5th Annual Heirloom Tomato Festival Set For September 10th At Phoenix Perennials


The GOODS from Phoenix Perennials

Richmond, BC | Phoenix Perennials announces its fifth annual Heirloom Tomato Festival to be held Saturday September 10th, 2016 from 10am-5pm. The Heirloom Tomato Festival will feature tasting sessions of heirloom and cool modern tomatoes throughout the day, sales of tomato fruit and displays of a wide range of heirloom and cool modern tomatoes.

“We are really excited about the fifth year of the Heirloom Tomato Festival,” says Phoenix Perennials owner Gary Lewis. “Tomatoes are the most popular edible for back yard growing and for eating. Nothing tastes like summer more than a fresh, sweet, locally-grown tomato, especially if it’s an heirloom variety. The interest in unique food experiences, growing your own and supporting locally grown food continues to increase on the part of the public. ”

The first four years of the festival were very popular with full tasting sessions throughout the day and over 1000 pounds of tomatoes sold each year. The idea for the Heirloom Tomato Festival came out of chats between Gary and Ken and Elke Knechtel of Red Barn Plants. Red Barn is a wholesale grower of heirloom and unusual veggie, herb and edible plants (as well as perennials). In 2009 they purchased a farm in Cawston, BC in the Similkameen Valley where their son Erik manages their fields of heirloom tomatoes, peppers and other veggies and fruit for sale at Lower Mainland farmers’ markets.

“At Phoenix Perennials we have been offering Red Barn’s tomato and veggie starts to our eager customers for back yard growing for years,” explains Gary. “It just makes sense to bring that full circle and celebrate the bounty of the harvest with our Heirloom Tomato Festival and with tomato fruit from the Knechtel’s fields. Plus Red Barn’s fruit are pretty much the best-tasting tomatoes you could ever buy. They are grown organically in open fields where the tomatoes experience hot days and cool nights. This temperature differential builds up sweet sugars but maintains acidity which results in an amazing tomato.”

Those who are interested in experiencing the Heirloom Tomato Festival should plan their visit ahead of time as fruit and tasting sessions could sell out. “Though we always have some extra tomatoes on hand mostly we just bring in enough for our tomato tastings and pre-orders. So if you want delicious tomatoes, order in advance!”

The Tomato Tasting Sessions will offer a chance for visitors to taste a wide range of delicious heirloom and cool modern tomatoes. Visitors will sit down at a table with a rainbow of tomato slices before them.

Phoenix Perennials owner Gary Lewis will then lead them in a tasting of 15-20 different tomatoes one by one and all in a particular order just like a wine tasting. He’ll introduce each tomato variety, talk about the type of cultivar, its history and origins, its flavour profile and its uses in the kitchen. Attendees will then taste the tomato, discuss it as a group and take notes for future reference on a provided list. At the end of the session each person will vote for their favourite tomatoes and then select their party mix to take home with them.

“Last year the favourite tomato based on votes at the end of the tasting sessions was ‘Sunsugar’”, reports Lewis. “This is a modern, orange, cherry tomato that is said to be among the sweetest tomatoes in the world. It tastes like candy. Other popular cultivars were ‘Japanese Black Trifele’ with its dark, rich, lusty flavour and two green tomatoes: an heirloom beefsteak called ‘Aunt Ruby’s German Green’ with a strong, sweet, fruity flavour and a modern tomato that is often thought of as an heirloom called ‘Green Zebra’. This variety is tart and zingy with flesh striped with different greens and yellows.” Each tomato tasting session costs $30 which includes one "Party Mix" of three plus pounds of heirloom and cool modern tomatoes valued at $16. Tasting sessions will run at 10am, 11am, 12pm and 1pm.

“There will also be tomato fruit for sale at the Festival. And people can make pre-bookings of “Party Mixes” for pick-up at the Festival,” says Lewis. “Some people just can’t get enough, including myself. After last year’s event I served my friends a full range of tomatoes sliced up, drizzled with olive oil and an aged balsamic vinegar and sprinkled with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. They were so impressed and fascinated!”

The Heirloom Tomato Festival will also have displays of tomato fruit and tomato plants which will help to illustrate the incredible range of shapes, colours and sizes available from the world of tomatoes.

“In past years our tomato displays have included 40-50 different kinds of tomatoes all arranged on beautiful platters and all labeled so that our guests can marvel at the bounty and diversity of the world of tomatoes,” says Gary.

Bookings of Tasting Sessions, the Preserving Workshop and Party Mixes can be made online by visiting www.phoenixperennials.com.

For more information, please contact Gary Lewis at 604-202- 0920 or at phoenixperennials@shaw.ca.

About Red Barn Plants | Elke and Ken Knechtel have been growing plants since the late 1970’s. With youthful passion they developed Rainforest Gardens, a retail/mail order perennial nursery. With the arrival of children their goals and aspirations grew into The Perennial Gardens, a leader in plant introduction and cultivation. In the 2000’s their passion blossomed into Red Barn Plants  & Produce, growers of interesting vegetables, herbs, edible annuals and of course intriguing perennials

In 2009 they bought their Cawston field farm and Erik, their son, came on as manager and partner in their continuing adventure. Erik now refers to his parents as mud farmers and to himself as a dust farmer,  a reference to the two very different climates at their two farms.

They currently sell their produce at farmer’s markets across Greater Vancouver. Their plants are available at leading garden centres as well. They enjoy what they do and always have liked talking farming, growing and the like.



3380 No. 6 Rd. | Richmond, BC | V6V 1P5
Phone & Fax: 604-270-4133 | Email: info@phoenixperennials.com
Web: www.phoenixperennials.com | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube | Pinterest


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The People


Gary Lewis, Owner

About Phoenix Perennials


Phoenix Perennials is an award-winning, cutting edge retail and mail order plant nursery in Richmond, BC (on the farmland near IKEA) that offers one of the largest and most diverse selections of perennials, shrubs, trees, vines, succulents, and edibles in Canada with over 4000 different plants each year. They grow the majority of their own perennials from plants sourced from around the world including Japan, India, Europe, South Africa, the US, and Canada and bring in their other plants from the region’s best growers.

Whether you have a large garden or a small balcony, whether you are into ornamental gardening or growing your own food, Phoenix Perennials has everything you need to create your own distinctive, beautiful, and productive space.

Their inspiring garden centre on No. 6 Road in Richmond is a plant mecca that draws gardeners from around Greater Vancouver, the province of BC, and beyond.

In addition to specialties in perennials, maples, shade plants, and rare and unusual plants, Phoenix Perennials is proud of their selection of edibles from classic herbs, veggies, and fruits including upwards of 50 different kinds of heirloom and cool modern tomatoes to cutting edge and unusual edibles, citrus, olives, goji berries, BrazelBerries, and grafted veggies like Mighty Matos and ‘Ketchup ‘n’ Fries’ “tomtatoes”.

Phoenix Perennials is also dedicated to continuous learning and hosts numerous workshops each year on subjects such as creative succulent and perennial containers, living walls, cocktail gardening, gardening for teas and infusions, herb and veggie gardening for international culinary capers, gardening with subtropical and unusual fruits and more.

They offer a free Gardening 101 series designed for beginner and intermediate gardeners on topics such as Pruning for Dummies, Foundations of a Healthy Garden, Strategies for Balconies & Small Spaces, Beekeeping, Mastering the Basics of Perennials, Success with Tomatoes, Supporting Pollinators and much more. They also offer a free Young Sprouts Kids Club with workshops that combine horticulture, botany, and arts and crafts to teach kids about the wonderful world of plants.

Not only do they host numerous workshops through the season, they also hold many special events including the Hellebore Hurrah!, The Great Easter Plant Hunt, May Maple Mania, and The Heirloom Tomato Festival complete with tomato fruit displays and tomato tastings.

Phoenix Perennials publishes a twice-monthly e-newsletter with articles about plants, news of sales and special events, and lots of pretty pictures plus occasional alerts on 14 different topics including edibles, shade plants, fragrant plants, hot new plants, and maples and woody plants. You can also engage with them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest (links above).

Phoenix Perennials offers two services of note. Their in-nursery design service can help do-it-yourselfers design and execute the outdoor spaces of their dreams. And their mail order division brings their cool selection of plants within reach of Canadian gardeners from coast to coast to coast.

In 2015 Phoenix Perennials was chosen as one of Today’s Garden Center magazine’s Top 100 Revolutionary Garden Centers in North America. In 2014 Phoenix Perennials owner Gary Lewis was selected as one of Canada’s Top 10 Horticultural Professionals Under 40 by Greenhouse Canada magazine. In 2012 and 2013 Phoenix Perennials won the category of “Growing Gardeners”, part of the Canadian Garden Centre of the Year Awards.



“Gary Lewis is the owner of Phoenix Perennials and Specialty Plants Nursery in Richmond and one of Canada’s most knowledgeable plant experts with a deep and special interest in rare and unusual herbaceous perennials.His cottage-garden nursery on No. 6 Road in Richmond is one of Canada’s top perennial nurseries, carrying more than 4,000 different garden plants. This is perhaps why it is sometimes referred to by the loyal following of gardeners who shop there as a “candy store” of plant treasures.” — Steve Whysall, Vancouver Sun, In the Garden Podcast.

“I should be barred from two places: all-you-can-eat buffets and Phoenix Perennials.” — Julie from Richmond

“You have the most healthy, gorgeous and interesting plants. It’s so different than everywhere else!” — Sandy from White Rock, BC

“Gary Lewis is the king of perennials.” — Jeff DeJong, radio host, Gardening 101, CFAX AM 1070, Victoria, BC

“The premiere nursery of BC!” — Barry Belec, Garden Designer

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