Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

I love living in Victoria, but it does have it’s limitations. What’s a plant geek to do when he exhausts his local sources? Head down south of course!

We took the 101 all the way down to L.A and what a pleasure it was to ride on new roads, unexplored. The coastal highway through Washington, Oregon and California is absolutely to die for and one couldn’t hope for better scenery. For someone with a botanical eye you’ll find extra interest in the large variety of unusual plant habitats. Driving through coastal forests, into dunes and deserts, sandy hilltops and subtropical jungles, it’s a tough ride indeed. Still through the arduous journey of greasy spoons and motel box-springs, we carried on in search of some of the most famous botanical gardens the West Coast has to offer. To start off on a high-note I’ll begin with one of my favorites, UC Botanical Garden @ Berkeley.

Being exceptionally shortchanged on enthralling botanical gardens, a Canadian needs to head south if he’s seeking the exotic. I’ve read about the botanical gardens at Berkeley for some time now and I’m thrilled to have finally been able to visit them.  San Francisco is a Zone 10, making it just a little bit easier to  grow a subtropical garden. Wouldn’t you know it I saw all my favorites, and some new things too. This place must be the holy grail for growing strange and unusual plants, the city’s lowest recorded temperature is a mere -3C ( 26.6 F). Bingo!

Let’s take a look at some strange specimens shall we?


A large impressive Dudleya brittonii (Chalk Dudleya) greeted us at the entrance.  San Marcos Growers has a great description right here.


They had a mighty fine fern house full of many spored obscurities. Behind the glass an incredible mixed collection of orchids and carnivorous plants.


This Elaphoglossum peltatum (Elephant Fern) really caught my eye.


Perhaps the people of the south are no longer impressed by giant opuntias, but this one had me shocked and amazed. This one was so old growth it had branches like an old tree. Needless to say it was bigger then the car that got me down here, it must have been quite old indeed.


Every this way and that I saw another impressive succulent display. Here we have a very large clump of Euphorbia coerulescens growing happy as can be outdoors. Sure makes you feel silly for nursing along a small cutting in a windowsill. I digress…


Euphorbia coerulescens


The more south I drove the clearer it became. Could we all have have giant aloe trees in our back yard down here?


Drum roll please! I was also lucky enough to spot a recently flowered Boophone haemanthoides. South African bulbs remain a personal favorite.


Oldgrowth cyphostemma juttae  looks like gnarled rock.


Amaryllis belladonna blooming amongst exotic cycads.


Euphorbia clavarioides tucked between some rocks.


What a lovely aloe polyphylla you have there.


Sure, try to tell yourself this isn’t the coolest thing you’ve ever seen. Correct-o-mundo!

Oh? And then there were the agaves. So much larger then the ones we grow at home.


Some were even flowering, reaching well above the canopy.


It seems I was a day too early, these agave buds are about to pop!


UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens is a lush to say the least. A true paradise for any aspiring botanist, naturalist and/or human being.


Dianthus rupicola simple elegance.


An exotic brugmansia


Xanthorrhoea quadrangulata otherwise known as a grass tree.


A quick peak into their tropical house yielded a treasure of large established strange and unusual.


This bird of paradise is well over 20 ft tall.


They also had this incredible art piece in which various lengths of glass tubing brought in light into a dark room, thus making the tubes appear to glow.


Dazed and confused in a cactus garden down south.

Thank you for joining me on this tour.

6 Responses to Plant Geek Abroad: UC Botanical Garden Berkeley

  • Thank you for this lovely blog post about the Garden. I’ve facebooked, tweeted and pinned it to our Garden sites–check it out. Do come and visit us again–let me know you’re coming and I’m happy to provide comp tickets for our Canadian friend. vcrews@berkeley.edu

  • Christine says:

    Great post! We are fortunate enough to be able to visit the UC Botanical Garden often and so enjoy the wonderful collection they have there. If you find yourself in the San Francisco Bay Area and have interest in a beautiful collection of water conserving plants, check out the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek. The Blake Garden in Kensington is also lovely. Happy gardening!

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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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