Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Searching for that elusive plant.

Loosing one of my prized aloes got me thinking about the different ways I go about searching for the plants on my wish list.  What with the internet and its forums, blogs, and other sites providing photos of all the wonderful plants out there, before you know it you have a long list of plants that are not available locally and that's where the fun starts.

Agave filifera hybrid
The usual starting point are the specialist nurseries. While the climate may not be great one of the advantages of the UK is that it is small and it is relatively easy to get to any part of it.  I don't think you can call yourself a real collector until you have driven hundreds of miles purely in the hope of finding a plant. I will often get up early to jump in the car to go and meet friends at some distant nursery for the day. Something my OH finds strange given my inability to get up early at any other point. There are a few specialist nurseries scattered around the UK, these are often grouped together and you can visit two or three in a day.  After a year or so I have my favourites and try to visit these each year. Over the years they get to know you and this allows you to ask about specific plants on your list and if you are very lucky get to sneak a look in the usually out of bounds areas. I love looking around the private sections in nurseries, you never know what you will find; whether it be a private collection, plants being propagated for future sales or occasionally the special plants not for general sale. Over the years I have got a lot of plants from these visits some from my wish list, but many more just as spontaneous purchases like this agave filifera hybrid.

Aloe saponaria
The internet is the other obvious place plant collectors gather and sites like ebay do a roaring trade in plants. I have bought the occasional plant like this variegated aloe saponaria but whenever I do I always check if it is available else where first, as often you end up paying more on ebay than you would else where. In fact I know many people will buy two plants at a nursery and then sell one on ebay covering the costs of both.

Agave stricta nana
While ebay maybe a good source for rarer plants,  I find it a bit soulless and it just lacks something. Maybe it is the personal touch you get from meeting the owners,  or the challenge of persuading someone to part with a plant not initially for sale. The other end of the scale is visiting other collectors.  I have said before how much I enjoy this and you almost always come away with at least one goodie.  Sadly, and I say that purely from the perspective of my OH, I find that these visits usually end up adding more plants to my list than removing them. The other good thing about these visits is that as you get spares you are able to take presents along with you as a thank you for the hospitality. Something my OH approves of, in fact she will often carry the plants out to the car for me.

Echeveria pinky
Wherever you find them it is always great to track down that plant you have been looking for. The longer it has been on your list the bigger the joy at finally finding it. This echeveria pinky took me almost 3 years to find (at a price I was willing to pay), I'll have to do another post on where that one came from.

No matter how good it feels to search and track down that elusive plant, for me the best feeling is that surprise find.  Nothing beats visiting a nursery and stumbling across a plant, often wrongly labelled stuffed in a corner somewhere and realizing what it is.  Apart form the satisfaction of finding the plant, you often get it for a bargain price. It is a feeling I will never tire of.

Strangely no matter how many plants I cross off my list, it only seems to get bigger.  Just when I cross off that plant I have been looking for for years along comes something else that I must have but is impossible to find.  I keep telling my OH that this is perfectly normal so please tell me I am not alone in this!


  1. Oh you are most definitely not are in good company, and I loved your comment about getting up early for plant opportunities when you can't seem to manage it for other things! So true.

    And thank you for picturing that variegated Aloe saponaria again, it is to die for.

  2. I think you have a much tougher time hunting down special succulents in the UK than we in the southwestern US, being graced with the Huntington plant sales and lots and lots of growers in San Diego county. Your dedication puts mine to shame.

    My wish list consists of the variegated version of Agave 'Blue Glow'. It may be a few years before that one becomes affordable.

    Speaking of hard-to-find plants and "disticious", here's one for you: Boophone disticha.

  3. It is much harder to find plants in the UK. If I lives in the US places like Yaccado and PlantDelights would meet most of my needs!