Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants


Tis amazing what a little “spring cleaning” will do for one’s spirits. Today was gorgeous and sunny out, and nurserywork was a welcomed gig. Later on in the evening I found myself looking through old plant photos, dreaming of the season ahead. It’s really exciting to think we’ll be outside gardening on the regular in only a few more months. One can dream I suppose, counting the days as per usual…

For the moment I am left with my thoughts, my plants and a computer loaded with photos. Upon further investigation I came across a series of bottled succulents that sparked a past interest. I love junk hunting and for reasons I’m unaware of antique and strange glassware always seemed particularly interesting. While I’ve curbed the habit as of late (there simply isn’t enough space) I used to really enjoy growing succulents in bottles. I love terrariums and planting succulents in glass seems to give them a strange authenticity. It’s as simple as finding a neat bottle, carefully filling it with soil and dropping in some of your favorite succulent cuttings. The ease of propagation of these species is unmatched and the cuttings are almost always successful. For less then 10 dollars you can make a great gift that almost anyone can appreciate. Who could hate a plant that needs so little care. Planting a succulent in a sealed bottle adds even greater ease of growth, the plant practically takes care of itself.

While you’re at it you might as well create yourself a couple nice succulent frames as well. With less carpentry skill then a grade 3 shop class, anyone should be able to build a simple wood frame. From there tack in some chicken wire, tuck in some soil and spagnum moss, and load with as many succulents as possible. Give it a couple weeks to root horizontally and then hang it where you please. By far one of the neatest succulent projects you can do and it shouldn’t take longer then an afternoon.

Now that you have your jars filled with echeverias, and you’ve framed up some sedums and sempervivum. What are you going to do with the rest of your wheel barrel full of succulent shapnal. Easy, succulent pots!  Simply sprinkle the remains of any sedum on top of soil, and roots will grow within a week or less. Within a couple months they should look something like this.

What do you do with your left over succulent cuttings?

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time you’d probably agree with me when I say I shouldn’t collect anymore plants this season. As it stands I have over 130+ potted plants indoors, 50+ large tropical specimens at the  greenhouse, and a garden that is so over filled it’s bordering on insane. Still when I was invited to view a local cacti collector’s private stash I couldn’t resist myself. Her collection was impressive and a real treat for a sun starved plant geek in November. With the potential of moving leering overhead she wanted to thin out her collection a bit and was willing to pass along some obscurities.  We ended up chatting for a couple hours, touring her various growing areas, and I left with some really great specimens.

Left to right: Sinningia leucotricha, Gasteria NOID ,Hemanthus albiflos, Echinops NOID, Rubutia muscula,
Astrophytum NOID and a Monadenium ritchiei

Sinningia leucotricha is an interesting velvet leafed plant from Brazil that forms a caudex-like woody tuber.  After this photo I replanted it in a nice new terracotta pot and exposed the tuber. It looks great, and I look forward to watching it do it thing further. More info to follow

Quite an interesting Gasteria specimen, it’s leaves textures remind me of snowflake obsidan.  Anyone know it’s species name?

A large flowering sized Haemanthus albiflos.

A small Echinops (white / pink flowers)

Rubutia muscula. What awesome little fuzzy orbs.

Monadenium ritchiei Another euphorbia oddity to the collection.

While I already have a small specimen of this, I couldn’t resist. This is one of largest Disocactus flagelliformis I’ve ever seen. Hoping to take some cuttings and do a small run of these next spring. Simply amazing!

Selenicereus grandiflorus otherwise known as a Queen of the Night Cactus.

What fun! I’ve jigsawed them into the collection and they look great. I’m looking forward to seeing them thrive come spring and summer.

Thank You Linda !

For the last year and a bit I’ve been playing with the idea of plants in bottles. A twist on the conventional terrarium, like building a ship in a bottle, planting a garden in a jar can be just as interesting. Once this terrarium is set up properly, they require little care and provide an interesting conversation piece.  Echeveria/Crassula cuttings work particularly good for this project as they require low amounts of moisture and thrive on the added heat/humidity of the bottle. To start find an interesting bottle at a local thrift store/garage sale and get to work. I start with a small layer of gravel on the bottom then top with fresh potting soil. With a fork or a twisted coat hanger I lower in the cutting, add a small amount of water, and seal the jar. In a month or so the cutting should be rooted and you should see some progress. I’ve kept mine sealed up to 4 months without opening, if things look to dry I add a little extra water. A good gift for a friend who can’t keep plants alive.

Tip in point form for for an added effect

  • Clean the bottle really well before you start.
  • Lower the dirt in CAREFULLY.
  • If you accidentally made a mess use a straw and water to clean the inner walls.
  • When watering for the first time be extremely careful not to put in too much water and flood the chamber.
  • Adding a little layer of charcoal below your gravel with help prevent rot, and other odor issues.
  • Have fun! Be  Creative!

So a couple weeks back we had a pretty intense freeze, snow out of nowhere and record breaking lows. I think we were seeing -10 weather which in contrast with last winter is pretty unbelievable.  I suppose I was being optimistic when I decided my house could hold no more and I left my aeoniums and a number of other succulents to risk their life in my unheated greenhouse. Mr weather called my bluff and ZAP, there goes a summer of propagating echeverias and aeoniums. I suppose having never had the audacity to see what these succulents could really withstand, I had to see it for my own eyes. Low and behold, my aeoniums were rock solid in the midst of the storm, a week later when everything thawed out, they were mere bags of water, slumped and melting.

When I made the call to store them in that questionably safe environment I left them on the dry side since late september, yet this was not enough.

Jades that I couldn’t find homes for, poor little guys didn’t even see it coming.

A little snow with your aeonium?
A little snow with your aeonium?

A well rooted aeonium from a friend, was looking great last week…. hum..

A silly mistake on this one, my mother plant, grown in the spring, totally frozen solid.
(Hopefully it’s roots are still alive and it sends up a baby when things melt…

On the bright side?

Both of my agaves, contrary to the cold and being frozen solid, seem to have survived. As well as many of the thicker leaved echeverias/succulents. The thinner the leaf the more damaged they appeared to be.

Drastic times call for drastic measures.
After the freeze had finished having it’s way with my garden ( damn you winter, you win this round) I naturally got my head out of rear and brought in some of the succulents that still showed signs of life. From there I put them on a heating pad, took off the death and dusted them with fungicide. So far nothing much has changed, but one can hope.

The rule of the day, don’t take chances with tender plants during cold winters, DUH! There’s always room for a couple more, somewhere, right? At the very least, give them away, instead of leaving them for the firing squad.

One last Sad tale from the frost.

My leonotis, which is new to my collection as of mid august, was also willingly left to chance fate to see if it could handle our winter.  I Don’t think mr leonotis appreciated the weather all too much, as it got hit pretty bad by the cold. A litle tug still shows some hope via the roots but only time will tell.

frozen with the rest of them
Photo taken nov 20th

Photo taken sept 09 *sigh*

Although I’m relatively new to growing lithops (living stones) I was pleasantly surprised to see a bud start to poke out from it’s center. Within a week or two after purchasing the specimen it created this little beauty. I suspect temperature or sunlight triggers the opening of this flower, moments after bringing it outside to take a photograph I turned around to see that the flower had closed. After placing it back in it’s warm sunny windowsill it opened right back up again. Needless to say, a nice treat!

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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