual event: The Summer Sizzle. Come and see Jane Eaton Hamilton's incredible photography and Cliff Thorbes exciting mosaic work. Our summer sale will also be at its height. Yes, that's right. See below for details of the sale and do pay close attention to the details. In this issue you'll also find out who won our Great Plant Combinations Contest and learn about our new contest/draw with the theme of deer proof plants. There's an exciting workshop coming up this weekend on Colour in the Garden and, if you're going to be on Galiano Island next week, you might want to come hear me give a talk. And last but not least, I had the great pleasure of providing the prizes for this year's Vancouver Up Front Garden Contest. See below for pictures of the winning garden and gardeners.

Cheers, Gary and the Phoenicians


In this Issue

1. Special Event: The Summer Sizzle: Celebrate the Botanical Glories of High Summer
2. Summer Sale at Phoenix
3. Winners of the Phoenix Perennials 2nd Annual Great Plant Combinations Contest
4. Upcoming Workshop: Colour in the Garden with Cliff Thorbes
5. Got Deer?: The Phoenix Perennials Deer Proof Draw
6. Garden Club Talk on Galiano Island: Avoiding the Late Summer Doldrums with Gary Lewis
7. Phoenix Perennials sponsors prizes for the The Vancouver Up Front Garden Contest plus Steve Whysall's article on the contest


Special Event at Phoenix Perennials
he Summer Sizzle
Celebrating the Botanical Glories
of High Summer

Saturday & Sunday July 15th & 16th, 2006

Welcome to a new tradition at Phoenix. Our Summer Sizzle takes place at a time of the year when the nursery looks its best. Come walk around and enjoy all the colour! The nursery will also be set up like an art gallery to feature an art show and sale of the incredible plant photography of Jane Eaton Hamilton and the exciting mosaic work of Cliff Thorbes. Plus there will be special displays of the winners of our Great Plant Combination Contest and our summer sale will be at its height (i.e. everything at 25% off starting on Saturday the 15th!). All in all it's a weekend not to be missed!

Untitled by Jane Eaton Hamilton

Stepping Stone and Miami Table by Cliff Thorbes


Summer Sale at Phoenix
15% Off Everything
Friday July 7th to Friday July 14th

25% Off Everything
Saturday and Sunday July 15th and 16th

Pay close attention to the dates! Absolutely no exceptions!


The Second Annual Phoenix Perennials
Great Plant Combination Contest

A great garden is not just great plants grown well. A great garden hinges on great plant combinations.


We received lots of wonderful entries to our contest filled with much creativity and great plant combinations. We had a difficult time making our decisions and would like to thank everyone who entered! Each entry had to list five to seven different perennials that made for an awesome plant combination. These perennials could be in a pot or in a garden bed. We judged the entries on both foliage and flower combinations. We were also looking for that extra knock-your-socks-off factor, that certain je ne sais quoi that really made a combination stand out. Without further ado:

The Winners Are!!!

1st Prize
$150 Gift Certificate at Phoenix
Donald S. from North Vancouver

His Selected Plants:
1. Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'
| Japanese Forest Grass
2. Astilbe (Red Flowered) | False Spiraea
3. Arisaema triphyllum | Jack-in-the-Pulpit
4. Trillium luteum | Yellow Wakerobin
5. Hosta 'Honeybells' | Plantain Lily

We loved the "Zen" quality of Donald's combination which works almost entirely by way of great foliage colour, shape and textural contrasts. Some accent colour from flowers would be added in different seasons from the trillium, the astilbe and the hosta. Though technically not part of the contest, we couldn't ignore the superlative use of hardscaping with the beautiful stepping stones and the bird bath created from two stones that Donald found at the base of Black Tusk Mountain near Whistler. Even without this hardscaping this is a beautiful combination for a part shade situation.


2nd Prize
$100 Gift Certificate at Phoenix
Sarah H. from New Westminster

Her Selected Plants:
1. Sedum 'Angelina' and 'Ogon' | Stonecrop
2. Echeveria 'Topsy Turvy', agavifolium, 'Doris Taylor', 'Morning Light'
and Pachyveria 'Moonglow' | Mexican Hens and Chicks
3. Aeonium arboreum and 'Zwartkop' | Aeonium
4. Acorus gramineus 'Ogon' | Sweet Flag
5. Setcreasea pallida 'Purple Heart' | Purple Heart Wandering Jew

These incredible planters (there are two on either side of the deck) employ zone 8-9 succulents to marvelous effect with the surprising use of the golden sweet flag with its grass like leaves and the purple heart wandering jew with its bold purple foliage. The two types of golden sedum add pizzazz and additional textural contrast. These planters would not be fully hardy unless they were kept bone dry outside and at least protected inside during our occasional cold snaps but we thought this combination was so dramatic that we had to award it a prize.


3rd Prize
$50 Gift Certificate at Phoenix
Cheryl S. of Surrey

Her Selected Plants:
1. Heuchera 'Silver Lode' | Coral Bells
2. Hosta (Blue Leaved) | Plantain Lily
3. Adiantum pedatum | Maidenhair Fern
4. Athyrium nipponicum 'Pictum' | Japanese Painted Fern
5. Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' | Redbud
6. Iris pallida 'Argenteovariegata' | Sweet Iris
7. Viola riviniana 'Purpurea' (syn. V. labradorica) | Violet

Like our first place winner this combination makes for a great study in foliage contrast. There are no bold flowers in this combination but this bed is dynamic and attractive. We thought that the use of the sweet iris with its vertical structure and variegated foliage really set off the entire combination. There are two other nice touches: The first is the waft of purple infused violets which pick up on the burgundy of the coral bells. The other is the foliage shape "echo" between the hosta and the violets -- note that each has heart-shaped leaves but in different sizes. Very nice!

Honourable Mention
Fame but not fortune
Katy E. of Delta

Her Selected Plants:
1. Miscanthus sinensis 'Gracillimus' | Maiden Grass
2. Geranium 'Johnson's Blue' | Cranesbill
3. Stipa tenuissima | Mexican Feather Grass
4. Anthemis tinctoria 'Wargrave's Variety' | Marguerite
5. Phygelius 'Moonraker' | Cape Fucshia
6. Alchemilla mollis 'Thriller'
7. Artemisia 'Limelight'

This is a beautiful entry very much in the style of Katy's 1st prize winning entry in last year's contest which you can view in the Learn section of the website under Articles. This combination is dynamic in the movement provided by the grasses and taller perennials. We also liked the controlled use of blues and yellows which is at once calming and exciting.


Honourable Mention
Fame but not fortune

Jane Ferguson of Bowen Island

Her Selected Plants:
1. Goodyera oblongifolia | Rattlesnake Plantain
2. Polystichum munitum | Sword Fern
3. Blechnum spicant | Deer Fern
4. Vaccinium sp. | Huckleberry
5. Ribes sanguineum | Red-flowering Currant
6. Gaultheria shallon | Salal
7. Athyrium filix-femina | Lady Fern

We loved that Jane is working to enhance her existing landscape on Bowen Island by planting additional native plants. Enhancing Mother Nature's work is a great way to integrate the garden with the natural landscape that surrounds it. Jane uses three of our wonderful native ferns and combines these with interesting native perennials and shrubs. This is a study in green as well as texture.

The three prize winners and the honourable mentions will be highlighted at the nursery in special displays that will allow everyone to see these combinations in the flesh. The displays will be ready for our Sumer Sizzle weekend on July 15th and 16th.

Thank you again to everyone who entered! We hope that you'll start planning soon for next year's contest.


Upcoming Workshop at the Nursery
Colour in the Garden
How to use colour and contrast to great effect

A Season in the Garden: Summer Perennials
Cliff Thorbes

Cliff will talk about colour, contrast, hues, tints and shades in the garden and how these aspects of colour relate to his RRVBESSS principles of garden design. He will discuss how colour can be applied to different facets of the garden from the plants themselves to the hardscaping and garden art. He will also discuss monochromatic, polychromatic, contrasting, and analogous colour schemes as well as the roles of white and grey. There's more to colour than you ever thought possible. This workshop will change the way you think about colour in your garden!

Saturday July 8th, 10am-12pm

Please book your space in advance by calling the nursery at 604-270-4133.
Payment is required at the time of booking.
For all workshops please dress for the day's weather. We will be either outside or in the greenhouse.

Other Workshops This Season with Cliff Thorbes

Grasses that Captivate: The transformative powers of ornamental grasses plus A Season in the Garden: Fall Perennials | Saturday September 16th, 10am | $10

Winter Containers: Plant up a container to create winter interest plus A Season in the Garden: Fall and Winter Perennials | Saturday October 7th, 10am | $15 | At the container workshops, each participant will plant up and take home their own container. Please bring your own large pot with enough space for at least 3 to 5 one gallon perennials. Large black plastic pots can be provided on request.


Got Deer?
The Phoenix Perennials Deer Proof Draw

If you garden with deer here's your chance to benefit from all the trials and tribulations that you face in your gardening life. We want to hear from you about the plants that you've found to be deer "proof" as well as the plants you've found to be delectable deer delicacies. We'll compile a list of everyone's findings and publish it in the next email newsletter, on our website, and make this list available at the nursery for perplexed gardeners. As an added bonus everyone who contributes their findings will be entered in a draw for a chance to win:

One of Three Fabulous
Phoenix Perennials Gift Certificates

Short of eating venison every night for dinner, here's your chance to get back at Bambi, to share information with fellow gardeners, and to have a chance at actually benefitting from your experiences!

Instructions: To contribute and be entered for the draw simply email us with the following three items:

1. A List of Deer Proof Plants -- Plants you've found to be universally shunned by deer in your garden.
2. A List of Deer Favourites -- Plants that the deer love to munch in your garden.
3. The location of your garden. The name of your island, or nearest village, town or city will do.

Please email your lists by July 30th, 2006. There will not be a reminder for this contest/draw so hit the reply button right now and send in your lists.

If you have friends who garden with deer, please forward this email on to them so that they can participate as well.


The Galiano Garden Club presents
Avoiding the Late Summer Doldrums
Great Plants for High Summer and Early Fall
with Phoenix Perennials owner Gary Lewis

Does your garden look a little tired through the summer months? Here's a whole raft of plants to get your summer garden sizzling with colour. Gary Lewis will present a stunning, image-rich Power Point presentation to illustrate the many options for the high summer garden.

Thursday July 13th, 2006
North Galiano Community Hall, Galiano Island

Sponsored by the Galiano Garden Club.
For more information call Deborah at 250-539-2107.

Everyone welcome!


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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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 3rd through October 31st, 2006

Copyright Phoenix Perennials and Specialty Plants Ltd. 2006

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