Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

Iris Reticulata

Spring bulbs. A sight for sore eyes. R.I.P Winter of 2012, welcome spring of 2013!

Galanthus
Galanthus elwesii

Iris reticulata
Iris reticulata

Crocus vernus
Crocus vernus
Anemone blanda
Anemone blanda

muscari
Muscari

hyacinth
hyacinth
Hyacinth

Chionodoxa
Chinadoxa

daffodil 'Dutch Master'
Narcissus ‘Dutch Master’

Narcissus 'Thalia'
Narcissus ‘Thalia’

I love these warm afternoons and long evenings. Spring is here!

Ah weekends, they always disappear so fast! Life has been good as of late, 2012 has a lot of promise. I don’t exactly know when it happened but spring is upon us. Sure we still might get one more snowfall before it’s all said and done, but the bulbs are on their way and so is everything else. Green buds cling loosely to bare branches, a quick walk about the garden shows a world of activity. I’ve really been enjoying my job as of late, the houses are filling up fast and the green visuals are incredible. It’s a beautiful place to work and there is no finer place to be then a greenhouse full of flowers. I work with a good group people with a twisted sense of humor. The ridiculous jokes and fake animosity helps the day move smoothly. Having our “private” greenhouse in the back is a real luxury and it’s great to overwinter the collection with ease. Every Thursday I do a walk about the nursery and update our plant availability list. At the end of the walk I do a quick buzz about with my camera and get photos to update the website. While their first destination is the nursery’s website, it seems a shame not to share them with you guys as well. Things are certainly looking nice this time of year.


We’re finally on the last couple greenhouses of primulas, the last two Fridays I have spent 8 hours straight cleaning these pesky things.  Somebodies got to do it right?


A premium variety we sell, Primula belarina ‘Buttercup’ is something a bit different.  Reliably hardy and surprisingly prolific when overwintered outdoors. The one I have at home looks equally as luscious.


A semi hardy noid variety we sell, similar to the florist variety of cyclamen are right on schedule.


Recently planted seed geraniums. Oh just 1500 some flats or something, no big deal.


Lavenders on their way.


Saxifraga ‘Peter Pan’ has always been a favorite from the start. A cushion forming hardy perennial, in it’s prime it is incredible. I love the lush rosettes.


Saxifraga ‘Triumph’ is my favorite of the two, it migrates a bit in the garden but is mostly well behaved.  The flowers are less abundant then S. ‘Peter Pan’ but are taller and more interesting.


Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ emerging for the season. I actually prefer the look of this plant earlier in the season then later.  In full bloom the flowers are absolutely covered in bees.


95% of the hardy primulas are still asleep, the two of these poked their heads up early to brighten the day. Primula denticulata


The tulips are looking good this year.


The true harbingers of spring: Iris reticulata are out in full force.


What a show!


So photogenic. “Amazing, incredible, more, more, you’re a god!”


Narcissus ‘Dutch Master’.

As per usual my weekend was spent satiating my plant obsession. I met a new plant friend, an orchid grower/collector here in town. We drank coffee, ate pastries and traded some seeds. The next day was spent doing a little nursery hopping and accidentally adding another 8 new plants to my collection. It’s a tough life we plant collectors(HOARDERS) live, a tough life indeed.

After potting up my new palm trees yesterday I found myself in a fury of greenhouse rearranging. This winter we were in such a hurry to get the greenhouse done that when we actually did move in, everything was haphazardly placed this way and that. Yesterday I made the time to organize things properly, it was nice to clear out the junk and keep things tidy. Plants are certainly a demanding hobby, overwintered tropicals need a quick inspection once in a while. Dead leaves, minor rot, and impractical placement all need to be considered. Bugs are more likely than not, and a quick spray of trounce is good even as a precaution. If you’re even a bit OCD about cleaning, this practice will most likely be pleasant and it’s a good meditation for a Sunday afternoon. As the hours went on, nature forgot I was even there, and a murder of crows landed nearby. The valley still supports an amazing amount of wildlife, their songs could be heard carried in the wind. I love silence, it gives me space to think, it’s my favorite kind of music.  A dying tread in a humming world of technology, moments spent in the garden have made me much more aware of this fact.

In a blink of an eye a couple hours had passed. I’m often amazed by the work that can be achieved in only a couple hours. From disaster to masterpiece the place had certainly taken on a new look. I grouped the succulents and dormant dry pots in one area, actively growing tropicals in another, and utilitarian nurserystock adjacent. I love organizing and consolidating, and oddly this is what I do for a living. The greenhouses must have brainwashed me…


Abutilon ‘Souvenir de Bonn’ flowering in January.

Just as I was considering leaving, the lighting seemed just right and out came my camera and tripod. This was the first real photo-shoot I’ve had at our new greenhouse, and I was mesmerized by all of the points of interest. A flowering Senacio cristobalensis, an unusually early Iris reticulata, and a tropical Buddleia macrostachya in bud and bloom. A big smile rested on my face as I stood there in the pre twilight of the hour before nightfall. Tis the best time of day to photograph plants and flowers, and very well anything and everything at all.  The shadows are forgiving, the lighting honest and true. What a dream it is to have a heated greenhouse in the winter. I hadn’t realized what a gift it really was, this will surely help me get further with my plant studies.

Up close and personal with a Senacio cristobalensis


You’ve gotta love the whimsical leaves of the Senecio cristobalensis. Straight out of a Dr. Suess book, this border-line hardy perennial will add a touch of magic to your garden with little effort on your part.


An emerging node, it’s leaves are even cuter when they first appear. These amazing purple tinted fuzzy trees grow up to 8-10 feet in one season. I’ve read that if they’re properly mulched they’ll grow back in spring after frost. Of course all rumor aside I couldn’t dare sacrifice this one to the elements, as I wanted to see it’s winter flowers.


Right on schedule this plant put out multiple plumes of these strange senacio flowers. While Senacio’s come in pretty much every shape and size, they’re flowers are all remarkably similar. Old granddad Senacio from a million years before must be proud.


As expected the flowers are identical to other senacios I’ve witnessed bloom. The only difference being the color in which they’re tinted. Senecio cristobalensis is the most remarkable shade of vibrant yellow. The flowers coated with enough pollen for an army of bees. Too bad none seem to be buzzing about this early in the season.


A slightly fuzzy close up. A boring flower from affar, interesting upon a closer look.

Off topic, topic specific plant science breakdown!?


A plant that looks nothing like Senacio cristobalensis but is most definetly a relative, Senecio articulatus in bloom mid summer 2011.


Significantly different from either of them, Senecio rowleyanus otherwise known as string of pearls is also a strange distant relative. How about that for wierd plant science!?

Back to the topic at hand!


Buddleia macrostachya began flowering this week. I’ve watched the blooms form since I first recieved it mid November. The horticultural mastermind Lynda from Happy Valley Lavender Farm gifted it to me when we first built our greenhouse. The tag says Royal Roads 2007, it seems this one has been around for a while now. A quick look online has very little information about it, but sources say it’s from China. The hardiness is subject to opinion and it seems to enjoy the shelter of the greenhouse. Any info someone might have on it would be much appreciated, an exotic addition to collection none the less.


Eccremocarpus scaber seedlings amongst plectranthus cuttings.


A lineup of agaves, echeverias and aloes.


I have no idea how these bulbs found their way into my agave pot. Tis the simple pleasure of working at a nursery, sometimes the compost you take home has extra goodies in it. My garden at home has anemone blanda all over the place for this very reason. While I tend to get tired of these iris reticulatas, it’s always a tell tale sign that spring is just around the corner.


My Agave geminiflora is certainly enjoying it’s winter home in the greenhouse. It hasn’t stopped growing since I got it, I love it aquatic appearance.


There seems to be no shortage of brugmansia’s this year. A friend and I have been growing quite a collection. Inquire if you’d be interested in trying one this summer, we have lovely 5 ft tall year and a half specimens.


Flowering mid summer Puya mirabilis’s seed pods are still developing. I intend on trying to grow a small army of these from seed, and after nearly six months I still wait patiently for them to mature.

Here we come to the end of my greenhouse tour. Think warm thoughts, spring is only a couple months away. Counting the days, minutes, and seconds! :) For those that made it this far through the post, an extra gift to you today. Check out this site, it seems like an interesting enough idea. Free Plants by Mail

They’ve been calling for snow all week in Victoria, but so far so good, today was a beautiful day. Stunning beautiful sunshine graced us with an appearance from sunrise to sunset. I don’t want to jinx it by it seems spring is coming early in Victoria this year.  It was nice to absorb some vitamin D and take in the sights and sounds of the backyard garden. I spent the afternoon testing out my new camera, snapping photos and getting a closer look. I figured it as good a time as any to do the Garden Highlights of February.


Iris Reticulata springing into action, I planted them about 3 years ago and it still blooms effortlessly every year.


I’ve been watching the buds on this pulmonaria for a week now and they just started to open. Pulmonaria (also known as lungwort) is a great early spring flower, shade loving and relatively care free. I planted this last season and it’s growing quite happily. As the flowers age they turn a deeper purple and each bract of flowers ends up looking rather multicolored. After the blooms fade, the leaves take full stage and flant their cool speckled  foliage.


The flowers of my euphorbia wulfenii have unfurled and now stand a full attention.


The eremurus foxtail  lily is further developing and starting to open. Sadly I might have lost the flower stalk on the left to rot, I dusted it with fungicide and I’m hoping for the best. There is still hope yet.


This is where the cyclamen coum ended up, planted beside the emerging leaves of an eryngium “Jade Frost”. Which I might add was one of my favorite plants from last year.  happy to see it survived the winter.


Last but not least, another spring favorite, the Dicentra spectabilis is well on it’s way to being a crowd pleaser. I’am always amazed in how quickly these plants grow. In the next couple weeks it could easily grow a couple feet tall, I’am excited for it’s sprays of heart shaped flowers.

You see, even though it’s gray outside, the plants are proof enough that spring time is well on it’s way. Only a couple more months of gray and cold ladies and gentlemen.

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.
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