Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

After potting up my new palm trees yesterday I found myself in a fury of greenhouse rearranging. This winter we were in such a hurry to get the greenhouse done that when we actually did move in, everything was haphazardly placed this way and that. Yesterday I made the time to organize things properly, it was nice to clear out the junk and keep things tidy. Plants are certainly a demanding hobby, overwintered tropicals need a quick inspection once in a while. Dead leaves, minor rot, and impractical placement all need to be considered. Bugs are more likely than not, and a quick spray of trounce is good even as a precaution. If you’re even a bit OCD about cleaning, this practice will most likely be pleasant and it’s a good meditation for a Sunday afternoon. As the hours went on, nature forgot I was even there, and a murder of crows landed nearby. The valley still supports an amazing amount of wildlife, their songs could be heard carried in the wind. I love silence, it gives me space to think, it’s my favorite kind of music.  A dying tread in a humming world of technology, moments spent in the garden have made me much more aware of this fact.

In a blink of an eye a couple hours had passed. I’m often amazed by the work that can be achieved in only a couple hours. From disaster to masterpiece the place had certainly taken on a new look. I grouped the succulents and dormant dry pots in one area, actively growing tropicals in another, and utilitarian nurserystock adjacent. I love organizing and consolidating, and oddly this is what I do for a living. The greenhouses must have brainwashed me…


Abutilon ‘Souvenir de Bonn’ flowering in January.

Just as I was considering leaving, the lighting seemed just right and out came my camera and tripod. This was the first real photo-shoot I’ve had at our new greenhouse, and I was mesmerized by all of the points of interest. A flowering Senacio cristobalensis, an unusually early Iris reticulata, and a tropical Buddleia macrostachya in bud and bloom. A big smile rested on my face as I stood there in the pre twilight of the hour before nightfall. Tis the best time of day to photograph plants and flowers, and very well anything and everything at all.  The shadows are forgiving, the lighting honest and true. What a dream it is to have a heated greenhouse in the winter. I hadn’t realized what a gift it really was, this will surely help me get further with my plant studies.

Up close and personal with a Senacio cristobalensis


You’ve gotta love the whimsical leaves of the Senecio cristobalensis. Straight out of a Dr. Suess book, this border-line hardy perennial will add a touch of magic to your garden with little effort on your part.


An emerging node, it’s leaves are even cuter when they first appear. These amazing purple tinted fuzzy trees grow up to 8-10 feet in one season. I’ve read that if they’re properly mulched they’ll grow back in spring after frost. Of course all rumor aside I couldn’t dare sacrifice this one to the elements, as I wanted to see it’s winter flowers.


Right on schedule this plant put out multiple plumes of these strange senacio flowers. While Senacio’s come in pretty much every shape and size, they’re flowers are all remarkably similar. Old granddad Senacio from a million years before must be proud.


As expected the flowers are identical to other senacios I’ve witnessed bloom. The only difference being the color in which they’re tinted. Senecio cristobalensis is the most remarkable shade of vibrant yellow. The flowers coated with enough pollen for an army of bees. Too bad none seem to be buzzing about this early in the season.


A slightly fuzzy close up. A boring flower from affar, interesting upon a closer look.

Off topic, topic specific plant science breakdown!?


A plant that looks nothing like Senacio cristobalensis but is most definetly a relative, Senecio articulatus in bloom mid summer 2011.


Significantly different from either of them, Senecio rowleyanus otherwise known as string of pearls is also a strange distant relative. How about that for wierd plant science!?

Back to the topic at hand!


Buddleia macrostachya began flowering this week. I’ve watched the blooms form since I first recieved it mid November. The horticultural mastermind Lynda from Happy Valley Lavender Farm gifted it to me when we first built our greenhouse. The tag says Royal Roads 2007, it seems this one has been around for a while now. A quick look online has very little information about it, but sources say it’s from China. The hardiness is subject to opinion and it seems to enjoy the shelter of the greenhouse. Any info someone might have on it would be much appreciated, an exotic addition to collection none the less.


Eccremocarpus scaber seedlings amongst plectranthus cuttings.


A lineup of agaves, echeverias and aloes.


I have no idea how these bulbs found their way into my agave pot. Tis the simple pleasure of working at a nursery, sometimes the compost you take home has extra goodies in it. My garden at home has anemone blanda all over the place for this very reason. While I tend to get tired of these iris reticulatas, it’s always a tell tale sign that spring is just around the corner.


My Agave geminiflora is certainly enjoying it’s winter home in the greenhouse. It hasn’t stopped growing since I got it, I love it aquatic appearance.


There seems to be no shortage of brugmansia’s this year. A friend and I have been growing quite a collection. Inquire if you’d be interested in trying one this summer, we have lovely 5 ft tall year and a half specimens.


Flowering mid summer Puya mirabilis’s seed pods are still developing. I intend on trying to grow a small army of these from seed, and after nearly six months I still wait patiently for them to mature.

Here we come to the end of my greenhouse tour. Think warm thoughts, spring is only a couple months away. Counting the days, minutes, and seconds! :) For those that made it this far through the post, an extra gift to you today. Check out this site, it seems like an interesting enough idea. Free Plants by Mail

9 Responses to Manic Sundays: A trip to the greenhouse.

  • Delaina says:

    Bob Archer I recently fell madly in love with a plant I saw in Chemainus and have been scanning the internet to find out the name of it. I found it and you have it! I’d love a billbergia nutens, if you have any left.

  • bob archer says:

    i have tons of Billbergia ” nutans” 4”,6”,1 gallon;also Billbergia ”pauciflora”4”,plumeria1 gallon, Musa ”bassjo” 5 gallon, I could deliver to your greenhouse or leave them at Robins, cheers, bob.

  • hb says:

    I love greenhouses–perhaps it is that diffused light that makes them so intriguing.

    I was just outside this morning cutting all the flowers off my Senecio barbertonicus, vitalis, and mandraliscae. Yech! The bees love them, but I don’t. (the bees have plenty of other flowers to sup at). Aren’t gardeners odd? :)

  • Tom says:

    How did I miss the free plants by mail link? I wonder if it’s legitimate or if you end up getting a ton of junk mail too? hmmmmm…

  • The Victoria Gardener says:

    Whenever you’d like. I’ll deliver one your way. Would love to know what kinds of bromeliads you have.

  • bob archer says:

    how do i secure a brugmansia,can you put me on a list? possible trade for bromeliads or musa ?cheers .banana bob.

  • Great photos, some look quite alien like. Don’t you love it when your plants hold you captive for a photo shoot! Who’s to argue with them, right? Sound like you had a wonderful day and quite productive, I’m totally jealous of your greenhouse…cheers Julia

  • What beautiful plants! You’re lucky having a heated greenhouse!

    I have to get a Senecio cristobalensis. Annie’s Annuals in Richmond had it last summer, but I didn’t see it when I was there a couple of weeks ago.

    And Agave geminiflora is one of my favorite agaves, too. Mine is over 2 ft across now; I’m afraid it might flower in the next few years. No pups so far…

    Gerhard
    :: Bamboo and More ::

  • Tom says:

    I love that Agave geminiflora! They’re quite possibly my favorite agave. I’m also super jealous of your puya, I rotted mine off a few weeks ago :(

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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.
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