Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

The connection between plants and people is a interesting thing.

No matter how we want to look at it, we depend on these green leafed obscurities indefinitely. From day one our relationship was intertwined, people wouldn’t be people without the grass between their toes. Plants create the air we breathe, the shelter we live in and the food we eat. They inspire and delight, relax and heal.  There is nothing else on this planet we need more then plants, yet the majority of the populous is none the the wiser. I entered the horticulture trade nearly five years ago clueless and uninspired, intrigued I dared look further. I started with a couple cool house plants from across the street, then a tomato or two and then a patch of marigolds that I thought looked awfully nice. In time the marigolds lost their charm and were replaced with other more exotic plants. I got my first banana tree, a couple cool Terra Nova hybrids, and any other sick or sad plant from work that I couldn’t bare see go in the compost. Over the years many plant refugees followed me home and transformed a barren lot of garbage and tall grass into a real work of botanical art. Still I felt the urge to go further. Ebay, online mail-order and seed companies became the local haunt. I joined a plant club, I met the pros and still I want to learn more. I went from a modest windowsill of five potted plants, to a house so full of greenery that people walk by and wonder who the crazy plant person is.

The busy time has struck at the nursery and this will be my fifth season to experience this jolt of electricity. Lets start work at eight and go until it’s done, plants from dawn until dusk. What started out as a curiosity has become a full blown obsession, like a gambler or drunk I seek out my latest fix. There is no better time then then a drive into the country looking for strange and unusual plants. Such well crafted art that grows just add water, sign me up. Never satiated but always amazed, the life of a plant addict is a strange one indeed.

Lately I find much of my time is spent watering, from there on caring, for a collection much bigger then any rational person would endure. I’m a perfectionist at heart and nothing seems more fruitless then letting a plant die and/or under perform due to neglect. Why did you even bother if only to forget. The tendency to strive for perfection leads to an unintentional commitment and eventual all consuming lifestyle. It doesn’t matter if I’ve worked 60 hours at the nursery, I still find myself dreaming about my next plant find on the drive home. After the many years of collecting and tending to the gardens, there’s more outside then I know how to appreciate. Frantically I try to record the happenings in hope of giving it all more meaning. My eyes are wide open now and I see what an amazing treasure the world has to offer, if only we pay attention. A seed the size of a grain of sand can grow into a tree as tall as the heavens, the sheer miraculousness of it all is so awe inspiring I don’t know how to put it into words. It sounds self indulgent to say that an amazing event isn’t amazing unless appreciated by man, but as a person, I feel it’s the least I can do. While the flower most definitely opens to impress it’s pollinators, I can’t help but to feel like it’s my duty to be there for it’s short appearance.  It’s a self perpetuating cycle I’m afraid I can’t get away from.

I wish I could be writing more as of late, because it’s now that the plants and the garden are truly looking their best. Nearly everyday something new is happening out there, a slow process becomes magnified if viewed from a different perspective. As a plant geek I have so much I want to share with you all, but at the same time I have to be there to experience it as well. Planting, photographing and observing is only half the work, organizing it all and documenting it into written word is another bag of tricks. This week I went to a great spring bash at my boss’s house who has an incredible garden full of botanical treasures. The next hungover morning I head off to the Victoria Alpine Society Spring Show and Sale and saw a lot of incredible alpine specimens. My prostanthera at the greenhouse is a big cloud of purple amazing and today I received a fresh package of strange and unusual plants from California. If there was more time in the day I would break these all down into interesting little articles, but I’m afraid my time is up. Posts may be sporadic during this busy time, don’t forget about me, rest well in knowing that I’m doing planty things, thinking of you all.

Saxifraga ‘Triumph’

Umm.. Wow.

oplopanax horridus waking up in the spring

Not exactly rare or strange, Dicentra spectabilis was one of the first in my collection and still remains a pleasant surprise year after year.

Asarum proboscideum

Lewisia cotyledon budding up.

I keep these horse chestnut bonsai for the spring display alone. I love watching them unfurl at this time of year.

A dark leaved primula is looking quite nice.

Androsace sempervivoides is offsetting and flowering.

The hepatica nobilis has stopped flowering but is now unfurling it’s spring leaves. Equally as delightful.

Tulips glow a fiery orange

A couple new additions to the collection.

Lewisia tweedyi

The ever so strange Lewisia glandulosa, care of the amazing plant guru, Joe Keller.

I’ve wanted one of these for a while now, won this in a silent auction, Sophora prostrata ‘Little Baby’

A 15 year old Salix ‘Boydii’

Thanks for reading. 

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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.