Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

rainy day

It has never been a better time in history to be a plant geek. Talking with the old timers the garden scene was a lot different 30 years ago. We’ve never had more access to strange and unusual plants then today, new cultivars seem to appear almost every year. What was once an exotic import is now a staple, hobbyists have had a lifetime to grow and share their treasured plants with the world. The Internet has revolutionized being a  plant hoarder, personal experiences and techniques can be shared via instant blog, website or e-mail. Obscure plant information is abundant, the library often seem unnecessary or inadequate.  Furthermore through globalization distribution has never been better, we can mail things from anywhere to anyone. Native habitats dwindle worldwide and the sad reality is that the plant hoarders might end up with the last specimens, plant globalization might be a blessing in disguise for the sake of conservation.

Being a bit of a nursery junkie I’ve almost exhausted the local availability and have been forced to look elsewhere for my strange and unusual plants. I’ll admit a guilty little pleasure of mine, on tired bored evenings I find myself scoping the net for plants out of my realm. Being a Northern country where it’s totally impractical to grow tropicals and succulents, I often have to take my search via Europe or the USA. The problem with ordering outside of the country is that it comes with a risk. Good old Canadian customs will often gobble up orders that don’t have a $75.00 phytosanitary ticket attached to it, a bureaucratic formality that seems a bit overkill. Regardless the odd thing slips through, and on these days I smile. I seem to have a decent success rate but not all stories have happy endings. So far I’ve have had one confiscated, one returned to sender (and never resent!?) and one arrive only to rot ($35.00 + shipping rot!? Damnit!). I love throwing money into the wind, a $50.00 plant seems ridiculous, a $50.00 plant you never receive is even more crazy.

Today was a good day though, a package of cuttings finally arrived from Paul Shirley Succulents. I ordered a mixed sampler of stapelia cacti (carrion cactus) and they made it through successfully. Paul has some really unusual specimens ranging from tropical impatiens (a personal favorite) to exotic hoya, stapelia and so much more. Quick friendly customer service via e-mail and nicely packaged and tagged cuttings upon arrival. A grower and plant explorer Paul Shirely will definitely have something to satisfy your plant hoarding needs. He deals with cuttings as opposed to live plants so shipping is significantly more realistic. Prices are affordable and well below other online sources I’ve seen. I like how simple his website is,  it’s apparent he’s targeting true plant enthusiasts. I’ll take the low web glitz and wicked selection of rare and strange plants, yes please!  I’m still waiting on a couple things but so far the first package arrived safety, I’m going to go ahead and say Paul Shirley Succulents is definitely worth your time. Sadly for all my friends in the states he doesn’t ship that way anymore, but for all you Canadians and Europeans, give him a try. He’s based out of the Netherlands and is a real gem. Thank you!

It was a great surprise to come home to after getting absolutely pissed on at work today. Weather in Victoria took a turn for the worst and it dumped buckets and was gusty all day. Having worked outside almost every day this year, I would say today probably took the cake for most miserable weather of the year. Luckily we all stayed positive and got the work done, it’s good we all got a good sense of humor.


Freshly planted stapelia cuttings amongst other plant science.

It rained on Monday, actually it poured. I knew from the moment I stepped outside. The air was calm and the skies were silver, while driving to work a gentle spatter of water began to pour. I wore shorts the entire day, and although I got quite wet, it wasn’t exactly unpleasant. The rain came as quick as it went, and by 5:00pm the skies had opened up to sunshine again. Just in time to get off work.  The whole experience reminded me of hurricane season in the Mayan Riviera. Stepping out in the back the whole place glowed green. I can’t put my finger on it but plants look different after a rainstorm. There is a lushness in their leaves, the greens are deeper and unlike handwatering, nature does a thorough job. As an added bonus I get a day off watering, time I get to put towards other things. Like..? Blogging about plants? Apparently~!

The weather made for some really excellent raindrop photos. Leaves have the most unusual waterproofing, it almost defies gravity.


Raindrops on a crocosmia leaf.


Ginko Waterdrop


Sophora moisture fractal


Grass fishing rods.


Senecio water back drop.


This water droplet almost has a picture in it. Print it and frame it!


I really love this photograph, Eryngium ‘Jade Frost’. If taken out of context it reminds of some sort of intergalactic space station. Good inspiration for a painting someday.


A closer look.


Absolutely Surreal.

Enjoy the sunshine and warm weather while it lasts. Autumn’s been creeping around scaring children.

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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