Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

If you are on the Monday-Friday work week, I think you would agree with me when I say Sunday is one of the best days of the week. There’s something calming about  the last day of week. After the hustle and bustle of the work week, a regular Friday celebration and Saturday’s “appointments’, my Sundays are often free for leisure. Today I packed up the car with sandwiches and coffee and hit the road for a nice long drive. We drove up the coast of Vancouver Island and “accidentally” found ourselves doing the complete Pacific Marine Circle Route. I love driving in British Columbia, you’re always only a stone’s throw away from some of the lushest old growth forests in the world. It was a rainy afternoon but we made the best of it, we stopped at a couple beaches and collected beach rocks for the garden. Afterwords we went straight through Port Renfrew, over to Lake Cowichan and back home to Victoria. The forests were lush and covered in moss and throughout the drive we’d hit patches of fog so thick you could barely see in front of you. Driving up through these coastal forests you’re quickly reminded that we live in a temperate rain-forest, the flora is almost tropical in it’s abundance and vigor. Sadly no photos due to a forgotten memory card, you never notice until it too late.

Coming home I found myself toying around with my indoor collection and it seemed as good a time as any to do some documenting. The plant’s are looking remarkably well and it seemed selfish not to share their beauty with my fellow plant geeks. The majority of the succulents and cacti are loving their artificial home, the grow light helps them forget that they’re living in a cement basement. Still I can’t wait till it’s warm enough for them to go outside, they look better under natural daylight.

At a glance.

I acquired this Mitrophyllum grande in September at the Victoria Cactus and Succulent Society sale. Winter growing,  it’s texture is reminiscent of hardened gelatin, it’s a strange specimen indeed.

Agave bracteosa is enjoying the glow of the grow light. I love it’s unusual twisted tips, I’m excited to grow this on to a large specimen size.

I’m still new to growing mesembs and this is the survivor of the two conophytums I acquired earlier in 2011. Much like lithops they require practically no water at all in the winter, over caring for these plants will surely lead to failure. I haven’t watered this one in over a month and I suspect it’ll be a while yet before it gets a drink. Besides overwatering, mesembs also seem sensitive to light changes, and I lost one due to a grow light failure. Keep things consistent.

One of the Pseudolithos migiurtinus I received earlier this month. While it’d be easy to omit my failure it’s larger mate died a week after planting. One afternoon I noticed it looked a bit spotted in color and as I poked it to see how it was doing, my finger went right through it. Rot had set in. I’ve read these can be difficult to cultivate but I had hoped to keep it alive a bit longer then a week. While this might have been a watering mistake I’m going to blame it on shipping stress and leave it at that. So far this one looks healthy enough, let’s hope for the best.

The cuttings I ordered from Paul Shirley Succulents have almost all taken root, this Huernia zebrina is showing strong new growth.

My Monadenium ritchiei doesn’t seem to notice it’s living indoors, it’s currently in the midst of a second wave of new leaves.

I love this cactus! Astrophytum asterias otherwise known as a sand dollar cactus is living artwork.

The Dudleya attenuata I received in late December is recovering from it’s shipping stress and is looking better everyday.  This one is thought to be between 50-100 years old.

A Lophophora williamsii that has been in the family for at least 10 years was looking pretty miserable when I first got my hands on it. After a season outdoors in the greenhouse and a long winter under the grow light, it’s looking quite happy now.  Known to be extremely slow growing, it’s interesting to watch it progress. It’s definitely plumped up since I first got it, and a closer inspection shows some new offsets forming from the rear. I enjoy growing plants with magical properties even though I have no intention in dabbling in such things. It adds to the story and lore, it’s fascinating to grow plants that have such history connected to their cultivation.

Pilea peperomioides otherwise known as a Chinese dollar plant is an unusual addition to one’s indoor collection. While it may have had it’s time in the spotlight I’ve never seen one of these for sale in or around Victoria. The plant itself holds an interesting story about it’s cultivation and is known to have been passed around Europe for it’s ease of propagation. Every once in a while a new offset pokes up which makes it a very easy plant to give away to friends. I let them collect every year until fall then separate them from the mother. This season I have 5 extras if any of you plant nerds would be interested? To read the whole story on Pilea peperomioides click here, it’s a good read.

Did I mention I love Pseudolithos Migiurtinus. “Please don’t die”

I bought 16 ornithogalum longibracteatum seedlings almost a year ago and only now are they really starting to thrive. This one in particular seemed to outshine the rest and has put out a dense tangle of lush foliage. Striving for natural light it threw out a flower stalk that is almost a metre long (seeking the small window in the basement). At the tip a complex inflorescence of delicate white flowers formed.

The flower stalk has been forming since mid November. It’s been flowering for a while now and looks like it still has a long while to go.

Winter blooms keep a gardener alive in the barren wasteland that is winter.

Another specimen I’ve yet to share with you is this unusual Tradescantia noid. It shares similarities to the common house plant,  wondering jew. it’s leaves are uniquely spotted and so far it’s almost always in flower.

It’s flowers are a welcome reminder of a more tropical existence. What an amazing design, the color is calming and I enjoy it’s strange stigmas.

Let’s take a closer look…. Fascinating!

Last but not least, my latest plant hoarding. While driving down the highway homeward bound I couldn’t resist the urge to stop into Dinters just outside of Duncan. Being early in the season there wasn’t a whole lot going on, still they had an interesting assortment of indoors. A few pots in particular grabbed my eye, this yellow barrel cactus, Echinocactus grusonii is nearly the size of a small watermelon. For my readers in the south I’m sure you come across this kind of thing regularly, but let me tell you, you don’t see large cacti for sale up here in Canada. Whatever I ended up paying for it, it seemed a bargain for such an old, large specimen. I placed the keys near it for perspective. This will add an exotic look to the garden next summer.

Thanks for stopping by, enjoy your Monday.


14 Responses to A tip toe around the grow light: A Plant Tour.

  • Jaime K says:

    I’m just a “budding” plant lover and have found the back story behind the pilea peperomioides to be very interesting. May I be so bold as to ask for a cutting if you have any extras this season? I am willing to come pick it up in Victoria.

  • Blue says:

    I stumbled on your site and you mentioned your Pilea peperomioides grows really fast! I’m actually looking for this plant, I’ve contacted so many places and searched everywhere. Is it possible I could get a little sprout from yours?

  • Christopher Larkin says:

    Good morning! I came across your page while researching how I can obtain pilea peperomoides; you are the only other person in North America I’ve come across who has one! I acquired mine while living in London; we’ve been back almost five years now and mine is on its last leg. I know it’s been awhile but any chance you have more cuttings? Or do you know of a supplier (on this continent haha) Cheers, Christopher

  • osuagwu says:

    far from a stupid collection. a brilliant, beautiful and desirable collkection (for thoses who can afford them)

  • Joy says:

    Hello there !
    I stumbled on your site doing a plant search and wow ! I love it and especially the name .. when i have time I will be back to have a better browes for sure !
    Kingston Ontario (we did live in Comox on the island for a while … beautiful place !)

  • Candy Suter says:

    Your succulents and all are looking awesome Nat! Good going with the lights and all! I am going to lose a few but all in all it is better than last year so far!

  • Nat, you have the most unusual plants. I know the day will come when you open your own rare plant nursery! Nobody else I know has Pseudolithos migiurtinus or Pilea peperomioides. Speaking of which, I’d love to have one of your Pilea peperomioides. Can you email me?

    I got a couple of Huernia zebrina cuttings last fall and I see no sign of growth yet. I’ve kept them dry and they look OK, but I should check for root growth.

    That Echinocactus grusonii is a great find! I just love a nice barrel cactus!

  • penny says:

    Hi, I live in the UK and can’t get a pilea peperomioides anywhere. I would love one if it wouldn’t mind the journey. I’d swap my children for the smallest of plantlets. Love your blog – many thanks

  • bob archer says:

    Cheers Nat, thats funny, I found a large E ”grusonii” at canners last sept.,probably from Monrovia,what a deal at 28.00 bucks considering,I can hardly wait till the local nurseries are replenished!My broms, plumeria, etc. seem to be doing quite well under lights.My Baobob seeds are up,sweet.Trade for Pilea?. Bob

  • Mark and Gaz says:

    You’re a true plantaholic Nat, and a lovely collection too! I agree with what you said about Sundays, Saturday you still feel tired and recovering from the working week. Sunday, well rested you’re raring to get gardening. Try the wandering jew outside btw, so far it has proven reliably hardy for us.

  • Tom says:

    Just wait, you’re gonna have 5 billion pregnant onions before long. I started with one and now I have about 50 or so crammed into that pot. Thank god people think they’re fun and can’t wait to take an offset home!

  • Andrew says:

    I love your succulent collection. That Mitrophyllum is really strange. I’ve never seen one before. The Pseudolithos is really fun too.

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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.