Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

Well well, oh to be laid off in the winter.

After two weeks of being off work much of my mental tension has been relieved and I’m almost human again. Chores and tasks that have been on hold for the last 10 months are finally starting to get done and I’ve almost caught up on a years worth of sleep deprivation. While November is probably my most hated month of the year,  the short days and sleeping garden allow me to pretend to be a real person again. My garden chores are at an all time low and as night falls somewhere around 4:00pm I can actually have a life beyond plants.

Of course this doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten about plants, on the contrary. In the late evenings spent on the computer I’ve been browsing plant mail-order companies, and swiping visa cards, not even the cold sting of winter will stop my insatiable appetite for strange and unusual plants. It’s a curse and a blessing all the same, I feel very fortunate to have found something I enjoy this much. I digress.

November’s crisp clear air makes for a good sunset

Today I went to the nursery to work on the greenhouse a couple of friends and I are building. So far it’s 32×16 lean to, next to the hottest house on the property. This should make over wintering plants much easier in the coming years, and perhaps allow me to expand my propagation madness even further.  While at the nursery I also got a chance to tend to my tropical collection of which was looking a bit worse for wear. A lot of the plants are still actively growing regardless of their barely over freezing winter home, like any garden there was still work to be done. In the two weeks I’ve been gone, some of the plants had completely dried out and sagged with disapproval. Some of the others had some cold damage and had to be cleaned up to leave less opportunity for rot and/or fungus. A gardener’s job is never done.

While visiting I couldn’t help but to wonder how my good old friend, Tree Echium was doing.  I must admit it’s a bit disheartening to see my once large, impressive echium, slunk down in protest against the less then tropical conditions. Sometime around the first frosts, a chill must have got into the greenhouse and my echium deflated in a hurry. While it certainly doesn’t look very happy, it’s growing tip seems healthy enough, I have a feeling it’s going to pull through. In the warm months of October it was still thriving and I watered it as regularly as I had ever done. In hindsight I think I should have let up and let it dry out a bit, when the first chills swept in I think it didn’t appreciate the wet feet. I guess I got carried away with how beautiful it was this autumn. I guess only time will tell.

Placed in the hottest house on the property, my echium looks upset with the coming of winter.

While touring the greenhouses I came across a reserved order with this sign attached. Beware, don’t touch the pansies.

A baby snake we found hiding amongst some black cloth.

More posts to come,  btw thank you to all who responded so well to my plant a tree concept, a followup post is soon to follow.

7 Responses to ECHIUM UPDATE and comments on winter lifestyle

  • sylvia hastings says:

    I bought three baby echiums back from Guernsey this summer. They are in large single pots and I have treated them like gold dust, as I was told they wouldn’t survive in Woking where I live, and I like a challenge!. Now it is getting colder, I have bought the pots into my unheated greenhouse and wonder what else I should do to get them through to next spring? Wrap them in fleece maybe? It seems from your other posts that they shouldn’t be watered much. They are robust plants but I fear for them if we should have a harder winter this year. Any more tips please?.

  • jake says:

    totaly envy from the Alberta Foothills. Short, cool growing season, long winters here. Fan of your blog tho’ – vicarious tropical plant gardening! thnx.

    The little snake is beautiful too.

    I did manage to have a pineapple plant (the rooted top off a supermarket fruit) actually flower and produce an edible fruit last winter. It lives in an east window, and a couple weeks after the winter solstice it sent up a bloom, and eventually made a fist sized golden pineapple.


  • The Victoria Gardener says:


    Echiums are great, and yes we do need to stick together. Mine has shed at least 30% of it’s lower leaves, and having been watered nearly 3 weeks ago hasn’t dried out yet (which tells me it is certainly not drinking much right now, regardless of it’s warm spot in the greenhouse). My boss at work says I should go easy on the water and I agree. Perhaps not dry out, but rot seems to be a big problem with them being wet and cold. He also mentioned that even after loosing much of their leaves they often shoot out new ones in the spring. What concerned me was how active it was right until it got shocked, moving it too a slightly cooler spot might help ease the progression. Do let us know how your echium experiences go.

  • The Victoria Gardener says:

    Yes seasonal holidays… err I mean lay offs generally come in the wet cold months of Nov-Dec. Being the creative type this works for me just fine. I need time to catch up on things that I can’t possibly do after 45 hrs at a greenhouse and 20 hrs in the garden. Ahhhh!

  • Hi Nat, interesting to see how your echium is doing. Yours is in a much bigger pot than mine (but then it’s a bigger plant). Mine still seem to be growing – which worries me. I’d rather they just waited now till the spring. The greenhouse is heated and I do wonder whether I shouldn’t move them to somewhere cooler.

    Somebody left me some advice recently saying to make sure that they DON’T dry out. He reckoned otherwise they’ll just start shedding lower leaves. That does seem to tie in with what I’ve experienced. So I’d be cautious about drying them out. Good luck with it. Us Echium geeks must stick together!


  • So this is just a seasonal lay-off?

    Who knew pansies could inspire such violence. I’ve always thought of them as garden wimps.

    I’m pulling for your Echium! We’ve got 28 degrees in the forecast (no frost in my garden yet) for later in the week. I’m looking at my Echiums wondering which to try and save…

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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.