Last week was an absolute fury of work at the greenhouse. I’m happy to see Mother’s Day come and go. So many hanging baskets; I’ve got marigold vision…
In other plant news, it’s springtime and the plants are just loving it. We’ve had a nice three weeks of sunshine and I’ve been wearing a t-shirt and shorts for weeks. For any of you who are wondering. I succeeded in my mission to get a tree echium to flower this season. In fact after growing more then 50 of them from seed, I had 6 bloom in total. Still none surpass my main plant at home, who lived outdoors all winter (with some protection) and is now reaching towards the heavens.
I took this photo a couple days ago and it’s already grown another half foot. It’s nearly 15 feet tall and climbing. This is probably the coolest plant I’ve ever grown. Imagine if I had five this big…. maybe next year?
More updates to come… So much going on.
Happy New Years Plant Geeks!
The holidays were great, many the night spent with family and friends. Food induced comas, tall glasses of fire water & general needless celebrating. I’m relaxed and plump. 2013 promises to be a great year. I’m thinking without all this doomsday paranoia perhaps humanity can concentrate on better things, like plants.
It’s nice to have a little break from the daily task of keeping the collection alive. It’s amazing how busy I am in the spring and summer, by December the workload is reduced by 80%. Not without my chores but it’s a cake walk in comparison. Still plenty to look at of course. More so at the greenhouse than the garden, but I’m still surprised to see life outdoors. Actually to be honest our winter hasn’t been all that bad at all. Although we’ve seen the odd frost at the greenhouse, my house in the Cook Street Village seems to be relatively untouched. Sure some of the plants have relaxed due to the colder weather, but I honestly don’t think it’s seen even a lick of frost. My banana trees still have green leaves, so does the hedychiums. It’s been a strange winter indeed. Be it climate change or fortunate weather I’m happy either way. Keep the rain clouds coming as long as it keeps us away from deep freezes, the plants are loving it and it’s certainly lighter on the heating bill.
This winter I’ve spent entirely too much time indoors. Today I took the opportunity to go for a walk about and snap some photos. Let’s take a look shall we.
After all the effort of moving my echium last season; only to watch it die, I decided on a different strategy. Around the first of November a friend and I created this Echium shelter out of cedar and glass. Weather has been good so far but we’re not out of the water until the end of Febuary. Keeping the rain and snow off my prized echium should earn it couple extra lives I’m hoping.
Standing at over 10 feet tall this echium is sure to give a show next season if it survives the winter. After growing over 100 of these I’m determined to get one to bloom. With a surplus of exotics this year I’m doing my own trials on hardiness, so far with exciting results.
The Echium fastuosum ’Pride of Madeira” I left exposed is doing quite well.
Geranium maderense hasn’t noticed our winter at all.
Hedychium coccineum was still flowering mid November and on January 2nd is still looking lush. An adjecent pineapple salvia flowers freely to the right.
The succulents I planted on the grassy knoll are thriving too. I have two aeoniums outside right now and both are doing considerably better then the ones I have at the greenhouse. It seems they thrive in this cold weather, assuming we don’t see a deep freeze.
This one really surprised me. The Senecio cristobalensis I sacrificed to the elements is not only surviving but getting ready to flower. It’s been knocked over a couple times from the wind, but other than that he’s doing just fine.
Wasabia japonica resembles a ground cover at this time of year. A couple weeks back a main shoot broke and I got to try fresh wasabi root for the first time. Essentially it tastes a lot like horse radish but the flavor is definitely more refined. Always a novelty to try something new.
My Mahonia media produced a late, small set of blooms. Perhaps it’s time to repot or drop in the ground.
Right on que, the euphorbias have been setting their buds. Pictured above, Euphorbia ‘Glacier’
Euphorbia characias ‘Wulfenii’
Leptinella squalida ‘Platt’s Black’ resembles a small fern. Growing in a crack in the wall, it’s another plant that seems to enjoy the cool weather.
Hellebore ‘Winter Moonbeam’ is setting buds looking rather lovely.
A lone leaf of a under performing Acanthus stands out on grey days.
A couple of mushrooms fruit nearby.
Yucca rostrata is impressive no matter what time of year.
Planting chard in the autumn will ensure some winter interest and tasty fresh greens.
Although far from rare, tried and true hens and chicks look good 365 days a year. Can’t argue with that.
The top photo was taken today where as the bottom is from April of last year. My favorite part about documenting all of this is being able to cross reference the progress plants make. Gardening is full of surprises.
And thus comes the end of today’s tour all from the warmth of our homes. Hopefully I’ll take some shots at the greenhouse for even more plant excitement! Until next time.
There I said it, summer is over.
The garden is as big as it’s ever going to get, my Castor beans, jerusalem artichokes and Tetrapanax are all breaking personal records. Growing tropical plants in the north is an exercise best saved for the insane (and broken backed). Sitting in the garden, enjoying an evening beverage it’s hard to believe I’m even in Victoria anymore. For a small garden I really have crammed in just about as many oddities as physically possible. I have plants from all continents sans Antarctica. Ranging from Europe to South America, coming from as far as the Himilayan Mountians, to the Canary Islands, Mexican deserts and beyond. In times that I’m not traveling on a plane I can travel through the story of the plants.
For those of you who are new to my plant rantings, let me just say, “Hello, My name is Nat, and I’m a plant hoarder”. Seriously though, some might call it a problem, but I’d like to think of it as a gift. My theory is as long as one’s plant collection is in good order, that being healthy and/or well organized, it’s not hoarding, but a botanical Ark. The purpose of this ark mostly being selfish of course. Who else really appreciates the effort put into a garden more than it’s creator and caretaker himself. It’s a plant lab for research and a playground for mental relaxation.
While I’d love to dream that my plants will live on when I’m gone, I’m afraid they’d mostly be lost without me. Agaves and cacti won’t soon be taking over the streets of Victoria, a guy can dream can’t he. Still hopeless or not I do my part and carry on the tradition in which we as people cultivate the plants that intrigue us. Hopefully passing them on and furthering their proliferation into the homes and lives of people wide and far. Be it to inspire or teach, or simply pass on a cutting that’s difficult to acquire. Call me the crazy plant man, let’s talk plants.
Truth be told I’ve not been writing as much as I’d like to be, but times have gotten busy. The fall chrysanthemum season kept my schedule full and my back on the verge of collapse. After a long road-trip in search of cacti and succulents, the everyday chore of watering an incredibly thirsty garden, and let’s not forget the nursery work. I was exhausted. Let’s rephrase that I’am exhausted, and for a moment I had contemplated if i had burnt out gardening all together. Certainly not, just a momentary lapse in energy. I’ll keep the coffee brewed, the plants strange and spirits high. Now for the annual migration of tropical plants to the greenhouse. A good rule of thumb for exotic gardeners on the west-coast of B.C is to have your tender plants in by October 31st just to be safe. That means only 30 days to move roughly 300+ plants indoors, I better get to stretching. I need staff, this one man botanical garden is lot of work.
Now before I start the process of the garden deconstruction I still need to do some proper photography. Why else do I grow such climatically fragile plant life if not to admire them at their largest and lushest time of year. Let’s take a look at what’s looking good this October 2012.
As mentioned earlier my castor beans have never looked better. This green Ricinus communis was grown from seed purchased in Germany, many many years ago. To think the budding young botanist at the time had no idea he would take it this far. A certain sentimental shout out goes to the plants that were there at the start, and this one was probably my first successful seed project. Out of a whole pack I only ended up with two and they’ve followed me this far. Now, how to get a 12 foot castor bean to the greenhouse in a VW Golf, I’ll make it work.
A tabletop of succulents, a highlight of some of my favorites which rotates as things come into flower and/or fade. Some notable appearances such as a lush, spiky Pachypodium lamerei, a neon flowered jatropha podagrica and an ever so strange Lophocereus schottii x monstrose.
Old Aloinopsis schooneesii grow large underground tubers that can later be exposed for an interesting effect. Mostly a winter grower, A. schooneesii doesn’t mind a little summer water. Still looking forward to some flowers in the dark days. This one is staged rather nicely.
This westcoast (Blechnum spicant ) deer fern is thriving. Crested saxifraga pour out of a broken ceramic. The yuccas, an unexpected surprise, former garden residents that refuse to leave. I dug this patch out last autumn, but here they are again. I’d sooner take yucca then pop weed I suppose, I mean, who wouldn’t!
This Sinningia leucotricha has enjoyed it’s time outdoors. For a past post on this one, click here.
What is it about the cooling temperatures of late September & October that make the colors of flowers just that much more rich in color. Desfontainia spinosa often has candy corn colored blooms, at this time of year, bright orange.
At first glance it looks like the blooms of an orchid, but that’s not the case. A lowly toad lily, Tricyrtis hirta surprises you with these mindblowing blooms, late summer until frost. A flower that require you to take a closer look, Tricyrtis are well worth growing for fall interest.
While there might not be a Passiflora caerulea flower open everyday, there has been one every month (sometimes as many as 8-10 open at once) since the very start of the growing season. Hardy for me last season, this one is a winner.
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This is the biggest echium pininana I’ve ever seen, literally wider then my car and over 6 ft tall. I saw plenty of echiums on my drive south but none this lush. This one is planted out and will brave the winter storms, probably to it’s demise. Luckily if this one doesn’t work out I’ve got another 30 or so at the greenhouse, I will see one of these bloom. Someday.
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.
Originally I wanted to write a post marking the beginning of spring plant hoarding, but then I realized, who am I kidding. I started months ago, or never stopped, every months means more plants in my collection. I love growing new plants, the fascination never ceases to please. New species and new varieties, plants are a dangerous subject matter for the collecting type. I’d love to boast about discretion but this is something I know very little about. I’d love to say that I at least keep it to one of each, but then I’d also be lying. Really, what self respecting plant geek could pass up an in flower Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’ for $10.00. Even if they already had one at home, I think not, “this one’s coming home with Nat.” While one might suggest caution for fear of one’s wallet being emptied I argue that plants are one of the best things you could treat yourself to, surely a better investment then a burger and a beer. Assuming you don’t murder your newly collected plant, they often maintain their value, if not increase as they mature. Tis the life of a king to witness plants bloom from far away lands, I care not for high definition graphics, but more about the crisp beautiful simplicity of an unfurling leaf. Plant collecting is indeed a pleasure.
A white form of Arisaema griffithii. I bought two corms last year but only one bloomed last season. This one came up white, while it’s brother is rich dark chocolate. A pleasant surprise that I don’t think was necessarily intentional when they were packaging the corms. I’ll count this one as a win.
I love where plant hoarding has taken me, and in time my plant identification has made it even more fun. Often the strangest and the rarest go unlabeled, most exotic nurseries have some gems tucked away for a keen eye. A seemingly dull plain leafy looking plant could be much more amazing if you know the story behind it. Treasure lies for those in the know, make an effort to know your nurseryman for the best selection in town. Be a good customer, support your local nurseries and express a sincere interest. The majority of people running nurseries are in it for the same reason as you are, because they love plants. Given a chance many will share a wealth of information, a resource that should be utilized when the opportunity presents itself. There’s no shame in not knowing the growing conditions of a certain plant, spare yourself the trial and error and ask for some suggestions from someone who’s been there, done that.
All rants aside, I’ve been working a lot lately and in turn, have felt an exaggerated need to treat myself with new planty goodness. A quick peak into my latest lack of discretion.
A Tropaeolum tuberosum I started as a peanut sized tuber under lights this winter has grown into a large sprawling vine in only a couple months. A bizarre edible crop, this hardy nasturtium produces tubers said to have a strong peppery taste. I’ll let you know as things progress.
I visited at the right time to witness this Azara lanceolata in full wondrous flower. Another Chilean oddity, this strange tree grows on wet marshy hillsides and produces these amazing vanilla scented flowers. Another reminder to visit your local nurseries frequently so you can see their selection of plants at different times of the year.
While I’ve only recently learned it’s name, this plant has been on my wish list long before I knew much at all. I first spotted it at a botanical garden in Gottingen, Germany, this Phytolacca americana intrigues me. Known as a weed to some, our northern climate keeps these at bay, pink hued flowers that eventually mature into an ornamental pillar of black berries. So Strange.
If it is, I’ve been trying to seek one of these out for almost 2 years now, often being thwarted by it’s lack of availability and heavy cost of shipping. If it’s not what I think it is, either way I’m thrill, it’s a beautiful plant. After this photo I repotted it and exposed the bulb, lined it with beach rocks in a nice new ceramic pot, it’s a show worthy piece. More photos as soon as I can.
This wasn’t all that I collected this day, but it is as much as I’m willing to document at the moment. The others, while amazing finds, aren’t photogenic quite yet, and will be saved for another day.
Thanks for joining me.