Hello Plant People
I’ve been absent from the blogosphere, lost in the beauty of the sunny backyard garden. Too much work, a whole lot of plants, and life goes on.
Funny how an absent of writing seems to come off as missing an old friend, I love sharing stories of my plant insanity, and hope some of you are still stopping by. While June certainly had more rain clouds then sun rays, it’s moisture was well received by my water hungry garden. Although the “gardener” got a few extra days off this June, July looks like it’s going to be a hot one. Starting today is a 10 day predicted forecast of cooking summer weather, we might even see a couple days in the 30′s (In Victoria, I know, I know). My giant Echium, Tetrapanax and Ensete false banana have instantly responded to the heat, growing like something out of Little Shop of Horrors. The colorful display of spring flowers has faded and in it’s place comes a whole new wave of tropical blooms. There is still plenty of summertime curiosities to peruse and fascinate, yet another time I’m thankful for being such a plant lunatic. So much to see…
Let’s take a closer look.
The tropical border is looking lush and exotic. My Achilles heel is a large garden made up of potted specimens. A nightmare to water, but satisifying in it’s ability to be reorganized as things look their best, and fade out for the season.
Let’s look at what’s been blooming the last couple weeks.
An old standby, Echeveria glauca is blooming early this year. The first succulent to really grab my attention, it’s lost it’s initial wow factor but still manages to win my respect for introducing me to a such a lovely genera of plants.
Aloe aristata is the first Aloe in my collection to yield blooms. We dug this one out of the Mary’s garden down on Cedar Hill Road, reliably hardy in Victoria if you keep the winter wet off it. Native to the Drakensberg Mountains in South Africa, these can be found growing up to 7500 feet above sea level in their natural habitat. Hardy succulents intrigue me.
Eccremocarpus scaber (Chilean Glory Vine) overwintered just fine in a pot placed outdoors, it’s rate of growth is almost scary. A heavy seed setter, if you grow this plant for one season you’ll have plenty of opportunities to share. Bonus points that it flowers on it’s first year from seed. Plant it where it has plenty of space to climb, it breaks easily when moved and is best left to climb on it’s own.
What I suspect to be Phytolacca polyandra otherwise known as Chinese Poke Weed. I first saw this genus in Germany, and have loved it ever since. Can’t wait for the unusual berries.
You’ve got to love the intricacy of it’s flowers.
A plant gifted to me last fall by the lovely people at Scentsational Plants, Arthropodium strictum (Tasmanian Chocolate Lily) was another winter success story. It’s been flowering for the last couple weeks with these strange off center miniature blooms.
Close up strangeness.
Standing at almost 5 ft tall, Allium giganteum was worth the trouble.
When I first saw these little white berries appear I thought my Ugni molinae (Chilean Guava) was setting an early set of fruit. I should have known that they weren’t berries but flowers, it sets it’s fruit around the end of October. Get it together plant geek!
A weed to some, the yearly return of Linaria purpurea (Toad Flax) is always welcome sight. Amazing sprays of self seeding, non obstrusive, electric purple flowers. Yes please, introduce this ditch weed into my garden any day. This plant predates my garden and plant knowledge, it’s earned it’s space whether I like it or not.
Speaking of Linarias, I recently ordered some seeds from Chilterns and this Linaria aeruginea ‘Neon Lights’ was one of them. Mixed seed in various colors, only two specimens survived due to unintentional neglect. Unsure of if it’s perennial or annual, if it seeds anything like it’s releatives, I shouldn’t have a problem keeping it in the garden.
Arisaema triphyllum never ceases to fascinate and lasts much longer then the A. griffithii I have. We all need more Jack in the pulpits in the garden.
A new plant to me, Corydalis sempervirens has minute tropical looking flowers. What sold me more then that was it’s light green, almost powdered delicate foliage. It’s shade of green is unmatched in the garden.
The Lupinus arboreus I found as a seedling on dry waterside cliff doesn’t owe me anything. Out of all the plants in my garden this spring, this plant was acquired beyond the garden center and outflowered everything and anything in the garden. Naturally a shrub, I’ve been standardizing it into a tree with great results. Burning bush is an understatement.
Lovely lupin flowers.
Desfontatia spinosa flowers remind me of candy corn. Underneith a Lewisia glandulosa teases me with plenty of buds, but I’ve yet to see a single one flower.
Another old resident of the garden is campanula persicifolia, this one in particular I suspect to be a hybrid between the white and the blue varieties in my garden. Has anyone else see a spotted campanula flower?
A potted Hymnocalis festalis (Puruvian Daffodil) is a finely crafted work of natural art. What a wispy design of white frilled loveliness. If you happen to come across one of these, do stop and smell the roses, they have an alluring perfume.
Shocked and amazed.
I probably have over 10 species of saxifraga growing in my garden, and Saxifraga stolonifera wins first place for it’s flowers. Almost like a red stemmed orchid without the prestige and hype.
Take a closer look will you.
Obscure blooms of the South American, Bomarea edulis. This plant probably wouldn’t sell out in Garden Centers but I enjoy it’s far off tale. Tuber ordered from Sacred Succulents.
Verbascum bombyciferum’s phallic flower droops and hangs in a different position every evening. A great drought resistant self seeding biannual for adding height and architecture. It reminds me of a blazing candelabra.
Another side fascination I’ve had this year is collecting exotic bulbs. Aztec Lily, Sprekelia formosissima in it’s full glory wondrous glory. The very first day the flower opened I took a deep breathe in and got to smell it’s short lived perfume. Smells like citrus mixed with strawberries, the aroma was intoxicating. I went for a second smell with no return, perhaps it only produces it in small supply.
For anyone having read mylast couple posts, I may come off as a broken record with pictures of my Cardiocrinum giganteum. Still I can’t help but to feel it deserves further documentation, standing at 12+ ft tall, stury and unstaked, this is one impressive lily.
9 years for the bulb to get to flowering size, 5 days of rain to knock them all off. I took this photo the day before the storm. Cardiocrinum giganteum is so classically beautiful, a true testament to the beauty and perfection of nature.
I’m still not sure if I’ve properly identified this plant, but I suspect it to be Acacia koa. This strange acacia has two types of leaves coming off one branch. The reason for this morphology is unknown to me, but it has both flat leaves and small mimosa like leaves. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Wishing you all a Sunny Weekend! Thanks for joining me on this tour.
To say May is a busy time of year for nursery workers is an understatement. From production to shipping to garden centers and beyond, there isn’t enough time in the day when you deal with this many plants. Overtime seasons hit a bit early this season and I suspect it to last a bit later as well, I feel like I’m running a marathon. Sore backs, stiff necks, a heavy coffee addiction and the days burn up as fast as I can face them. I’ve never been busier what with the nursery taking every spare moment I have, then watering & caring for my greenhouse and of course the backyard jungle. The work of a plant geek is never done and while I’ve been too busy for words, I felt it pertinent to give you all a quick update.
The tropical border May 2012
My Cardiocrinum giganteum is absolutely giant and growing at an incredible rate. It’s probably well over 8 feet tall now and starting to bud. Won’t this be interesting.
It takes anywhere from 5-9 years for a Cardiocrinum giganteum bulbs to reach flowering maturity. Sadly after blooming this giant lily will perish in hopes of creating seed. In time it’s offsets will replace the mother plant and the cycle will continue.
I planted my Echium pininana out and have been enjoying all the dramatic spring growth.
A Meconopsis Himalayan blue poppy is currently flowering. What a stunning display of multicolored blue frilly incredibleness.
For the 3rd season in a row this hardy Dianthus hybrid blooms right on schedule. Above a Disporum sessile settles into it’s new pot ready to unravel it’s secrets.
Speaking of right on schedule, these Candelabra primula never cease to amaze.
The minute flowers of Corokia ‘Little Prince’ are a nice accent to a plant that often looks like it’s dead, even when it’s thriving. Corokia make excellent potted specimens and fits in well with the other garden obscurities.
Chives aren’t just for culinary uses, they also welcome in spring with cheery pink/purple pillow tufts. Hardy and pest resistant, I’ve been growing this patch of chives for nearly 4 years now. After blooming they sometimes looks ratty and unkempt, cut them back and they’ll flush out good as new.
When I first started this garden, the beds were nothing but tall grass, daisies and weeds. After clearing them up, I uncovered a struggling peony. Many years later it returns the favor by producing these melon sized scarlet blooms. Incredible.
Mahonia x media really is a great plant. Now that the flowers have faded, the berries are developing, and also a flush of new foliage. Surely a plant that offers year round interest.
Amongst a Tetrapanax a Allium giganteum creeps it’s way up into the canopy. I keep waiting for it to open, but it continues to grow taller. I’m excited to see the result.
Darmera peltata & Gunnera manicata begin to wake up for the season.
A unassuming Tellima grandiflora blooms with little expectation of being noticed. Upon a macro photograph the true intricacy of it’s flowers is seen. For shape and design these are some of my favorite, but you’d be hard pressed to see it without really taking a close look. Easily grown from seed I let the pods develop last year and sowed some with great success. I now have over 40 and I’ve also been finding the odd one poking up in the garden self sown as well.
Drimia maritima amongst the spring madness. Everything is so lush right now.
The amazing speckled leaves of a Heuchera ‘Midnight Rose’. From Mid April on the heucheras have been waking up and flushing out new foliage.
It’s easy to be jealous of Heuchera ‘Green Spice’ artistic skills. Wow!
Pole beans and scarlet runners ready to be transplanted out into the garden.
The unusual bloom spike of aPhytolacca americana. Beautiful and unusual this isn’t even half of what makes this a cool plant to grow. Stay tuned for more weirdness.
Agave bovicornuta & Agave bracteosa were easy to harden off, and are now enjoying the sunniest spot in the back garden.
An enemy to most gardeners, snails get a pass in my garden due to their intriguing good looks. Respectfully he didn’t eat any of the echeverias and I let him be on his way. I’m sure with all the plants I have a couple snails won’t do much damage.
Thanks for visiting, we’ll talk soon when things aren’t as busy.
A notice to all plant geeks in Victoria, the Victoria Cactus and Succulent Society is having it’s yearly spring sale at Hillside Mall this weekend. Be sure to show them your support and check out their incredible selection of rare and strange succulents & cacti. Check out their website for more information.
Over the winter months I met a local cacti collector who is in the midst of reducing the size of their collection. While spring plant sales are a lot of fun, nothing is more exciting then viewing and aquiring plants from a private collection. On Sunday I paid her a visit and she shared some really incredible specimens with me.
The latest plant hoarding: “I can’t stop.”
Sedum hintonii (syn. Sedum mocinianum), Echeveria van keppel, Rhasalis pilocarpa, A NOID Stepelia, astrophytum senile, noid agave, Euphorbia obsesa, Euphorbia stellispina, and a 65-80 year old Echinopsis!
I had a really great visit, saw some great specimens, and left with this amazing lot. A great big thank you for sharing these old-growth beauties with me, I’m looking forward to having them in my care and watching them grow.
A closer look.
Also a small rooted cutting labeled Sedum hintonii. Further reading online says that it might be Sedum mocinianum, the main difference being the way it flowers. We shall see. I’m extra pleased about this one.
Onto the most exciting plant find of all my plant hoarding, a 65-80+ year old white flowering echinopsis. I’m absolutely floored about this one. Gnarly but vigorous, this cacti is older then myself, my parents, and was around when my grandmother was a toddler. It could have lived through two world wars, and has seen nations rise and fall. What an amazing find, it’s got the strangest presence.
Even at this old age, it produces fresh pups. Looking deeper into it’s soil, it’s growing almost entirely in gravel and has only had one drink all winter. Hardened off, it now lives outside. I can’t help but to stare at it for the time being.
I’m a happy camper, and so are the plants in my garden. The long days at the nursery have taken their toll on me and I’ve been finding it hard to keep up with this writing. Alas with all these incredible plant events, I feel it’s my duty to share. Here’s a quick photo roll of some of the more interesting things happening in the garden.
I didn’t have much luck overwintering my last echium so this one escapes it’s pot and goes straight into the ground. No point in worrying about it’s potential overwintering indoors if it’s going to die anyway. You live here until you don’t. Let’s see a bloom spike!
Melianthus major has some incredible spring colors right now. If you haven’t grown this plant before and see one in a spring planting give it’s leaves a little brush. It’s strangely peanut butter scented.
The Mimulus dentatus (Coast Monkey Flower) planted underneath the scopolia carniolica worked out rather nicely. I wonder if this combination has been done before… I love monkey flowers, you never loose with mimulus!
I looked down to see this great combination of spring folaige, knipofia, actea, impatiens and wasabia.
On the topic of lewisia, here’s a rare white Lewisia in flower. Out of the 300-500 lewisia we grow at the nursery every year, I only ever see 1-3 white ones per season in the mix. This one accidently followed me home.
Another podophyllum started poking it’s head up recently, P. hexandrum (Himilayan May Apple). This one was underpreforming in it’s old spot and ended up in this terracotta pot for future traveling ease.
Thanks for stopping by. Almost through the busy season, wish me luck.
Things have certainly been ripping along, I’m in absolute awe of all the new growth in the garden. After many tireless hours, and inconceivable levels of plant hoarding, the garden is full, established and brimming with life. The last week was an absolute zoo at the nursery which involved many late nights, and even a little Saturday catch up. Truth be told I feel a bit silly complaining about work when essentially I’m paid to do one big plant scavenger hunt, sun shining high, birds singing. Still as the long weeks add up my body aches a little more. Anyone who knows the dance of overtime knows there’s very little time to do much else. Living and breathing the plant scene right now, there’s a buzz in town and I’m enjoying the energy. My spirits remain high and I’m proud to have the job I have today.
A lot has been popping in the back garden, and I thought it might be time to do a bit more sharing.
The late April garden tour:
The Cardiocrinum giganteum has grown more then a foot since I got it a couple week’s back, it’s a fun plant to watch grow. Large glossy leaves and a promise of a tall flower stalk that will be the gem of the garden.
It’s main stock is a sight to be seen. It’s circumference and speed of growth is unreal.
Tetrapanax papyrifer has been enjoying the spring weather, rewarding me with a new leaf every couple weeks. If you haven’t tried this plant yet, keep your eyes peeled, the garden wouldn’t be the same without it. Low maintenance, undemanding and pest free, I haven’t had a thread of trouble growing Tetrapanax in Victoria. Extra bonus points that it’s almost completely hardy around here, it didn’t even loose it’s leaves this winter.
A meconopsis bud has been brewing the last couple days. Everyone tells me these plants are difficult and short lived, but so far this specimen hasn’t given me any problems whatsoever. A potted specimen I bring out into the main display in spring, and retire in the late summer. Himalayan poppy’s are unusual and beautiful, a great addition to the the perennial border.
Jeffersonia diphylla (Twin Leaf) & Sanguinaria canadensis (Blood Root) make an attractive unlikely pair. Both emerge into spring in the strangest way, flowering before the leaves even unravel. I enjoy the delicateness of the foliage and their lush greens are pleasant to say the least. Should you be keen to see a jeffersonia in bloom, don’t blink or you might miss it. This one came and went within the matter of 8 hours, I came home to a spent bloom having saw the bud only that morning.
All things pass.
I love the exotic blooms of this under cultivated hardy succulent, Chiastophyllum oppositifolium (kee-as-toh-FILL-um, op-po-sit-ee-FOH-lee-um). I have two of these at the moment, one in the garden and one in a 1 gallon pot, and the one in the pot is doing significantly better. For the best results extra drainage and perhaps some light winter protection will help encourage spring blooms. Furthermore I think chiastophyllum might be resiliant enough to be planted in rock walls and other vertical, well drained plantings. A must have, this is only the beginning of the long vibrant garland-like strands of flowers.
A perfectly grown Gentiana acaulis we aquired from Joe Keller at the VIRAGS Show and Sale has started to open and is a daily wonder. The flowers open and close with the sunlight, perhaps to protect it’s softer parts from winter moisture and cold temperatures.
Upon closer inspection this gentian’s flower is a real work of art. Out of this world beautiful, a perfect landing pad for a busy bumble bee. The dots inside are actually protruded bumps and the flower is comprised of a hard plastic-like casing and frilly soft petals when in full bloom. What an amazing shade of blue.
The rhodohypoxis are planted at the base of a eucalyptus tree and grow happily symbiotically. The thirsty tree above keeps the potrootbound and dry, preventing rot and also making it tough for city rats and squirrels to eat the delicious bulbs below. These have popped up for the last 3 seasons with no special care at all.
What can I say, I have a sweet spot for hardy primulas. Primula sieboldii lends well to the collection.
This primula auricula has been under performing for the last couple seasons and has been recently potted in a terracotta. A couple weeks later these blooms are my reward.
This Saxifraga ‘Triumph’ looks it’s best at this time of year. Cool weather growing, it seems to have migrated at least a foot from where I originally planted it. Now it drapes itself down the bordering rocks and looks quite naturalized. Even without it’s flowers it’s worth having in the garden. Bonus points that once spring moves into full swing you’re rewarded with a bumper crop of red tricolor blooms, I can’t complain.
The definition of springtime.
Proper gardening is all about timing. Plant something at the right time, and it won’t just “live” it will thrive. Bellis ‘English Daisies’ are a great short lived, cold weather perennial. For the best value buy them as 6pack annuals in fall, plant them and forget them until spring. The winter gives them ample time to get established and this is how they’ll look from February until June.
I have more then 10 different types of daffodils in the garden and yet they’re often left undocumented. I thought it was overdue that I include a shot as they are the true harbingers of spring.
These Hyacinthoides non-scripta (Blue Bells) were here before I started the garden and will likely be here after I leave this garden. Truthfully I’ve loved them since the first day I saw them. Exotic flowers that grow like weeds, I’m impressed, I really am.
I often enjoy looking at the garden lengthwise and seeing the mix of colors all interwoven like a tapestry.
Once the flower stalks of Darmera peltata begin to unfurl, they move at an incredible rate. What perfect little capsules.
You don’t need to go to outer space to see something weird. Just. Go. Outside.
The shiny leaves of newly emerged Rodgersia. This specimen is thriving in the deep dry shade of a large clump of bamboo.
Something that might be new to some of you, Matthiola arborescens otherwise known as a tree stock. Much like your traditional annual stock, but supersized. Silver foliage and nicely scented flowers, I’m excited to see how this develops this season. A late find last season, this overwintered just fine in my coldframe in the back.
My podophyllum peltatum (North American May Apple) started to emerge at the end of last week. While podophyllums are somewhat new to me in the grande scheme of things I certainly enjoy growing them. Hosta-like in their developed foliage, there emergence in spring is miraculous and entertaining to watch. Another plant that needs a daily glance, this podophyllum moves quick once it gets started.
I’ve got two Arisaema griffithii in bloom at the moment, one dark one light. You always win with hardy exotics.
At The Nursery
A quick shot of the new greenhouse we built this winter. Is that an Echium pininana out front you ask? Why yes it is! Sadly it’s not the same one as I so proudly boasted about last season, that one died while being overwintered in the greenhouse. I should have said something earlier but I was still mourning. This season I’m taking it a step further, I’ve already got about 20 seedlings on the go, we will see one of these bloom somehow!
Amidst all the fury of greenhouse madness I was able to take 30 minutes to snap a couple nice shots. I love fresh crops of euphorbia, the contrast of foliage is amazing.
A field of rosemary and lavender.
6 pack fiberous begonias, the bane of the nurseryman. King of the frustrating crops, begonias can be a pain in the A$$. For the moment this season’s look phenomenal. Only time will tell.
I can’t help but to smile looking at these large crops of different colored heucheras.
Last but not least: The Latest Plant Hoarding
While buzzing about a garden center on a sales call, I noticed this amazing specimen of Jatropha podagrica. Strangely enough I had been eyeing one of these up on Tropiflora a couple months previous but changed my mind when I saw the $80 dollars for shipping and phyto tickets. There’s a small crop of these circulating Victoria’s garden centers right now, if you want an interesting developed caudiciform I suggust you go for an adventure right now. Not cheap, but barely expensive, I saw a couple at Gardenworks Blenkinsop and Marigold Nursery Saanich. They’re in short supply and won’t last long, you need one of these.
Amazing neon orange blooms.
Thanks for coming along for a tour. Enjoy the spring weather!
Hello plant people
I hope you’ve been enjoying the spring weather, even if it’s a bit rainy here and there, I’m glad to have the light evenings, and so does the garden. This weekend I made it to Saltspring Island to visit my parents, and wouldn’t you have guessed it, I made time to visit a couple nurseries while I was there. If you haven’t been to Fraser Thimble Farms before, make sure you make time for a visit next time you’re on the island. While I’ve often taken this stop somewhat for granted, Fraser Thimble is coveted throughout Canada and even the USA for it’s amazing selection of rare, native and strange plants. I love visiting in spring, there’s so much to see, and at this time of year it’s worth visiting every couple weeks if you have a chance. I put my discretion shield on full blast but was quickly defeated and left with much more then I expected to. It’s spring after-all, the most dangerous time for a plant hoarder to venture into strange and unusual nurseries/ I didn’t stand a chance. But how could you, with such an incredible variety of the weird plants. A quick look at this week’s bounty.
I’ve been lusting after Cardiocrinum giganteum from the very first moment I heard about them. A cold hardy lily that can grow and flower up to 10 feet tall, how could anyone resist. It often takes up to 7 years or longer for the bulb to reach flowering size, after blooming the main bulb dies but it’s offsets take it’s place. In time if you get an established community of these bulbs, blooms could be a frequent event. The foliage is remincient of giant cabbage, or even a philodendrom, for it’s foliage alone this plant has merit in the garden.
Richard at Fraser Thimble suspects this specimen to be around 9 years old. Considering it’s size this early in the season, we think it’ll flower this year. A tip from the grower suggests regular feeding during it’s growing season to encourage offset formation. This one already has a couple pups and looks healthy and vigorous, it had to come home with me. Prices range all over the map for Cardiocrinum giganteum and availability is limited. If you ever encounter a good deal one these, don’t pass it up.
Once you collected one Farfugium you’ll need to have more. I’ve had my eye on this Farfugium japonicum ‘aureomaculatum’ for some time now, and this one’s electric tie dyed leaves never cease to amaze me. Established clumps look like a lightning bolt bush. Once grouped into the genus ligularia the insignificant daisy like flowers are similar but farfugium has it’s own distinct look. Enjoys a constantly moist well drained medium and wilts, but survives full sun and drought amazingly well. For best results a little dappled shade would go a long way. Stunning!
An impulse buy on the way out, this giant foot ball sized Colocasia esculenta. I’ve always admired the large Colocasias you see in grandiose botanical gardens, this large root promises such a dream.
Planted in a large pot with good drainage, this one lives in my cold frame in the back. I’m excited to see what comes of it. Grower suggests to leave dry from October until April of every year, these large tubers are more prone to rot then smaller varieties and will benefit from a dry dormant period. I’ll keep you updated!
A Crinum powellii bulb for $7.50 also snagged me at the cash register. Although you see these growing in Victoria Crinums are practically unavailable at garden centers in the area. This one promises to be a real beaut.
A strange shrub from China, Helwingia chinensis also grabbed my attention at the very last moment. I know very little about it, but look forward to seeing what it has to offer.
Spring is here… What a relief.