Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

Hello plant people

I hope you’ve been enjoying the spring weather, even if it’s a bit rainy here and there, I’m glad to have the light evenings, and so does the garden. This weekend I made it to Saltspring Island to visit my parents, and wouldn’t you have guessed it, I made time to visit a couple nurseries while I was there. If you haven’t been to Fraser Thimble Farms before, make sure you make time for a visit next time you’re on the island. While I’ve often taken this stop somewhat for granted, Fraser Thimble is coveted throughout Canada and even the USA for it’s amazing selection of rare, native and strange plants. I love visiting in spring, there’s so much to see, and at this time of year it’s worth visiting every couple weeks if you have a chance. I put my discretion shield on full blast but was quickly defeated and left with much more then I expected to. It’s spring after-all, the most dangerous time for a plant hoarder to venture into strange and unusual nurseries/ I didn’t stand a chance. But how could you, with such an incredible variety of the weird plants. A quick look at this week’s bounty.

I’ve been lusting after Cardiocrinum giganteum from the very first moment I heard about them. A cold hardy lily that can grow and flower up to 10 feet tall, how could anyone resist. It often takes up to 7 years or longer for the bulb to reach flowering size,  after blooming the main bulb dies but it’s offsets take it’s place. In time if you get an established community of these bulbs, blooms could be a frequent event. The foliage is remincient of giant cabbage, or even a philodendrom, for it’s foliage alone this plant has merit in the garden.

Richard at Fraser Thimble suspects this specimen to be around 9 years old. Considering it’s size this early in the season, we think it’ll flower this year. A tip from the grower suggests regular feeding during it’s growing season to encourage offset formation. This one already has a couple pups and looks healthy and vigorous, it had to come home with me. Prices range all over the map for Cardiocrinum giganteum and availability is limited. If you ever encounter a good deal one these, don’t pass it up.

Once you collected one Farfugium you’ll need to have more. I’ve had my eye on this Farfugium japonicum ‘aureomaculatum’  for some time now, and this one’s electric tie dyed leaves never cease to amaze me. Established clumps look like a lightning bolt bush. Once grouped into the genus ligularia the insignificant daisy like flowers are similar but farfugium has it’s own distinct look. Enjoys a constantly moist well drained medium and wilts, but survives full sun and drought amazingly well. For best results a little dappled shade would go a long way. Stunning!

An impulse buy on the way out, this giant foot ball sized Colocasia esculenta. I’ve always admired the large Colocasias you see in grandiose botanical gardens, this large root promises such a dream.

Planted in a large pot with good drainage, this one lives in my cold frame in the back. I’m excited to see what comes of it. Grower suggests to leave dry from October until April of every year, these large tubers are more prone to rot then smaller varieties and will benefit from a dry dormant period. I’ll keep you updated!

A Crinum powellii bulb for $7.50 also snagged me at the cash register. Although you see these growing in Victoria Crinums are practically unavailable at garden centers in the area. This one promises to be a real beaut.

A strange shrub from China, Helwingia chinensis also grabbed my attention at the very last moment. I know very little about it, but look forward to seeing what it has to offer.

Spring is here… What a relief.

6 Responses to Plant Hoarding: The first of many spring adventures

  • Dorothy McWatters says:

    I love crinums and have several pots of bulbs that I have always overwintered in an unheated enclosed storage area in my Vancouver garden. I moved to Victoria last year and have been wondering about trying them in the ground over the winter. I saw a huge clump out at Hatley Gardens last week that looked too big to have been lifted every fall. I have emailed them to find out how they care for them. What are you going to do with yours. Also I have an Ismene that has been in a pot for more years than I can remember but it has never bloomed. Any suggestions? Lastly I have not had a chance to read all your articles but wondered if you have any experience growing Arthropodium cirratum . It is zone 8 so I am thinking of putting it in the ground as well. I have a small garden in Fairfield where there is a lot of wind but I have just enclosed the graden with a fence which should add some protection.

  • What a haul! Again you introduced me to a new plant: Cardiocrinum giganteum. I doubt anybody down here has one. I may not even grow here.

    I love farfugiums, and if you’re like me, you’ll soon add others to your collection.

    I’ve never seen such a large colocasia tuber. It will become a gigantic plant! Can’t wait to see photos.

  • Mark and Gaz says:

    Great haul Nat! Cardicrinum giganteum is a fantastic plant, both for its foliage and huge inflorescence. That Helwingia chinensis is new to me and love the foliage!

  • clive says:

    Buy more plants! that car should be full!

    Cardiocrinum is a great plant and stunning when flowering (I had a similar obsession to find and order them a couple of years ago) ~I do think it prefers moist soil as I grew it in a relatively dry place, and it was correspondingly smaller. Do watch for Lily beetle on it (if you get it there!)

  • The boys over at Alternative Eden sent me a Farfugium last year and I’m smitten. I’ve kept my colocasia in leaf (having dug it up from outside in the autumn) in a pot in the greenhouse. No restful dormant period for it, I’m afraid. I think I would’ve bought everything you did, Nat – obviously my discretion shield is faulty too. Dave

  • I saw the cardiocrinum giganteum last September in the Explorer’s Garden in Pithlochry, and it was very hard and painful not to buy one. (but buying plants while on a road-trip and staying in various B&Bs and finally flying home? Not ideal…)

    I hope yours flower this year; they are amazing plants!

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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.