Spring is upon us and busy days are the norm. After a long day at the nursery it’s always a pleasure to take a rest in the garden with a cold beer in hand. Even though I work with plants all day everyday, I still find sanctuary in my garden whenever I get the chance to take it in. The air is cool and fresh, all the abundance of life soothing. It’s interesting watching a garden develop over the years. While it almost never stays the same, a few old standbys inevitably show up right on cue. The stranger the collection, the stranger the visitors. A rare or strange plant need not be difficult to grow, some come back year to year almost as easily as any other garden perennial. During my Sunday in the garden I took a moment to photograph a few of my favorite strange visitors. Let’s take a look shall we?
This will be the third season these Arisaema griffithii have popped up for me. It’s hard to get bored of their incredible patterns and markings. Put side to side they make quite an unusual duo. It’s hard to believe these are easy plants to grow, requiring little no special treatment, completely hardy in our climate here in Victoria.
Although Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’ has remained evergreen all winter, now that spring is upon us it’s been putting out a succession of new leaves. Photos don’t do this plant justice, it’s a real gem in the garden.
All of the saxifraga in the garden have started to flower, Saxifraga umbrosa is just starting up. For those seeking alpine treasures take a deep look into the genus saxifraga, you could spend a lifetime exploring their unusual diversity.
If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time you’d probably notice me talking about the same plants year by year. The truth it they never cease to amaze me, it’s hard to not give recognition to incredible plants. Here we have Hellebore ‘Winter Moonbeam’ and Euphorbia polychroma.
A less commonly cultivated bleeding heart; Dicentra cucullaria is also doing it’s thing this time of year. Much smaller and delicate than the common dicentra spectabilis, it’s little flowers and fern like foliage are pleasant indeed.
Something a little different from your everyday Lewisia cotyledon; Lewisia tweedyi is in full spring bloom. From what I’ve read they are somewhat susceptible to winter rot so these stayed bone dry all winter long. About a month ago I started watering them again and in a matter of weeks this plant went from a dryed up susk to this beautiful pristine wonder.
Gardeners. We’re a lucky bunch.
Thanks for joining me on this week’s tour.
I love growing strange plants. The weirder the better.
When I first got my job at the nursery I started my garden with a modest 6pack of marigolds and a couple compost ready perennials. As I watched these seedlings flourish a spark flickered in my mind. The intricacy and beauty of nature was revealed to me; a slow unfolding miracle. I couldn’t look away. Years started to fly by, I became much more aware of the seasons and continued to watch things grow. I read books, surfed the web, trolled garden centers and nurseries; my appetite for new plants was insatiable. It was only a matter of time before I stumbled onto the large and impressive group of plants known as succulents. I started with sedums, moved into agaves and from there cacti, living rocks and caudiciforms.
A broad term in more ways than one, the word succulent describes all of these groups. It refers to the plants ability to store water through special water-storing tissues. Through these special adaptations the plants have developed some pretty interesting ways to survive. This of course adds to their mystery and bizarre aesthetic appeal. Over the years I have become quite fascinated with this group of plants and admire their rarity, strangeness and story. This is what has brought me to becoming the collector I am today.
Let’s take a poke about the collection, and see if we spot anything interesting.
When your collection get’s bigger than your ability to properly display them, it’s time to upgrade. This winter a friend and I designed and built this custom cactus shelf. It’s the difference between hoarding and a collection, it displays the plants in a way each one can be recognized and appreciated. The project as whole cost us less then $200.00, I’m pleased with the effect.
Last year I acquired a rather generous amount of old-growth cacti from fellow Victoria collector. She had been growing cacti most of her adult life but for reasons undisclosed had to drastically reduce the size of her collection. Over the course of 2012 many the car load of cactus came into my possession and this will be our season together. This mammilaria NOID was tagged being repotted in 2003, it features two columns each with a split double head. It’s unusual to say the least.
Another choice specimen I acquired from Linda was this Echinocereus poselgeri (formally known as Wilcoxia tuberosa).
Minute and delicate these cacti are known to have a mighty beautiful summer bloom. Time will tell.
On the left a couple oldgrowth echinopsis I managed to score during last year’s Victoria Garagellennium. On the right a 30 year old Euphorbia trigona I scooped up on craigslist. Seek and you shall find.
I enjoy collecting cactus antiquities. These echinopis are guessed to be well over 30 years old. What a strange story they tell. The fact that someone has cared for this cactus for it’s entire existence, make it’s extra special as the years compound. That means it’s been watered, not overwatering, repotting and brought indoors and out for 30-50 years successful. That’s a lot of effort and care. Remarkable that I get the opportunity to further it’s trip alongside humanity. I wonder who will take it off my hands when I’m done appreciating it.
I got this Clivia at The Victoria Horticulture Society a couple years ago. This is the first time it’s bloomed and they lasted more then 2 weeks. They’ve since faded, but more buds are on their way. I’m slowly growing fond of clivias. They’re pest free and dead easy to take care of. Plus they’ll survive in the shadiest part of your house and aren’t fussy about water either. Let them taste the outdoors in the summer and they’ll more than likely bloom for you in the autumn and early spring.
If they weren’t so expensive i’d have a lot more of these. Airplants are easy to grow and if you have never tried growing one before I suggest you give them a try. It’s as simple as finding a bright location and giving them an occasional soak. These plants naturally grow in the crooks of trees and can survive low nutrient situations. Soak them biweekly and they’ll thrive.
It’s handy to know that Euphorbia obesa are dioecious, that being there are both male and female individuals needed to set seed. At the last Cactus and Succulent Plant Auction I got a mating pair. In time I hope to get them into full production.
Mitrophyllum grande is one of my most favorite mesembs. I’m always scared I’m going to kill it, this one has survived the last two winters and seems healthy enough. They’re quite unusual to watch grow, splitting in the strangest ways.
A plant that’s hard not to love, Sinningia leucotricha. Not exactly a cactus relative being in the Gesneriaceae family, I suppose it’s it’s large underground tuber that appeals to the succulent geeks. This one is in the the realms of 10-12 years old. Each season around this time it produces new stems with flower buds and discards the old. Last year it only put out one stem, this year I get two. I’m hoping to pollinate the flowers and get some seed, more people need to grow this plant.
Davallia trichomanoides (Hare’s foot fern) is another oddball plant. As it spreads it grows taranchula-esk like rhizomes in which new fern fronds emerge. I’ve grown many of these and the trick to success is not to over-pot these little guys. They demand excellent drainage and should be considered more epiphyte then terrestrial.
Some people have a problem with growing plants under lights, but I think it’s a perfectly fine thing to do. I don’t have enough windows to grow all my plants windowsill adjacent and my greenhouse just isn’t consistently warm and dry enough. The only option, let there be light. Euphorbia esculenta has continued to grow throughout the winter.
For those who were wondering my Pseudolithos migiurtinus is still alive. I’ve heard they don’t like to be too dry, or too wet. My trick thus far has been biweekly water, but no more then a shot glass at a time. It’s healthy thus far with this treatment, but isn’t growing too quickly either.
I don’t think I’ve figured out stepelias yet. I know they like a little winter water as they start growing mid January but they also don’t like it too wet. Most of my varieties were grown from cuttings shipped in from the UK. None have flowered yet but I’m hoping this year is the one.
Get your hands dirty and get gardening. Spring is here!
A quick stumble around my favorite garden blogs reveals a slight undertone of the winter blues. As we hit January the days are slowly but surely getting brighter but like it or not, we still have a little more winter to go. Stuck in gardener’s purgatory, it’s a tough month to get inspired. Defying rationality I chose to grow exotic plants in Canada; a hobby that is a bit defeating at this time of year.
I visit the greenhouse a couple times a week and no matter how much time I put in, there is always more work to do. Rot and mildew seem to be persistent and a new generation of baby slugs have been eating the tips off many of my precious plants. The work of a plant geek is never done. Grim as things may be, there is definitely more success than failure. Only a couple more months until things start to thrive again.
A quick greenhouse tour.
A full field of Sonchus canariensis I grew from seed last spring. With such a high germination rate I didn’t have the heart to kill my seedlings. So now I have about 50 of them in 2 gallon pots. Not without their challenges, they’re holding in there and should be quite amazing come spring.
Another Canary Island oddity these Sonchus are also known as dandelion trees because their blooms resemble the famous weed. Still I think they’re quite charming and I just love their fern-like foliage. These are some vigorous plants; they keep growing even in the depths of winter.
Some of my most favorite plants. Urginea maritima, Agave victoriae-reginae, Ornithogalum longibracteatum (Pregnant Onion), Haemanthus albiflos, Begonia luxurian & Aechmea fasciata.
I can’t help but to love Agave victoriae-reginae. What incredible natural symmatry!
With all this talk of winter anxiousness I’ve booked myself a flight south. On Friday I take off for two weeks in Cabo San Lucas, in search of beaches, tequila and cacti! Stay warm my friends, wishing you the best!
Happy New Years Plant Geeks!
The holidays were great, many the night spent with family and friends. Food induced comas, tall glasses of fire water & general needless celebrating. I’m relaxed and plump. 2013 promises to be a great year. I’m thinking without all this doomsday paranoia perhaps humanity can concentrate on better things, like plants.
It’s nice to have a little break from the daily task of keeping the collection alive. It’s amazing how busy I am in the spring and summer, by December the workload is reduced by 80%. Not without my chores but it’s a cake walk in comparison. Still plenty to look at of course. More so at the greenhouse than the garden, but I’m still surprised to see life outdoors. Actually to be honest our winter hasn’t been all that bad at all. Although we’ve seen the odd frost at the greenhouse, my house in the Cook Street Village seems to be relatively untouched. Sure some of the plants have relaxed due to the colder weather, but I honestly don’t think it’s seen even a lick of frost. My banana trees still have green leaves, so does the hedychiums. It’s been a strange winter indeed. Be it climate change or fortunate weather I’m happy either way. Keep the rain clouds coming as long as it keeps us away from deep freezes, the plants are loving it and it’s certainly lighter on the heating bill.
This winter I’ve spent entirely too much time indoors. Today I took the opportunity to go for a walk about and snap some photos. Let’s take a look shall we.
After all the effort of moving my echium last season; only to watch it die, I decided on a different strategy. Around the first of November a friend and I created this Echium shelter out of cedar and glass. Weather has been good so far but we’re not out of the water until the end of Febuary. Keeping the rain and snow off my prized echium should earn it couple extra lives I’m hoping.
Standing at over 10 feet tall this echium is sure to give a show next season if it survives the winter. After growing over 100 of these I’m determined to get one to bloom. With a surplus of exotics this year I’m doing my own trials on hardiness, so far with exciting results.
The Echium fastuosum ’Pride of Madeira” I left exposed is doing quite well.
Geranium maderense hasn’t noticed our winter at all.
Hedychium coccineum was still flowering mid November and on January 2nd is still looking lush. An adjecent pineapple salvia flowers freely to the right.
The succulents I planted on the grassy knoll are thriving too. I have two aeoniums outside right now and both are doing considerably better then the ones I have at the greenhouse. It seems they thrive in this cold weather, assuming we don’t see a deep freeze.
This one really surprised me. The Senecio cristobalensis I sacrificed to the elements is not only surviving but getting ready to flower. It’s been knocked over a couple times from the wind, but other than that he’s doing just fine.
Wasabia japonica resembles a ground cover at this time of year. A couple weeks back a main shoot broke and I got to try fresh wasabi root for the first time. Essentially it tastes a lot like horse radish but the flavor is definitely more refined. Always a novelty to try something new.
My Mahonia media produced a late, small set of blooms. Perhaps it’s time to repot or drop in the ground.
Right on que, the euphorbias have been setting their buds. Pictured above, Euphorbia ‘Glacier’
Euphorbia characias ‘Wulfenii’
Leptinella squalida ‘Platt’s Black’ resembles a small fern. Growing in a crack in the wall, it’s another plant that seems to enjoy the cool weather.
Hellebore ‘Winter Moonbeam’ is setting buds looking rather lovely.
A lone leaf of a under performing Acanthus stands out on grey days.
A couple of mushrooms fruit nearby.
Yucca rostrata is impressive no matter what time of year.
Planting chard in the autumn will ensure some winter interest and tasty fresh greens.
Although far from rare, tried and true hens and chicks look good 365 days a year. Can’t argue with that.
The top photo was taken today where as the bottom is from April of last year. My favorite part about documenting all of this is being able to cross reference the progress plants make. Gardening is full of surprises.
And thus comes the end of today’s tour all from the warmth of our homes. Hopefully I’ll take some shots at the greenhouse for even more plant excitement! Until next time.
More obscurities from my adventure down south, a quick tour of the arid house at the botanical gardens of UC Berkeley. I know I know, I’ve gone a little cactus crazy as of late, but I can’t get over how bizarre these plants are.
Here in a separate greenhouse we some saw Berkeley’s ‘real’ succulent collection.
A quick tour of some of my favorites.
What a treasure trove of succulent rarities. From cacti to caudiciform there was a lot to take in.
Here we have an exceptionally old Euphorbia horrida. What a living fractal!
Euphorbia duranii Var. Ankaratrae
Aztekium ritteri. Known to be the slowest growing of all cacti, this gnarled relic is an old one for sure. Add this one to the wishlist if it wasn’t there already.
I just love oldgrowth ariocarpus, so cool
Kedrostis nana Var. Zeyheri
An exceptionally old & large leuchtenbergia principis. Known as a false agave this is by far my favorite plant in the cactus family. It’s quirky, a little bit worse for wear yet still fascinating.
Welwitschia mirabilis wins the strangest plant award. This strange plant only ever produces one set of leaves, in which it continues to grow for it’s entire lifetime (which can sometimes be well over 1000 years). To add to it’s obscurity, it’s cone bearing and grows in arid conditions in which no rain may fall for over a year. If you’ve never read about these incredible plants before, do take a moment to be amazed and check out this article on the Plants of Africa website.
Beyond the public area they had a huge collection behind locked doors, viewable only through chain-link. Well I was disappointed to not be able to take a closer look I could also understand them not wanting just anyone poking about.
Next stop, The Huntington Botanical Garden in L.A.