Phoenix Perennials and Specialty Plants


The Phoenix Perennials E-Newsletter
July 2007

Hello from Phoenix Perennials!

It's July and it seems that nice weather has finally arrived! It's soon time to kick up your heels with a cold beer or a smart cocktail and enjoy friends and family or just your own free time in your beautiful gardens. But just before you do that let me try to talk you into visiting us one more time. If you visited the nursery this spring you would have seen lots and lots of pots with little green bits sticking out of the soil. Well, those green bits are now big, beautiful, luscious plants coming into full bloom. I always lament that at this time of year, when gardeners are mostly finished their efforts, the nursery looks its best. There is colour everywhere. In fact, the nursery looks like a giant, half acre, perennial border in full bloom. You really should visit us one more time before retiring to your patios and summer vacations. If that wasn't enough to entice you we are having a SALE. Details are at the end of the newsletter. ;-)

Also in this issue you'll find an article highlighting four groups of plants that are guaranteed to put colour into your summer garden, you'll be introduced to our new garden arches, you'll be inspired by the plant combinations of our contest winners, you'll find information on our next workshops and the Fabulous at Phoenix column is back after a one month hiatus with a bevy of interesting perennials. Oh and then there's that SALE information.

Cheers, Gary and the Phoenicians

In this Issue

1. Four Great Plants Groups for Summer Colour
2. New Arches Join our Offerings of Metal Garden Ornaments
3. The 2007 Great Plant Combination Contest Winners!
4. Two Fall Workshops
5. Fabulous at Phoenix

6. The Summer Sizzle including our Summer Sale!


Four Great Plant Groups for Summer Colour
Hydrangea, Echinacea, Lilies and Dahlias

Many of you might now be looking at your gardens and lamenting a loss of the fresh colours of spring. There are solutions for you that you might not have considered back in April or May when they weren't showing any colour. Right now, however, they are coming into their own and brightening up the nursery and gardens. If I could have only four groups of plants for summer colour, these would be at the top of my list. In this article I will highlight hydrangeas, echinaceas (purple coneflowers), lilies and dahlias, all of which will give you colour from June right through to September and perhaps beyond. While you've undoubtedly heard of all three of these groups I'll highlight both some tried and true stalwarts as well as some hot new cultivars that are showing good promise.

Say Hello to Hydrangea!

Hydrangea are superlative shrubs for summer colour. Most cultivars are thought of as shade to part-shade plants. A beautiful and uncommon group of hydrangea that prefer these conditions are the serrata or Japanese cultivars. Most of these are unique lace caps frequently with exquisite double sterile florets like 'Miyama-yae-Murasaki', 'Izu no Hana' and 'Midoriboshi-Temari'. There are also some macrophylla hydrangea that have the same delicate and refined look as the Japanese hydrangea such as 'Shamrock' and 'Jogasaki'.

Hydrangrea serrata 'Miyama Yae Murasaki' and H. macrophylla 'Shamrock'

Hydrangea macrophylla 'Jogasaki'

For a departure from the blues and pinks that we commonly associate with hydrangea you might try 'Annabelle' with giant white mopheads that can measure over 10 inches in diametre! These are sure to illuminate a drab or dark shady area.

Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'

There are other hydrangea that are quite tolerant of more sun. One of our favourites at the nursery is 'Quickfire' that has flowers that start off creamy white but that gradual deepen through pink and then to red!

Hydrangea 'Quickfire'

If you have a shaded wall, trellis or pergola that could use some summer colour you might want to try a relative of the hydrangea known as hydrangea vine or Schizophragma hydrangeoides. We have two cultivars at the nursery. The one pictured below is called 'Moonlight' with dramatic lacecaps at least 10 inches in diametre surrounded by large white sterile florets. The foliage of 'Moonlight' is lightly silver mottled as if the moon is perpetually shining on it. We also carry 'Rosea' which offers beautiful pink sterile florets around the lace cap.

Schizophragma hydrangeoides 'Moonlight'

For summer colour in shade or sun you can't go wrong with hydrangea.


"Oh my goodness, oh good gracious -- here come all the Echinaceas!"

Echinacea, or purple coneflowers as they're commonly known, are great plants for the full sun garden that offer colour for months in the form of large daisies with bold cones surrounded by outward facing or reflexed petals. The regular purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea, is a North American native of fields and prairies that occurs in both Canada and the US. In the wild the colour of the flowers ranges through various purpley-pinks. Breeders have recently selected new colour forms from this pallet offering rich magentas such as in 'Vintage Wine' or 'Fatal Attraction' and candy pinks such as 'Kim's Knee High'.

Echinacea purpurea and E. Big Sky 'Sunrise'

Newer hybrids offer a rich palette with unique colour departures from the regular species and its selections. These purple coneflowers are not purple at all, or even pink. They are yellow, gold, orange, apricot, sunset pink and deepest red-pink. In all they offer some fun and a good length of colour for the sun garden. They look great planted en masse, especially if you mix different coloured cultivars together in the same area.

E. Big Sky 'Sunset' and E. Big Sky 'Summer Sky'

Echinacea are not just popular with the gardening public but also with my staff. They are currently Kathleen's pick on our Staff Plant Picks table at the nursery. To honour her pick she has immortalized them in verse:

Oh my goodness, oh good gracious
Here come all the echinaceas!
The choices are many, the colours are fine
Try 'Magnus' or 'Sunset' or 'Vintage Wine'
There's 'Sundown' and 'Sunrise' and 'Summer Sky'
'After Midnight' and 'Twilight' or 'Kim's Knee High'
With 'Harvest Moon' and 'Fancy Frills'
It's a 'Fatal Attraction' with 'Pica Belles'
Oh my goodness, oh good gracious
There go all the echinaceas!

Some gardeners have difficulty with echinacea. Usually the problem lies in overly rich, moisture-retentive soils which isn't so much of a problem in the summer as it is in the winter. Echinacea generally grow in colder regions where the soils are less fertile and drier and where, being frozen in winter, experience a "dry" situation. This is a good clue for how to successfully grow them in our gardens. Plant echinacea in average to poor soils that are well-drained in winter and you should have good success.

Luscious Lilies

Lilies, Lilies, Lilies. I can't get enough of them. And there is far more variety within this genus, both in species and cultivars, than you might have imagined. This year we have brought in many special cultivars. The Asiatic, OA and LA Hybrid Lilies bloom in June and early July and are currently at their peak. The LA Hybrids are crosses between Asiatic and Trumpet lilies with great substance, strength and bold colours.

Various LA Hybrid Lilies

Another intriguing group of hybrid lilies are the OA Lilies, crosses between Oriental and Asiatics. The Crown series in particular offers some intriguing bicoloured lilies that will make both you and guests to your garden take a second look.

OA Hybrid Lilies 'First Crown' and 'Fancy Crown'

Then there are some of the classics. The trumpet lilies are some of the tallest lilies for the garden and have a lovely fragrance. They bloom throughout July. One cultivar that you might not have seen commonly before is 'Emerald Temple', a white lily with a yellow throat and green highlights on the outside of the petals.

Lilium 'Emerald Temple'

The Oriental Lilies are the most fragrant of all the lilies with a sweet and spicy perfume you've come to love from cultivars like 'Stargazer' and 'Casa Blanca'. We have a wonderful dwarf Oriental just coming into bloom now at the nursery. While most of this group blooms in August 'Mona Lisa' seems to come into her own in July. With various shades of pink and white this lily is surely one of the prettiest. A new breakthrough in breeding in the Oriental Lilies is offered by 'Montezuma' with darkest and boldest pink-red flowers yet seen in this group.

'Mona Lisa' and 'Montezuma'

Lilies do not bloom for as long as many other perennials. Bloom periods will typically last three to four weeks for most established lily clumps. However, being a very vertical plant they are easily inserted into the border where they tend not to take up too much valuable space. With a selection of lilies from various groups you could have them blooming in your garden for months on end.


Dahlias Dahling!

Dahlias are a darling for the summer the garden. The burgundy-leaved dahlias are our main squeeze at Phoenix. The foliage offers dramatic colour contrasts in the garden and shows off the jewel-toned flowers to great effect.

Clockwise from top left: Bishop of Leicester, Bishop of Oxford, Bishop of York, Bishop of Canterbury.

In all we are growing 18 varieties of burgundy-leaved dahlias this year. The exciting thing about this group is that they are proving to be quite hardy in the Vancouver area allowing us to have our cake and eat it too. If you have a sunny, average soil that is well-drained in the winter you can grow these superlative garden plants and not have to lift and store them in the fall. For at least five years I have had these dahlias returning in my garden with no particular damage from any winter including the last one. In fact they seem to get bigger and bigger each year!

We carry only one dahlia that has green foliage. It's name is 'Vancouver'. It has purple, pink and white flowers that can grow to the size of your head. I thought it might be worthwhile to give it a go.

With that I hope you are inspired to include some of the plants from these four groups -- hydrangea, echinacea, lilies and dahlias. They are guaranteed to carry your garden through the summer months with loads of bright and boisterous colour.



New Arches Join our Offerings of Metal Garden Ornaments

We have just added garden arches to our selection of metal garden ornaments. These light-weight but strong arches are seven feet tall, three feet wide and two feet deep. They are a perfect size for an entrance into the garden or as a backdrop for a seat. They are a good size for growing roses, clematis, honeysuckle and other interesting vines. We have priced them very specially at $59.99.

We also have trellises, shepherd hooks, hanging baskets, and garden edging! They are all attractive and are also well-priced.

The trellises and shepherd hooks are only $29.99, the hanging baskets (complete with coco fibre liner) are $21.99-$24.99 and the garden edging (not pictured) is $9.99 to $12.99.


The Third 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.

Thank you to everyone who entered our contest. There were lots of interesting and lovely combinations. We really enjoyed seeing what you have been creating in your gardens. Unfortunately, this is a contest and we could only choose a few entries to be our winners.

And the Winners Are!!!

1st Prize: $150 Gift Certificate at Phoenix
Joe K. from Richmond

His combination includes:
Daphne 'Eternal Fragrance' -- Daphne
Ophiopogon japonicum 'Ryuku' -- Mondo Grass
Arabis ferdinandi-coburgi 'Variegatum' -- Rock Cress
Rhodohypoxis baurii -- Spring Starflower
Gymnocarpium dryopteris -- Oak Fern
Campanula cochlearifolia -- Dwarf Bellflower
Leptinella 'Platt's Black' -- Brass Buttons

We loved this sophisticated garden in miniature. It provides colour, fragrance, great leaf colour, shape and textural combinations and an unusual plant palette. All around an intriguing and unique planter.

2nd Prize: $100 Gift Certificate at Phoenix
Elaine E. from Vancouver

Her combination includes:
Hosta (Various Cultivars) -- Plantain Lily
Rodgersia sp. -- Rodger's Flower
Ferns -- Various including Athyrium nipponicum 'Pictum' (Japanese Painted Fern), Osmunda regalis (Royal Fern), Asplenium scolopendrium (Hart's Tongue Fern), Polystichum munitum (Sword Fern), Matteucia struthiopteris (Ostrich Fern) and Cyrtomium falcatum (Holly Fern)
Alchemilla mollis -- Lady's Mantle
Petasites japonicus var. giganteus -- Japanese Coltsfoot
Heuchera 'Marmalade' -- Coral Bells

We loved the foliage combinations of the ferns, hostas and rodgersia, highlighted with the chartreuse sparkles of the lady's mantle and the colour accent from the coral bells, all crowned with the dramatic leaves of the Japanese coltsfoot.


3rd Prize: $50 Gift Certificate at Phoenix
Marilyn H. from Richmond

Her combination includes:
Campanula poscharskyana 'Blue Waterfall' -- Bellflower
Stachys byzantina
-- Lamb's Ears

Helictotrichon sempervirens -- Blue Oat Grass
Geranium 'Johnson's Blue' -- Cranesbill
Crocosmia 'Lucifer' -- Montbretia
Persicaria sp. -- Knotweed
Delphinium cultivars -- Delphinium

We loved the textural and structural combinations of the foliage, especially the folial echo between the spikeyness of the crocosmia and the blue oat grass. Note that these elements, in conjunction with the lamb's ears, give what would be an amorphous perennial border just enough structure to keep it interesting. We also liked the play of blues throughout the border. We were excited that the colour would shift to a blue and red theme when the Crocosmia 'Lucifer' came into bloom with it's bright cool red.


Honourable Mention: Fame but not Fortune
Michele C. from Vancouver

[no picture available]

Her combination includes:
Hosta 'Sum and Substance' and 'Zagar's Blue' -- Plantain Lilies
Iris siberica 'Butter and Sugar' and 'Blue King' -- Siberian Iris
Oxalis magellanica -- Magellan Wood Sorrel
Lilium martagon -- Martagon Lily
Polystichum setiferum 'Proliferum' -- Soft Shield Fern
Rhododendron macrophyllum -- Pacific Rhododendron
Daphne odora -- Winter Daphne

This combination has nice textural and structural combinations with sparks of colour mostly from early spring into early summer. It also has nice early season fragrance from the daphne.


Honourable Mention: Fame but not Fortune
Jeanne J. from Richmond

Her combination includes:
Helleborus argutifolius -- Corsican Hellebore
Athyrium otophorum (Red-eared Lady Fern) and Dryopteris erythrosora (Autumn Fern)
Astrantia major 'Rubra' -- Masterwort
Cimicifuga simplex 'Brunette' -- Bugbane
Epimedium x versicolor 'Neosulphureum' -- Barrenwort
Polygonatum multiflorum -- Solomon's Seal
Primula 'Francisca'/'Green Lace' -- Primrose

We liked the diversity of foliage textures, colours and shapes in this shade border. The choice of flowering plants will be just enough to ensure subtle sparks of colour through much of the season. The bugbane will add a sweet fragrance in late summer.


Each of the winning combinations, as well as the honourable mentions, will be showcased in a special display at the nursery through the month of July, including during our Summer Sizzle Event July 20th, 21st and 22nd. Come check them out!

Thank you again to everyone who entered.
The next Great Plant Combination Contest is only 11 months away.
Get planning!



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

Diane Brown is a graduate of Kwantlen's Landscape Design program and was the coordinator of the Earthwise Garden for many years. She has designed gardens with garden ecosystems in mind and specialized in presenting earth-friendly workshops. She works part time for Phoenix Perennials and does landscape design, garden consultations, and workshops in her spare time.

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

Remusatia vivipara -- Hitchhiker's Elephant Ear -- In late spring the very glossy, green, elephant ear-like leaves emerge forming a tropical clump two to three feet tall. The new foliage is accompanied by fragrant, yellow flowers. In late summer strange, erect stolons arise from the tuber and become covered with fuzzy, hooked tubercles (hairy bulbils). It is the ability of these hairy offsets to attach to fur and feather which has resulted in the distribution of this species over three continents. Unusual, subtropical looking and reportedly very easy to grow. Reportedly hardy to zone 7b so it should grow well for us and overwinter. Mulch with 6-12 inches of leaves just to be safe.

Knautia macedonica 'Mars Midget' -- Knautia -- ‘Mars Midget’ is a dwarf, clump-forming seed strain of this species that has the same scabiosa-like, ruby-red flower heads (to two inches across) over a long early summer to autumn bloom period but on plants that are half the height of the species (about one and a half feet). Each flower head resembles a rich red, pin cushion atop generally leafless stems.

Eremerus -- Foxtail Lilies -- Dramatic spires of dark yellow or apricot rise to four to six feet or more from an octopus-like base of narrow strap-like leaves in early summer that resemble a yucca. Plant in a dry yet rich soil in a sunny location and do not allow other perennials to overgrow the foliage.

Heuchera 'Caramel' -- Coral Bells -- The villosa type coral bells are strong plants with large foliage and great substance. ‘Caramel’ is an excellent cultivar similar in foliage colouration to ‘Marmalade’ (peach and umber) but with larger, smoother, less ruffled leaves. We’ve been impressed with its vigour.

Begonia grandis -- Hardy Begonia -- This beautiful hardy begonia has light green, nicely textured foliage with dramatically red-veined reverses. In fall it is topped with bright candy pink flowers which last almost until frost. A great plant in combination with ferns and hostas and for colour in the fall shade garden.

Cautleya spicata and gracilis (lutea) -- Hardy Shade Ginger -- This wonderful hardy shade ginger has slender stems to about two feet tall from which emerge a tropical-looking spike of brilliant yellow flowers subtended by bright red bracts. The flowers emerge successively over a month or more each of which lasts three to five days. The red bracts remain for the entire bloom period. Definitely something you’ve never before imagined for your shade garden!

Lobelia 'Elm Fire' -- Lobelia -- Deep beet root red leaves and bright red flowers in mid to late summer. An improved form of the very popular ‘Queen Victoria’.

Eryngium 'Sapphire Blue' -- Sea Holly -- ‘Sapphire Blue’ is a hybrid cultivar with an intense, steel blue hue infusing its branched stems, leaves, and teasel-shaped flowers. The flower heads are huge and sit upon dramatic collar-like bracts. Leaves and stems are tinged with blue. This peculiar genus from the carrot family is found around the world but with its centre of diversity in South America. There are also a number of European species.

Arisaema tortuosum and A. tortuosum var. helleborifolium -- Cobra Lilies -- A. tortuosum rises to four to six feet on spectacularly mottled stems making it the tallest of the genus. The palmate, tropical-looking leaves are held near the top of the stalk from which emerges the jack-in-the-pulpit inflorescence. Out of the pale green spathe emerges a darker, often purple, spadix appendage like a whip-like tongue shooting up to ten inches skyward. Totally fabulous and a great conversation piece! Widespread across the Himalayan countries, India, western China and Myanmar.

Cynara cardunculus -- Cardoon -- It would be hard to find a perennial more bold and statuesque than the cardoon. This relative of the artichoke can rise to six feet or more and has large, coarse, grey-white stems and leaves. The plants are topped with large, mauve thistle-like flowers in summer. Use as a focal point in the garden. From Mediterranean Europe.

Rheum 'Ace of Hearts' -- Ornamental Rhubarb -- I’m excited to offer this excellent ornamental rhubarb. The large bold spade-shaped foliage emerges entirely reddish in the spring. While the tops of the leaves fade to green, the reverses remain boldly dark red. With its upright behaviour the leaves continuously show off their burgundy-coloured reverses to great effect. Pale pink flower spikes in summer. Rich, well-drained soil in full to part shade. A great focal point plant.

Wollemia nobilis -- Wollemi Pine -- The Wollemi pine was known only from the fossil record from the Jurassic period and was thought to have gone extinct with the dinosaurs. But then one day in 1994 a park ranger in Wollemi National Park in Australia rappelled into a deep, inaccessible canyon and found about 100 individuals of a tree he didn't recognize. He brought a few branches back and it turned out to be the Wollemi Pine. This was the botanical equivalent of finding a Tyranosaurus rex alive today. The Wollemi Pine grows to more than 100 feet in its native habitat. It has beautiful and intriguing bluish green foliage. It can work quite well as a houseplant, much like its cousin the Knorfolk Island Pine, or it could very well prove hardy for us. Recent tests in the US suggest it is hardy to zone 7b which would be slightly hardier than the Monkey Puzzle Trees that grace the Lower Mainland! UBC Botanical Garden is now testing one and I plan to test a larger specimen in my own garden once I grow it into a bit larger specimen! The price of Wollemis in the marketplace have been on a bit of a rollercoaster but we now have them at $69.99, half the price they have been earlier in the season! A portion of the proceeds goes back to conservation work to protect the wild populations.



The Summer Sizzle
including our Summer Sale!

At this year's Summer Sizzle we'll be highlighting display gardens of the winners of our Third Annual Great Plant Combination Contest. We will also have a special sale on every plant in the nursery. The "Lead Up" kicks off this Friday and runs for a week with all plants at 15% off. It's worth coming in to have a look, maybe pick up some things you really want that are in short supply and to plan your purchases for the Summer Sizzle Weekend when all plants will be offered at 25% off for three days only! Don't miss it.

The Lead Up to the Summer Sizzle Weekend!
Friday July 13th until Thursday July 19th
15% off ALL PLANTS

The Summer Sizzle Weekend!
Friday, Saturday and Sunday July 20th, 21st and 22nd
25% off ALL PLANTS

There are no exceptions to the above dates.

Pots and metal work are not included in our sale. Just plants.

Have fun!

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

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