Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

Specimen Photos

What an awesome year for growing strange plants. Weather in Victoria has been so nice this season. Sunny days with intermittent rain tossed in throughout. Today its sunny with a nice coastal breeze, t-shirt weather in the temperate. Just amazing.

I’ve had a rather successful season in growing weird and rare plants. It’s so satisfying growing plants from parts unknown. One plant in particular that continues to amaze me and is one of my pride and joys this season is Dendroseris litoralis. Syn. The Cabbage Tree.

Here we have a plant that was nearly brought to extinction in the 80’s by the hand of man and his pet goat. Grazing escapee feral goats decimated this plant’s population. Said to have been down to the last 3 specimens in the wild before conservation kicked in. Thank goodness they did, it’s an amazing plant, more people should try to grow. This plant is still considered critically endangered.

Native the Juan Fernández Island in Chile this plant grows perfectly well in our climate here in Victoria B.C. I started my crop by seed mailed north from a South American grower, the seeds germinated with ease (90% success). Once they get going they grow like a summer annual, from seedling to a small tree within one season if treated nicely. They benefit from regular feeding and frequent watering. Mine grows in dappled shade in a 5 gallon pot. I have also grown it in bright sun with essentially no problems either, some light scorched leaves perhaps. I mist the leaves when I think of it. It seems to enjoy a jungle lush environment without being soaking wet. I don’t have the heart to leave it out in the winter and expect it to need protection. I have read it can handle light frosts as low as -3C but why risk it. I’m not convinced. The specimen below is perhaps 2-3 years old now, stored in a cold greenhouse in the winters and kept moderately dry in the off season. From my original crop I had a few smaller plants parked in the back greenhouse and they succumb to a rat eating their growing tips off and then thus fading away. On occasion some aphids have made a home on the center growing tip. Other than that I haven’t had much trouble. For those in deer territory I do suspect it to be deer caviar, best to tuck away somewhere safe.

I have also read in lean times people have survived by eating this plant’s large luscious leaves. Said to be edible but don’t quote me. Seems logical enough, South American salad greens.

This season I grew 10 of these and distributed them to various locations. If you bought one in Victoria/Vancouver you may have one of my kin. If you did snag one of these I’d love to see how yours is doing. Send me a photo.

Mine has yet to flower yet. A bright drooping marigold orange colored senacio-esk flower is expected. I will keep growing mine on until success is achieved.

dendroseris flowers
Photo above borrowed from Plant World Seed’s website

I will be growing a small availability of these for next season if you’d like to be on the waiting list don’t hesitate to contact me.

dendroseris litoralis Rare dendroseris litoralis  dendroseris litoralis  dendroseris litoralis  dendroseris litoralis leaf

Such a cool plant. Until Next time.

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I love cyclamen.

It all started a couple years ago when my girlfriend brought me a small tuber from the garden she was working at. It was September at the time and the plant was in full bloom. Just a large mushroom looking thing, with little pink flowers limply hanging off.  Soon after being planted, the cyclamen perked up and put on a show that carried on right until first frost. From there the flowers faded and the leaves emerged. While initially it was the florescent blooms that attracted me to this plant, it’s leaves are equally as alluring. These highly ornamental leaves hold on right until the weather starts getting warm at which point the plant goes dormant and awaits cooler weather.

cyclamen hederifolium

They’re truly a pleasure to grow and if you have more then one variety in the garden you’ll likely see some hybrids appear. Seedlings are slow to start but spread they will. I’ve had them in my garden for nearly 5 years now and I’m just starting to accumulate a population . Ants and birds distribute the seed throughout the garden and seedlings appear in the strangest places. There seems to be a great deal of variability in their leaf design and flower color, each with their own personality and uniqueness. For those of you wanting to share cyclamen with your friends, look towards your oldest plants and take a peak under the leaves in early springtime. While creatures may distribute much of the seed, the majority end up self sowing right at the base of the plant. With a still hand you can gently prick these seedlings away from their mother and pot them on elsewhere. Using this method I was able to collect over 100 seedlings this spring with great success.

cyclamen hederifolium seedlings
Little cyclamen seedlings

While I mostly grow Cyclamen hederifolium (the hardiest) there are over 20 species to try; most native to the Mediterranean region. The more I study these plants the more ingenious they appear. Cyclamen thrive at a time of year when most plants are winding down. As the trees loose their leaves, the cyclamen flush out and capitalize on the newly available light. As summer rolls around and water demands are more dire, cyclamen close up shop and rest until things are more favorable. They are survivors and they owe it all to the strange tuber like storage organ they’ve adapted to survive when times are unfavorable.

Cyclamen hederifolium

This brings me to the reason why I’m talking about cyclamen today, their tubers. On Sunday I was toiling about in the garden in my usual fashion when I went to re-pot a newly acquired cyclamen that wasn’t doing so well. When I took it out of the pot it fell clean. It appears that it wasn’t growing poorly but actually going dormant for the summer season. Until now I’ve never really taken a good look at these tubers in their entirety and upon closer speculation I was blown away. As if this plant wasn’t cool enough, even their unseen tuber hide a secret beauty.

Cyclamen tuber

cyclamen tuber

cyclamen tuber

Cyclamen tuber

You can find art in the strangest places.

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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.