Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

At the nursery

A belated Happy New Years to all of my favorite plant friends. Here we are in 2015, a year full of promise and good things to come. This winter has been unseasonably pleasant, our little city on the southern point of Vancouver Island has nary seen a drop of snow all season. I’ve been in a t-shirt since early February, what a beautiful time to be alive.

What have I been doing you ask and why haven’t I been updating my plant musings? Let’s just say between family, the greenhouse and a large succulent collection. Most moments are quickly used up.

Life is a pleasure and a delight; I’m thoroughly enjoying fatherhood. My son shows interest in his first spring conscious as a walking and talking sponge for sensation. He runs about the garden, running his hand through the leaves and different textures. He squeals and squeaks with fresh observations. Stumbles and trolls throughout my backyard jungle. I now have a co-pilot in my exploration of local gardens.

Here as we enter spring, the temperatures rise and the days lengthen. Life is emerging all around, my garden slowly begins to wake up and unravel. As the plants awaken I’m also uplifted by the bright days of spring. It’s an inspiring time of year and one can’t help but get lost in the garden as the sun sets yet another day. Much tidying, propagating and organizing. If my garden was Broadway it’d be saying. Showtime!

So having been on a creative hiatus for a bit it’s hard to nail down just what I want to say here. Perhaps just to say hello and I’m alive and well. For the moment I will start off with a mishmash of photos from my latest botanical endeavors. Yes, Here we go. Let’s start off at my life at the greenhouses.

January Greenhouse
Since the start of 2015 we’ve has some awesome weeks of sunshine. Above a morning snapshot of greenhouses at sunrise.

Hellebore 'Camelot'
Hellebore ‘Camelot’ flowering in unison.

Primula polyanthus
From late December right through to February it was Primula polyanthus from morning until night.

Sunshine Greenhouses
It’s a funny thing working outside everyday. Cold and bitter, hot and humid. From January through December we work in all forms of weather and end up changing clothing every 15 minutes as a cloud passes by or the sun shines high.

Fuchsia baskets
To produce plants at an industrial level takes more than just good planning it takes the bronze to get the job done. You like fuchsia baskets? Now do it thousand times. I’ve always prefered this type of exertion to the gym.

Hanging baskets
I love the stretching infinity. Baskets upon baskets, in all directions.

Hanging Cool Wave Pansies
A house full of hanging Cool Wave pansies at their perfect stage of bloom. When the house is shut tight the subtle scent is multiplied and enchanting. I have a poor sense of smell but it’s permiates none the less. It smell fresh & aromatic. Incredible.

Spring baskets
My associate watering some spring baskets in.

Sprawling Greenhouses
At this time of year we start to make use of every last inch of space. Successions of spring bedding crops are planted and laid out. Marigolds, lobelia, snap dragons, petunias and so much more. Each day brings us closer to true spring.We will work from dawn until dusk to move large volumes of plants across the island and beyond. Maybe some of these will be planted outside your window one day.

Sunset at the greenhouse
Sunset @ greenhouse
With all the grandeur and excitement of life it often feels like there isn’t enough hours in a day. A time traveler in a modest sense, time flies when you’re having fun.

The harbinger of spring, Daffodil ‘Tete a Tete’ in full bloom.

Primula deticulata

Primula denticulata
Primula denticulata

Arabis 'Spring Charm'
Arabis ‘Spring Charm’.

Armeria juniperifolia
Armeria juniperifolia.

pulsatilla vulgaris
Pulsatilla vulgaris.

Our back greenhouse
I’ve been sorting our plant laboratory for the last few months trying to make sense of what to do with all these crazy plants. An army of aeoniums for an upcoming project lay on the right side, a table of on oddities on the left. I’m in the midst of downsizing some of my personal collection. For those who live locally and are looking for some true botanical gems, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

aeonium atropurpureum flowers
aeonium atropurpureum flowers
Speaking of aeoniums. This Aeonium atropurpureum has begun to flower.

An small gathering of echiums. I wonder what gardens these will find their way into.

A beautiful mangave specimen.

aeonium tabuliforme
Aeonium tabuliforme
A few flats of Aeonium tabuliforme I grew from seed last year. They’re just starting to look right and show off their fibonacci sprial.

dicksonia fibrosa
Dicksonia fibrosa with spanish moss.

garrya elliptica
Walking through Finnarty Gardens at the UVIC Campus we came across this amazing Garrya elliptica tree in bloom.

garrya elliptica
garrya elliptica

Cherry blossoms, daffodils and young life.

Government House Gardens
We’ve been frequenting the great gardens of Victoria. If you haven’t made it to Government House yet this season, it’s time to pour a warm drink and take off for a jaunt.

Ethereal hellebores.

Primula 'Wanda Hybrid'
Primula Wanda Hybrid.

backyard jungle
Back at home things are coming up nicely.

anemone nemorosa
Anemone nemorosa is awesome.


Dodecatheon and Salix boydii.

Primula miniature
Miniature primula.

corydalis George Baker
My latest acquisition from Fraser Thimble Gardens Corydalis ‘George Baker’. A fleeting ephemeral moment of spring.

Dinosuars run amok.

Frosted cyclamen
Frosted cyclamen

Garden nymph
A garden nymph getting into my sedum pot.

Beautiful Vancouver Island. I love you.

Until next time plant people. Wishing you great success with your springtime and garden. Ciao

Well the season’s begun with a shot and bang, 2 weeks of sunshine in mid March will wet gardener’s appetites. We’ve been clearing out greenhouses almost as quickly as we can fill them; our spring annuals seem way ahead of schedule. It’s amazing what a mild spring will do for the garden industry; there’s an excitement in the air. Is it safe for us to go outside again? The chestnut tree in front of my house has swollen buds and will be in leaf within a week methinks.


Racks of annuals

Greenhouse lettuce crop


Like it or not I’ve been a bit zombified as of late, this whole plant thing has been taking it’s toll. I set out to push this to the next level and looking around I might have accomplished that. Between working more than full-time at the nursery, maintaining a large home collection and trying to start up a side greenhouse project; it’s official my life is ruled by plants. It’s exhausting and it’s not even summer yet. In an attempt to maintain fresh inspiration for documenting I’ve now got so much growing that I barely have time to report. If I have any energy left at all the greenhouse project eats it up, then I get home at 8:00pm, eat, bathe and do it again. It’s pure insanity really, a hobby that borders on addiction that has completely devoured my life. What to do now. . .  Breathe, meditate and do again of course. That’s springtime for you. Some people run marathons, I collect plants.

Wilma's Gold Rosemary

Armeria juniperifolia


Seriously though I always feel overwhelmed at this time of year. Tis the burden of the nurseryman I suppose. When the salmon are in the bay, you get on that boat and get fishing. I never understood it better until this year but spring is the season to do it all. While you can propagate at anytime of year, there is no better time then now. Plants are actively waking up, releasing turbo charged growth chemicals and want to live today more than any other time of year. Seeds sowed in spring have a whole season to grow up whereas mid summer sown only gets a quick autumn of growth. It’s a good time to divide and it’s a good time to reposition. First and foremost it’s a good time to observe, to enjoy and to pay attention.

Some of the nicest Lewisia we’ve grown to date, second season. 

Greenhouse treasures
A peak into the back greenhouse.

Spring is such an incredible time of year, the growth in the back is almost unbelievable. For the first time in 2 weeks it rained almost all day. Upon coming home the garden was a different place all together. What would seem like week’s worth of growth seems to have occurred over an afternoon of precipitation. Everything is so lush, so pristine.

Sonchus canariensis
Can’t find a supplier for Sonchus canariensis? Ok, let’s grow some from seed… 10 months later . . . Now what to do with 35 three foot tall Sonchus…

sonchus canariensis
A lovely plant none the less.

Soak it in while you can, plants are a quick reminder to “stop and smell the roses”. What looks great today, will be gone or different tomorrow. Some flowers appear as if in a blink, just a short appearance to grace your eyelids. If you’re not there, too bad for you, there is no PVR for the garden I’m afraid. As I sit outside and listen to the gentle tap of raindrops I take a deep breathe in and try to truly take in the moment. We’ve been doing it for thousands of years but have forgotten this meditation over a quick generation skip. Put down your iphone once in a while and go for a walk in a garden. Crouch and get at eye level with some plants and take a closer look. Get your hands dirty and give them a feel. Crush a few leaves and investigate there exciting new aromas. Lastly appreciate the miraculousness of life and see the perfection that exists within all things. Mother nature is the finest artist. God I sound like a hippy somedays. .  .

Wish me luck ! More photos to follow!

prostanthera rotundifolia
prostanthera rotundifolia

azara lanceolata
azara lanceolata

agapetes serpens
agapetes serpens

agapetes serpens
agapetes serpens

asarum splendens
asarum splendens

podophyllum spotty dotty
Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’

wasabia japonica
wasabia japonica flowers
wasabia japonica

mukdenia rossii
mukdenia rossii
mukdenia rossii

geranium maderense
geranium maderense

More varieties of epiphyllum than any one man should have. . . 

Crop of echiums
Field of echiums
I think this will be the year I’ll get an echium to flower.

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.