Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

beacon hill park

This weekend has been gorgeous, I know I’ve said it before but I’m going to say it again “Spring Has Sprung”. Today after a nice lunch at Bubby Rose’s Cafe my girlfriend and I decided to take a walk into Beacon Hill Park to enjoy the spring weather. While enjoying our coffee’s we took a short stroll to the center duck pond and made a turn towards the Vancouver Island Alpine Garden.

What seems like a rather small plot of land holds a high diversity of alpine wonders. I wondered why I had never given this garden much of a look until recently, then the answer hit me, alpine gardens require a keen eye. Without a solid interest in plants you might do just as I did for many years and walk on by. Alpine gardens often focus on smaller specimens, and in turn require you to take a closer look to really appreciate them. I’ll admit I got lost in this garden for quite some time today as snapped photos enjoying the sights.

We were nearly done our tour when we spotted this neon red corydalis. What a color, it caught my eyes from 6 feet away, the flowers smaller then a quarter. It’s as if it glowed, these iridescent flowers are a real treat. After a little research online I have concluded it to be Corydalis solida ‘George Baker’, or something very close to that variety. Correct me if I’m wrong?

Beautiful miniature primulas, idenfication unknown, a little help?

Chionodoxa forbesii (Glory-of-the-Snows) looking excellent. These easily naturalized spring bulbs flower profusely and are sure to impress with their star shaped multi toned flowers. Native to western Turkey, they are widely distributed and can be found throughout Victoria on a nice spring day.

We used to grow Anemone blanda at the nursery but have since been discontinued due to their unpredictable growing habit. I have a lot of these in my own garden placed miraculously through the soil brought home from the greenhouse compost. They pop up everywhere in mid march and open and close with the sun. I remember spending a day pulling 40 flats of these in a hot greenhouse, when I started in the morning they were all closed and as it started to warm up they all opened around me. They develop their buds underground (perhaps to deter snacking mammals) and as they’re ready to open spring force from the earth. An interesting spring bulb to say the least.

While looking at the Anenome patch we happened to see these Puschkinia growing nearby. These bulbs are in the hyacinth family and are an interesting alpine bulb to grow. Like the Chionodoxa they naturalize easily and do quite well in our climate. They can be planted pretty much anywhere but keep in mind that due to their size you might want to place them somewhere that you’ll pay notice. They are tiny!

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about this alpine garden and was perplexed by these strange red shoots I saw growing out of the ground. I went back today in hopes of finding the answer and was quickly pleased with what I saw. I suppose they’re the early spring shoots of a maiden hair fern, (although they look nothing like one at this point) the photo above contrasts the remains of old fronds with the new ones in the background. For a closer picture of the new fronds refer to my last post on the subject, interesting.

Who would have thought such a tropical looking flower would be a native to B.C. The fawn lily ‘Erythronium revolutum’ is amazing both in it’s speckled foliage and delicate nodding flowers. The alpine garden has a variety of established patches that seem to be quite happy.


If you haven’t visited the Vancouver Island Alpine Garden yet then don’t hesitate any longer. It’s really coming to life right now and shouldn’t be missed. Grab a coffee and a camera and explore. Just be careful where you place your foot as there are a lot of delicate little specimens that on first glance you might overlook. A real treat for any plant geek young or old.

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Today I decided to take a walk through Beacon Hill Park, and on my way I took a peak at the Vancouver Island Rock and Alpine Garden Society’s “Garden In The Park”. It had all of the expected spring colors (Crocus, snowdrops, daffodils, and hellebore) and a couple extra surprises. The website says the garden was created in 1967 and although I’ve walked about Beacon Hill Park since I was a child I’ve only recently taken notice of it. ( the clouds are gone, I can see clearly now, show me the plants!). Anyhow in keeping with the theme of this blog, I snapped a couple shots. Alas as this obsession further takes over my life I’m finding it harder and harder to get stumped IDing plants, still I’m not quite familiar with these. A little help?

Omphalodes – creeping forget me not (Thanks for the ID Jim)

Mounding moss / groundcover. It’s pretty neat and has an interesting texture. Sagina family, saxifraga?

Whipcord Hebes (Thanks to Jim for the id)

Later to be identified as a maiden hair fern in it’s early stages of spring click here for recent photos.

A closer view. So strange…

No matter how educated I become in this horticulture thing I’m happy to run into new challenges. I’ll know them all one day right? Any help on these would be much appreciated.

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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.