Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

dendroseris litoralis

What an awesome year for growing strange plants. Weather in Victoria has been so nice this season. Sunny days with intermittent rain tossed in throughout. Today its sunny with a nice coastal breeze, t-shirt weather in the temperate. Just amazing.

I’ve had a rather successful season in growing weird and rare plants. It’s so satisfying growing plants from parts unknown. One plant in particular that continues to amaze me and is one of my pride and joys this season is Dendroseris litoralis. Syn. The Cabbage Tree.

Here we have a plant that was nearly brought to extinction in the 80’s by the hand of man and his pet goat. Grazing escapee feral goats decimated this plant’s population. Said to have been down to the last 3 specimens in the wild before conservation kicked in. Thank goodness they did, it’s an amazing plant, more people should try to grow. This plant is still considered critically endangered.

Native the Juan Fernández Island in Chile this plant grows perfectly well in our climate here in Victoria B.C. I started my crop by seed mailed north from a South American grower, the seeds germinated with ease (90% success). Once they get going they grow like a summer annual, from seedling to a small tree within one season if treated nicely. They benefit from regular feeding and frequent watering. Mine grows in dappled shade in a 5 gallon pot. I have also grown it in bright sun with essentially no problems either, some light scorched leaves perhaps. I mist the leaves when I think of it. It seems to enjoy a jungle lush environment without being soaking wet. I don’t have the heart to leave it out in the winter and expect it to need protection. I have read it can handle light frosts as low as -3C but why risk it. I’m not convinced. The specimen below is perhaps 2-3 years old now, stored in a cold greenhouse in the winters and kept moderately dry in the off season. From my original crop I had a few smaller plants parked in the back greenhouse and they succumb to a rat eating their growing tips off and then thus fading away. On occasion some aphids have made a home on the center growing tip. Other than that I haven’t had much trouble. For those in deer territory I do suspect it to be deer caviar, best to tuck away somewhere safe.

I have also read in lean times people have survived by eating this plant’s large luscious leaves. Said to be edible but don’t quote me. Seems logical enough, South American salad greens.

This season I grew 10 of these and distributed them to various locations. If you bought one in Victoria/Vancouver you may have one of my kin. If you did snag one of these I’d love to see how yours is doing. Send me a photo.

Mine has yet to flower yet. A bright drooping marigold orange colored senacio-esk flower is expected. I will keep growing mine on until success is achieved.

dendroseris flowers
Photo above borrowed from Plant World Seed’s website

I will be growing a small availability of these for next season if you’d like to be on the waiting list don’t hesitate to contact me.

dendroseris litoralis Rare dendroseris litoralis  dendroseris litoralis  dendroseris litoralis  dendroseris litoralis leaf

Such a cool plant. Until Next time.

Alas it’s been a while yet since I’ve found moments to muse stories on this botanical blog of mine. For those of you who still stop by, thank you for having faith in my return. A lot of big things are happening right now and sometimes creative projects take the brunt of it.

This spring and summer has been a fury of activity. Operating a small hobby greenhouse in the valley has turned out to be a bigger endeavor than one would imagine. Whether you have irrigation or not, the plants need to be regularly checked on. We had a record breaking sunny June & July and the days were hot. While this makes for excellent margarita weather it also inspires extra thirsty gardens.

Growing exotics in the north is not without it’s challenges. Reading some of my favorite plant blogs located in the U.K, Portland & California I would have thought there would be a bigger appetite for strange plants up here. Still I ended up having a few more echiums, sonchus & isoplexsis than I really knew what to do with. Starting strange plants from parts unknown is a great adventure in science. These plants are from the other side of the planet and here they are, flowering in my greenhouse looking quite at home. Propagating is addictive and it can lead to a bit of a messiah complex if you’re not careful. It’s a bizarre feeling being the caretaker of this many plants, it’s very satisfying but a huge responsibility.

Most people crazy enough to have a blog dedicated to plants can relate; this past-time can quickly grow out of hand. If you have the growing space, it will be filled. Even if you don’t you’ll make something work. Although my life is undoubtedly more fulfilling with these plants one can’t underestimate the commitment it takes to have even a modest sized collection. It’s not good enough to have everything survive, we strive for perfection don’t we?

Anyhow onto the topic on hand. The plants.

dicksonia fibrosa
While some might find success growing tree ferns outside, mine lives in the greenhouse where it really thrives.

A noid species of phytolacca bloomed earlier this spring and is now creating it’s strange pillar of berries.

begonia luxurians
Old news for some but Begonia luxurians still holds a special place in my collection. This year I’ve seen leaps in bounds in it’s growth. It’s rippled leaves reminds me of classical art.

dendroseris litoralis
I just love plants with a story. Dendroseris litoralis otherwise known as the cabbage tree is endemic the Juan Fernandez Islands west of Chile and was nearly brought to extinction in the 80’s due to over grazing. It took me a couple years track down some seeds but once acquired they were relatively easy to get going. This is one of two left in my collection, it’s vigorous growth is fun to watch and I’m thrilled to see it’s progress.

solanum pyracanthum
Solanum pyracanthum features velvet stems and golden spikes. Stranger so this plant is a distant relative to the tomato and after flowering creates a similar fruit. I’m uneasy of trying it’s delictable flavor, I’ll leave this one up to admiring.

Aloe polyphylla
A couple successful science projects from seed. Eryngium venustum (Left) Eryngium eburneum (Above) & Aloe polyphylla (Right)

More plant tales to come.  thanks for stopping by. 

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.