Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

Happy New Years Plant Geeks!

The holidays were great, many the night spent with family and friends. Food induced comas, tall glasses of fire water & general needless celebrating. I’m relaxed and plump. 2013 promises to be a great year. I’m thinking without all this doomsday paranoia perhaps humanity can concentrate on better things, like plants.

It’s nice to have a little break from the daily task of keeping the collection alive.  It’s amazing how busy I am in the spring and summer, by December the workload is reduced by 80%. Not without my chores but it’s a cake walk in comparison. Still plenty to look at of course. More so at the greenhouse than the garden, but I’m still surprised to see life outdoors. Actually to be honest our winter hasn’t been all that bad at all. Although we’ve seen the odd frost at the greenhouse, my house in the Cook Street Village seems to be relatively untouched. Sure some of the plants have relaxed due to the colder weather, but I honestly don’t think it’s seen even a lick of frost. My banana trees still have green leaves, so does the hedychiums. It’s been a strange winter indeed. Be it climate change or fortunate weather I’m happy either way. Keep the rain clouds coming as long as it keeps us away from deep freezes, the plants are loving it and it’s certainly lighter on the heating bill.

This winter I’ve spent entirely too much time indoors. Today I took the opportunity to go for a walk about and snap some photos. Let’s take a look shall we.


After all the effort of moving my echium last season; only to watch it die, I decided on a different strategy. Around the first of November a friend and I created this Echium shelter out of cedar and glass. Weather has been good so far but we’re not out of the water until the end of Febuary. Keeping the rain and snow off my prized echium should earn it couple extra lives I’m hoping.




Standing at over 10 feet tall this echium is sure to give a show next season if it survives the winter. After growing over 100 of these I’m determined to get one to bloom. With a surplus of exotics this year I’m doing my own trials on hardiness, so far with exciting results.


The Echium fastuosum ’Pride of Madeira” I left exposed is doing quite well.


Geranium maderense hasn’t noticed our winter at all.


Hedychium coccineum was still flowering mid November and on January 2nd is still looking lush. An adjecent pineapple salvia flowers freely to the right.


The succulents I planted on the grassy knoll are thriving too. I have two aeoniums outside right now and both are doing considerably better then the ones I have at the greenhouse. It seems they thrive in this cold weather, assuming we don’t see a deep freeze.


This one really surprised me. The Senecio cristobalensis I sacrificed to the elements is not only surviving but getting ready to flower. It’s been knocked over a couple times from the wind, but other than that he’s doing just fine.


Wasabia japonica resembles a ground cover at this time of year. A couple weeks back a main shoot broke and I got to try fresh wasabi root for the first time. Essentially it tastes a lot like horse radish but the flavor is definitely more refined. Always a novelty to try something new.


My Mahonia media produced a late, small set of blooms. Perhaps it’s time to repot or drop in the ground.


Right on que, the euphorbias have been setting their buds. Pictured above, Euphorbia ‘Glacier’


Euphorbia characias ‘Wulfenii’


Leptinella squalida ‘Platt’s Black’ resembles a small fern. Growing in a crack in the wall, it’s another plant that seems to enjoy the cool weather.


Hellebore ‘Winter Moonbeam’  is setting buds looking rather lovely.


A lone leaf of a under performing Acanthus stands out on grey days.


A couple of mushrooms fruit nearby.


Yucca rostrata is impressive no matter what time of year.


Planting chard in the autumn will ensure some winter interest and tasty fresh greens.


Although far from rare, tried and true hens and chicks look good 365 days a year. Can’t argue with that.



The top photo was taken today where as the bottom is from April of last year. My favorite part about documenting all of this is being able to cross reference the progress plants make. Gardening is full of surprises.

And thus comes the end of today’s tour all from the warmth of our homes. Hopefully I’ll take some shots at the greenhouse for even more plant excitement! Until next time.

7 Responses to Save the Echiums: A garden walkabout.

  • The Victoria Gardener says:

    Truth be told, where you live has a lot to do with what plants you like. Palms and agaves seem so exotic to us up in the north, but head to the tropics and they’re pretty everyday. Stranger more some people from the south write me explaining their love for my local flora. A story of the grass is always greener perhaps?

  • Dee Kitchen says:

    Isn’t it funny how you come to appreciate different plants based on where you live? After living in San Diego and Phoenix, if I ever saw another echium, senecio or succulent again it would be too soon! And I would kill for some hellebores and acanthus! I do have to admit, though, that echium sure is a marvelous specimen!

  • Gordon Harris says:

    Great pictures! It’s been warmer in Vic than in Campbell River – we’ve had snow already but in town it’s mostly gone now. BTW, in your last picture, what’s the plant with the blue flowers? I don’t recognize it.

  • Lithopsland says:

    Plants are looking great Nat! The Echium shelter looks very impressive. You guys are very good with your hands. Happy new year Nat! Hope it is full of awesome surprises. Best wishes! :D

  • Doug says:

    We have a couple of Mahonia that are 6-8 feet tall and are loaded with blooms right now. The hummingbirds are loving it! A bit of frost on the greenhouse this morning.

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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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