Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

podophyllum spotty dotty

Spring is upon us and busy days are the norm. After a long day at the nursery it’s always a pleasure to take a rest in the garden with a cold beer in hand. Even though I work with plants all day everyday, I still find sanctuary in my garden whenever I get the chance to take it in. The air is cool and fresh, all the abundance of life soothing. It’s interesting watching a garden develop over the years. While it almost never stays the same, a few old standbys inevitably show up right on cue. The stranger the collection, the stranger the visitors. A rare or strange plant need not be difficult to grow, some come back year to year almost as easily as any other garden perennial. During my Sunday in the garden I took a moment to photograph a few of my favorite strange visitors. Let’s take a look shall we?

Spring garden
Spring lushness

Primula and pulmonaria
Primulas and pulmonaria reliably show up every spring right on cue.

arisarum griffithii
This will be the third season these Arisaema griffithii have popped up for me. It’s hard to get bored of their incredible patterns and markings. Put side to side they make quite an unusual duo. It’s hard to believe these are easy plants to grow, requiring little no special treatment, completely hardy in our climate here in Victoria.

Arisaema griffithii
When I first received the bulbs in the mail I would have never guessed they’d end up being two different colors. This one is quite dark.

Arisaema griffithii
While the other is quite light in comparison. Often referred to as cobra lilies you can easily see why. They look like a cobra ready to attack.

podophyllum hexandrum
I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with podophyllums but I am. Their unusual emergence in spring intrigued me from the get go. Podophyllum hexandrum waking up from it’s winter sleep.

Podophyllum 'Spotty Dotty'
Although Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’ has remained evergreen all winter, now that spring is upon us it’s been putting out a succession of new leaves. Photos don’t do this plant justice, it’s a real gem in the garden.

sanguinaria canadensis & Jeffersonia diphylla
Sanguinaria canadensis & Jeffersonia diphylla all leafed out now. Their previous similarities aren’t as apparent at this point.

Saxifraga umbrosa
All of the saxifraga in the garden have started to flower, Saxifraga umbrosa is just starting up. For those seeking alpine treasures take a deep look into the genus saxifraga, you could spend a lifetime exploring their unusual diversity.

Hellebore 'Winter Moonbeam'
If you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time you’d probably notice me talking about the same plants year by year. The truth it they never cease to amaze me, it’s hard to not give recognition to incredible plants. Here we have Hellebore ‘Winter Moonbeam’ and Euphorbia polychroma.

Spring tulip
I have a smattering of tulips throughout the garden, at their freshest their absolutely vibrant. The color almost glows, I was worried it would overload my camera. Incredible!

dicentra canadensis
A less commonly cultivated bleeding heart; Dicentra cucullaria is also doing it’s thing this time of year. Much smaller and delicate than the common dicentra spectabilis, it’s little flowers and fern like foliage are pleasant indeed.

Lewisia tweedyi
Something a little different from your everyday Lewisia cotyledon;  Lewisia tweedyi is in full spring bloom. From what I’ve read they are somewhat susceptible to winter rot so these stayed bone dry all winter long. About a month ago I started watering them again and in a matter of weeks this plant went from a dryed up susk to this beautiful pristine wonder.

Gardeners. We’re a lucky bunch.
Thanks for joining me on this week’s tour.

Well the season’s begun with a shot and bang, 2 weeks of sunshine in mid March will wet gardener’s appetites. We’ve been clearing out greenhouses almost as quickly as we can fill them; our spring annuals seem way ahead of schedule. It’s amazing what a mild spring will do for the garden industry; there’s an excitement in the air. Is it safe for us to go outside again? The chestnut tree in front of my house has swollen buds and will be in leaf within a week methinks.


Racks of annuals

Greenhouse lettuce crop


Like it or not I’ve been a bit zombified as of late, this whole plant thing has been taking it’s toll. I set out to push this to the next level and looking around I might have accomplished that. Between working more than full-time at the nursery, maintaining a large home collection and trying to start up a side greenhouse project; it’s official my life is ruled by plants. It’s exhausting and it’s not even summer yet. In an attempt to maintain fresh inspiration for documenting I’ve now got so much growing that I barely have time to report. If I have any energy left at all the greenhouse project eats it up, then I get home at 8:00pm, eat, bathe and do it again. It’s pure insanity really, a hobby that borders on addiction that has completely devoured my life. What to do now. . .  Breathe, meditate and do again of course. That’s springtime for you. Some people run marathons, I collect plants.

Wilma's Gold Rosemary

Armeria juniperifolia


Seriously though I always feel overwhelmed at this time of year. Tis the burden of the nurseryman I suppose. When the salmon are in the bay, you get on that boat and get fishing. I never understood it better until this year but spring is the season to do it all. While you can propagate at anytime of year, there is no better time then now. Plants are actively waking up, releasing turbo charged growth chemicals and want to live today more than any other time of year. Seeds sowed in spring have a whole season to grow up whereas mid summer sown only gets a quick autumn of growth. It’s a good time to divide and it’s a good time to reposition. First and foremost it’s a good time to observe, to enjoy and to pay attention.

Some of the nicest Lewisia we’ve grown to date, second season. 

Greenhouse treasures
A peak into the back greenhouse.

Spring is such an incredible time of year, the growth in the back is almost unbelievable. For the first time in 2 weeks it rained almost all day. Upon coming home the garden was a different place all together. What would seem like week’s worth of growth seems to have occurred over an afternoon of precipitation. Everything is so lush, so pristine.

Sonchus canariensis
Can’t find a supplier for Sonchus canariensis? Ok, let’s grow some from seed… 10 months later . . . Now what to do with 35 three foot tall Sonchus…

sonchus canariensis
A lovely plant none the less.

Soak it in while you can, plants are a quick reminder to “stop and smell the roses”. What looks great today, will be gone or different tomorrow. Some flowers appear as if in a blink, just a short appearance to grace your eyelids. If you’re not there, too bad for you, there is no PVR for the garden I’m afraid. As I sit outside and listen to the gentle tap of raindrops I take a deep breathe in and try to truly take in the moment. We’ve been doing it for thousands of years but have forgotten this meditation over a quick generation skip. Put down your iphone once in a while and go for a walk in a garden. Crouch and get at eye level with some plants and take a closer look. Get your hands dirty and give them a feel. Crush a few leaves and investigate there exciting new aromas. Lastly appreciate the miraculousness of life and see the perfection that exists within all things. Mother nature is the finest artist. God I sound like a hippy somedays. .  .

Wish me luck ! More photos to follow!

prostanthera rotundifolia
prostanthera rotundifolia

azara lanceolata
azara lanceolata

agapetes serpens
agapetes serpens

agapetes serpens
agapetes serpens

asarum splendens
asarum splendens

podophyllum spotty dotty
Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’

wasabia japonica
wasabia japonica flowers
wasabia japonica

mukdenia rossii
mukdenia rossii
mukdenia rossii

geranium maderense
geranium maderense

More varieties of epiphyllum than any one man should have. . . 

Crop of echiums
Field of echiums
I think this will be the year I’ll get an echium to flower.

While visiting my boss’s house for an after work BBQ, I witnessed a surprising plant event. Self seeded Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’ this way and that. Last season I had skipped adding this one to the collection due to an expensive price tag. I wouldn’t have flinched if I had known I’d have 20 more the next season. I had no idea Podophyllum ‘Spotty Dotty’ self seeded so prolifically, they’re even popping up in the lawn.  It doesn’t look like much right now but by next season this will be a real sight to be seen. I wonder if this is true in everyone’s garden or if this high germination is specific to his garden and growing season. Anyone else have any experience with these?

I want one!

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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