Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

Succulents and Cacti

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.

A fantastic year to be growing plants. We had hardly a rainy day all season. Now with the coming of September rain clouds have been gathering and we’ve had a good dump of moisture. A lushness is being replenished in the lands. The plants are thoughly enjoying the precipitation. Thus I have finally been relieved of my watering duties for a few days; here I have a moment to share a few photos.

A few days ago, as if only for moment my Heurnia Kennedyana bloomed. I acquired this plant via a cutting from the U.K. and have had it for nearly 3 years now. It grew from a grape sized piece to the specimen pictured below. I’ve tried many types of steplia over the years but haven’t had much success. Gangs of mealybugs seem to always gather and gnaw and just when you think they’re all gone you spot a few more. For some reason Heurnia Kennedyana hasn’t had a single one on it. It responds to it’s place on the windowsill and likes a drink weekly in the summer. The flower bud was no bigger than a dime, was spotted one day, flowered the next, and was done. A brief moment for a most unusual flower. Makes me think of surrealist artwork. I thought it might stink but it didn’t have a scent.

Huernia kennedyana
IMG_1551IMG_1551a IMG_1551b IMG_1551c

And while we’re talking flowers. I caught this gymnocalycium species flowering the other day as well.



Autumn colchicum are already popping up…

Now to start planning the great plant migration. So many potted succulents need a warm home for the winter.

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.