Rare treasures at the Rare Plant Auction

A unique opportunity to acquire rare and specimen plants—all the while enjoying food and drink, live music and conversation with fellow plant lovers.

Every second year the UBC Botanical Garden hosts the wildly successful Rare Plant Auction, a gala evening where gardening aficionados gather to savour a hot and cold appetizer buffet while marvelling at unusual stamens, leaf shapes and petal hues. Among the 400 plants at this year’s auction on April 23 are several rare, herbaceous Chinese peonies, part of a generous gift of 40 cultivars from Nanjing University. Hybridized by famous Chinese horticulturists, the plants were chosen for their exceptional colour, form and, in most cases, exquisite fragrance. Donated to the UBC Botanical Garden in 1992, where they have flourished, these peonies are not available commercially.

Another plant up for bid is Helleborus ‘Vancouver Medallion’, introduced by Valleybrook as part of their Winter Magic™ series in celebration of the upcoming Olympic Games. Large pink-tinged white flowers are held high above very clean foliage on pink-tinged stems. This is a variety that should perform exceptionally well in the Lower Mainland.

There are also seven exquisite magnolia trees on show. Magnolia amoena was chosen for inclusion in the Asian Garden at UBC Botanical Garden by the late curator, Peter Wharton, a world-renowned plant hunter. M. amoena is aptly named, for amoena means delightful or beautiful. The flowers on this smallish tree (a maximum of 40 ft./12 m high) are pink and fragrant, with six reflexed tepals surrounding three upright. The stamens are purplish-red. This magnolia was only introduced from China in the late 20th century and is a true rarity in gardens. Hardiness is about the same as the more commonly known M. denudata, about zone 6. Another variety on offer is ‘Pegasus’, a beautiful floriferous hybrid of M. cylindrica and probably M. denudata. ‘Pegasus’ blooms very early in life with candle-like flowers 10 cm (4 in.) long and pure white with delicate rays of pale pink at the base of the six tepals. Also a small tree, it reaches about 9 m (30 ft.) and is hardy to zone 5.

This is a unique opportunity to acquire rare and specimen plants – some of which you may have admired growing in UBC Botanical Garden – all the while enjoying food and drink, live music and conversation with fellow plant lovers. Many individual plant collectors, nurseries and other botanical gardens are generously supporting this event through donations of choice and difficult-to-obtain plants. Net proceeds from the 2009 evening will support the completion of the Garry Oak Meadow and Woodland (Phase 2). See What’s Up on page 60 for event details, or go to www.ubcbotanicalgarden.org/events/auction