Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

Things have certainly been ripping along, I’m in absolute awe of all the new growth in the garden. After many tireless hours, and inconceivable levels of plant hoarding, the garden is full, established and brimming with life. The last week was an absolute zoo at the nursery which involved many late nights, and even a little Saturday catch up. Truth be told I feel a bit silly complaining about work when essentially I’m paid to do one big plant scavenger hunt, sun shining high, birds singing. Still as the long weeks add up my body aches a little more. Anyone who knows the dance of overtime knows there’s very little time to do much else. Living and breathing the plant scene right now, there’s a buzz in town and I’m enjoying the energy. My spirits remain high and I’m proud to have the job I have today.

A lot has been popping in the back garden, and I thought it might be time to do a bit more sharing.

The late April garden tour:


The Cardiocrinum giganteum has grown more then a foot since I got it a couple week’s back, it’s a fun plant to watch grow. Large glossy leaves and a promise of a tall flower stalk that will be the gem of the garden.


It’s main stock is a sight to be seen. It’s circumference and speed of growth is unreal.


Tetrapanax papyrifer has been enjoying the spring weather, rewarding me with a new leaf every couple weeks. If you haven’t tried this plant yet, keep your eyes peeled, the garden wouldn’t be the same without it. Low maintenance, undemanding and pest free, I haven’t had a thread of trouble growing Tetrapanax in Victoria. Extra bonus points that it’s almost completely hardy around here, it didn’t even loose it’s leaves this winter.


A meconopsis bud has been brewing the last couple days. Everyone tells me these plants are difficult and short lived, but so far this specimen hasn’t given me any problems whatsoever. A potted specimen I bring out into the main display in spring, and retire in the late summer. Himalayan poppy’s are unusual and beautiful, a great addition to the the perennial border.


Jeffersonia diphylla (Twin Leaf) & Sanguinaria canadensis (Blood Root) make an attractive unlikely pair. Both emerge into spring in the strangest way, flowering before the leaves even unravel. I enjoy the delicateness of the foliage and their lush greens are pleasant to say the least. Should you be keen to see a jeffersonia in bloom, don’t blink or you might miss it. This one came and went within the matter of 8 hours, I came home to a spent bloom having saw the bud only that morning.
All things pass.


I love the exotic blooms of this under cultivated hardy succulent, Chiastophyllum oppositifolium (kee-as-toh-FILL-um, op-po-sit-ee-FOH-lee-um). I have two of these at the moment, one in the garden and one in a 1 gallon pot, and the one in the pot is doing significantly better. For the best results extra drainage and perhaps some light winter protection will help encourage spring blooms. Furthermore I think chiastophyllum might be resiliant enough to be planted in rock walls and other vertical, well drained plantings. A must have, this is only the beginning of the long vibrant garland-like strands of flowers.


A perfectly grown Gentiana acaulis we aquired from Joe Keller at the VIRAGS Show and Sale has started to open and is a daily wonder. The flowers open and close with the sunlight, perhaps to protect it’s softer parts from winter moisture and cold temperatures.


Upon closer inspection this gentian’s flower is a real work of art. Out of this world beautiful, a perfect landing pad for a busy bumble bee. The dots inside are actually protruded bumps and the flower is comprised of a hard plastic-like casing and frilly soft petals when in full bloom. What an amazing shade of blue.


The rhodohypoxis are planted at the base of a eucalyptus tree and grow happily symbiotically. The thirsty tree above keeps the potrootbound and dry, preventing rot and also making it tough for city rats and squirrels to eat the delicious bulbs below. These have popped up for the last 3 seasons with no special care at all.


What can I say, I have a sweet spot for hardy primulas. Primula sieboldii lends well to the collection.


This primula auricula has been under performing for the last couple seasons and has been recently potted in a terracotta. A couple weeks later these blooms are my reward.


This Saxifraga ‘Triumph’ looks it’s best at this time of year. Cool weather growing, it seems to have migrated at least a foot from where I originally planted it. Now it drapes itself down the bordering rocks and looks quite naturalized. Even without it’s flowers it’s worth having in the garden. Bonus points that once spring moves into full swing you’re rewarded with a bumper crop of red tricolor blooms, I can’t complain.


The definition of springtime.


Proper gardening is all about timing. Plant something at the right time, and it won’t just “live” it will thrive. Bellis ‘English Daisies’ are a great short lived, cold weather perennial. For the best value buy them as 6pack annuals in fall, plant them and forget them until spring. The winter gives them ample time to get established and this is how they’ll look from February until June.


I have more then 10 different types of daffodils in the garden and yet they’re often left undocumented. I thought it was overdue that  I include a shot as they are the true harbingers of spring.


These Hyacinthoides non-scripta (Blue Bells) were here before I started the garden and will likely be here after I leave this garden. Truthfully I’ve loved them since the first day I saw them. Exotic flowers that grow like weeds, I’m impressed, I really am.


I often enjoy looking at the garden lengthwise and seeing the mix of colors all interwoven like a tapestry.


Once the flower stalks of Darmera peltata begin to unfurl, they move at an incredible rate. What perfect little capsules.


You don’t need to go to outer space to see something weird. Just. Go. Outside.


The shiny leaves of newly emerged Rodgersia. This specimen is thriving in the deep dry shade of a large clump of bamboo.


Something that might be new to some of you, Matthiola arborescens otherwise known as a tree stock. Much like your traditional annual stock, but supersized. Silver foliage and nicely scented flowers, I’m excited to see how this develops this season. A late find last season, this overwintered just fine in my coldframe in the back.


My podophyllum peltatum (North American May Apple) started to emerge at the end of last week. While podophyllums are somewhat new to me in the grande scheme of things I certainly enjoy growing them. Hosta-like in their developed foliage, there emergence in spring is miraculous and entertaining to watch. Another plant that needs a daily glance, this podophyllum moves quick once it gets started.


I’ve got two Arisaema griffithii in bloom at the moment, one dark one light. You always win with hardy exotics.

At The Nursery


A quick shot of the new greenhouse we built this winter. Is that an Echium pininana out front you ask? Why yes it is! Sadly it’s not the same one as I so proudly boasted about last season, that one died while being overwintered in the greenhouse. I should have said something earlier but I was still mourning. This season I’m taking it a step further, I’ve already got about 20 seedlings on the go, we will see one of these bloom somehow!


Amidst all the fury of greenhouse madness I was able to take 30 minutes to snap a couple nice shots. I love fresh crops of euphorbia, the contrast of foliage is amazing.


A field of rosemary and lavender.


6 pack fiberous begonias, the bane of the nurseryman. King of the frustrating crops, begonias can be a pain in the A$$. For the moment this season’s look phenomenal. Only time will tell.


I can’t help but to smile looking at these large crops of different colored heucheras.

Last but not least: The Latest Plant Hoarding

While buzzing about a garden center on a sales call, I noticed this amazing specimen of Jatropha podagrica. Strangely enough I had been eyeing one of these up on Tropiflora a couple months previous but changed my mind when I saw the  $80 dollars for shipping and phyto tickets. There’s a small crop of these circulating Victoria’s garden centers right now, if you want an interesting developed caudiciform I suggust you go for an adventure right now. Not cheap, but barely expensive, I saw a couple at Gardenworks Blenkinsop and Marigold Nursery Saanich. They’re in short supply and won’t last long, you need one of these.


Amazing neon orange blooms.

Thanks for coming along for a tour. Enjoy the spring weather!

-N

11 Responses to A late April Garden Tour

  • Hoov says:

    I love seeing all the plants that do not grow well (or grow at all) in my climate–along with a few familiars. I often forget how huge is the number of plants that can be garden-grown–this post was a beautiful reminder.

  • jake says:

    impressive! Lots of healthy looking plants. great collection. yep, jealous. Only tiny bits of green here in Calgary.

    Even in Calgary, I’ve had good luck with meconopsis in the past, they don’t live a long time tho’. Once they are past the seedling stage (difficult), they seem to be happy as long as they get enough moisture.

    cheers

  • Finally, finally, finally bought a Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex’ the other day – encouraging to hear that it is so robust. The Arisaema is incredibly beautiful in an off-world kind of way. And interesting re the rhodohypoxis. I’ve grown these in pots for years now and never ever had a problem …. until this year when they’ve been plagued by mice-attack! D

  • Tom says:

    I need to stop reading all these blogs in warmer climates… I get so jealous! But just to make you jealous the nursery I worked at for almost 10 years almost always had Jatropha podagrica in stock in 6″/1gallon pots and a nice big fat caudex for like $20.

  • Reading this post was like leafing through an exotic plant catalog. I don’t have any of the plants you showed and a lot of them went on my wish list.

    Keep the updates coming, I enjoy them a lot.

  • I love your garden tours, always so much to see. I too enjoyed the long shot of the border, and couldn’t help but notice the tall stacks of plant containers. I stopped keeping mine once I realized they provided an all too easy indicator of the $$ spent.

    Sorry about the Echium, thanks for updating us…I’d been wondering.

  • Mark and Gaz says:

    Fantastic collection as always! Love all your foliage plants especially the cardiocrinum. Ours is about to flower this year and looking forward to it.

  • Kaveh says:

    Amazing collection. I’m especially in love with that shot of the long border. Plants all jammed together and overlapping is totally my planting style.

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Mr Nat. Gardener, Plant Nerd
Tips and tales about gardening in one of the most mild climates in Canada. Specializing in rare and strange plants from far out destinations, this is the story of an obsessed young gardener in Victoria B.C. Let's create more tropical gardens in the garden city on the southern tip of Vancouver Island.
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