Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

Succulents and Cacti

The days are getting shorter, the weather wetter and like it or not, winter – IS – coming. Nothing makes you miss a summer vacation to a hot cactus wonderland like a couple weeks of good old fashioned British Columbia rain and gray. Let’s take a moment to forget the wet boots and mud puddles and reminisce of warmer days.

Add this one to your bucket list if you have a fascination in exotic plants, The Huntington Botanical Gardens is truly a national landmark. Famous for it’s large amassment of established rare flora, the garden has one of the finest collections of outdoor cacti in the world. Beyond succulents, the property also has many other incredible plant collections organized into over a dozen specialized gardens. Wander through a lush bamboo forest into a dry Australian prairie, up through a Camellia forest and across a bridge to the Japanese Gardens. Whether you’d like to visit a cloud forest in a glasshouse, indoor bog or art museum, anyone with good taste will find satisfaction in a trip to this awe inspiring location.

To start off I’ll share some of the photos I took in the succulent gardens. I’ve never seen anything quite like it in my entire life.


Upon entering you’re greeted by agaves and aloe trees.


Large Agave attenuata in a sea of Aeoniums


In Canada we grow our aloes in terracotta pots, here they grow as big as trees.


This euphorbia was well over 15 feet tall.


A large Pachypodium (madagascar palm) in flower.


While my Cyphostemma juttae grows painfully slow, this one looks better than ever. I love fat plants.


Speaking of fat plants, Tylecodon paniculatus.


More aloes that rival small trees.


Large euphorbia.


A favorite of many caudiciform collectors, one of the largest Dioscorea elephantipes in cultivation.


Gnarly caudex.


A twisted labyrinth of cacti and succulents.


The geometric shapes of euphorbia never cease to amaze.


I was happy to have encountered this clump of Haworthia forming these incredible emerald hills.


It looks as though these notocactus leninghausii are looking at someone. Is it something I said?


I’ve never seen so many specimen worthy succulents all packed into on location. This shot reminds of me a Richard Scarry picture.


A rather charming clump of a personal favorite, Parodia magnifica.


Oreocereus celsianus.


Mammillaria geminispina


Impressive clumps of Echinocereus grusonii were abundant throughout the garden.


Although not exactly rare in cultivation, the size of these clumps is certainly impressive.


Need I say more?


Mammillaria compressa looks good on it’s own.


..but looks better in mass.


This one looks well defended.


Don’t touch.


There were also abundant large specimen agave in all shapes and sizes.


Lovely spiky rosettes.


An oldgrowth Queen Victoria Agave.


Please note the large agave bloom spike center stage.


They just grow bigger down here.


Field of echeveria


Aeonium cristate


Aeoniums


A towering yucca tree in bloom under the hot Californian sun.


Knobby Cactus. (ID PLEASE)


Fresh from Mars, they’ve landed.


Speaking of knobby cacti check out this impressive Lophocereus schottii var. monstrose.

…And now for some flowers


Stapelia gigantea in bloom, mind the odor and take it from me, do not get down on your knees and take a big whiff. You might want to eject your lunch, they don’t call it a carrion flower for nothing.


Aloe blooms.

Whew. Are you’re legs sore? Hearts warmed? Heat Stroked and Sun Burnt? No… Oh wait, we’re still in Canada aren’t we.

Theres no place like good old wet home.

Thanks for joining me on this tour, and thank you Huntington Gardens for preserving such an incredible destination. Stay tuned for more photos of other parts of the Huntington Gardens.

 

Being a plant collector is one of the most satisfying things I’ve ever embarked on. In a world where most things have been discovered, plant collecting brings that much needed astonishment to life. As the collection grows, so does my intrigue, nature never fails to amaze me. It started off honest enough, a few potted plants in the living room, “wow those look great”. Nearly 4 years later and hundreds of plants added to the equation and I’m one one busy boy. While many collectors specialize in one specific genera of plant life, I can’t help but to dabble in most. The more plants in the collection, the more amazement that is added to my life, the dream is to create one never ending fireworks display.

One group of plants that I find particularly interesting is cacti and succulents. It’s easy to fall in love with succulents.  They’re often easy to grow, require little maintenance and are by far the strangest and most mysterious of all plant life. A couple weeks ago I brought some of my collection outdoors to photograph and inventory.  I had hoped that in time I would write in depth plant profiles on these amazing plants, but the more I think about it, the more I think that’s a bit far fetched. With a large collection such as mine, a busy work schedule and a meager social life it’s hard enough keeping regular blog posts going, let alone getting overly academic with my writing. Smart writing is for the winter, fun photographic tours are the best I can do for now. So rather then hoarding the photos until a later date I thought today was as good a day as any to take a peak at some of the gems in my collection. Another plant tour, “Yes Please!”

2012 Cacti and Succulent tour:


Mitrophyllum grande, a winter growing succulent from South Africa.


A staple in any succulent collection, Euphorbia obesa are easy to grow and are ranked high in my books. Some have warned me to give them a winter dormant period but mine still gets a regular drink. It’s pot seems to go dry every 3-4 days and it gets a small drink shortly after. It’s rewarded my care with lots of fresh growth and some new flower buds. Looks like an alien egg to me, perhaps we don’t have to look up to the stars any longer.


A new addition to the collection from Brentwood Bay Nursery, Euphorbia mammillaris variegata is about as strange as it gets. How bizarre is this one!? So strange.


An old favorite Parodia haselbergii still continues to please.


Tephrocactus articulatus var. papyracanthus (Paper-spined Cholla). Say that 5x fast. A walmart score of all places, I enjoy it’s unusual fingernail like spines.


A new addition to the collection via the ever so gracious Mr. Bob Archer. Stenocactus has the strangest ribs.


Adromischus clavifolius


Austrocylindropuntia subulata (Thx for the id Gerhard) This small potted specimen has a funny story attached to it. About a year and a half ago I purchased an established 4″ pot of this plant, and attempted to do some cuttings. Shortly after taking the cuttings, the mother plant got an infection and deflated and died a few weeks later. 2 years from the date of this catastrophe, the few remaining cuttings are still only 1/3 the size.. Plant collecting does involve some trial and error.


Who couldn’t love Graptoveria amethorum. Miniature echeveria-esk rossettes that don’t elongate or get strange with indoor culture. This plant has remained tidy and compact throughout overwintering on the front window sill. Some say they rot easily, but underpotted in terracotta, mine seem tolerant enough of the wet stuff. A personal favorite.


My oldgrowth Sinningia leucotricha has started to wake up from it’s winter sleep. It flowers with the emergance of new leaves, and at this time of year it seems a thirsty plant indeed. Known for their ability to survive neglect, I’m not particularily worried about this plant. Which is good, I need a couple easy oddities in the collection. Thank you Linda Macewko for sharing this plant with me.


Another big thank you to Bob Archer for this strange Mammillaria specimen, and in such a nice pot too.


Humble beginnings, this haworthia was the first succulent in my collection. A common variety this plant still holds it’s own.


The Monadenium richtii I got at the VCSS Sale last year has been growing a new leaf every couple weeks.


Acquired roughly around the same time, this Monadenium magnificum cutting is slow to get going. I’m curious to see what the summer does for it.


Cotyledon tomentosa, otherwise known as the bear paw crassula.


You can see why it gets it’s name. Right out of a cartoon.


I love plectranthus and plectranthus ernestii is no exception. Unlike other plectranthus in my collection, this one will eventually grow an interesting caudex. The leaves have a light aroma when crushed, these plants make excellent bonsai specimens.


No bigger then a dime, Frailea asteroides have survived the winter woes.


A 50-100 year old Dudleya attenuata saved from a cattle field in California grows happily under the grow lights. Winter growing.


I’ve had this Graptoveria paraguayense ‘Fred Ives’ for a couple years now. I love it’s subtle colorings.


As many true succulent growers are probably shaking their heads right now, I’ve taken a different approach with this specimen. While normally I break my echeverias down and re-root them when the elongate like this, I’ve encouraged this one to grow strange. A little copper wire and a stake and my graptoveria gets to reach for the stars. So far I’m pleased with the results.


Everyone seems to have one, Pleiospilos nelii, split rock is a must have.


Happy fuzzy rebutias.


I love stapelias, this Stapelianthus decaryi cutting is rooted, but slow to grow. Only time will tell.


Out of 10 or so seeds, this is the only Dioscorea elephantipes seedling that grew. In 10-15 years I should have a nice little turtle backed specimen.


Last but not least, a strangely planted Mirabilis jalapa makes for an easy caudiciform.

Thanks for joining me for the tour.

Pseudolithos migiurtinus

In the plant kingdom, it doesn’t get much stranger then Pseudolithos migiurtinus. A living fractal obscurity, this warty living stone is native to Somalia and is definitely a long way from home. Growing in grit on hot dry slopes in Africa, pseudolithos aren’t exactly easy to grow in cultivation. Too much water, or not enough and your pseudolithos will turn into expensive mush. I received two in an order from Thailand, this one’s pair quickly rotted after being transplanted. Best to under-pot these in a well draining medium. Mine lives on a heat pad under grow lights, receiving a couple spoonfuls of water a week at best. There are currently 5 species listed under pseudolithos and there could be more but Somelia is a difficult place to practice botany. Read more in an interesting article I found here.


A potential flower bud?


Taken out of context and you might think it’s a picture of some rocks on a beach.

Pseudolithos migiurtinus So Strange.

Spring is in the air and you can feel the garden buzz in and around town. People are finally ready to leave their houses again and get their hands dirty. While I’ve been trying my best to show some discretion with my plant hoarding, the medatation seems fruitless and it’s a loosing battle. Like a nervous itch I leave the house in search of strange and wonderful rare plants. There I was camera and tripod in hand aimlessly wondering about Brentwood Bay Nurseries. While it’s still early in the season there was plenty to see. Large agaves, strange perennials and a rainbow of succulents unsurpassed anywhere on Vancouver Island. The rain clouds had passed and I ended up loosing track of time. It was an excellent place to blow a Saturday afternoon and check out some really cool succulents in the process. The lighting was just right and I think I walked away with some pretty good photos. Let’s take a little walk around shall we?


The view at the main tropical house.


The Calla lilies were already in bloom.


An interesting climbing Solanum was also blooming that afternoon.


Apparently somebodies been snagging agave pups. Shame on you!


Another rather nice Agave specimen.


Mangave ‘Bloodspot’ is still on my wish list.


I just couldn’t help slipping in a photo of these Euphorbia myrsinites, what an amazing texture.

They were also kind enough to let me wonder around back and snap some photos in their succulent propagation house.


There were many Aeoniums.


Standing proud on a sunny day


A long way from their home way out on the Canary Islands.


They had a couple large specimens of Crassula sarcocaulis. These make excellent bonsai specimens and are great plants for beginners. While I’ve often dreamed of being a bonsai master, I’m afraid I just don’t have the time to properly care for them. This species is a bit more forgiving, and lends well to selective pruning.


Interesting peeling skin.


The blooms of a large Lampranthus bicolor drew me over in a hurry.


The echeveria were looking incredible. This one had a menacing look to it.


Fresh flower buds spiraling out.


Orange flowering echeveria.


A field of Crassula gollum. It looks like coral.



This almost seems aquatic.


Look at how the water sits on the leaves, early aqueduct inspiration?


Tropical Sedum


Rainbow haworthia?


Faucaria in bloom


One of these Euphorbia mammillaris variegata might have followed me home.


For some reason these succulent euphorbias remind me of medusa. Notice the sideways barbs on the spines to make sure it teaches you a proper lesson if you choose to get too close.


I also might have  convinced them to let me buy this little seed grown Yucca brevifolia (Joshua Tree). For a better idea of what it’ll turn into check out this wiki link

Another successful plant adventure. Be sure to have your own this upcoming sunny weekend. Visit Brentwood Bay Nursery for the strange and the exotic.
1395 Benvenuto Avenue  Brentwood Bay, BC V0S 1A0 (250) 652-1507

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.
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