Phoenix Perennials and Specialty Plants


The Phoenix Perennials E-Newsletter
June 2006

Hello from Phoenix Perennials!

Welcome to the new Phoenix Perennials E-Newsletter. New look, same great content. This e-newsletter marks the unofficial launch of our newly revamped website where, among many other exciting things, this newsletter will now be posted each month. The website is currently under construction so bear with us until next winter when we'll have time to finish what we've started. But what we've started is exciting so I thought we should make it available now.

  • On the new website you'll find a new "Learn" section filled with articles about plants and gardening, and information on talks and workshops.
  • In the "Plants" Section you'll find our new searchable database of plants. There are currently 1000 plants listed here (out of the 2500 we're offering in 2006). You can search them by common or latin name, by light or soil moisture requirements, by hardiness, or by flower and foliage colour. You can combine these search criteria to find plants with certain characteristics that are suitable for a certain type of garden situation. You can also use our special searches to learn about plant families, geographical origins, fragrant or evergreen plants, award-winners, BC natives and more. As we have more time to add more plants and pictures this searchable database will become a great tool for helping you plan your garden and learn about exciting plants.

In this issue of the e-newsletter you'll also find an introduction to some exciting species rhodos, a profile of the new coneflower cultivars, information on talks and workshops and on our next Charity Shopping Weekend to benefit the Homestart Foundation as well as our second annual Great Plant Combinations Contest. Here's your chance for fame and fortune! And last but not least my regular installment of Fabulous at Phoenix. Enjoy!

Cheers, Gary and the Phoenicians


In this Issue

1. Positively Primeval and Oh So Exotic: Species Rhododendrons with Fabulous Foliage
2. An Echinacea Extravaganza: New Colours in Coneflowers
3. The Second Annual Great Plant Combination Contest
4. Upcoming Workshop: The Drought Tolerant Garden with Cliff Thorbes
5. Upcoming Workshop: Avoiding the Late Summer Doldrums with Gary Lewis
6. Charity Shopping Weekend to Benefit the Homestart Foundation
7. Garden Club Talk in Vancouver: Plants and Plant Ecology of the American Deserts
8. Garden Club Talk in North Vancouver: Avoiding the Late Summer Doldrums
9. Fabulous at Phoenix: Gary's Picks of New, Notable and Luscious Plants at the Phoenix Candy Store


Positively Primeval and Oh So Exotic
Species Rhododendrons with Fabulous Foliage

Living in a region of the world known for its incredible displays of rhododendrons you probably think you've seen it all. I thought I had seen it all until I visited two different gardens: the 400 species strong collection at the UBC Botanical Garden and my friend Dana's place. Wow! I quickly realized that there is a whole world of amazing rhododendrons yet to discover. Among the most exciting are those species with large leaves (by large I mean up to 15 inches long!) and those with interesting furriness (indumentum) in shades of white, brown and cinnamon. These intriguing species rhodos are bold and dramatic. Their look is primeval conjuring visions of exotic mist enshrouded Asian forests. In the garden they would serve well as focal points in the shade garden surrounded by ferns, hostas, paris, ariseamas, solomon's seals and giant himalayan lilies.

Introducing 10 incredible species rhododendrons currently at the nursery:

R. arboreum ssp. arboreum has red flowers (occasionally white or pink) and elliptic leaves up to seven and a half inches long. The leaves have a silvery white fuzzy indumentum on the undersides. Grows to six feet in 10 years. Blooms in early spring. From India, Nepal and Bhutan. Zone 8.

R. auriculatum: White (occasionally pink) funnel-shaped, fragrant blooms in loose trusses. The leaves are oblong and up to 12 inches long! Grows to six feet in 10 years. Blooms in late spring. From China. Zone 7.

R. cinnabarinum ssp. xanthocodon: Bell-shaped, semi-pendant, yellow, orange, apricot or purple flowers. The leaves are broadly elliptic and a more common four inches long. But they are strongly fragrant when rubbed! Grows to five feet in 10 years. Blooms in mid to late spring. From India, Bhutan and Tibet. Zone 8.

R. fortunei: Open to funnel-shaped, pale lavender or pale pink to white, fragrant flowers. Trusses hold 5-12 flowers each. The leaves are up to seven inches long held with purplish leaf stems to equally purplish stems. Grows to six feet in 10 years. Blooms in mid to late spring. From China. Zone 6.

R. macabeanum: Tubular to narrowly funneled bell-shaped yellow flowers usually blotched with purple. Each truss holds up to 30 flowers in a large sphere of yellow. The leaves are broadly ovate to elliptic and are up to 15 inches long with a whitish to light tan indumentum. Grows to 5 feet in 10 years. Zone 8.

R. macrophyllum: Our native rhododendron has broadly bell-shaped, pink to rosy purple, occasionally white, flowers spotted yellow. The truss holds 10-20 flowers. The leaves are oblong to elliptic and up to nine inches long. Grows to five feet in 10 years. Blooms in mid to late spring. From western North America: British Columbia to California. Zone 7.

R. makinoi: Funneled, bell-shaped, pink to off-white flowers, sometimes spotted crimson. Trusses typically have five to eight flowers. Leaves lanceolate, recurved, up to seven inches long with thick white to tawny indumentum. Grows to three feet in 10 years into a dense and rounded shrub. Blooms in mid spring. From Japan. Zone 6.

R. pachysanthum: The funnelled bell-shaped white to pale pink flowers are usually spotted green or crimson. Each truss holds 10-20 flowers. The leaves ovate to lanceolate and up to four inches long. The upper surface sports a persistent silvery to brown indumentum. The lower surface has a thick rusty brown indumentum. Grows to 2 feet tall in 10 years. From Taiwan. Zone 6b.

R. rex ssp. fictolacteum: Oblique bell-shaped white, also pale lilac to pink, blotched and spotted crimson. The ball-shaped truss holds 12-30 flowers. Leaves up to 12 inches long with an attractive rusty brown to dark brown indumentum underneath. Grows to three feet in 10 years into a dense and rounded shrub. Blooms in mid spring. From China and northeast Myanmar. Zone 7.

R. strigillosum: This early-blooming species has tubular bell-shaped, deep red to crimson-scarlet flowers with dark red nectar pouches. The flat truss has 8-12 flowers. The leaves are elliptic to oblanceolate and are up to seven inches long often with recurved and bristly leaf edges. From northeastern Yunnan and Sichuan, China. Zone 7.

Cultivation: Plant in classic rhododenron conditions: shade to part shade in rich, evenly moist but well-drained soils. The large-leaved species should be protected from wind. If you're worried about the hardiness of the zone 8 species in your gardens plant them in a protected location where larger trees will shelter them from frosts and you should be fine.



An Echinacea Extravaganza
New Colours in Coneflowers

Some of the hottest and most exciting accomplishments in recent plant breeding have been made in developing new coloured hybrids in the genus Echinacea. Two groups of breeders have so far introduced these new colours: the Chicago Botanic Garden with their Meadowbrite series and the Saul Brothers of Atlanta, Georgia with their Big Sky series. Both groups have bred these coneflowers by hybridizing the same two species but with different and interesting results.

The two species in question are Echinacea purpurea, the classic purple coneflower known and loved by gardeners and common cold sufferers alike, and Echinacea paradoxa, a rare yellow-flowered species. It is the crossing of these two species that has given rise to new shades of oranges, corals, yellows and pinks in this genus.

The first of this new generation of coneflowers to arrive on the scene was 'Orange Meadowbrite' (above left) with rich orange petals deepening to a lusty, rusty orange around a fragrant cone. It was followed shortly thereafter by the equally fragrant 'Mango Meadowbrite' (above right) in warm yellow. These two cultivars are interesting for their resemblance in form and structure to species paradoxa -- kind of like a child looking a lot like one its parents but not the other. The plants are somewhat lanky, with smooth narrow leaves as well as narrow, non-overlapping petals. While the colours are bold, the look of the plants and flowers are refined, delicate and with wildflower-like.

The Big Sky series, by contrast, has more of the look and structure of the classic purple coneflower Echinacea purpurea. The leaves and petals are broader, the plants more strongly upright and the petals are more overlapping. The Big Sky series looks just like a normal purple coneflower only with new and exciting colours. This series includes 'Sunrise' (at left) with lemon yellow petals around a gold cone, 'Sunset' with salmon-orange petals and a copper cone (below left), 'Sundown' with coral petals tipped in salmon and broader petals than 'Sunset', 'Harvest Moon' with rich gold petals around a golden-orange cone and 'Twighlight' with rose pink petals around a red cone. All of the cultivars of the Big Sky series are fragrant.

Cultivation: There are a few things about the requirements of coneflowers that any gardener in the Lower Mainland wanting to grow these wonderful plants should know. Coneflowers come from the North American prairies. They are therefore extremely hardy to our temperatures. But they are adapted to dryish, well-drained soils that are average to poor in nutrients. The challenge in the Lower Mainland is to avoid rich beds that are excessively moist in the winter. Plant your coneflowers in well-drained or preferable dry soils in raised beds with average to low nutrients and you should be quite successful.

Currently available at the nursery (and in bud!): 'Mango Meadowbrite', Big Sky 'Sunrise', 'Sunset', and 'Sundown'

Ready in the next 1-4 weeks: 'Orange Meadowbrite', Big Sky 'Harvest Moon' and 'Twighlight'



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. Now that your gardening powers are greater than they've ever been and you've had a good part of this season to experiment, we want to know what you think is the ultimate knock-out plant combination.

Bigger and Better than Ever.

1st Prize: $150 Gift Certificate at Phoenix
2nd Prize: $100 Gift Certificate at Phoenix
3rd Prize: $50 Gift Certificate at Phoenix
Honourable Mentions: Fame but not fortune

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 which includes our Summer Sizzle Event July 15th and 16th.

Here are the instructions:

1. Your plant combination should be suitable for a pot, small bed or section of a larger bed.
2. It must include 5-7 different species or cultivars of perennials.
3. It can be in any style you desire (english cottage, formal, subtropical, alpine, drought tolerant,... anything you can imagine). Just make it fabulous.
4. The submissions will be judged on leaf combinations (size, shape, texture, colour, etc.) and on flower combinations (colour scheme, size, etc). They will also be judged based on creativity and degree of "wow" factor.
5. Each entry should include a short paragraph of why you chose those particular plants and why you think that combination is particularly great. Here's your chance to convince us! If you have a photograph of your plant combination, please attach that to your email or mail it in with your entry as it will undoubtedly help your case.
6. Download an entry form from our website. To email it back: Fill it out on your computer, save it on your computer, then attach it to an email and send it back to To mail it in simply print it off, fill it out by hand and mail it, fax it, or drop it off at the nursery. 3380 No. 6 Rd., Richmond, BC, V6V 1P5, Fax: 604-270-4133.
7. Submissions are due by June 25th, 2005. The winners will be announced in the July 2005 E-newsletter.
8. Maximum three entries per person.
9. Your entries must conform to the above instructions so that they can be judged against the other entries. Entries that do not meet the above criteria might not be considered.
9. The entries will be judged by Gary Lewis, owner of Phoenix Perennials, by the Phoenicians and by a guest landscape designer yet to be announced.

To read the article about last year's winners click here.

We're looking forward to your entries!


Upcoming Workshop at the Nursery
The Drought Tolerant Garden
Planting a garden that goes easy on the drink

A Season in the Garden: Early Summer Perennials
Cliff Thorbes

With water restrictions part of the reality of gardening in the Lower Mainland it makes sense to use plants suited to their environment and our seasonally dry summers. Cliff will talk about waterwise gardens and the plants that can be used in them.

Saturday June 17th, 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

Colour in the Garden: How to use colour and contrast to great effect plus A Season in the Garden: Summer Perennials | Saturday July 8th, 10am | $10

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.


Upcoming Workshop at the Nursery
Avoiding the Late Summer Doldrums
Great Plants for High Summer and Early Fall
Phoenix Perennials owner Gary Lewis


So many gardens look fabulous in the spring only to have their vibrant colours fade as summer arrives. Gary Lewis offers advice on how to avoid these late summer doldrums and recommends a host of great garden plants to keep the colour in the garden through the hot months of the year.

Saturday June 24th, 10am


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.


Phoenix Perennials Charity Shopping Weekend
to benefit the
HomeStart Foundation
Saturday June 3rd and Sunday June 4th

Welcome to our third Charity Shopping Weekend of the season -- a fun way for Phoenix Perennials to give back to the community and for visitors to Phoenix Perennials to support a good cause.

What is the Homestart Foundation?: The goal of the HomeStart Foundation is to redistribute safe, clean, functional furniture in a professional, dignified manner, from those who want to share to those who are truly in need. They provide these basic items, free of charge, to people who have been homeless with the goal of helping them achieve self-sufficiency, self-esteem, and long-term stability. Over 60 member agencies in Vancouver, Richmond & Burnaby refer their clients to the HomeStart Foundation. For more information visit:

How it Works: Gardeners who wish to support the Homestart Foundation can come shopping at Phoenix Perennials on Saturday May 13th and Sunday May 14th. When you pay for your plants, tell us that you have come to support the Homestart Foundation and we will donate 25% of the price of your plants to this worthy cause. But remember: you must tell us why you have come to the nursery on that day or we won't know to donate the proceeds from your sale. Other than that, it's pretty simple: all you have to do is shop!

Mark your Calendars! See you at the Charity Shopping Weekend!


The Alpine Garden Club of BC presents
Plants and Plant Ecology of the American Deserts
A Botanical Travelogue

with Phoenix Perennials owner Gary Lewis

Travel with Gary Lewis on a three week driving tour of California and Arizona and discover the intriguing plants that inhabit the challenging desert environments of the American southwest. This presentation includes stunning imagery of blooming cacti and other desert wildflowers and draws on ecology, biogeography and botany.

June 14th, 2006
7:30 pm
Floral Hall, VanDusen Botanical Gardens

Sponsored by the Alpine Garden Club of BC.
For more information call Philip at


The Coquitlam Dogwood 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.

Tuesday June 20th, 2006
Dogwood Pavilion, Coquitlam

Sponsored by the Coquitlam Dogwood Garden Club.
For more information call Beverley at 604-464-2754.

Everyone welcome!



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

There are so many amazing plants available at the nursery right now that it's hard to decide what to highlight. Here is a simply photo essay of some of my top pics of the moment.

Cypripedium montanum -- This rare hardy lady slipper orchid is small, delicate but beautiful. Not for the faint of heart. Unlike some of the other lady slippers we offer this one is a bit difficult to grow.


Dactylorhiza praetermissa -- Hardy Ground Orchid -- This hardy, easy to grow ground orchid loves part shade to part sun and evenly moist soils. It sports a beautiful spike of magenta orchid flowers and can have various levels of spotting on its leaves. Also available: D. maculata.


Persicaria polymorpha -- White Dragon -- This is a plant with presence! White dragon grows five to seven feet tall into an arching vase shape. It is topped with astilbe-like masses of white flowers on every stem often from summer well into fall. The flowers are followed by pinkish seed heads. A clumping, non-invasive plant, white dragon looks great at the back of the border with miscanthus, Sambucus nigra ‘Black Beauty’ and other large perennials. Loves moist soils but quite tolerant of drought once established.


Lavandula stoechas 'Pastel Dreams' -- Spanish Lavender -- This vigorous disease-resistant new Spanish lavender offers a naturally rounded, compact form with grey-green fragrant foliage. However, its most appealing feature is that the bracts of the long-stemmed flower spikes are at first creamy white with green accents and only later change to a pale mauve. In lower light areas the bracts will remain creamy white with a bluish tint. The effect is one of white butterflies dancing above a mass of lavender. I expect it to be simply lovely and intriguing in combination with the standard spanish lavender with pink and lavender bracts.


Echeverias -- Mexican Hens and Chicks -- Our selection is expanding! If you’re a fan you’ll want to keep in touch. We have many of the fabulous, large, ruffled cultivars coming down the pipes like ‘Mauna Loa’ and ‘Blue Curls’. Grown primarily for their colourful succulent rosettes in shades of blue, green, grey, white, and pink, Echeveria beg to be combined and contrasted in pots or along pathways. They make a no nonsense houseplant for a bright window sill in winter -- in fact don’t water them more than sparingly once a month.

Primula 'Green Lace' aka 'Francisca' -- Primrose -- The bizarre ruffly frilled flowers are green with a yellow eye and last for months. An intriguing addition to the shade garden, to your primula collection or as a conversation piece in a pot! This primula came to us as 'Green Lace'. I have more recently found at that its original name is 'Francisca', named after Francisca Dart of Whiterock's Darts Hill Garden. Some time ago Francisca found this primula in the compost heap of a nursery in Tacoma and brought it back to Vancouver where she shared it with her friends. Much more recently it was "discovered" by Terranova Nurseries who renamed it 'Green Lace' and introduced it to the world.


Arisaema costatum -- Cobra Lily -- The bold spathe of A. costatum is burgundy-purple with white stripes. The tip of the spathe-limb has a long, often twisted, thread-like appendage that dangles to the ground. The trifoliate leaf has raised veins and purple wavy margins. From Nepal and Tibet.


Antirrhinum braun-blanquetii -- Perennials Snapdragon -- Pale yellow and white snapdragons on bushy plants. This perennial species from Spain flowers and flowers and flowers from May to September.

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 3rd through October 31st, 2006

Copyright Phoenix Perennials and Specialty Plants Ltd. 2006

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