Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

Specimen Photos

Wow has it been hot out lately. There has been more than one day at work where I thought I was melting. Seamless blue skies, a radiant heat, the plants go wild and grow grow grow. This is the time of year where a gardener must stand vigil and protect their plants from the unforgiving heat. My garden doesn’t have irrigation so there I am long day or short watering around dusk keeping things hydrated. I sometimes daydream what it would be like to have it all hooked up to one switch. Perhaps one day I will, but for now it’s a good meditation and a chance to watch them grow.

This has been a great season for succulents and now that my son is a little more self sufficient I’ve been able to make more time for plant science. I moved 80% of my collection to a glass house in the valley where it receives the heat and sun it deserves. At home I predominantly grow vegetables, citrus, tropical foliage, echiums & trial garden plants. That and some of my top shelf succulents that I couldn’t bare to relinquish to a secondary site. Spiral Aloes, Medusa Euphobias, Haworthias etc. I know I’m supposed to love them all equally but some just take the cake.

Anyhow I’m already somewhat off topic. Today I thought I’d share some photos of my latest favorite plants.

Carpbobrutrus edulis
I know some people from California will detest me for advocating the intentional growing of this plant but enjoy it I do. I love iceplants, delospermas lampranthus and the like. I’m obsessed with sedums and iceplants are sort of the sedum of Africa, and yet they grow well up here. If you drive south down the 101 to L.A before you reach San Fransisco you’ll encounter giant fields of this plant growing feral on the sides of the road. I’ve read that they planted thousands of acres of the stuff to slow down erosion but overtime it took over and just exacerbated the problem. Up here in the north I don’t suspect it will be a problem anytime soon. Semi hardy if kept dry on a porch but doesn’t like the cold and the wet. I’ve been growing it for a couple years now and this season it sent out a wave of flowers mid spring. The flower is almost identical to Delosperma cooperi, a neon pink aster-esk flower, but about 4 times as big. Yep. Love it.

carpobrotus edulis

carpobrotus edulis

hottentot fig

carpobrotus edulis

Albuca spiralis
Plant nerd or not you can’t help but to enjoy the whimsical foliage of Albuca spiralis. Corkscrew vining foliage, twisting and curling, it doesn’t look real. I’ve always been fascinated by the occurrence of fibonacci spirals in nature. Think spiral aloes, agaves, and the back of my sons head of hair.  Anyhow this plant is far from home again; the deserts of Africa, A theme in my collection. I’ve been searching for this one for years and had almost given up hope when there there it was at Phoenix Perennials in Vancouver earlier this spring. I’ve slightly tamed my plant hoarding in the past few years (25000 plants is enough) but I couldn’t say no to this one. Glad I didn’t because it’s been an endless source of visual splendor. Easy to grow, water when dry, full sun, no problems.

Now why do these plants twist and curl? I have read that plants like this have adapted over time to use their twisting foliage to gather in mist & dew and draw the moisture to it’s center. In their natural habitat there isn’t much rainfall, but plenty of dew and mist. Interesting!

Albuca spiralis Albuca spiralis Albuca spiralis Albuca spiralis

Avonia papyracea
Some have regarded this as a difficult plant to grow. Stressing the importance of good drainage and careful watering but I haven’t had much of a problem. It’s managed to survive for 3 years in my collection on a windowsill, badly needing to be repotted until this year where it got an upgrade. Papery feathery sprawling foliage. Delicate short lived flowers. Easily grown by seed. A relative of anacampseros, another personal favorite.

Avonia papyracea

Deuterochonia brevifolia
Acquired down south from Berkeley Botanical Gardens this is my most favorite bromeliads. It forms incredible mounds of spiky hard foliage. Great as a bonsai specimen and amongst succulents it fits right in. In warmer climates it can be planted in the ground and grows into immense hills and valleys of awesome spikiness. I have had zero problems growing this plant and it’s even given me a few flowers over the years. Nothing too unusual, somewhat similar to a tillandsia flower.

Deuterochonia brevifolia Deuterochonia brevifolia

Until next time. Stay hydrated and have fun.

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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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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.