Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

Perfect Plant Pages

Earlier this winter I was considering a trip to Maui. Unfortunately after some thought I talked myself out of it . Realistically I shouldn’t burn money every season to over endulge in tropical scenery. I saved some money and put it off until next year.

Today I got an e-mail from my Uncle who recently posted some incredible photos he took while in Hawaii.  I suppose this is the second best thing to actually going there. He’s an incredible photographer, he really captures the tropical scenery. Take a peak!

http://isleofwebs.com/paulmarcano/hawaii/

Came across this photo today, thought you might enjoy it. It seems when the flood happened last year in Pakistan a strange phenomenom happen. To escape the rising waters the local spiders climbed the trees and created these bizarre webs, encasing the trees in a silver lining.

Wierd Science!

For more information click here

If your looking for some great gift ideas for a gardener and/or plant geek, you’re in luck. Gardeners are great group of people to shop for because gardening as a hobby is so multifaceted and your options are practically endless. From tools to seeds, plants, clothing, outdoor decor, books and more, you’ll have plenty of choices to find the perfect gift for that special someone. Seeing as though it’s officially December (brrr…) and Christmas is right around the corner I thought I’d shoot out some ideas and make the process easier for you.




Seeds – From next seasons vegetables, everyday flowers and endangered exotics.  

Seeds are a great gift for a plant geek and no matter how long someone has been gardening, there’s always something they haven’t tried. The internet has no shortage of reputable seed companies that offer high quality seed at excellent prices.  While you might be able to find some interesting seeds at a hardware store or garden center, be sure to inquire how long they’ve been sitting there. Fresh seed is best, and often winter displays are last year’s stock. Below are a couple seed companies I’ve ordered from first hand with great results.

Chiltern Seeds
One of the most extensive, incredible seed companies I’ve seen yet. Located in the U.K they ship worldwide and have an amazing selection of seed from everyday garden plants to exotic. Packages arrived in lightning speed, nicely packaged with great instructions. They strive to sell only the freshest quality seed available.  The website is nicely setup making it easy for anyone to find what their looking for.

Stellar Seeds
A family run business local to B.C that specializes in certified organic seed. They have a great selection of fresh vegetable seeds for next years bumper crop of tomatoes. They also do a small run of annual & perennial everyday garden plants. Speedy delivery and quality products. Excellent little packages for the seeds as well. There website is as user friendly as you’d ever need, check them out.

J. L. Hudson, Seedsman
If your searching for something strange, you’ll definetly find it here. A non profit seed bank J.L Hudson has been in business for over 100 years. The website is simple but their selection is huge. When I ordered I was quite satisfied with the speed of delivery and quality of the contents.

Seed Starting Gear:
Now that we’ve ordered a bunch of great seeds why not go a step further and buy them some cool seed starting gear. A little money goes a long way in this department, most garden centers / hardware stores / and megamarts should carry what you’ll need.

Plastic seed starting domes($5.00-$10.00)
Seed starting soil ($5.00-$7.50)
Misting bottle and/or watering can ($2.00-$10.00)
Plant tags & markers ($2.00-$5.00)
Seed heating mat ($50.00-$100.00) BONUS POINTS
Full spectrum grow bulb ($12.00-$40.00+) BONUS POINTS

Why not combine the seeds and the gear in a small basket for an added effect.


Tools:
This can be a tough one, as it all depends on what the person already has in stock. Really though we can almost always use fresh tools, so sneak around and get an idea what your gardener might be lusting after. Admittedly a rake is rarely a romantic gift, but if you’ve seen your gardener doing the lawn with 3 toothed rake, maybe it’s a good gift idea after-all. A spade or a shovel are also a useful addition to a gardener’s arsenal. You can never have enough spades, the average gardener looses theirs every 5 minutes. Add a brand new pair of Felco pruners and I’m sure they’ll be floored.


Composter:
Another practical gift, but really if you’re still using a garbage bin with holes drilled in it to compost it might be time to update. Most gardeners would find this a great gift, and there are a lot of nice models out there available for less then $150.00. If you’re a crafty one you might go one step further and build a 3 zoned version out of wood. Bonus Points.


Plants  - Live Ones
While December is pretty much the worst time of year to buy a gardener their favorite thing, live plants, there are still some options available. First of all for instant effect the garden centers are covered in your usual winter blooming plants. Pointsettias, christmas cacti and florist cyclamen are out in full force. Although if you’d like to go for something a bit different the internet might be your savior. Many of the online mail-order retailers are still in full swing, and have some really incredible oddities to be found. Some companies I’ve ordered from with success:

Sacred Succulents 
An incredible company focused on conservation and appreciation of rare and endangered plants from exotic parts of the world. While the website doesn’t feature any photographs, read the description and copy and paste the name into google images for a better idea of what your buying. Specializing in many endangered species of cactus, sacred succulents sells cuttings, live specimens and seeds. A great resource for any would be plant nerd.

Paul Shirley Succulents 
Let me tell you I’ve spent a lot of time looking for weird plants online and it’s pretty hit and miss. Paul Shirley Succulents is a real gem, and offers cuttings from all sorts of strange plants. I ordered a package of stapelia (carrion flower) cuttings at the end of the summer and they’re all thriving. If you have a gardener in your life that that is always looking for something new I’m sure you’d find something here to wet their appetite. Specializing in stepelias, tropical impatiens, hoya, and rhipsalis cuttings, I could definitely spend some money here. Located in the Netherlands expect to wait up to 2 weeks for your package to arrive, but for the most part they arrived in great condition from half way across the world.

Absolutely Cactus
Another exciting mail-order cactus grower. Their cacti are grown from seed and cuttings focusing on preservation of rare and exotic cacti and succulents. New stock flows through regularily and your sure to see something interesting. The site is nicely setup with lots of photos to make things easier.

Still can’t find the right plant? Why not consider getting them a gift card at their favorite garden center. This way they can wait until the frost thaws and spring is in it’s full glory. An extra $100 worth of plants in spring, what a gift!


Private Life of Plants David Attenborough DVD
This series stands the test of time for being one of the most fascinating plant documentaries I’ve ever seen. Narrated by the soothing voice of David Attenborough, each episode is filled with stunning plant time lapses where vines and shrubs are brought up to our speed. If the visuals weren’t enough, each episode is actually quite factual and you’ll surely learn a thing or two. It would be hard not to love this series plant lover or otherwise.

What do you think?
What is the best gift for a gardener? What would you like to find under the Christmas Tree?

It has never been a better time in history to be a plant geek. Talking with the old timers the garden scene was a lot different 30 years ago. We’ve never had more access to strange and unusual plants then today, new cultivars seem to appear almost every year. What was once an exotic import is now a staple, hobbyists have had a lifetime to grow and share their treasured plants with the world. The Internet has revolutionized being a  plant hoarder, personal experiences and techniques can be shared via instant blog, website or e-mail. Obscure plant information is abundant, the library often seem unnecessary or inadequate.  Furthermore through globalization distribution has never been better, we can mail things from anywhere to anyone. Native habitats dwindle worldwide and the sad reality is that the plant hoarders might end up with the last specimens, plant globalization might be a blessing in disguise for the sake of conservation.

Being a bit of a nursery junkie I’ve almost exhausted the local availability and have been forced to look elsewhere for my strange and unusual plants. I’ll admit a guilty little pleasure of mine, on tired bored evenings I find myself scoping the net for plants out of my realm. Being a Northern country where it’s totally impractical to grow tropicals and succulents, I often have to take my search via Europe or the USA. The problem with ordering outside of the country is that it comes with a risk. Good old Canadian customs will often gobble up orders that don’t have a $75.00 phytosanitary ticket attached to it, a bureaucratic formality that seems a bit overkill. Regardless the odd thing slips through, and on these days I smile. I seem to have a decent success rate but not all stories have happy endings. So far I’ve have had one confiscated, one returned to sender (and never resent!?) and one arrive only to rot ($35.00 + shipping rot!? Damnit!). I love throwing money into the wind, a $50.00 plant seems ridiculous, a $50.00 plant you never receive is even more crazy.

Today was a good day though, a package of cuttings finally arrived from Paul Shirley Succulents. I ordered a mixed sampler of stapelia cacti (carrion cactus) and they made it through successfully. Paul has some really unusual specimens ranging from tropical impatiens (a personal favorite) to exotic hoya, stapelia and so much more. Quick friendly customer service via e-mail and nicely packaged and tagged cuttings upon arrival. A grower and plant explorer Paul Shirely will definitely have something to satisfy your plant hoarding needs. He deals with cuttings as opposed to live plants so shipping is significantly more realistic. Prices are affordable and well below other online sources I’ve seen. I like how simple his website is,  it’s apparent he’s targeting true plant enthusiasts. I’ll take the low web glitz and wicked selection of rare and strange plants, yes please!  I’m still waiting on a couple things but so far the first package arrived safety, I’m going to go ahead and say Paul Shirley Succulents is definitely worth your time. Sadly for all my friends in the states he doesn’t ship that way anymore, but for all you Canadians and Europeans, give him a try. He’s based out of the Netherlands and is a real gem. Thank you!

It was a great surprise to come home to after getting absolutely pissed on at work today. Weather in Victoria took a turn for the worst and it dumped buckets and was gusty all day. Having worked outside almost every day this year, I would say today probably took the cake for most miserable weather of the year. Luckily we all stayed positive and got the work done, it’s good we all got a good sense of humor.


Freshly planted stapelia cuttings amongst other plant science.

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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