Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

Garden Tours

“Summer Time and the living’s easy”

What a beautiful weekend we had here in Victoria; perhaps summer has finally arrived. Gardens are still lush, but thirsty indeed. From greenhouse to garden I live with a hose in hand. I have yet to neglect my duties this season and the garden has rewarded me absolute lushness, ever vigilant do I stand.

Today my girlfriend and I took a stroll about Government House Gardens and what it a treat it was. The sun was shining  and the wind wisped gently, shadows danced creating the perfect lighting for a great photo shoot. Government House is my favorite garden in Victoria, it’s location is perfect and it’s botanical obscurity high. Open from sunrise to sunset Government House is free to the public and a great place to relax and forget about life’s woes. Rolling gardens that surround the main building eventually turn into paths of mixed garden on a lichen covered rock face. After a walk through some of the most exciting exotic gardens in Victoria one can continue their journey to the bottom of the property to check out their preserved Gary Oak ecosystem.  The gardener’s involved in this project have a real flair for horticulture. Their attention to detail is refreshingly immaculate; the diversity of the garden lends well to much exploring. It’s worth a visit at any time of the year; surprises are in store for those who pay attention and visit often. A perfect place for a coffee & stroll.

Ok.. now onto the photos. So many colorful flowers.

Papaver Allegro
I personally don’t care for oriental poppies in my garden, but here they look ablaze and incredible. Papaver ‘Allegro’ back lite by the nodding sun.

eccremocarpus scaber
Spotted an Eccremocarpus scaber (Chilean Glory Vine) growing as happy as can be. Incredibly hardy here in Victoria if placed in the right location, a light mulch in winter and they spring to life post haste. I was excited to see this one doing so well.

eccremocarpus scaber closeup
A close up for identification purposes. Eccremocarpus scaber

exotic plants in victoria
One of my favorite plantings at Government House. An Eryngium agavifolium & Beschorneria sp. (False Yucca) thrive on this exposed rockface looking out at the sea. Lucky plants get the best view in town.

eryngium agavifolium
Eryngium agavifolium blooms

beschorneria blooms
Beschorneria blooms.

Watsonia
South African Watsonia.

Closeup watsonia

echium pininana
I was happy to see the echium pininana are still doing well.

Dying echium
All but this scarlet one of course. Having had a crop of nearly 100 last season I can say with certaintity this one isn’t going to make it this season.

Eschscholzia californica
Eschscholzia californica (California Poppy) in it’s full glorious splendor.

California poppy
Absolutely electric.

agave parryi
Always excited to see Agaves planted out here in Victoria. What a thrill, live on the wild side. Agave parryi is known to be one of the toughest agaves suited for northern gardens. Depending on the cultivar many are adapted to the wet conditions found out here on the west coast.  This one has a couple battle scars from last winter.

Eremurus
Eremurus (Fox Tail Lilies) remind me of fireworks. I really should get a timelapse on these some day, if you sped things up this would almost flicker like a sparkler. Incredible.

Fox tail lily blooms
eremurus flowers
Jewel encrusted.

Dierama
It’s no wonder why Dierama’s common name is fishing rod plant. Watch it dance in the wind, bobbing like a lure.

ID?
A couple ID’s needed pls. This is some cultivar of thistle mithinks.

ID?
Gold Star opportunity to show off your plant knowledge.

delosperma nubigenum
An impressive colony of delosperma nubigenum hanging down a rockface.

delosperma nubigenum delosperma nubigenum

delosperma cooperi
Although all Delosperma originate from Africa most and many are hardy in northern gardens. Provided they have sun and good drainage they’re an easy plant to grow and thrive on neglect. Easily propagated by cutting they come in a wide array of colors and habit. Flowers range from pink to sunset. They’re a fun plant to collect and rarely aggrivated the busy scheduled gardener. Can you say easy? Yes please!

primula bulleyana
primula bulleyanaprimula bulleyana
Primula bulleyana

Cotula
Cotula hispida

Exotic border
What’s that I spotted among this exotic border?

sonchus canariensis
A kin from my crop of Sonchus canariensis. I’m excited to see what it looks like at the end of the summer.

What a wonderful day.

P.S for those who are interested…

Please stop on by for the 6th Annual PLANT HOARDERS plant sale, in the cook st village.

A large variety of hardy & tropical perennials, old standbys and rare and exotic. Seed grown Tree Echiums (echium pininana), large specimen burgmansias, gunnera and other way cool plants. Not your average plant sale, well worth coming out rain or shine. LETS HOPE FOR SUN. Located a cook/fairfield (442 COOK), exceptional quality with fair prices. Indulge the inner plant geek and come down for some really great plants. Need gardening advice? Let me recommend something perfect for your garden.

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?

Spring garden
Spring lushness

Primula and pulmonaria
Primulas and pulmonaria reliably show up every spring right on cue.

arisarum griffithii
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.

Arisaema griffithii
When I first received the bulbs in the mail I would have never guessed they’d end up being two different colors. This one is quite dark.

Arisaema griffithii
While the other is quite light in comparison. Often referred to as cobra lilies you can easily see why. They look like a cobra ready to attack.

podophyllum hexandrum
I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with podophyllums but I am. Their unusual emergence in spring intrigued me from the get go. Podophyllum hexandrum waking up from it’s winter sleep.

Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty'
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.

sanguinaria canadensis & Jeffersonia diphylla
Sanguinaria canadensis & Jeffersonia diphylla all leafed out now. Their previous similarities aren’t as apparent at this point.

Saxifraga umbrosa
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.

Hellebore 'Winter Moonbeam'
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.

Spring tulip
I have a smattering of tulips throughout the garden, at their freshest their absolutely vibrant. The color almost glows, I was worried it would overload my camera. Incredible!

dicentra canadensis
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.

Lewisia tweedyi
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.

cactus collection
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.

Monstrose
As your collection grows it becomes more and more important to keep up with nomenclature and proper labeling.

Two headed cactus
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.

echinocereus poselgeri
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.

cactus collection
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.

Echinopsis
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.

Clivia
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.

Euphorbia trigona
For the last little while my tillandsias (air plants) have found a home on this Euphorbia trigona. They seem to lend well to it’s good looks.

tillandsia
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.

haworthias
Would anyone be able to I.D these haworthia for me?

haworthia
haworthia
haworthia

Euphorbia & mitrophyllum grande
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
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.

sinningia leucotricha
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.

sinningia leucotricha
sinningia leucotricha

Davallia trichomanoides
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.

euphorbia esculenta
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.

sceletium tortuosum
Sceletium tortuosum and Echeveria minima. Soon to bloom.

Sedum hintonii
Sedum hintonii is blooming. This unusual tropical sedum is native to Mexico and is apparently quite rare.
I’m going to gather some seed and take a hand at propagating it.

Sedum hintonii
The only other time I’ve seen it is at the University of California Botanical Gardens. Note my cutting is not from this source.

Pseudolithos Migiurtinus
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.

Crassula mesembryanthemoides
A Crassula mesembryanthemopsis is also in bloom; forming seed heads. This specimen is still young, I can’t wait until it’s bigger. So strange.

stepelia sp
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.

pleiospilos nelii
Baby split rocks, some of the lone survivors of a rather bad infestation of seedling fungus gnat attack. Gardening is never without it’s challenges.

Echium
Long live the echium.

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!


Begonia luxurians is holding in there and so far doesn’t seem to mind the less than tropical temperatures.


Mangave bloodspot continues to thrive and expand.




A small field of echium wildpretii. I don’t know why echiums fascinate me so much, but they’re surely on my top 10.


One thing we can grow well at the greenhouse is echeverias! They look best when they reach dinner plate size, gorgeous!

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!

-N

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.

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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