Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

Acacia pravissima

I recently installed some incandescent Christmas lights in an effort to keep frost off my small backyard greenhouse. I’m amazed by how much heat these little bulbs give off and I really didn’t expect them to look this good either. The greenhouse ends up looking like a giant lantern and glows in the illumination of the Christmas lights. The oranges and reds of autumn really stand out in the yellow glow of these lights. As I stood outside yesterday evening admiring their glow, I found myself in one of those excellent photography moments. I ran and grabbed the camera, the air was cold and calm and i began snap photos. It was a magical 20 minutes, and I’m quite pleased with the results. I think these are some of the best plant photos I’ve taken to date. The night is kind to a plant photographer, there is less background noise and high contrast. If there was ever a time for night photography, November would be it.

Nighttime Garden Photoshoot: November 2011

Mimosa & Acer

It’s only now in November that my Acer ‘ Blood Good’ has began it’s transition to pure fire scarlet.

Billardiera longiflora is a dainty little vine from Australia, which so far proves to be hardy here in Victoria. In mid spring it has little indiscreet flowers and in late summer these cute little purple “peppers” appear. An interesting specimen for the collection.

Acer ‘Blood Good’ stretches into the darkness.

My Tetrapanax papyrifer remains untouched by the lights frosts we’ve been having. It looks majestic under such lighting.

The last remaining Physalis alkekengi fruits hanging like miniature jack o lanterns.

The Acacia pravissima stands along side the Dahlia imperialis awaiting the oncoming winter.

It took all season for this hardy fuchsia ‘Herald’ to leap into action, now it’s less then a week away from getting frosted.

Mahonia media is loving the November weather.

Considering this is a winter flowering plant, it’s flowers are as tropical looking as it gets. I love Mahonia!

This photo takes the cake for extreme foliage. Left To Right, Fatsia, Tetrapanax, Mahonia, Acer

I’ve went a little overboard this winter with the straw, everything’s tucked in for the winter.

I’m just a plant geek, with a greenhouse and a dream.

Acacia pravissima, native to the southern interior of Australia, seems to be coping well with our cool Victoria weather. Time change happened today, and darkness fell earlier then ever. While I have moved more then 150 plants of all shapes and sizes to warmer homes, some have been left to challenge the weather on their own. It’s a bit of a sick game I know but I’ve got to test the boundaries of the plant zones. Acacia pravissima is listed as a Zone 8a (-12C) of which it has the potential to survive this climate. I’ve read stories on Dave’s Garden that people have successfully grown this species in Seattle and Portland Oregon. I’m giving it a shot, and have faith in my frilly leafed friend.

The other day while doing my usual garden meander, I noticed small little globes developing on the stems of A. pravissima. Being native to the southern hemisphere could this plant be confused and think summer is right around the corner? This is hardly the case, temperatures have been dipping down to 2-3 degrees Celsius and I’ve seen at least one frost on the window of my car in the morning. Still it seems perfectly happy. Being somewhat susceptible to it’s roots freezing in it’s pot I’ve placed a good amount of straw around it’s base. If we have a mild winter it should be covered in yellow flowers by December. I will keep you updated.

Physostegia ssp in the background.

Everyday I tell myself to slow down on the whole plant collecting thing. The house is getting full up, the garden is at maximum capacity and people must be getting bored of me rambling on about the latest weird plant I’ve found. There I am tossing Latin names around, identifying this and that. Some days I find myself contemplating the perfect potting mix for my latest find and I think to myself “is this who I’ve become?”. I tend my crops, weed, fertilize, water and admire daily. I have never encountered such an all absorbing totally fascinating hobby such as this. It seems so endless. There seems to be an infinite amount of strange and wonderful plants out there, all with their own life cycles, unique traits and quiet secrets. Plant collecting is the ultimate game of observation. It reconnects man with nature and helps bring back the true reality of the space we live in. As modern technology persists, the Internet, iphones, and wordpress blogs keep mankind in a stasis of entertainment and digital reality. To step away from it all now and again, sit back in a garden and just admire the magic of the world we live in, this is where gardening truly shines. I digress

Today through much guilt and weakness of character I found a couple stray plants that needed to come home with me. Poor little guys.

Acacia pravissima ‘Ovens Wattle’

I know I know, I need more borderline tender plants like I do a kick in the shins, but still this interesting Acacia sold me instantly.  This strange specimen tree is native to Australia and in the right conditions gets covered in a carpet of fluffy yellow flowers. With or without blooms I really liked the bizarre tropical look of this plant. I have read stories of people successfully growing it year round in Portland Oregon so I think I might have a chance. More information on this one to come.

FindMePlants.co.uk lists the plants weaknesses as “Invasive top growth; Spiny plant – can scratch young children and gardeners!” This poor plant has a bed rep. Whats so wrong with discouraging children from fooling around in the back garden, this sounds like a selling point to me. The plant isn’t actually as prickly as they make it sound, it’s a friendly plant, honest.

Gloriosa superba (Glory Lily Vine)

While delivering to Garden Works the other week I noticed a shipment of these come in along side some Hercules calla lilies. By the design of the flower I knew them to be some sort of lily, but what lily that might be I wasn’t quite sure. What an amazing bloom these have. The Glory Lily Vine wasn’t exactly cheap, but I had been daydreaming about it for a week now and when you work like a crazy person you gotta treat yourself to this kind of thing.

Gloriosa superba is native to the tropical regions of Africa and Asia and is definitely a long way from home living up here in Victoria. Still as May rolls further into early summer Victoria has a mild enough climate for these plants to survive. Hopefully even thrive. As summer rolls on I will update you on my success with this plant.

This plant is incredibly photogenic, the flowers would be great inspiration for some artwork. I would love to do a painting of these sometime.

Breathe Taking.

Last but not least, with much contemplation I also let a small jewel orchid follow me home.

Macodes petola (Jewel Orchid)

Another must have. I had never seen a jewel orchid before last week and now they might be one of my favorite plants of all time. Unlike most orchids jewel orchids are grown for their amazing foliage and not their flowers. While their flowers are still quite beautiful and fragrant, they don’t compete with the gold dusted foliage underneath them. The display at garden works had three varieties of jewel orchid and Macodes petola took the cake. Upon further research it turns out to be the rarer of the group, apparently I chose well. I must have stood there for 15 minutes today, comparing the whole table until this one  shined through. From what I can gather from the Internet, jewel orchids can be easy to grow as long as you give them what they’re looking for. That being high humidity, warm temperatures and a shady / filtered light spot to hang out. Most recommend up to 80% humidity for reliable success of these plants and that is why I planted mine in a terrarium earlier today. First I laid out gravel, then bark and perlite, then sphagnum. I think the plant is going to be right at home.

The whole leaf has an iridescence to them, and in the sunshine they glow with flakes of gold. It’s really quite remarkable.

A close up of the leaves.

You would think after over 70 hours at the greenhouse in the last two weeks I would be overdosed on plants. Apparently it only feeds the addiction, there is so much to see. Thank you for checking out the latest plant hoarding. Stay tuned for more detailed descriptions of the plants in this post.

Get out there and garden. Sprinkle some seeds, or compost a sandwich. Most of all, have fun.


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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