Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants


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

Hello everybody

I hope everyone had a nice Easter weekend, I for one had an excellent time. For the first time in quite a while I had three days to myself to unwind from the woes of busy time at the greenhouse. A friend of mine visited me from Vancouver and good times ensued. The weekend consisted of numorous bbq’s, sunshine, and some well overdo garden lounging. Weather has been touch and go this month, but this weekend was the exception. Stunning sunshine graced our tired bones, for the first time this season I could rock a t-shirt in style. Oh how I love the warm days of spring, it makes you feel so good.

I’ve been watching my garden a lot lately. It seems that no matter how busy, how long, and how tired the day is, I always make time for a quick garden walk around to see how things are progressing. In all honesty the day wouldn’t be complete without at least a 5-10 minute walk around, I’d just feel ripped off if I didn’t make the time for such things. Slow motion fireworks going unnoticed, I love watching the subtle changes happening every moment. It’s been tough making time to organize all the photos into the highlights, there certainly is no shortage of visual euphoria going around. With much diligence I summed it down to 30 or so pictures in hopes of sharing the wonder going on in the back. Here we go, my April 2011 garden tour.

With all the magic going on right now I must admit, Corydalis ‘Purple Leaf’ (a Terra Nova hybrid) is really taking the center stage. I planted this late last season and it started to bud early April. In no time the first blooms appeared and seemingly overnight the whole plant erupted in flowers. It flowers neon blue with white accents and has dark red/brown leafs. This is certainly one for the books.

Behind we can also see an Erysimum I found on a nearby beach and it’s flowering prolifically. I have a couple wall flowers from the greenhouse and they don’t even begin to match up against these wild beauties. Perhaps having naturalized on the beach has made them tougher then their greenhouse counterparts. I have three beach Erysimums and all of them are about 5 times as big and dramatically more flowered then the hybrids grown in artificial circumstances. Nature is a mysterious mistress.

Corydalis ‘Purple Leaf’ : Upon closer inspection: Absolutely Beautiful!

It’s really nice being able to identify plants in various stages of growth, you never know what you’ll find growing in a ditch, beach side or cliff. It was about a tenth the size, and out of bloom but it was most definetly a wallflower. Here is another amazing Erysimum I found on a beach nearby.

On my last garden tour I was thrilled to see the first Sophora buds opening. Now they’re in full bloom and each stalk has a small cluster of these beautiful somewhat tropical yellow flowers. So far they don’t seem to be getting pollinated, perhaps you need more then one to make that happen? I’d like to see the strange beans that develop on these trees, only time will tell.

While Bellis Daisies are generally sold as annuals here in Victoria they should be considered true perennials. I have various clumps of Bellis growing throughout the garden and if they’re planted in the right spot they naturalize quite nicely. I feel as though the look even better the second year. Shades of red, pink and white are a refreshing hit of color in the early weeks of spring. With luck they’ll self seed and you may see the odd patch show up in your lawn or in some other unsuspecting place. Once temperatures start to heat up their fireworks displays tends to calm down and they look a bit ratty, but still well worth keeping for once it cools off again in fall you should see another wave of color. Dead head to keep them looking fresh, and to prevent seeding if you don’t want any more then you’ve got.

Bellis Daisies and Tulipa Tarda enjoy a sunny Friday morning.

Tulipa tarda is native to Turkey and opens and closes to the light of the sun. This is of course why I rarely get to see them in their full glory as when I get home everyday they’re already in the shade and closed up tight. I bought these tulips from Botanus last season and so far I’m impressed. Considered a species tulip, these tulips are more likely to self sow and in turn are more likely to naturalize then your regular hybrid tulip.

There’s various varieties of daffodil popping up everywhere in the garden. I seem to always forget where I plant them in turn and up with a little surprise in spring. Reliable spring color.

Mini daffodil with a voodoo tiki.

A greenhouse grown Saxifraga ‘Neon Rose’ blooms prolifically.

Primula x ‘Garryarde Guinevere’, flower buds formed at the start of April and are in now in full display. I found a small specimen of this in an old overrun garden bed at my parents house. It did very little the first year I had it but on it’s second season it seems to be doing quite well. Hybrid primulas rock!

My girlfriend’s raspberry bed is doing exceptionally well this year. It all started with 2 runners taken from a mother plant I found growing in the garden before I took control of the garden. The mother plant was from a friend of a friend of mine, of which her raspberry canes grow 6 feet tall and have hundreds of berries on them. Mine never did as well, but this year might be different. They sure spread easy enough, makes you feel like a fool for buying potted raspberry plants.

All of the ajuga in my garden has started to bud. This reletively easy to grow ground cover is a real gem in early spring. Plant one 4″ pot in your garden and you’ll have it for the rest of your life, ajuga is an easy plant to grow and spreads vigorously. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s invasive as the suckers come up easily if you don’t want them. Still if you want to cover an area in sun to partial shade, bad soil included, ajuga will be your friend. This variety in particular is called Burgundy Glow and it’s a personal favorite of mine. At the greenhouse we grow a couple other varieties, all of which are worth growing.

Vinca ‘Periwinkle’ is considered a weed to some, invasive to others, and beautiful, in the right circumstance. For the moment I’m enjoying this small planting of Vinca, if only I could keep it under control, we shall see.

Strange Fungi that appeared a week ago and is sticking around for the long haul. Sometimes the most interesting things in your garden show up on their own.

Thymus Elfin Minimus is an interesting diminutive groundcover. Tight compact thyme that forms an interesting tight habit. Slow growing for the most part, established plantings end up creating their own close up interest. I love the effect of this mini thyme overhanging these rocks.

When I first started this garden there were all these ugly cement fence posts. Over the years I’ve been training sedums, mosses and any other easy to grow alpine plant to hide the utilitarianism. This one has been in the works for a couple years now and you can barely see the cement pad at all. Sagina flowering moss, coral carpet sedum, native mosses, excellent!

So my Melianthus major (peanut butter plant) didn’t die in last years freeze fest, but it certainly got slowed down. Here is the first slow growing shoot of my peanut butter plant. Last time this year it was about 15 times as big. What a shame.

My Meconopsis blue poppy has come back this year in a pop and looks quite happy. It’s even got two sets of flower pops growing at a surprisingly fast rate. Some complain saying this is a tough plant to grow, but so far it’s been pretty easy for me. More updates when in bloom!

Dicentra spectabilis is a real spring favorite for me. I think everyone should have a couple bleeding hearts in their garden, they’re easy to grow, consistent, and just straight up unusual. I’ve had this one for three years in a pot and it has put out a mind blowing show every season, as for bang for you money, Dicentra spectablis is a real crowd pleaser.

Right out of Alice in Wonderland.

I found a water pump at a garage sale last year for 5 dollars. From August until mid October I really enjoyed the gentle hum of rolling water, it’s quite serene. Around the end of the season the pump got gunked up and permanently stopped working. Last weekend I got fed up with the silence and ran out to buy a brand new one. A worthy investment to say the least, the sound of water in the garden really completes the vibe.

Have a box full of old toy dinosaurs your kids grew out of? What better place to put them in then the garden. Here we have a sedum patch where these dinosaurs can be released into their natural habitat. I find sedums and succulents give the dinosaurs scale, while some might see it as tacky, it still makes me smile.

My deciduous bonsai collection is waking up for the season. I’m contemplating potting them up to relieve watering guilt later in the season. I can’t very well just let them die, but keeping small trees is a laborious task, a lot of careful watering, and if you forget for one day, they drop their leaves for the season and look like crap. I will have to think about this one.

I’ve trying to photograph this area of my garden for some time now with no real success. Sure this picture is ok, but to see it in person is the real money shot. Black Currant heuchera mixed with cyclamen are a great combination. Contrasting foliage fighting for dominance, I love it!

Fritillaria lanceolata better known as a Chocolate lily made an appearance this year. I tossed some seeds around last year and was rewarded with a couple of these interesting flowers.

Saxifraga Triumph in full bud just about to bloom. I planted this last season and it’s done really good.

Euphorbia wulfenii in flower is a real jaw dropper. I love euphorbias in all shapes and forms, so as of late wulfenii has been slowly becoming my favorite. Upon closer inspection their flowers are flowers, within flowers, within flowers. Amazing

Another great thing about spring is that it’s the start of BBQ season. We just got an old coal BBQ and after a couple test drives, I’m convinced, coal rules. Delicious!

There we have it, a long overdue summary of what’s going on in the garden. It really became a bit of a novel, there is so much going on out there right now, and I tried to sum it down. As I do the daily walk around I see so many buds swelling up, May is going to be a real show stopper, I can’t wait. Life is all too busy at the greenhouse right now, but I’m happy to come home to the serenity of my backyard garden. It’s the little things in life really. Happy spring time everybody, get your garden on!

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.