Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

Gardening Rants

What a season to be gardening on the west coast. Non-stop sunshine and fair weather made for one extremely busy May. We spent many the late eve racking up beautiful plants and sending them out throughout Victoria, Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland. Make hay while the sun shines. Grow beautiful plants and find them new homes. Such is the life of a nurseryman. What seemed like forever was over in an instance. My sense of time has been on the fast forward as of late. A rumbling succession of spring flowers have emerged this season. From one leaf grows two and then three, as days get longer and warmer the plants truly come to life. A jungle grows up almost overnight. Having setup the bones of this garden many years ago this season provided a remarkably effortless astonishing display.

Some notable plant news in my garden.

-This season one of my echiums flowered.

-My tetrapanax grew a few more feet and at it’s base many offsets have poked their heads. Dreams of a rice paper plant forest becoming more possible each day.

-Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’ assumed dead last season (didn’t poke up once) appeared this year full force with 10-15 heads.

-Cardiocrinium Lily blooming right now. 12 cream shaded trumpets standing over 10ft tall in the garden. During afternoon dabbled shade flickers an intoxicating smell comes in waves.

-Front succulent bed thriving. Agave parryi spent the winter outdoors.

-New vegetable beds out front. Just planted a Ketchup and Fries tomato potato plant. I’ve been eating zero mile greens for months.

Life has been grand. Now for some photos. April through May in my garden & greenhouse. Annual flowers IMG_0645 Growing plants industrially is not for the faint of heart. It’s a staggering thought to be handling literally millions of plants per year. Each one with their own special requirements. The natural programming to thrive given the opportunity. A little bit of this a little bit of that. Not too much water, but not too little. Just right. AND. presto. another perfect plant.

Do you like plants? Do you know what a petunia is?  Oh good. Think you could go down to the lower houses and gather me up. Say 2500-3000 of them. I need them by Sunday, but no later than Monday. Flat after flat of visual feast.

A hard thing to fully conceptualize but I sometimes stand back and wonder. Where do all these begonias end up to grow? Probably down the street, some a few towns away. In mountain gardens and beachside villas. Apartments. Mansions. Hospitals. Grocery Stores. Police Stations and your grandma’s window sill. I’m a cog in a complex system of the plant industry. Where do your begonias come from? Greenhousehanging basketsgreenhouse productionGreenhouse Primula bulleyanaFull GreenhouseAquilegia Icelandic poppiesLupin May is a crazy time of year for us. Some weeks tend to feel like that movie ‘GroundHog Day’ with Bill Murray . We work from sunrise to sunset, day after day. It has it’s challenges but is a satisfying meditation to endure. As people escape the clutches of winter they go absolutely plant crazy here in Victoria B.C. It really is an awesome event. The scavenger hunt begins and people rush out to find their old favorites and the rare and new. I really do love the job. After a long day in the sun, we often have dinner out in the garden. A lush coolness is in the air. A great place to unwind and relax the mind, body and soul. corokia little prince corokia little prince flowers Corokia ‘Little Prince’ Bedroom garden A view from the bedroom. manfreda manfreda flower spike Manfreda is flowering. So far over 7ft tall. Gardenview agave victoriae-reginae Agave victoriae-reginae Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty' Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’ Tetrapanax canopy xerophyllum tenax xerophyllum tenax Xerophyllum tenax ‘Bear Grass’ Echium flowers First echium blooms. sinningia leucotricha Sinningia leucotricha agave attenuata Agave attenuata

A word to the wise that our annual plant hoarder’s plant sale will be happening Sunday June 21st  (Father’s Day) @ Cook & Fairfield. A fantastic array of plants from near and far. Color & annuals, perennials and oddities, vegetables and herbs. A fine assortment of amazing plants. For the person just getting started or the gardener who has everything. Show up early for the best selection. 1 Tetrapanax will be available via silent auction. Come check out my outdoor succulent garden and swap a plant story or two. My plants are orphans and need new homes. See you there! :)

Plant sale

Hello dear plant people. I hope the growing season has treated you well. Since we’ve last spoke we’ve sailed through winter, frenzied through spring and here we find ourselves in the midst of summer (The crocosmia are now in bloom).  My life has been a true fury of activity. With our new baby and a predominately sunny spring I have been one busy boy. My garden is lush, a million echium seedlings are popping up everywhere. I’ve really been enjoying how established everything is. The progress from spring to summer is like slow motion fireworks. With all the new changes going on in life one could say I’m a bit distracted.

The greenhouses at work are looking incredible, I’m constantly humbled by the beauty I’m surrounded by daily. I’ve felt very dedicated this year, it’s been satisfying to find homes for so many great plants. Fields of bacopa. Basket lines of fuchsias. Thousands of succulent planters and sedums galore. Petunias, nemesia, liatris and lavendula. Erysimum, dianthus and marigolds and more. It’s an odd thing working at a plant factory day in and day out. To have touched seemingly millions of plants over the years I sometimes look at local gardens and think, have we met before?

A brief montage and highlights of the season thus far.

January fuchsia baskets.
A field of fuchsia baskets January 2014

February Polyanthus.

Spring bedding feb
February freshly planted spring bedding.

March Armeria juniperifolia flowering.

lavendula fields
March Lavendula fields.

Hardy violas
Hardy Violas.

Lush salad greens.
Springtime salad greens

the cactus collection
The cactus collection persists.

First cactus bloom of the season; gymnocalycium.

Still cactus crazy.

haworthia heaven
Haworthia heaven!

Gazinea galore.

sunflower field
An army of sunflowers.

Tetrapanax selfie.

Ok. One more.

My finest propagation yet.

man of the woods
Man of the woods.

Will try to not be so absent. Rest assured the botany continues. Just put in a new order to mesa gardens. Fresh succulents here we go.

Until next time. Wishing you lush gardens and sublime evenings.

It’s been frigid cold here in Victoria this past week. Temperatures dropped as low as -10 and a light sprinkling of icy snow coated the city. In the mornings my garden features a series of tropical plant ice sculptures. The two echiums up front have curled up and croaked. A few succulents that didn’t make the cut in the migration met an untimely fate. Mild to some it’s still bloody cold I tend to think these winter months are best celebrated closer to the equator.

On Sunday we took a quick stroll around Government House to see how the plants were fairing.


Frost damaged sonchus acaulis
Even with the best attempts of the resident gardener this sonchus acaulis looks to have met it’s match with this cold weather. Still you never know.

Agave parryi
A few large agave looked healthy enough.

Hardy Succulents
Here’s hoping they live to see the new year.

hardy bromeliad


Mahonia media flowers all winter long.


I don’t know what I find so fascinating about propagation;  I just can’t seem to stop. From the very start the concept of turning one plant into two has intrigued me. A single plant cut into pieces, rooted carefully creates many more indeed. In no time at all an aspiring plant collector can create a large army of duplicates; through trial and error great things can be achieved. With a little extra skill and most certainly some luck experiments with seeds can have even more staggering results. To think a Californian Redwood started out as small as a grain of rice; it’s humbling to say the least. If there was any one thing I’ve learned from working with plants over the years is that on a biological level, the meaning of life is to reproduce.

That being said, the big secret is out. I’m going to take the next big step as a master propagator and try my hand at creating little people. I’m happy to announce that by the year’s end my girlfriend and I are having a baby boy. I’m excited to embark on this new chapter of life. I have a feeling a garden is an excellent environment to raise children in.

Change is in the wind, please wish us luck.

hoodia juttae
Hoodia juttae seedlings 1.3 years old.

Euphorbia obesa seedlings
Euphorbia obesa 1.2 years old

dioscorea elephantipes
Dioscorea elephantipes 1.5 years old

Castor bean seedling
Castor bean seedling

Echium pininana seedling
Echiums pininana seedling 1.5 months old

I’m still alive, alas just a quick hiatus from writing at the moment. More updates to follow :)

puya mirabilis
Puya mirabilis
Sonchus acaulis
Sonchus acaulis
Asarum splendens
Asarum splendens
Frosted leaf cyclamen
Enkianthus cernuus
Enkianthus cernuus
Senecio cristobalensis
Senecio cristobalensis
ugni molinae
Ugni molinae
Fall color
Fall color
cacti in autumn
Cacti wait patiently to be brought in for the winter.
Lots of leaves
Messy trees
Pumpkin patch
Pumpkin patch
Brisk days at the greenhouse
Cat in Garden
Tobius the garden cat.

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.
Social Media:

Be My Fan On Facebook

Follow Me On

Subscribe to My
RSS Feed