Exotic Gardening with Rare and Strange Plants

I hope everyone had a great Christmas! Mine certainly went well, large glasses of scotch and significantly more turkey and junk food then any one man should ever endure. Life is tough.

In the cold days of winter I often find myself perusing Google images, exploring the wealth of humanity’s travels. Late night plant research leads to plant lust and eventually I find myself on mail-order websites accidentally adding more plants to an already overcrowded collection. This year I’ve opted to save my money and skip the trip to the tropics, so a couple extra plant order’s shouldn’t be discouraged, right? A plant geek can surely travel through the exotica found in his collection, and forgo dealing with metal detectors and airplane turbulence.  I recently placed this order, and if luck is on my side, they will arrive safely just in time for a fresh growing season. I generally like to research the obscurities I procure and in turn I thought I’d share my findings with you.

The 2011 strange and rare plant order.


Photo borrowed with admiration from Pacific Bulb Society website

Phaedranassa viridiflora – semi hardy, shallow planted, best grown in a greenhouse
Native to Ecuador, rarely seen in cultivation, native populations endangered due to agriculture. Amazing banded green and yellow flowers. Apparently simulating it’s dry season induces flowering. 


Photo borrowed with admiration from The Alpine Society

Rheum nobile – Hardy to -17
Native to the Himalaya growing at over 4000 metres above sea level, this unusual member of the rhubarb family grows strange white leaves that create a greenhouse effect to protect it’s flowers from the cold elements. Marveled for it’s medicinal properties, the local people enjoy it’s stalk for it’s sour flavor.


Photo borrowed with admiration from ChileFlora

Aristolochia chilensis – Semi hardy to occasional -5 , (will not tolerate snow)
One of the few insectivore plants in Chile, grows in poor sandy soils where droughts can sometimes last upwards to 10 months. Silver lines leaves and strange fuzzy pitchers.


Photo borrowed with admiration from ChileFlora

Lardizabala biternata – Suspected to be hardy -6, potentially more
Native to the temperate forests of Chile, in humid moist locations this little known specimen is often praised for it’s unusual dark flowers, and tasty edible fruit.


Photo borrowed with admiration from UC Bontanical Garden Blog

Bomarea spp. – Not reportably hardy
Native to Mexico and south, this tuberous firecracker grows as a groundcover but most often as a climber. From what I’ve researched they come in an amazing array of colors and forms, and are closely related to Alstroemeria.


Photo borrowed with admiration from Agave Pages

Agave utahensis v. eborispina – Hardy to -20, dry conditions
Native to the United States, this is by far one of the spikiest agaves I’ve ever seen.


Photo borrowed with admiration from Bihrmann’s CAUDICIFORMS

Crinum buphanoides - Hardy to zone 7-10
Native to South Africa and Namibia this unusual Crinum species has similar leaves to a Boophane. I love the wavy crinkled leaves, it definitely looks prehistoric to me. Apparently it’s quite forgiving in cultivation, but needs a dry period to flower.


Photo borrowed with admiration from Pacific Bulb Society website

Eustephia ssp.
Native from Puru to Bolivia, another unusual tropical bloom.  Summer growing, winter dormant. Cultivation similar to hybrid amaryllis.


Photo borrowed with admiration from Quest Machine

Tropaeolum tuberosum – Reportedly semi hardy, mulch in winter
An unusual food crop related to the garden nasturtium, producing an edible tuber. Reported to be easily grown in cultivation being resist to insects and disease. Another electric nasturtium, need I say I more.

And that’s that, another late night plant lust.

*Thanks to all the websites that let me use their photos as examples.

7 Responses to Winter Wish List: Plant Collecting in the winter.

  • The Victoria Gardener says:

    Thanks for the well wishes all, and I appreciate the extra info on the agave. While mine will be nothing more then a pup, I’m looking forward to giving it a shot. I will not over water it, thank you for the extra precaution. The nurseries in my area have all but calmed down, and over the past year I might be growing beyond them. I need a little more then a petunia or a hybrid campanula to wet my “plant thirst”.

    I’m a little nervous growing the noble rhubarb, but i’d like to see if I could make it work, what an amazing specimen.

  • Mark and Gaz says:

    I’m still eating junk food up to now :) Glad to hear you had a lovely Christmas!

    Superb selection of plants! Winter’s the best time to peruse plant sites indeed and make a selection of which new plants to try. Good luck with the Rheum nobile!

    I to have tried Agave utahensis v. eborispina before, very slow growing and has sailed through previous winters with just a rain shelter, but oddly enough died in the summer two years ago. It was a very wet summer so it probably didn’t appreciate the generous watering…

    Happy New Year! :)

  • Wow with a little plant lust you’re dangerous!

    I walked away from an opportunity to buy an Agave utahensis v. eborispina, can you believe it? Of course it doesn’t look quite that good when young. I couldn’t have walked away from one like in your picture.

  • Wow, these definitely are unique plants! But so beautiful. I can definitely see why you ordered them. Please keep us posted on their progress.

    I had an Agave utahensis v. eborispina but I managed to kill it, probably by giving it just a tad too much water (although I thought I was careful). I’ve read that people grow them in pure pumice to avoid overwatering.

    I was at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden a couple of days ago and saw a Boophone haemanthoides. What coincidence! I posted a photo on my blog.

    None of the plants you got are easy to find. Where did you order them, if I may ask?

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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.
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