Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

Seeds – let the waiting begin

Today was a good day. As my time off work is quickly coming to an end I’ve found myself really appreciating the lazy dog days of December. After having a leisurely late breakfast, I spent much of the afternoon cleaning up my outdoor potting area. It’s amazing how messy the area has become, a year’s worth of frantic potting, failed seedlings, and nursery refugees can get out of hand. Why I bother to keep 400 4″ plastic pots is beyond me, maybe one day I’ll wake up from this insanity. After cleaning I rotated the compost heap and marveled in the successful process of turning food waste into black gold. Last year I threw a couple handfuls of large earthworms into the compost, this season they’ve multiplied into thousands. The center of the compost held a dense layer of wiggling worms, I have never seen more in all my life.

I know, gross, but look at all of them, and this was only one scoop.

“Quick! Honey! Grab me the camera, I’ve gotta photograph these worms!” . . . . . *blink* *blink*

In more exciting news, a plant package I had been expecting for some time now arrived at my door. As I wondered to the front of the house, I saw a post office truck parked outside, it seems he was in the process of writing me a parcel slip because I didn’t answer the door. Thrilled to have caught him before he left, I signed the the bill and grabbed my package frantically. I love receiving packages in the mail, and a plant package is even better. The order I speak of was from Absolute Cactus, a most excellent mail-order cacti and succulent nursery located in California. What’s better Diane at Absolute Cactus went through the trouble of hand-wrapping my plants for extra effect, with nice little envelopes with cultivation tips to boot. I love belated Christmas gifts.

Absolute Cactus plant order

Do I need a second Euphorbia obesa? No… Did I order one… Yes… Yes I did…

After seeking out some pots for these fine specimens (EI stealing them from bonsai’d horse chestnuts) they were potted up with fresh cacti soil, gravel and sand.

Although this Dudleya attenuata looks a bit worse for wear, I’m confident it will spring back to life. Harvested with permission from a cattle ranch in California, Dudleya attenuata are rare plants indeed. Often referred to live forever plants, this specimen is believed to be over 50 years old. Although this photo doesn’t do it justice, each echeveria-esk rosette comes out of a small woody caudex. Winter growing, Dudleyas are said to be tough plants. The one thing to keep in mind of course is not to over-water them, especially in their summer dormant period. This Dudleya had a large tap root underneath it’s caudex stem and I planted it in 50% gravel, 20% sand and 30% cacti soil, let’s see if it’s a recipe for success.

After all the excitement of my new plants this afternoon I went out for dinner at my girlfriend’s mother’s house. Salmon and scallop potatoes, and more presents, lucky me. Having just returned from a trip to South Africa, her mother and partner, got me a very nice Protea seed kit and book about Kirsten Bosch Botanical Gardens. I found this to be an incredibly thoughtful gift and I look forward to seeing if I can get them to grow.

Amazing Protea seed kit from a small South African Seed Company Fine Bush People

It’s quite a nice way to lay out seeds, and as a product it’s a real winner. They have the strangest fuzzy seeds, only time will tell if I can get them to grow. 6 new species of tender perennials to care for, ok, you guys can follow me home too.

Today was a good day.

As you may have already known, I’m a big fan of my Impatiens niamniamensis. Whilst I don’t like to play favorites, this species of impatiens really impresses me. It’s exotic flowers, strange bonsai trunk and pure exotic nature make my imagination run rampant. While I’ve often heard impatiens referred to as “Touch Me Nots” because of their exploding seed pods I’ve never actually seen it happen. The common Impatiens walleriana we grow at work don’t seem to go to seed, perhaps due to some glitch bred in during the hybridising process.

Having only had my I. niamniamensis for a little over a season and a half now this is the first year I’ve managed to get it to seed. The first year pollinators didn’t find it and most of the flowers faded off and did nothing. This season something different happened. I had originally thought that I. niamniamensis might have left it’s pollinators at home somewhere in central Africa, I was wrong.  In late summer I began to see drunk wasps crawling inside the blooms to get a taste of the inner nectar. A few weeks later seed pods started to develop and a couple days ago I found my first exploded seed pod on the floor. The seeds are made of the strangest rubbery material twisted in on itself to create a slingshot effect when disturbed.

Seed Pod

Having lost the first pod’s seeds to the floor (or who knows where) I decided to try to capture the seeds and placed a small plastic bag around the seed pod. Within 24 hours the pod had exploded and the bag had collected the seeds. Excellent! Having felt pretty happy with myself I began to tie another bag onto an almost ripe seed pod when suddenly it burst and flung it’s contents in every which direction. A small popping sound could be heard, and the tightly wound rubber pod snapped apart. The conclusion to this experiment, when the pods are ready they wait like armed grenades, ready to explode when disturbed. The slingshot effect must help the plant disperse it’s seeds great distances, thus eliminating competition for the mother plant.

I love it when plant science works out. I’ve read they’re easy enough to grow from seed so I’m going to give it a shot with the fresh ones I’ve collected.

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.