World Federation of Rose Societies Convenes in Vancouver
by Art Drysdale
by Art Drysdale


Art Drysdale, a life-long resident of Toronto and a horticulturist well known all across Canada, is now a resident of Parksville, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, just north of Nanaimo. He has reno-vated an old home and has a new garden there. His radio gardening vignettes are heard in south-western Ontario over radio station Easy 101 FM out of Tillsonburg at 2 PM weekdays.

Art also has his own website at

June 21, 2009

Above, first that extremely long escalator at the New Vancouver Convention Centre--note the people on it, just how tiny they look; one of the striking parts of the Phoenix Perennials exhibit was the Eremurus (Foxtail lily)--many did not know what they were, and I should add that we have one spike just about at this stage in our garden here at present; the Allium christophii ‘Forelock’ also attracted much attention due to their almost black colour; the next shot shows a reasonable-sized Wollemi pine, surrounded by Salvia ‘Hot Lips’ however in both this shot and the next below, the colour of the ‘Hot Lips’ is not accurate, it is more orange; and finally a native B.C. plant that I had not seen before, Devil’s club (Oplopanax horridus). Below, the Brentwood Bay Nurseries display of the ‘Michel Trudeau’ rose; followed by five shots of the Heritage Perennials garden, starting with the ‘light sign’ on the floor, (there was one of these for each major garden exhibitor)--particularly note the size of the tree peony blooms. Author photos.



Above, three shots of part of the GardenWorks WFRS display, showing the roses ‘John Davis’ and ‘Champlain’ along with a typical informative sign for ‘John Davis’; the 1931 Hupmobile (made in Windsor Ontario) and the 1935 McLauglin Buick (made in Oshawa Ontario) in the Adamson’s Heritage Nursery display; and finally three nice floral pans of roses. Below, two shots of the actual rose show, which was very difficult to get due to the extremely low level of lighting in the hall. Author photos.

It is only held every three years, and while it has been held in Toronto, and I did attend at least one function that time, it has never been held in Vancouver.

On Friday last, I attended the first day of the WFRS rose show at the brand spanking New Vancouver Convention Centre. First, it is a great building and while the cost overruns have been somewhat unbelievable, now that it is open, likely the complaining will die down. Vancouverites and their travelling visitors will obviously be well served by this building. Not unlike the newer South Building of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, this new Vancouver building is partly underground--a long way down! The escalators reminded me of those at some of the ‘deeper’ London tube stations!

But what about the show! In a word, excellent, but not without some, perhaps minor, shortcomings; like the hall lighting which I found very much lacking. And, on Friday at least, the hall was cold. Those of us in short sleeves regretted not having at least one sweater to put on. They were also pumping water, in the form of a mist, into the hall at several locations, I guess to improve the humidity. But that, of course, just made the ‘cold factor’ all the worse. I had lunch with renowned English rose hybridizer Peter Beales, and he had a long sleeve shirt and jacket on, and he said as far as he was concerned, it was “just nice” but many of the ladies in their light blouses and me in my short-sleeved short could have done with it being warmer!

As one entered the hall it was hard not to be impressed with the ‘indoor gardens’ of a number of exhibitors particularly including Phoenix Perennials and Specialty Plants Ltd., Valleybrook Gardens (Heritage Perennials), Select Roses & the Landscape Consultants, GardenWorks, Adamson’s Heritage Nursery Ltd. and Pan American Nursery Products.

The displays of Phoenix Perennials (located in Richmond B.C. near Vancouver International Airport) and Heritage Perennials (located in Abbotsford B.C. as well as Niagara-On-the-Lake Ontario) were, in my opinion, a tie for best garden in the show, if there had been such a category. Phoenix described their garden as a combination of two inputs: “the ‘new wave planting’ designers, chief among them [Dutchman] Piet Oudolf, who design their plantings in large naturalistic sweeps and swaths.” And, “the second bit of inspiration …paisley--the fabric pattern!”

I was impressed by a number of plants designer Gary Lewis (owner of the company and who was there to talk to the public) included; such as a native guy I had not seen before: Devil’s club (Oplopanax horridus), which somewhat resembles the foliage of the old perennial Rodgersia on a mini-standard stem. He also had one of the famous Wollemi pines (Wollemia nobilis), and a grand grouping of some stunning Foxtail lily (Eremurus ‘Cleopatra’). Other plants of interest in the garden included Allium christophii ‘Forelock’ and Salvia ‘Hot Lips’, although the colour of the latter in my photo here has not come out true due to the lighting (or lack of it) in the building. Those in the Vancouver area would be well advised to pay a visit to this nursery at 3380 No. 6 Road in Richmond, or check their Website, .

Heritage Perennials had great groupings of plants as some of my photos included here will show. The orange lilies were stunning and the huge flowers on the tree peonies were to die for! This company’s perennials can be ordered from virtually any garden centre as they are major wholesalers, and known for the “blue pots.”

Brad Jalbert, owner of Select Roses, of course concentrated on roses in his garden. He featured a new rose he hybridized especially for the City of New Westminster called ‘Royal City Rose’ and one called ‘Fortitude’ to benefit the ‘Abreast in a Boat’ organization. He also had nice containerized rose cultivars, and I particularly like his specimen of ‘Burgundy Iceberg’ which I have written about here before, but which, like all plants of that deep colour, never seems to reproduce well in a photo. I purposely did not include it!

A nice small display of the new Rosa rugosa ‘Michel Trudeau’ was located in this area as well. I’ve included a photo of the display and will write more about it in the near future.

GardenWorks owns a chain of eight garden centres on the lower mainland of B.C. and on Vancouver Island. They had staged excellent displays at other garden shows here that I have seen. At this show, their prime emphasis was on the Canadian Explorer roses (named after famous and not so famous explorers and other Canadians). These are hardy, and in most cases, disease resistant, and in recent years have become quite popular both in Canada and the U.S. GardenWorks had fairly large mass plantings of a number of these and they showed them off to advantage and their informative signage was excellent.

Adamson’s Heritage Nursery seemed highly desirous of keeping their location in Langley, B.C. hidden from the public (try finding that on their Web pages!); however their display attracted much attention with two 1930s autos loaded up with roses! A great exhibit!

Pan American Nursery Products, a major wholesaler of numerous garden centre items all across Canada, had an excellent display of their Flower Carpet series of ground cover roses. These too are available at many garden centres across Canada and the U.S.

Now, what about the rose show itself? Originally, the organizers with the Vancouver Rose Society thought they might be short of roses due to the extremely slow and cool spring season. But just about a month ago that all changed; most of B.C. endured a record heat-wave with most centres having record highs for almost a week. That was good for the rosarians. It was a well-filled show; most of the tables were pretty jammed. Even the photography contest had more entries than space to post them. The one cause of some open spaces on the tables was a noted drop in the number of exhibitors from nearby Portland Oregon. Perhaps it was the new U.S. visa/passport requirements that kept U.S. visitors away.

What was staged from last Friday to Sunday in Vancouver was the World Rose Festival. Yet to come is the World Rose Convention. I shall not be attending the entire convention but hope to take in the final banquet on Wednesday night this week. Hopefully I can report on this next week.

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