A quick stumble around my favorite garden blogs reveals a slight undertone of the winter blues. As we hit January the days are slowly but surely getting brighter but like it or not, we still have a little more winter to go. Stuck in gardener’s purgatory, it’s a tough month to get inspired. Defying rationality I chose to grow exotic plants in Canada; a hobby that is a bit defeating at this time of year.
I visit the greenhouse a couple times a week and no matter how much time I put in, there is always more work to do. Rot and mildew seem to be persistent and a new generation of baby slugs have been eating the tips off many of my precious plants. The work of a plant geek is never done. Grim as things may be, there is definitely more success than failure. Only a couple more months until things start to thrive again.
A quick greenhouse tour.
A full field of Sonchus canariensis I grew from seed last spring. With such a high germination rate I didn’t have the heart to kill my seedlings. So now I have about 50 of them in 2 gallon pots. Not without their challenges, they’re holding in there and should be quite amazing come spring.
Another Canary Island oddity these Sonchus are also known as dandelion trees because their blooms resemble the famous weed. Still I think they’re quite charming and I just love their fern-like foliage. These are some vigorous plants; they keep growing even in the depths of winter.
Some of my most favorite plants. Urginea maritima, Agave victoriae-reginae, Ornithogalum longibracteatum (Pregnant Onion), Haemanthus albiflos, Begonia luxurian & Aechmea fasciata.
I can’t help but to love Agave victoriae-reginae. What incredible natural symmatry!
With all this talk of winter anxiousness I’ve booked myself a flight south. On Friday I take off for two weeks in Cabo San Lucas, in search of beaches, tequila and cacti! Stay warm my friends, wishing you the best!
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.