Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

aloe polyphylla

Hello to my friends out there in plant land, how have your travels been? Grown anything cool as of late?

A friend of mine stopped by the other day and said.

“Your blog is dead hey? Not writing anymore?”

Hmmm wow, I guess it has been a little while since I mused on here about the strange plants I’m growing. Time tends to escape you when your having a good time. With that being said I thought tonight would be as good a time as any to give you a quick update as to what’s become of this Vancouver Island Plant Nerd.

Anemone nemorosa, Trillium, mimulus,  Scopolia carniolica

As you may have guessed having a son has really changed my life. Without being a parent I thought I was short on time, guess again, children demand most and/or all of one’s free time available. Shortly after turning thirty I officially joined the adult club and my schedule changed significantly. Busier than I’ve ever been in my life but with the busy has also come a whole new sense of purpose and accomplishment. I love being a dad. Growing seedlings of all species has always interested me and watching my son morph into a walking and talking little creature is truly fantastic and probably the best thing I’ve ever been a part of.

my son at the greenhouse

Some have sent messages worried that I have moved on from the world of plants. To that I say not a chance. In fact perhaps I’m just reaching a new plateau with the interest.

Sort of like the change from dating to being married. My love of plants has somewhat matured. In the past 14 days I’ve spent 12 at the greenhouse, long hours of sowing seeds, planting planters and shipping plants to all over the island. I work for two incredible gentlemen that give me a lot of space to be creative with my work. We grow fields of plants and it’s just so satisfying. As we’ve finally arrived at springtime once again, working at a greenhouse is the place to be.

Greenhouse long shot

Coolwave pansy basket
Daffodils flowering at the greenhouse
Still dabbling in rare and strange plants. Keeping an arms distance from impossible to grow species that just don’t make sense up here in the north (a small amorphophallus titanium just came in the mail, I know I never learn). Opting more to grow exotics that have a chance, or at least respond well to a slightly above freezing greenhouse in the winter. Surprisingly there are quite a lot of them and with a little foresight the growing opportunities will keep me busy for many more decades to come. Our winter here was respectful and warm, I have an Aloe krapohliana, an echinopsis and trichocereus growing in my front garden as if we were living near the equator.

The latest crop of agave americana variegate

Seed raised aloe polyphylla in progress.

Begonia luxurians.

Still echium crazy, mostly pininana and there are many self sowed seedlings popping up in and around the garden. Looks like this one I gave to a friend of mine is about to flower.




More great plants doing what they do best.

haemanthus albiflos
Haemanthus albiflos, Aeonium tabuliforme

Podophyllum Spotty Dotty
Podophyllum Spotty Dotty

agave victoriae-reginae
Agave victoriae-reginae

So yes, I’m alive and well. Plants and gardens still play a major role in my life with many more strange plant adventures to come for sure. I’ve been playing with a time-lapse camera in the greenhouse and also have been toying with the idea of a gopro-esk plants show via youtube. Not enough time in the day.

Should you have a question about plants or are searching for anyting strange in particular do not hesitate to get in touch. I love meeting fellow crazy plant people as well as giving my two cents to budding botanists.

Until we meet next. Enjoy your springtime, it’s going to be a great one!

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.

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.