Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

mailorder plants

Anyone who reads this blog regularly would know that I’ve been on a bit of a mail-order plant binge. Earlier this week the pair of Pseudolithos migiurtinus I ordered arrived. A couple days later another package arrived containing a Mirabilis jalapa and a new NOID species of plectranthus from Kenya. Amongst the new plants a small packet of tropical impatiens seeds also arrived, I. grandis and I. mengtszeana. I can’t wait! The best gifts are the gifts you give to yourself.

I’m thoroughly enjoying the trade of the Internet, the selection is vast and the customer service is superb. It’s strange to be a part of a global community in which all walks of life can meet together, discuss and trade ideas. A quick sign into paypal and a cactus can be flown in from Thailand. Connecting with specialized hobbyists from all over the world is a real asset, it skips the hopeless store clerks and connects you with the grower and/or collector. While the Internet is somewhat anonymous in nature it provides you with an amazing opportunity to connect directly with who you want to speak with.

While I spent much of the spring through summer visiting nurseries on the island, the internet’s ease of use and unsurpassed variety gives local businesses a run of their money. While it will still be a long while yet before you can order your pansies and petunias online, the search for the rare and the unusual might be best fulfilled in this medium.

The Latest Plant Order Feb 2012:
As per usual I like to do some research about the plants I’m acquiring and I figured I’d share the information with you.

Photo borrowed with admiration from The Vancouver Seed Bank

Sceletium tortuosum
Another South African mesemb that is by no means new in the botanical world. Cultivated in Europe for over 300 years, it forms a low growing succulent mound much like a delosperma. The main notes given for cultivation pertains to over-watering, and if in doubt, don’t. Over-watering creates weak growth and messes with the natural cycle of the plant. Recently this plant has been getting a lot of attention in the medical world for it’s possible anti depressant qualities. Hunters and shamens used to consume it to reduce stress and anxiety and create a feeling of euphoria.

Photo borrowed with admiration from Cactus Blog

Avonia quinaria

It’s becoming more and more apparent that South Africa is the motherland for strange and unusual plants. Avonia, a diminutive genus native to the Namaqualands of South Africa is another caudex forming succulent with lovely strange planty tentacles. Important cultural notes list that it needs a winter rest period and is deciduous so one shouldn’t be stressed when it looses it’s foliage in the winter. Avonia’s set seed on their own and don’t need a mate, so maybe I’ll be able to grow my own next season.

Photo borrowed with admiration from The Pacific Bulb Society

Boophane heamanthoides seedling
I’ve had my eye on acquiring one of these for quite some time now, but they don’t exactly show up everyday. Sacred succulents had some seedlings listed and I figured that might be the best way to give them a try. While it might not flower for a couple years I will get to see the whole developmental process while forgoing the impatient task of watching seeds sprout. The foliage alone is equally as interesting as the blooms, a wavy spur of tropical loveliness. It is said these are an old lived species indeed living well over 100 years old, if my children end up being plant nerds perhaps they’ll end up with this in their collection as a heirloom. The bulbs grow to an incredible size and is said best to grow in a mostly sand based medium in a deep but not necessarily wide pot. From seedling it might take up to 15 years to flower, but I suspect with my usual over caring it will speed along a bit faster. I’m all too excited to give this one a shot.

Photo borrowed with admiration from Cactus Art

Maihuenia poeppigii
A spiky mat forming succulent from Chile & Argentina. I first saw this on the Chiltern Seeds website, then again on Gerhard’s blog  Bamboo and More. What a strange specimen. Noted to be remarkably cold hardy (down to -20 if kept dry) Maihuenia grow at high elevations. If the temperature is sporadic consider treating it with a systemic fungicide to prevent possible rot. Apparently this can be grown much like sempervivums with very little soil whatsoever.

Photo borrowed with admiration from Raziel on mycotopia.net

Delosperma bosseranum
As I first began my journey into plant geektom delospermas always appealed to me. Hardy mesembs that grow in our outdoor gardens, it can’t get any better. This species of delosperma is a bit more unusual then your everyday delo and in time grows a tuberous caudex. Commonly known as the Madagascar Ice Plant it seems this specimen will be best suited for bonsai succulent pots. Plant as you would any other succulent in a well draining medium, be careful not to let dry out for any lengths of time.

It seems the Pseudolithos migiurtinus I ordered earlier this month have finally arrived.  I’m really starting to enjoy mail-order plant hunting. Unusual specimens from far out lands, quite often at a bargain you can’t find at home. I like supporting local business, but who’s growing Pseudolithos in town? Not me… Not yet…  After successfully ordering a Miracle fruit tree from Thailand a couple months ago, I thought it’d try it again with these little guys. So far so good, and this one even had free certification.

Getting plants in the mail is the most satisfying gift to yourself.

I’ve been reading about Pseudolithos for quite some time now and I’ve been biding my time to get my hands on one. This auction came up with a set of two for $15.00 US plus shipping. Seemed a bargain to me, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

They arrived in near immaculate condition, being in transit for over 3 weeks, these guys are a long way from home.

While these photos were taken in a bit of an excited rush, you get the gist of why these plants are so cool. Much like a lithops but totally unrelated, these plants look like living rocks. In time they send out the strangest stepalia-esk stinky flowers and look like eggs from mars. Cultural requirements can be a bit difficult to replicate, but I’m hoping for the best. They enjoy regular watering, but like to dry out in between, and lots of light and heat. Improper care will turn them into expensive mush. I’ve read they grow well under lights on a heating pad, so that’s where they ended up. I’ll update you all in a couple weeks once they get “plugged in”.

Ordering plants online is easy, and if you live in the same country as where the grower lives, even easier. One must be careful about ordering  plants on eBay as sometimes vendors pray on your lack of information. I’ll be nice today and not name any names, but there are lots of vendors selling “rare” plants that are actually pretty common. A couple vendors in particular have learned how to market their less then rare specimens into something much bigger and better. As I learn more about the sliding scale of rarity these plants hold it’s laughable to think people are paying what they do. Type in rare plants into eBay and you’ll get quite a list, little did you know they sell the same thing down the street for a fifth of the price. Rookie mistake Mr nobody. Before buying expensive rare plants on eBay, do your research, scour the Internet and learn more about what your buying. A lot of off the beaten path online mailorder nurseries will ship to you for a whole lot less. Make sure you don’t get caught up in the excitement of the auction, keep an eye out for a good deal, and bid late not early. I don’t like to let my intentions known until 30 seconds to closing.

To all my great plant geeks, a link to my latest favorite weird succulent vendor. Visit ccts-crazy‘s online store. But first! Hide your credit card…. 🙂

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.