Phoenix Perennials and Specialty Plants

E-Newsletter: May 2008


The Phoenix Perennials

May 2008

Hello from Phoenix Perennials!

We miss you. Are you ready to garden yet?

What a spring we've been having. This picture was taken at the nursery on the morning of April 19th, 2008. I'm sure this will go down in history as one of the coldest springs ever culminating with this snow fall. I estimate that we are about two to three weeks behind what I would consider average. But we garden in Mother Nature's spaces so we just have to go with the flow.

Despite the weather it is now prime time for gardening. Much of our production is coming ready, the nursery is packed with wonderful plants, and there are new and exciting things for you to discover. Now is a great time to rev up your gardening engines and start beautifying your spaces. We're ready for you. And we hope you'll visit soon.

In this issue we announce the printing of our 2008 New and Notable Catalogue, we focus on developing specialties and sections at the nursery, we introduce our new collectible t-shirt (FUN!), we highlight our Perfect Plant Search which is part of our online searchable database, we announce our call for Hours for Flowers volunteers, our upcoming workshops, and our Charity Shopping Weekend for the Gogo Grannies, and we bring you our regular installment of Fabulous at Phoenix.

Enjoy! See you at the nursery soon.

Cheers, Gary and the Phoenicians


In this Issue

1. The 2008 New and Notable Catalogue: Ready to Download!
2. 3000 Different Plants are not Enough: Developing Specialties and Sections
at Phoenix Perennials

3. New Phoenix Perennials Collectible T-Shirt
4. From the Phoenix Website: The Perfect Plant Search
5. The Hours for Flowers Volunteer Program
6. Upcoming Workshops: Come learn with us
7. Charity Shopping Weekend to Benefit the Gogo Grannies
8. Fabulous at Phoenix: Gary's Picks of New, Notable and Luscious Plants at the Phoenix Candy Store


The 2008 New and Notable Catalogue
Ready to Download and Now Available in Print at the Nursery!

The 2008 New and Notable Catalogue is now ready to download from our website and the printed version (without images) is now ready to pick up at the nursery at our cost of $4. The downloadable version of our catalogue is in full colour and includes an image for almost every plant. Go to the main page of our website at and click on the link for our catalogue. It is in PDF format. Because of all the images it is 8 megabytes in size but we think it is well worth the wait to download. You can then read it on your computer or you can print it off on your colour or black and white printer.

This year's catalogue contains about 240 plants -- only about 8% of our total offerings but the highlighted plants include many of the newest, snazziest, and most exciting offerings we'll have this year. But remember: not all plants will be ready at all times, especially in this cold spring we've been having. If a plant isn't yet ready we can put you on the wish list. You'll be the first to be called as soon as the plant is ready.

The normal hard copy version of our catalogue, without pictures, will be available for purchase at the end of the month as soon as we get it back from the printers. The cost is $4.00 which just covers the cost of printing. You will be able to purchase it in person at the nursery or you can order it on our website to be mailed to you.

We hope you enjoy the images and descriptions in this year's catalogue and that you'll be inspired to circle, star, or highlight some plants and dog-ear lots of pages and then come down to visit us and pick some treasures up for your gardens!



3000 Different Plants are not Enough
Developing Specialties and Sections
at Phoenix Perennials

At Phoenix Perennials we love everything so we want to grow and offer everything. Of course there are certain limitations so we are continuing to expand into areas of the plant world that we find the most exciting and useful. This year at Phoenix you will find lots of new and exciting selections in the following areas:

Groundcovers: Shade or sun or inbetween, we've got a large selection of choice plants to give your beds and large spaces that finished look and to hide bare soil. We can also order in large quantities of groundcovers for big areas. Just ask.

Alpines: They're cute, they're miniature, and they are especially great for gardeners who have small spaces. Imagine how many different plants you can grow if each one only takes up a few square inches! Plant them in rock or alpine gardens, pots, or Stone Art Planters.

Roses: We have selected a wide assortment of bullet proof roses for our climate that are resistant to black spot and powdery mildew. These include unique climbers (including a number that grow from 30 to 50 feet), super fragrant rugosas, the constantly flowering Meidilands and a few classic floribundas and such. We also have some unique roses like my personal favourite Rosa chinensis 'Mutabilis' that looks like multi-coloured butterflies alighting on dainty burgundy-tinted foliage.

BC Native Plants: We have such beautiful native plants, many of which can stand shoulder to shoulder with any plants from anywhere in the world in terms of their ornamental and garden-worthy characteristics. We have therefore mixed them into our regular sections but have marked them with a special BC Native sign. Watch for them!

Hardy and Close to Hardy Succulents: New agaves, yucca, cacti, a huge range of sempervivums, and other hardy succulents. These plants are great for a little prickly drama in the garden and in pots. Most are perfectly hardy to our temperatures and just require protection from winter rain or sharp drainage.

Vines: There is always room for more plants in your garden if you choose vines. Plant them on trellises, up trees and through shrubs. Plant them side by side and let them intermingle with each other. Vines are often the best way to add more colour into an existing garden. Do you have a witch hazel that isn't very interesting after its winter blooms? Plant a Kivistik clematis at its base and your witch hazel will "bloom" again all through the summer. Do you have a butterly bush that is awfully boring all spring. Plant a spring-blooming Clematis macopetala or montana to grow up into its branches. Do you have a big ugly conifer trunk rising all too prominently just outside your window? Cover it with an evergreen climbing hydrangea or fill its branches with Rosa 'Kiftsgate' which grows to 50 feet and is said to be the rose that swallowed Sleeping Beauty's castle! Vines offer so many possibilities for enhancing the garden.

Veggies: Our Phoenix Fresh Veggies section is now filling up with crazy vegetables, heirloom tomatoes, and fragrant herbs. Decrease your carbon footprint, embrace the 100 Mile Diet and grow your own. You can't get much more local than your own backyard!

Next time you visit the nursery watch for these new sections. There are lots and lots of exciting new things to grow!


New Phoenix Perennials Collectible T-Shirt

There are worse addictions than plants!

Welcome to our first ever offering of Phoenix Wear! Pretty soon we'll take on Lulu Lemon but for now we'll start with a t-shirt.

This high quality tee will be black with embroidered text in green. They will cost a reasonable $17.99. They are great for gardening, plant shopping, going to garden group meetings, and for reminding your spouse that it could be worse!

Our t-shirts will be arriving at the nursery either just before or just after Mothers' Day weekend. They will be available in various sizes.

If you would like one, please email us back and let us know. This will help us tweak the numbers. Give us your phone number and we will call you when they come in!

If they are popular enough we will print a different saying each season!




From the Phoenix Website
The Perfect Plant Search

Our searchable database offers an incredible resource for local gardeners to learn about the multitude of plants offered at the nursery. This database currently lists 1500 of the 3000+ different plants that we offer. In time we will add more and more.

You can search for plants by common or Latin (scientific) name but you can also use our Perfect Plant Search to identify plants of particular characteristics or for particular situations. With this search feature you can use any number and combination of the following fields: Plant Type (Perennial, Shrub, Vine, etc), Light Exposure, Soil Moisture, Primary Bloom Colour, Foliage Colour, and Hardiness Zone. Need a shrub for shade in zone 7? Need a perennial for shade and dry soil? Are you a fanatic for blue flowers or burgundy foliage? All of these questions can be answered by the Perfect Plant Search.

Instructions: From the first page of our website select the Plants section from the top right hand menu. This will bring you to the searchable database page. In the green box you will find the fields for the Perfect Plant Search. Click on the white boxes to choose an option for that field. You can use one field or select options from all six fields to help narrow down your search. When you are finished with your selections click on the Search button. Wait a few moments and a new page will open with a list of plants that fit your search criteria. You can click on each one of those plants to view more information and to see pictures.

We hope you will have fun using this feature. We also hope that it will help you have more fun and create a better garden. Please let us know how you like it, how it works for you and if you have any suggestions for improvements.



The Hours for Flowers
Volunteer Program

Our nursery is a big place with thousands and thousands of plants. Sometimes we need a little help to keep up with everything. That's where you could come in.

Our Hours for Flowers volunteers help us with potting, weeding, gardening, general plant care, and organizing. They select their own days and hours as long as it is a regular schedule that we can count on. When they're done, we pay them in plants!

If you are interested in the Hours for Flowers Volunteer Program please send an email to Let us know about your gardening experience and the day(s) and number of hours you would like to volunteer. Also give us your phone number. We will contact you shortly.



Upcoming Workshops
Come learn with us


CONTAINER SERIES | Containers to Die For: Discover the easy secrets to success with perennial containers | Instructor: Cliff Thorbes | Saturday May 10th, two workshops starting at 10am and 2pm | $15 | This is a fun hands-on workshop for gardeners of all levels who are interested in learning how to successfully create gorgeous perennial containers. 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.

CONTAINER SERIES | Phoenix Fresh Veggies: Plant Up a Container with Unusual  and Heirloom Varieties | Instructor: Shelley Brignall | Saturday May 17th, 10am | $15 | You can’t eat much more locally than your own back yard! Shelley will introduce you to a host of cool, unusual and heirloom vegetables including purple tomatoes, rainbow-coloured greens, squash and cucumbers that grow on bushes, spinach that grows on vines, peas with blue pods, white eggplants, and aromatic companion herbs. After some practical and design instruction each participant will plant up and take home their own veggie container. Please bring your own large pot (minimum 12-14 inches in diametre). 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.

DOWN TO EARTH SERIES | The Buzz of Beneficials: Plants to attract butterflies, birds and hummingbirds to your garden | Instructor: Diane Brown | Saturday May 24th, 10am | $15 | In this workshop you'll learn how to attract butterflies, birds,  hummingbirds and beneficial insects to your garden through the careful selection of beautiful plants loved by our favourite garden visitors.

DOWN TO EARTH SERIES | The Essence of BC: Exploring our fabulous native flora | Instructor: Diane Brown | Saturday May 31st, 10am | $15 | British Columbia has a wealth of beautiful and useful native plants including shrubs, perennials, and groundcovers. In this workshop you'll be introduced to our friendly natives and the reasons why native plant gardening is vital and exciting.



Plantaholics Anonymous: A “support group” for gardeners subject to uncontrollable bouts of plant lust (Session 2: Late Spring/Early Summer Plants) | Instructor: Gary Lewis | Sunday June 1st | $15 | Are you crazy for new and snazzy or rare and unusual plants? Then you won’t want to miss this opportunity to sit down with Phoenix Perennials owner Gary Lewis who will introduce you to a bevy of addictively fantastic new and/or unusual wonders for the garden. Gary will discuss the botany, ecology, history, garden uses and care of a diverse selection of intriguing plants. In this session (Session 2), Gary will introduce you to plants that come into their own in late spring and early summer. Session 1 runs Sunday April 27th and will deal with spring plants.

Ready for my Close-Up: Capturing the starlets of the garden in the frame of a photograph | Instructor: Jane Eaton Hamilton | Two Evenings: Tuesdays June 10 and June 17, 6-9pm | $75 | Do you long to be able to photograph flowers so that they look just as good in wet white January -- up on your wall -- as they do swaying in their sultry summer beds? Spend two seductive evenings photographing the come-hither beauties of the Phoenix Perennials June gardens.  We will cover macro photography, capturing still flowers, and photographing moving flowers. Please bring a digital SLR, a 4GB memory card, and the best lens you have.  Jane suggests a Canon 100 mm f2.8 or its equivalent.  Participants will have the opportunity to share their best work with the class.

DESIGN SERIES | The Dry Garden: Designing a drought tolerant garden that goes easy on the drink | Instructor: Diane Brown | Saturday June 14th, 10am | $20 | A workshop on the principles of designing and planting a bed for a hot, dry, sunny spot. Each participant will have the opportunity to design a xeriscape garden with the help of Diane. Come to the workshop with a five foot by five foot sized area of your garden in mind including pictures. Maximum: 15 participants.



Grasses that Captivate: The transformative powers of ornamental grasses | Instructor: Shelley Brignall | Saturday September 20th, 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.

CONTAINER SERIES | Jewels of the Spring Garden: Bulbs for spring containers  | Instructor: Shelley Brignall | Saturday September 27th, 10am | $15 | Meet the spring blooming wonders that you can include in your garden and in pots including a number of uncommon but exciting possibilities. You will also receive instruction on designing with bulbs and planting them in layers for knock out displays. Each participant will then plant up and take home their own container. Please bring your own large pot (minimum 12-14 inches in diametre). 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. The cost of the bulbs that you choose to include in your container are not included in the cost of the workshop.



CONTAINER SERIES | Winter Containers: Plant up a container to create winter interest | Instructor: Cliff Thorbes | Saturday October 6th, two workshops starting at 10am and 2pm | $15 | 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.

Special Container Series Offer*
Sign up for any three Container workshops for only $40 (Does not include the cost of the wreath frame ($25) if you select the Living Wreaths workshop).

Special Workshop Offer*
Mix and match any four workshops from any of our series and receive 10% off your enrollment. (Does not include the cost of the wreath frame ($25) if you select the Living Wreaths workshop).

*To take advantage of our special offers workshops must be purchased all at the same time. Workshops purchased as a series are not transferrable to other attendees and must be used by one person.

Booking Workshops

Spaces are limited. Please call (604-270-4133) or visit the nursery to book your space. Payment is required when booking. If you would like to take advantage of one of our special offers please let us know at the start of your booking.

Each workshop requires a minimum of 10 people and a maximum of 15-25 depending on the workshop. If the minimum is not met we may not be able to run the workshop in which case we will contact you a few days before the scheduled date of the workshop.

Workshop participants will receive a 15% discount on any purchases they wish to make the day of their workshop. Woo hoo!



Phoenix Perennials Charity Shopping Weekend
to benefit the
Greater Vancouver
Gogo Grannies

Mothers' Day Weekend
Saturday May 10th and Sunday May 11th, 2007

Welcome to our first Charity Shopping Weekend of the season -- a fun way for Phoenix Perennials to give back to the community and for customers of Phoenix Perennials to feel less guilty about their plant buying habits.

Who are the Gogo Grannies?: The Greater Vancouver Gogo Grannies are a motivated group of concerned Canadian grandmothers who, with 200 other grandmother groups across Canada have come together with the sole purpose of raising money for the Stephen Lewis Foundation's Grandmothers to Grandmothers campaign. This campaign seeks to raise awareness and funds for African grandmothers who are raising orphans of the AIDS pandemic. "Gogo" means grandmother in Zulu. In many parts of Africa much of the young adult generation has been decimated leaving behind their orphaned children and their grieving, aging parents. Into this void, through their grief and in societies that often disenfranchise the voices of women, the grandmothers of Africa are stepping up to raise the next generation with limited resources and support.

Since the launch of the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign in 2006, more than 200 groups of Canadian grandmothers have taken up the call to action and together have raised over $2,000,000 for the campaign. The Stephen Lewis Foundation directs these funds to community-level organizations in 14 sub-Saharan African countries that provide grandmothers with much needed support, such as food, housing grants, school fees for their grandchildren and grief counselling.

For more information please visit: and

A special note to customers of Phoenix Perennials: The stories of the African grandmothers is truly inspirational and the work being done by the Canadian Gogo groups is phenomenal. I know that many of you are mothers and grandmothers (and some of you are fathers and grandfathers) who love your own children and grandchildren and know the importance of raising the next generation of citizens. I hope that this Mothers' Day you'll be inspired to visit the nursery, buy some plants and help the Gogos of Canada help the Gogos of Africa. Cheers!

How it Works: Gardeners who wish to support the Gogo Grannies can come shopping at Phoenix Perennials on Saturday May 10th and Sunday May 11th. When you pay for your plants, tell us that you have come to support the Gogo Grannies 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!

Upcoming Charity Shopping Weekends

May 31st and June 11th: Pacific Parklands Foundation
July 5th and 6th: Greyhaven Exotic Bird Sanctuary

We do not yet have a charity for September if you know of one!



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

Silene 'Rolly's Favourite' - Catchfly - This super floriferous cultivar offers big plants and bright, boisterous pink flowers in multitudes.


Sorbaria sorbifolia 'Sem' - False Spiraea - This fantastic shrub has beautiful young foliage tinged with pink, orange and gold which gradually changes to green when mature. The densely packed leaves are pinnate giving a lacey, ferny effect. White flower plumes are produced in midsummer. An extremely hardy, medium sized, shrub for most soils. Grows well in sun or light shade.


Agave montana 'Baccarat' - Century Plant - The current best chance for a hardy agave in Vancouver is this Yucca Do Nursery selection. Hailing from moist mountain sides at high elevations in northeast Mexico, A. montana commonly experiences mist, rain, frost and snow in the winter months. It grows to a two feet tall by three feet wide with broad, glaucous leaves, each ending in a large black spine. The stunning silvery bud imprints on the leaf backs are reminiscent of cut crystal. Provide good drainage. Larger plants will be hardier.


Magnolia 'Susan' - Magnolia - Luscious, knee-weakening red-purple buds and petals with pale purple interiors. ‘Susan’ is one of a group of eight magnolias developed from crosses of M. liliflora ‘Nigra’ × M. stellata ‘Rosea’ made in the 1950s. These eight plants, known affectionately as 'The Girls', were selected and named by William F. Kosar and released in 1968. The others are 'Ann', 'Betty', 'Judy', 'Ricki', 'Susan', 'Jane' and 'Pinkie'. This year we have ‘Randy’ and ‘Susan’ in limited quantities.


Maianthemum racemosum (syn. Smilacina racemosa) - False Solomon's Seal - This fantastic BC native plant has the same size, stature and usefullness in the garden as the true solomon's seal (Polygonatum) but with clusters of fuzzy white fragrant flowers at the tips of the arching stems. The flowers are followed by attractive red berries. I think I even prefer it to the Solomon's Seal! Don't miss this superlative native. In full delicous flowers at the nursery now.


Gaura 'Passionate Rainbow' - Butterfly Gaura - Who needs flowers when you have variegated red and pink flushed foliage like this. The clincher is that you DO get flowers too! They're pink and look like little butterflies clasped to stems drifting lightly in the breeze. Elegant and zaney all in one plant!


Wollemia nobilis - Wollemi Pine - Known only from Jurassic fossils and thought to have gone extinct with the dinosaurs, the Wollemi pine was found in 1994 by a park ranger in an innaccessible canyon of Wollemi National Park, Australia -- the botanical equivalent of finding a Tyranosaurus rex alive today! It has beautiful and intriguing bluish green foliage. Grow it as a houseplant (like its cousin the Norfolk Island pine) or outside. Recent trials suggest hardiness to zone 7b. Supplies are good for 2008 but spotty for 2009.


Clematis Kivistik Collection - Clematis - Originating in Estonia the Kivistik clematis have a compact growth habit, copious blooms on the current season's growth, an unusually long bloom period, rich colours, great disease resistance, and hardiness to zone 3. Their compact size and long bloom time make them excellent in containers or in the garden. We have six different cultivars available. The plant pictured is 'Ruutel'.


Zantedeschia aethiopica 'White Giant' - Giant Calla Lily - This fantastic, imposing, giant selection of Z. aethiopica features three to five foot clumps of white-speckled, ruffled arrow-shaped leaves topped by seven foot tall flower stems carrying the classic white boot-shaped calla flower. For full sun and average to moist soils. Semi-evergreen through most of the winter.


Arisaema galeatum - Cobra Lily - A. galeatum is often a tall plant reaching more than four feet in height. Its species name comes from the word galea meaning helmet which refers to the helmet-like spathe which completely encloses and hides the spadix. The unique spathe is red grading towards green in the upper half. The leaflet is coarsely textured due to the numerous veins which are purplish underneath. Rich, evenly moist soil is best. Himalayan.


Arisaema sikokianum - Cobra Lily - One of the most desirable of all cobra lilies with its incredible burgundy spathe, pure white interior and pure white knobbed spadis. This selection even has silver-centred foliage! Plant in well-drained soil that is dryish in the winter such as on a slope or near or under evergreen shrubs or trees.


Arisaema serratum var. mayebarae - Cobra Lily - Rich dark purple (practically black) spathes with minimal white striping emerge on tall stems before the leaves. The leaves emerge below the inflorescence. Plants are tall, growing up to four to six feet! Considered by some as A. mayebarae but now treated as a variety of A. serratum. Hails from the island of Kyushu.


Delphinium New Millenium Series - Delphinium - Selected in New Zealand, the New Millennium delphinium strains outperform all other tall types and offer some astonishingly rich shades of purple, dark blue, sky blue, pink, dusty rose, and white. The stems are strong and the plants are generally longer lived than other tall delphiniums.


Yucca rostrata - Beaked Yucca - This superlative yucca has tall bold trunks topped with narrow powder blue foliage and is hardy to zone 5! No that is not a typo. They are being grown in the Okanagan. These plants at the nursery are four to six feet tall and are quite old. My plant has survived three winters in my Vancouver garden without a scratch. Plant in full sun in sharp drainage.


Cypripedium formosanum - Formosa Lady's Slipper - This exquisite hardy lady’s slipper is endemic to high altitude regions of Taiwan and blooms in our area in mid spring. The flowers have a large pale pink pouch with white or pale pink petals and sepals spotted with darker pink or red. The rounded, light green leaves are pleated like a fan and provide much interest after the flowers have faded. This species is very easy to cultivate in an average shade garden and a good first introduction to growing hardy ground orchids.


Share this E-Newsletter with a Friend

Word of mouth has been such an important part of our success and growth at Phoenix Perennials. Thank you to everyone who has told their friends about us and thank you in advance for continuing to introduce new people to our nursery! We couldn't do it without your kind patronage and support!

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
February 22nd, 2008 through October 31st, 2008

Copyright Phoenix Perennials and Specialty Plants Ltd. 2008

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