Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

Nursery Tours

It’s been well over a month since the winter solstice occurred and still I find myself sitting in the dark. While I often dance about gleefully on such occasions, the celebration is almost always premature. With February well on it’s way there’s no fooling anyone, it’s still dark before you know it. If I delay my trip home after work by even 20 minutes, I see little more then a twilight shadow as my car rolls into the parking lot. This weekend I was determined to get in the garden and begin the season. Unfortunately due to sunrise to sunset rain spatter I was forced to seek  dryer conditions. It seemed as good a day as any for a quick nursery tour, so I got into the car and drove out to Saanich.

Earlier this season I had purchased a hardy palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) from Brentwood Bay Nurseries only to regret having not gotten more . The nursery shut down for the winter and I was left dreaming of palmy what ifs. A few months later I heard it was open by appointment and today I found myself inclined to take a visit.  My family’s property on Salt Spring Island is  beach side and has a remarkable micro-climate on it. Over the past couple years I’ve started a garden over there and I dream of loading it with palms. These trachycarpus will do just fine, for the moment I’ll pot them up and grow them on in the heat of the greenhouse.


The visit at Brentwood Bay was a nice break from my rainy backyard and as expected I had an excellent time in the “hot house”. Flowering aloes and giant agaves, this nursery doubles as a botanical garden some days. This city lacks in tropical paradises and on winters where I don’t make it to Mexico, this will have to do. Pairs of hummingbirds zipped about the winter flowering acacia trees, the silence and peacefulness was a welcome treat. Time to look was limited due to prior engagements but we made the most of our time. As usual Robin was hospitable and showed me a fine array of great specimens. In a town where petunias rule the scene rest assured Brentwood has the finest selection of your everyday exotic. Today a small family of Tracycarpus fortunei followed me home, as well as a tropical hebe, a plectocomia himalayana and a Phoenix canariensis. I might have also negotiated a Aeonium nobile, which I’ve been secretly lusting over for some time now. Plant collectors, what a strange bunch indeed.

I can’t express the feeling I get when I go on these adventures, it’s pretty much as happy as I can be. The shopping satisfies the hopeless consumer in me while the plants provide much needed stimulus to escape the monotony of life. While I’d love to be climbing mountain sides and exploring the veldt, the 21st century plant collector has centuries worth of plant hunting at the convenience of a corner store. A new plant is like a new movie, the kind that changes every time you watch it, and has more extras and deleted scenes then you’d ever have time to see. While I’ve recently become aware of the shortcomings of plant collecting (I.E the lack of quick escape) I’ve committed to this reality and I will have to adapt to become a more calculated , thought out individual. After all the rewards are many, only a 100 years ago kings were the only ones have such a fine array of plants from far off lands. Now a 26 year old petunia pusher can do it for less money than it takes to be a drunk. We live a good life out here on the west coast, while the world burns in shambles, there are some benefits here in the future.

Aeoniums lined up one by one
Terra Nova Cyclamen coem  ’Something Magic’ was in full bloom looking rather nice!

 The hot house at Brentwood Bay Nurseries

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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