Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

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.

10 Responses to The nurseryman’s burden.

  • Hi Nat, I remember how busy this time of year is for you – and always feel exhausted just watching from the sidelines. Keep going – you can do it. Dave

  • Lovely site. Glad I visit 😀 Your struggles are different from what we are facing in the tropical climate. Here the nursery men build shade to protect plants from sun and rain 😉 See how our plant nurseries look like at my site.
    Have a great day!

  • Tom says:

    Plants ruling your life, no time for fun? Congrats, you’re officially a plant-person. The same thing happens to me ever year and I couldn’t be happier about it! I love the Sonchus, I’m pretty jealous of them. Actually I just love all of the plants you posted.

  • The sonchus– tree dandelion? Sounds dangerous to me! The echium in bloom would be fantastic. I was struck with the similarity of the flowering stalk on the mukdenia to bergenia, yet leaves are not at all similar (not even as close as the twinleaf and bloodroot you offered up the other day. (I have to say, and I have grown bloodroot for years, I would not be able to pick them out on emergence, and I’ve always thought myself observant, in regards to plants.)

    Good gardeners are nothing, if not observant. I think your hippy advice sound.

    Please follow up with some pictures of the agapetes and echium in bloom.

  • I’m exhausted just reading this post!

    I wish I could take a couple of this Sonchus off your hands…and wow, can you imagine how fabulous it would be too see all those Echium flower at once? Crazy!

  • Gordon Harris says:

    I’m so envious of your greenhouse! BTW, my Mukdenia rossii is also blooming, outside, here in Campbell River, although it’s not as advanced as yours is.

  • Mark and Gaz says:

    Spring can get very hectic especially once constant good weather arrives. Hang on there, your plants are beautiful and just looking at them seems so rewarding!

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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.