Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

A quick garden tour for those curious as to what’s blooming, and generally looking incredible right now.

I have a love hate for Polemonium boreale, of which I acquired my first specimen a couple years ago. The plant starts off looking like a fern in early spring and as thing’s get hotter sends up these spikes of purple flowers. Polemonium self seed rather easily and situate themselves in the strangest places. I wouldn’t worry about them being invasive, they come out easily if you don’t like, but in time you’ll have no shortage of seedlings to pass off to friends and family. This specimen in particular surprised me, looking quite photogenic at the time I took the photograph. I prefer them in spring as foliage plant, but this photo gives a close look into their interesting little flowers.

Sedum album (coral carpet sedum) is flowering all over my garden. I originally found this specimen in a crack of pavement down by Dallas Road Beach. From 1 strand of sedum beads I’ve spread this plant all over my garden and Victoria (plant sales). This sedum is vigorous and practically idiot proof. The sedums have been flowering for a couple weeks now and now it’s Sedum album’s turn. What interesting little flower heads it has.

My girlfriend and I dug up this Onopordum acanthium last season and this one is starting to flower. Well over 6 feet tall this potted specimen reaches towards the sky. I like tall fast growing plant species, in a garden where much of the interest is a foot level, it’s nice to have things grow taller then myself. These add great architecture to the garden and are as bizarre as they are practical. Being a biannual this specimen will die, but not before leaving me 1000 seeds to replicate it’s good looks. Great natural deer fences, Onopordum are a tough plant indeed.

This Abutilon pictum Thompsonii (variegated flowering maple) has been flowering since I got it at the UVIC Annual Plant Sale in early May. Although Abutilon are commonly referred to as flowering maples, they aren’t a part of the Acer family at all. Abutilon pictum is native to Brazil.

One of the latest plant hoarding must haves, Desfontainia spinosa is an interesting cusp hardy perennial native to the Andes in South America.  I first saw this plant at Abkhazi Garden a couple of years ago and it blew me away. I recently spotted this specimen for sale and I had to have it.  While it looks like a relative to a holly tree (Ilex), it’s something much stranger. Desfontainia spinosa is the only species in it’s genus, and holds magical powers beyond it’s spiky demeanor. After a little research it turns out Desfontainia is a mild psychedelic. A tea can be made from it’s leaves that can be drunk to produce wild visions, some medicine men of the Andes say they “go crazy” under it’s influence.  Needless to say I won’t be trying it anytime soon, but I’ve always enjoyed the lore and tales magical plants have to offer. If anyone knows anything else about this plant I’d love to learn more. Wild stuff eh?

Another plant hoarding moment, I aquired this Tetrapanax papyriferus last week after many years of admiration in selective gardens throughout Victoria. They all might have come from one grower on the island, and it’s interesting to have finally tracked one down. I will go into further detail on this plant at a later date, for the moment let me just say I love it.

Just another photogenic moment with a Pulmonaria and a Salvia hotlips.

This patch of Digitalis ‘Suttons Apricot’ was planted last season and spent most of it’s time concentrating on leaf growth and root development. This year the real fireworks came out with over 5 stalks of mind blowing pink blooms. This stalk in particular is over 6 feet tall and has lasted more then 3 weeks. Incredible!

I found this tree lupin on a beach in the winter of 2009 and is really making it’s debut this summer. What seems like endless flowers and amazing leaf structure, I grew this 6 foot tall specimen from a seedling no bigger then a can of coke. After a rainstorm the leaves hold water like little diamonds, there are so many reasons this is a great plant to grow.

I found this Dianthus barbatus in my garden well before I knew anything about gardening. At the time, it looks almost weed like, but it had a  couple characteristics that made me double think composting it. After 2 years of novice gardening it bloomed, and every since it’s only got bigger and more impressive. A closer look at the flowers reveals almost orchid like markings.

Farfugium crispata is increidbly photogenic, oddly aquired at a Thrifty Foods grocer Store. You never know where you’re going to find the latest plant strangeness. I’ll go further into this another day.

We recently harvested our purple sprouting broccoli and made a delicious chicken stir fry. Funny how it took 3-4 months to create enough broccoli for one meal, vegetable gardening is still not my main fortay. I can make every flower in my garden bloom like clockwork but getting a decent head of broccoli proved a challenge. We will try again in the fall.

Yes my Hoya carnosa is still flower, 2 and a half months later, and still more buds shows up everyday. This plant has outdone itself and has earned my eternal admiration and respect.

The buds of the Hoya drip a sweet syrup nectar to encourage polinators. It has a sweet scent and taste. The hummingbirds would love this plant if it was outside, tis a shame inside it only gets pollinated visited by the odd house fly.

Until next time, thank you for coming for the tour. Happy Canada Day!

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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.