Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

armeria juniperifolia

A belated Happy New Years to all of my favorite plant friends. Here we are in 2015, a year full of promise and good things to come. This winter has been unseasonably pleasant, our little city on the southern point of Vancouver Island has nary seen a drop of snow all season. I’ve been in a t-shirt since early February, what a beautiful time to be alive.

What have I been doing you ask and why haven’t I been updating my plant musings? Let’s just say between family, the greenhouse and a large succulent collection. Most moments are quickly used up.

Life is a pleasure and a delight; I’m thoroughly enjoying fatherhood. My son shows interest in his first spring conscious as a walking and talking sponge for sensation. He runs about the garden, running his hand through the leaves and different textures. He squeals and squeaks with fresh observations. Stumbles and trolls throughout my backyard jungle. I now have a co-pilot in my exploration of local gardens.

Here as we enter spring, the temperatures rise and the days lengthen. Life is emerging all around, my garden slowly begins to wake up and unravel. As the plants awaken I’m also uplifted by the bright days of spring. It’s an inspiring time of year and one can’t help but get lost in the garden as the sun sets yet another day. Much tidying, propagating and organizing. If my garden was Broadway it’d be saying. Showtime!

So having been on a creative hiatus for a bit it’s hard to nail down just what I want to say here. Perhaps just to say hello and I’m alive and well. For the moment I will start off with a mishmash of photos from my latest botanical endeavors. Yes, Here we go. Let’s start off at my life at the greenhouses.

January Greenhouse
Since the start of 2015 we’ve has some awesome weeks of sunshine. Above a morning snapshot of greenhouses at sunrise.

Hellebore 'Camelot'
Hellebore ‘Camelot’ flowering in unison.

Primula polyanthus
From late December right through to February it was Primula polyanthus from morning until night.

Sunshine Greenhouses
It’s a funny thing working outside everyday. Cold and bitter, hot and humid. From January through December we work in all forms of weather and end up changing clothing every 15 minutes as a cloud passes by or the sun shines high.

Fuchsia baskets
To produce plants at an industrial level takes more than just good planning it takes the bronze to get the job done. You like fuchsia baskets? Now do it thousand times. I’ve always prefered this type of exertion to the gym.

Hanging baskets
I love the stretching infinity. Baskets upon baskets, in all directions.

Hanging Cool Wave Pansies
A house full of hanging Cool Wave pansies at their perfect stage of bloom. When the house is shut tight the subtle scent is multiplied and enchanting. I have a poor sense of smell but it’s permiates none the less. It smell fresh & aromatic. Incredible.

Spring baskets
My associate watering some spring baskets in.

Sprawling Greenhouses
At this time of year we start to make use of every last inch of space. Successions of spring bedding crops are planted and laid out. Marigolds, lobelia, snap dragons, petunias and so much more. Each day brings us closer to true spring.We will work from dawn until dusk to move large volumes of plants across the island and beyond. Maybe some of these will be planted outside your window one day.

Sunset at the greenhouse
Sunset @ greenhouse
With all the grandeur and excitement of life it often feels like there isn’t enough hours in a day. A time traveler in a modest sense, time flies when you’re having fun.

The harbinger of spring, Daffodil ‘Tete a Tete’ in full bloom.

Primula deticulata

Primula denticulata
Primula denticulata

Arabis 'Spring Charm'
Arabis ‘Spring Charm’.

Armeria juniperifolia
Armeria juniperifolia.

pulsatilla vulgaris
Pulsatilla vulgaris.

Our back greenhouse
I’ve been sorting our plant laboratory for the last few months trying to make sense of what to do with all these crazy plants. An army of aeoniums for an upcoming project lay on the right side, a table of on oddities on the left. I’m in the midst of downsizing some of my personal collection. For those who live locally and are looking for some true botanical gems, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

aeonium atropurpureum flowers
aeonium atropurpureum flowers
Speaking of aeoniums. This Aeonium atropurpureum has begun to flower.

An small gathering of echiums. I wonder what gardens these will find their way into.

A beautiful mangave specimen.

aeonium tabuliforme
Aeonium tabuliforme
A few flats of Aeonium tabuliforme I grew from seed last year. They’re just starting to look right and show off their fibonacci sprial.

dicksonia fibrosa
Dicksonia fibrosa with spanish moss.

garrya elliptica
Walking through Finnarty Gardens at the UVIC Campus we came across this amazing Garrya elliptica tree in bloom.

garrya elliptica
garrya elliptica

Cherry blossoms, daffodils and young life.

Government House Gardens
We’ve been frequenting the great gardens of Victoria. If you haven’t made it to Government House yet this season, it’s time to pour a warm drink and take off for a jaunt.

Ethereal hellebores.

Primula 'Wanda Hybrid'
Primula Wanda Hybrid.

backyard jungle
Back at home things are coming up nicely.

anemone nemorosa
Anemone nemorosa is awesome.


Dodecatheon and Salix boydii.

Primula miniature
Miniature primula.

corydalis George Baker
My latest acquisition from Fraser Thimble Gardens Corydalis ‘George Baker’. A fleeting ephemeral moment of spring.

Dinosuars run amok.

Frosted cyclamen
Frosted cyclamen

Garden nymph
A garden nymph getting into my sedum pot.

Beautiful Vancouver Island. I love you.

Until next time plant people. Wishing you great success with your springtime and garden. Ciao

So it’s been about a week since the last issue of plant hoarding and here we go again. Honestly, I thought I was showing some discretion this week, I told myself I wouldn’t go to any garden stores, and generally take a low profile on the whole plant scene. I failed… Miserably.

Dwarf Rhododendrom ssp. , lavandula x ginginsii (goodwin creek lavender) , echeveria setosa compacta (fuzzy echeveria), primula obconica (german primula), Lillium ssp. (Tiger lily),  Chrysalidocarpus lutescens (areca palm), Adiantum tenerum spp. (maiden hair fern), gardenia jasminoides veitchii, hybrid crinkled cyclamen, armeria juniperifolia (sea thrift), aquilegia black barlow, armeria rubrifolia (sea thrift), and some bare root plants, lysimachia atropurpurea and a dahlia hybrid. Ahem.. Wow… I guess when you spell it all out like that it seems even more ridiculous.

I’m pleased with these purchases. Of course I’m a little frightened by my unwavering lust for every damn plant that grows two leaves and flowers but thats another story.

Echeveria setosa compacta (fuzzy echeveria) & lavandula x ginginsii (goodwin creek lavender)
I had one of these echeveria’s last season but it was a lot smaller, sadly in November’s early snow storm I lost it in the greenhouse. (NOTE to self, any tender plants you love should be indoors by mid September) This replacement is bigger and better then ever. I’m a total sucker to echeverias and this one is fuzzy, pretty neat! The lavender on the right is an interesting specimen, a broad crinkle leafed lavender, very strange. I’m used to the classic lavenders, stochas, munstead, and the like. All of the varieties of familiar with of have needle like leaves, this is much different. I potted both up and I look forward to their continued growth.

Quite a hansom specimen.

The weirdest lavender leaves I’ve ever seen, and it’s fuzzy too!

The armerias at work just started to bud and after last weeks post I couldn’t resist having a couple extra in the garden, plus these have the  head start of being greenhouse grown.

I’m a sucker for interesting primulas and yesterday my girlfriend came home with this one. Primula obconica is also known as the german primula and *gasp* poison primula. The reason they call it the poison primula is that some people develop a rash after handling it. It contains a chemical called primin that causes a skin reaction similar to poison ivy. Not everyone is sensitive but here’s hoping,  so far I’m unaffected. This primula is tender and can’t stand a freeze, it also enjoys a cool place to grow, place it on a cool window sill for best results.

I couldn’t find the particular breed of this one (I didn’t try all that hard either) I suspect it’s a hybrid primula culitvar, perhaps a persicum variety. I love cyclamen and this one has some really interesting flowers. The foilage leaves something to be desired but hey you can’t win them all! Lacy, crinkled, twisted, and lovely!

Everyone loves maiden hair ferns right? I’ve read that they can be difficult to grow, but I don’t know firsthand, this is my first time owning one. I’ve read they enjoy a humid environment, but don’t take well to misting. Recommendations would be to sit it above a plate of water (not in the water). Keep it out of direct sunlight as they have been known to get scorched leaves. Find a good place for it to live and leave it alone, they don’t take well to being moved around often. Also keep them constantly moist. but not waterlogged… I thought plants were supposed to be fun, this guy just sounds like a lot of work… We shall see.

The plants that I didn’t end up taking photographs of…

  • Aquilegia black barlow – Black flowers are a new to me, and I’m excited to see it bloom.
  • Dwarf Rhododendrom – I think the reason I generally stay away from rhodos is that they require a lot of space. I don’t own the land I garden on and I try to keep everything I purchase, travel size. The combination of it flowering at the time I saw it and it’s dwarf habit was enough of a selling point. Sold. Mine!
  • Gardenia jasminoides veitchii – ok, so I cheated a bit, I got this one a couple weeks ago… Potted it up and I’m still waiting for it to flower, looking forward to the show as it’s supposed to have fragrant flowers. The buds take a while to do their thing.. I’m still waiting.

Excellent.. Now it’s time to find space in my already extremely overfilled living room window.

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.