Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

Plant Collecting / Hoarding

Over the winter months I met a local cacti collector who is in the midst of reducing the size of their collection. While spring plant sales are a lot of fun, nothing is more exciting then viewing and aquiring plants from a private collection. On Sunday I paid her a visit and she shared some really incredible specimens with me.

The latest plant hoarding: “I can’t stop.”

Sedum hintonii (syn. Sedum mocinianum), Echeveria van keppel, Rhasalis pilocarpa, A NOID Stepelia,  astrophytum senile, noid agave, Euphorbia obsesa, Euphorbia stellispina, and a 65-80 year old Echinopsis!

I had a really great visit, saw some great specimens, and left with this amazing lot. A great big thank you for sharing these old-growth beauties with me, I’m looking forward to having them in my care and watching them grow.

A closer look.

Notocactus sp. What an unusual form.

I have a nice collection of steplia growing in the basement, but they’re still young and unestablished. I’m hoping this one to be a bit more impressive this season.

A young noid agave, what can I say, they’re a personal favorite. Any ideas?

I have a hard time saying no to any Euphorbia obesas I come across.  So cool, I need more, 3 isn’t enough!

Another interesting Euphorbia, E. stellispina.

A 31 year old Astrophytum senile, half the size of a football. Gnarly and showing it’s age, it’s quite an incredible specimen. I’m only 27, this cactus has got me beat.

Also a small rooted cutting labeled Sedum hintonii.  Further reading online says that it might be Sedum mocinianum, the main difference being the way it flowers. We shall see. I’m extra pleased about this one.

Onto the most exciting plant find of all my plant hoarding, a 65-80+ year old white flowering echinopsis. I’m absolutely floored about this one. Gnarly but vigorous, this cacti is older then myself, my parents, and was around when my grandmother was a toddler. It could have lived through two world wars, and has seen nations rise and fall. What an amazing find, it’s got the strangest presence.

Even at this old age, it produces fresh pups. Looking deeper into it’s soil, it’s growing almost entirely in gravel and has only had one drink all winter. Hardened off, it now lives outside. I can’t help but to stare at it for the time being.

It’s base shows the wrinkles of an old man, it’s glochids dried up but still effective. Still on seemingly dead wood, the pups grow effortlessly. I can’t wait to see if it flowers this summer.

I’m a happy camper, and so are the plants in my garden. The long days at the nursery have taken their toll on me and I’ve been finding it hard to keep up with this writing. Alas with all these incredible plant events, I feel it’s my duty to share. Here’s a quick photo roll of some of the more interesting things happening in the garden.

I recently planted my echium out, the weather has been mild, and the tropicals are ready to escape their plastic home.

Another angel of the the exotic bed.

My Cardiocrinum giganteum has nearly doubled in size, you can almost see it grow. Looks like we’ll be seeing flowers shortly.

The Japanese azalea seem early this year, what a great pop of spring color!

I didn’t have much luck overwintering my last echium so this one escapes it’s pot and goes straight into the ground. No point in worrying about it’s potential overwintering indoors if it’s going to die anyway. You live here until you don’t. Let’s see a bloom spike!

Melianthus major has some incredible spring colors right now. If you haven’t grown this plant before and see one in a spring planting give it’s leaves a little brush. It’s strangely peanut butter scented.

The Mimulus dentatus (Coast Monkey Flower) planted underneath the scopolia carniolica worked out rather nicely.  I wonder if this combination has been done before… I love monkey flowers, you never loose with mimulus!

I looked down to see this great combination of spring folaige, knipofia, actea, impatiens and wasabia.

Jeffersonia diphylla & Sanguinaria canadensis.

The fresh growth on a Rhodocoma capensis (African restio) which seem to overwinter well here in Victoria.

A Lewisia succulent bowl I put together last spring, that actually still looks nice a year later. WIN!

On the topic of lewisia, here’s a rare white Lewisia in flower. Out of the 300-500 lewisia we grow at the nursery every year, I only ever see 1-3 white ones per season in the mix. This one accidently followed me home.

The Podophyllum peltatum (North American Mayapple) are growing at an incredible rate and this year I have 2 more shoots then last. Looks like a happy podo.

Another podophyllum started poking it’s head up recently, P. hexandrum (Himilayan May Apple). This one was underpreforming in it’s old spot and ended up in this terracotta pot for future traveling ease.

I might have convinced my boss to give me a couple of his Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’ seedlings. Excellent!

Androsace sempervivoides is budding and flowering

My girlfriend got cute with some saxifraga cuttings I rooted, it makes for a neat effect. Feng shui?

Abutilon megapotamicum has also returned to the garden. Suspect borderline hardy, I just didn’t have the heart to risk it. The greenhouse has treated it well this season.

A fury of spring stardust. Heuchera micrantha amongst other hybrid heuchera, cyclamen and hepaticas. The life of a plant collector ain’t so bad.

Thanks for stopping by. Almost through the busy season, wish me luck.

Originally I wanted to write a post marking the beginning of spring plant hoarding, but then I realized, who am I kidding. I started months ago, or never stopped, every months means more plants in my collection. I love growing new plants, the fascination never ceases to please. New species and new varieties,  plants are a dangerous subject matter for the collecting type. I’d love to boast about discretion but this is something I know very little about. I’d love to say that I at least keep it to one of each, but then I’d also be lying. Really, what self respecting plant geek could pass up an in flower Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’ for $10.00. Even if they already had one at home, I think not, “this one’s coming home with Nat.” While one might suggest caution for fear of one’s wallet being emptied I argue that plants are one of the best things you could treat yourself to, surely a better investment then a burger and a beer. Assuming you don’t murder your newly collected plant, they often maintain their value, if not increase as they mature. Tis the life of a king to witness plants bloom from far away lands, I care not for high definition graphics, but more about the crisp beautiful simplicity of an unfurling leaf. Plant collecting is indeed a pleasure.

A white form of Arisaema griffithii. I bought two corms last year but only one bloomed last season. This one came up white, while it’s brother is rich dark chocolate. A pleasant surprise that I don’t think was necessarily intentional when they were packaging the corms. I’ll count this one as a win. 

I love where plant hoarding has taken me, and in time my plant identification has made it even more fun. Often the strangest and the rarest go unlabeled, most exotic nurseries have some gems tucked away for a keen eye. A seemingly dull plain leafy looking plant could be much more amazing if you know the story behind it. Treasure lies for those in the know, make an effort to know your nurseryman for the best selection in town. Be a good customer, support your local nurseries and express a sincere interest. The majority of people running nurseries are in it for the same reason as you are, because they love plants. Given a chance many will share a wealth of information, a resource that should be utilized when the opportunity presents itself. There’s no shame in not knowing the growing conditions of a certain plant, spare yourself the trial and error and ask for some suggestions from someone who’s been there, done that.

The strange leafless blooms of darmera peltata

All rants aside, I’ve been working a lot lately and in turn, have felt an exaggerated need to treat myself with new planty goodness. A quick peak into my latest lack of discretion.

As weather gets more accommodating, now begins the long migration of plants from the greenhouse, to my garden.  A little old mixed in with the new.

Why do plant bloggers love posting pictures of their cars loaded with plants? I know what you’re thinking, did I really need 10 more trachycarpus fortunei. The answer is, yes.

I’m a little embarressed in that I had only intended in taking a peak. Oh well…

I found a very good deal on an exceptionally root-bound pot of Asparagus meyeri, otherwise known as a foxtail fern. Had to give this one a try.

A Tropaeolum tuberosum I started as a peanut sized tuber under lights this winter has grown into a large sprawling vine in only a couple months. A bizarre edible crop, this hardy nasturtium produces tubers said to have a strong peppery taste. I’ll let you know as things progress.

An extremely well established unidentified exotic ginger.

I visited at the right time to witness this Azara lanceolata in full wondrous flower. Another Chilean oddity, this strange tree grows on wet marshy hillsides and produces these amazing vanilla scented flowers. Another reminder to visit your local nurseries frequently so you can see their selection of plants at different times of the year.

The flowers of Azara lanceolata are reminiscent of an acasia tree, but almost more delicate. Even though I don’t have a strong sense of smell, the aroma is intoxicating.

While I’ve only recently learned it’s name, this plant has been on my wish list long before I knew much at all. I first spotted it at a botanical garden in Gottingen, Germany, this Phytolacca americana intrigues me. Known as a weed to some, our northern climate keeps these at bay, pink hued flowers that eventually mature into an ornamental pillar of black berries. So Strange.

Last but not least, I need a little help here.

Is this a Drimia maritima (syn. Urginea maritima)? The nursery had a small stock of them but no one has a solid ID.

If it is, I’ve been trying to seek one of these out for almost 2 years now, often being thwarted by it’s lack of availability and heavy cost of shipping. If it’s not what I think it is, either way I’m thrill, it’s a beautiful plant. After this photo I repotted it and exposed the bulb, lined it with beach rocks in a nice new ceramic pot, it’s a show worthy piece. More photos as soon as I can.

This wasn’t all that I collected this day, but it is as much as I’m willing to document at the moment. The others, while amazing finds, aren’t photogenic quite yet, and will be saved for another day.

Thanks for joining me.

Lamprocapnos spectabilis (Syn Dicentra spectabilis)

Arisaema griffithii still creeping out the joint.

Ornamental strawberry? What’s the point. Fragaria x ananassa ‘Pink Panda’

Maybe really neat. Fragaria x ananassa ‘Pink Panda’

The shade of a bamboo patch.

Echium pininana round two.

And if that doesn’t work out, I’ve got about 20 of each variety popping. One of these seedlings has got to make me proud.


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.