Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

cardiocrinum giganteum

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.

Stylidium gramineum.  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.

Penstemon x mexicali ‘Sunburst Ruby’ lends well to a tropical garden. It’s reds stand out amongst all the green foliage of early summer, late spring.

Mitraria coccinea is a firestorm of orange tangelo colored flowers.

On the edge or hardy? I’m still not quite decided, this one made it through just fine in the coldframe.

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.

Even during heavy winds this Cardiocrinum giganteum barely moved an inch. Check out the base of it’s stalk.

12 feet and counting = happy plant geek.

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.

A closer look.

It’s always a good time for a photo of Mangave ‘Bloodspot’

Not rare, but totally everyday. I’m proud of my soft cushion planting of Saxifraga ‘Triumph’. It’s so fluffy!

I love when groundcovers start to merge, which one will remain victorious.

A nice way to justify breaking a fresh terracotta, put some succulents in it and act like you did it on purpose.

Buddha likes the saxifraga too.

The eyes of a gentle soul. Tobius the Cat.

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.

May walk-around.

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.

The frog has a new hairdo this year, sitting next to Agave stricta ‘Nana’.

An echeveria art-piece I did has a little visitor.

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.

A new addition from Fraser Thimble Farms, Syneilesis aconitifolia, a welcome obscurity to the garden.

More plant hoarding: Enkianthus cernuus rubens .

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.

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.