Monkey's Hand or Devil's Tree Chiranthodendron pentadactylon

What a scary looking thing!

Chiranthodendron pentadactylon – Sterculiaceae (Malvaceae) - ‘Devil's Hand Tree,' 'Monkey's Hand Tree,' 'Mexican Hand Tree,' 'Árbol de la manita,' 'Flor de la manita,' 'Mano de león,' 'Palo de yaco,' 'Mano de mico,' 'Majagua,' 'Macpalxochicuahuitl' -

Once known from a single sacred specimen growing in the Valley of Toluca in México, it was revered by the Aztecs and used spiritually and medicinally. Similar to an American Gingko, this plant was later found growing wild in the mountains of the México-Guatemala border, but much of the mystique surrounding this plant remains. It's names, both common and latin, refer to the excerted stamens emerging from the flower like a clawed hand. Like its close relative, Fremontodendron, it is in the Chocolate family, and a cross between the two genera is also grown. Difficult-to-germinate seeds mean that this plant is still rare in cultivation, but there are many fine specimens dotted up and down California.

Devil's Hand Tree is a slow-growing tree that will eventually reach a rounded 50'-60', and has a very beautiful contorted branches. The wonderful large red flowers put on a great show and flower for a long season. On the ground you sometime find the 'hands' that have fallen out of the mature flowers- a strange sight indeed (pictured). A tree for full sun on the cost or part shade more inland, they are very drought tolerant once established, and can also tolerate brief dips below 20º F.

Occasionally available at: Rare Exotic Seeds US

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Mediterranean Succulents

This stunning ground cover will grace my succulent patch in the spring. I am starting them from seed, so they will be ready for planting after the last frost (that is, if we get any)

Carpobrotus edulis is a perennial growing to 5 inches by 3 ft It is hardy to zone 8 and is frost tender. It is in flower from May to July, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.

The plant prefers light (sandy) soils, requires well-drained soil and can grow in nutritionally poor soil.The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. and can grow in saline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade.It requires dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.

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Brazilian Dutchman's Pipe Aristolochia gigantea

Oh wow! Is this one is Bizarre!

Also known as Giant Pelican Flower, Aristolochia gigantea is a robust, twisting climber that can grow around a sturdy arbor or a tree up to 30 feet tall or higher.

This vine has fleshy heart-shaped leaves and large flowers exceeding a foot long and at least 6 inches wide. The flower is astounding, impressive, strange and sinister at the same time. The mouth of the pipe-shaped flower expands to a huge size and is colored with a maroon and white netting effect. In the “mouth” there is a central yellow spot where an opening leads into a closed pouch. The back view of the flower superficially resembles a pair of lungs with a canal leading into a stomach-like pouch. The blossom is over 14 inches (36 cm) long.
These huge, lemony scented flowers bloom from summer until late winter and are a sight to behold

Aristolochia gigantea usually grows in tropical regions from Panama to Brazil but it is incredibly hardy, and is an evergreen that will not die off at the first sign of a frost.

Seeds found here: Aristolochia gigantea

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Growing Your Own Pistachio Nuts Pistacia Vera

Pistachios are a great source of vitamins and minerals and are naturally cholesterol free. A serving of pistachios contains 170 calories and is a good source of many key nutrients containing over 10% of the Daily Value of fiber, protein, vitamin B-6, thiamin, phosphorus, magnesium, and copper.
In addition, scientific evidence is mounting to show that consuming nuts can play a role in managing your weight.

They aren't hard to grow and the seedlings potted up in a cute container will make a nice exotic Holiday Gifts for colleagues at the office.

Pistacio makes broad feathered, glossy, dark leaves and terminal clusters
of small flowers followed by red-skinned fruits on female plants.

The fruits contain the well-known Pistachio nut inside. The reddish, wrinkled fruits are borne in heavy clusters somewhat like grapes. Although known as a nut, the fruit of the pistachio is botanically a drupe, the edible portion of which is the seed. The oblong kernel is about 1 inch in length and 1/2 inch in diameter and protected by a thin, ivory-colored, bony shell. Normally the shells split longitudinally along their sutures when mature.
Pistacia vera develops strictly either male or female plants, thus several plants have to be grown together for pollination. An ornamental container plant suited for any well drained, rich soil in a sunny spot.

Pistachios should be planted in full sun. The size of the slow growing trees can be further controlled by pruning. When planting, avoid rough handling since the budded tops are easily broken away from the understock.
The trees do best on soils that are deep, friable and well drained but moisture retaining. It can, however, survive in poor, stony, calcareous, highly alkaline or slightly acid, or even saline soils. The root is deeply penetrating.

US Seed source

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Brodé Galeux d'Eysines Squash

Yikes!  Talk about an ugly pumpkin. Perfect for Halloween!

Brodé Galeux d'Eysines  is a French Heirloom Winter Squash, not really a pumpkin, however it can be carved like one. It is a hard to find Farmers Market Vegetable.

The silver sheened salmon-pink skin develops peanut like nodes as the sugar content builds in the ripening process. The more bumps, the greater the sugar content.

The bright orange flesh is nutty, sweet, firm, and without fibrous strings making it perfect for pies, steaming, baking, soups and more. Fruits grow to 10-20 lbs in size and keeps well.

Seeds found here

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Blushing Bride Flower!

I am ready to grow my first Serruria from seed. Fresh seeds arrived and off  I go mixing soil according to instructions. This time it's required to sterilize the soil. How can you sterilize soil - There is the microwave method or you can pour boiling water over it several times.

This gorgeous South African member of the Proteaceae family reputedly derived its common name of “blushing bride” around 100 years ago when young men wore the flowers in their button holes when out courting in South Africa, the natural habitat to this lovely flower. 


The rare Serruria florida is a highly desirable small shrub which grows a 4 ft high and wide. The foliage is feathery and hairy.

Because of this ability to trap any available moisture, Serrurias are very tolerant of dry soil conditions.

To grow Serruria successfully, their main requirements are freedom from all but light frosts,full sun and perfectly drained soil.

Blushing Bride flowers in Spring producing soft, papery white bracts or floral leaves, surrounding feathery tufts of white to pinkish flowers. The blooms are either a white/creamy color with a delicate blush of pink, or an all-over rose pink color. They are in high demand for floral work, especially wedding bouquets and normally command a high price.

Blushing Bride Seeds

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Aussie Waratah Telopea speciosissima

The seeds I just purchased will be my second batch. Waratah seeds are incredibly easy to germinate, with a 100% germination rate, however I had a problem with the seedlings damping off last time. No seedling survivors. 

Now that I've learned a bit more about the Waratah seedlings need a slow climate adjustments, I am giving this another try.  - I demand success!!! ;)

This got to be one the most beautiful flowering shrubs I've ever seen! 


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Nelumbo lutea American Lotus

Rediscovered uses for the water lily. Even if you don't have room for a pond, there IS room for a Pond

Lily Pond in a Vase! What an awesome concept for growing and display Water lilies in clear vases!

Nelumbo lutea (American Lotus) is and emergent aquatic plant with large 
 circular leaves. Leaves are connected to the petiole in the center of the circle with no apparent slits in the side (an easy way to distinguish them from other water lilies).

Flowers are born off the top and have numerous stamen around a central pistil. Flowers last for two days in which time they can be pollinated by insects. This species is almost extinct in the wild.

All parts of the Lotus has food and or medicinal properties and make a great gift!

Seeds are available here and are very easy to germinate. 

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Nice! Blue Butterfly Vine

I have a new fascination with Vines patriculary red, black and blues.

Technically a tropical plant, the Blue Butterfly vine also easily grown annuals in more northern areas and will quickly bloom from seed in about 6-8 weeks

Produces a wonderful display of 2 inch vivid blue flowers from mid to late summer. Prefers full sun to light shade, are very drought tolerant and are well-adapted to a variety of soil types.

These will bloom all year long in frost free zones or inside as an exotic vining houseplant.

Ideal for covering trellis in a sheltered part of the garden, as a perennial in a conservatory or as a hanging plant, attracting many bees and butterflies.

Climber to 6-8ft. Zone 8+

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Margarita Citrus Slice Earrings

I love this!!!!! It makes my mouth water. Super creative citrus earrings made from recycled plastics,

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A Black Flowering Vine

Another unusual beauty.

Also known as  Black Coral or Tiger Snake Vine / Kennedia Nigricans

This is a beautiful flowering vine from Australia. It has very striking flowers due to the combination of colors. Deep maroon petals shade to almost pure black, with a striking contrast of a yellow lip. A short lived perennial, it is nonetheless easy from seed and will set a profusion of seed if allowed.

It will grow to be a scrambling climber with stems of up to 30 Ft. In the absence of any support the stems will scramble making a useful ground cover. It can also be used very effectively in hanging baskets. It produces a profusion of flowers all through the summer. Hardy to Zone 8/9 and tolerant of a wide range of growing conditions. It will withstand moderate frost.

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A Tree Lily !!!!

It took me over 2 years to track that rare baby down and managed to get my hands on seeds!!! This got to be one of the hardest of plants I've ever hunted for. 

Lets see if the sub-tropical climate will assist in germinating this new gem. X fingers.

I am so excited.....Details posted later

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Sturts Desert Pea Swainsona formosa

Another unusual, it never ends!!!

Clianthus formosus or Swainsona formosa Native Australian wildflower.
Incredibly beautiful plant with scarlet and black flowers reminiscent of exotic birds. Does best in dry conditions.

With dazzling crimson and black flowers having the ' appearance of a lobster claw, Clianthus will happily create a dense carpet of glaucous, ferny foliage from which these exciting flowers will appear. Easily grown, and surviving the poorest of soils and the sunniest of positions, just like in its homeland of Australia.

Seeds available here

Optimum Germination Temperature: 65-70F. Sowing Depth: ¼in. Sowing Time: April to May. Best sown where it is to flower, it prefers a warm, sunny, sheltered spot and very deeply dug, dry, sandy soil. Before sowing, soak the seed for 24 hours, then sow ¼in deep and protect from excess wet by placing a cloche or sheet of glass on 4 bricks over the area.
Sow in place, resents transplanting. Excellent specimens can be grown as conservatory plants. Half-hardy annual, 6-12" tall.

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Wolfberry or Goji Berry - Himalayan Superfood!

 My newest discovery is the Goji berry. Super easy to germinate from seeds!! I suggest getting already extracted and cleaned seeds, rather than the pod, unless you feel like spending hours picking out the micro tiny seeds, rinsing them and drying them.

I got mine here: Goji Berry Seeds

The Chinese revere Wolfberry as a national treasure among the most nutrient dense of the nation’s medicinal herbs. This reputation has stimulated scientific research about its potential health benefits and systematic cultivation.

The wise old Chinese healers used the fruit from the Wolfberry bush to strengthen the eyes, liver, kidneys, and build healthy blood, circulatory and immune systems. Wolfberries contain carotenoids, which, as we all know are potent antioxidants. One of its key constituents is lycium barbarum polysaccharide (LBP)...what does that do?

Well it will protect your body against cellular damage. It has been said that people who consumed them on a regular basis, lived very healthy lives for 100-plus years.

Gouqizi or gouqi, the Chinese Mandarin names for goji ("wolfberry", Lycium barbarum L.), is a red-orange berry of the Solanaceae nightshade family that includes tomato, eggplant, chili pepper and potato.

In vernacular, gouqi (Mandarin pronunciation "goo-chee"), has become “goji”. For at least 2000 years, Wolfberry has grown wild in China and used in common recipes and traditional Chinese medicine. Wolfberry derives its name from "wolf-peach" -- the tomato, its larger botanical cousin (Solanum lycopersicum), where "lyco" is Greek for wolf and "persicum" is peach.

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A Different Kind of Hawaiian Lei Flowers

Definitely in the Rare, Exotic and Unusual category Calotropis gigantea, Crown flower or Giant Milkweed are great additions to any tropical garden! According to the Hawaiian culture it is a symbol of royalty and is made in to stunning leis and worn and adored by the last queen of Hawaii named Queen Liliuokalani.

Calotropis gigantea (Crown flower) is a species of Calotropis native to Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and China.

The clusters of waxy flowers are white or lavender, and have a little "crown" in the center composed of five downward-pointing, twisted petals that resemble an elegant miniature royal crown. They are produced in bunches among the leaves, which are light green and fuzzy on both sides, growing on succulent milky stems. When fully grown, each small tree or large bush can support hundreds of Monarch butterflies as the adults sip nectar from the flowers and the caterpillars eat the leaves. Don't worry about the caterpillars, as the plant will quickly regrow whatever they eat and more, 
but do protect it from the cold. 
It is not frost-hardy at all and must be planted in a large pot and kept indoors during winter.

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Fresh Gourmet Asian Water Chestnuts! Yum!

Asian Water Chestnut Eleocharis dulcis

Off we go, starting our own water chestnuts again. In case you ever had them in stir fry, the fresh bulbs are 100 times better than the canned. Delicious. Plus, I know in what water they are growing  (clean water) ;)

Eleocharis dulcis is tropical Asian aquatic sedge having an edible corm and cylindrical leaves. The succulent corm of this plant ist used in Asian cooking. This is NOT to be confused with the aquatic invasive Asian water chestnut (Trapa natans)
Chinese water chestnuts (Eleocharis dulcis) and European water chestnuts (Trapa natans) are two unrelated water plants that carry the same name. The Chinese water chestnut resembles a small muddy tulip bulb and is sweet and crunchy; the European water chestnut resembles a tiny horned bull’s head and is quite starchy. Americans are most familiar with the Chinese water chestnut. Chinese water chestnuts grow underwater in mud, have brown or black scale-like leaves, and are round, though somewhat flattened. They are the roots of an aquatic plant that grows in freshwater ponds, marshes, lakes, and slow-moving rivers and streams in Japan, Taiwan, China, Thailand, and Australia. They are difficult to harvest, explaining their generally high price. Chinese water chestnuts have mildly sweet, crisp, white flesh and are excellent raw on skewers with dip/

The European water chestnut or water caltrop has seed capsules with four spikes and is named after the caltrop, a vicious medieval weapon with four iron points. This hard-shelled ebony black fruit has two prominent, down curved horns resembling a bull’s head and a woody, sculptured surface that looks like a face or a bat. It grows abundantly in Indonesia, Southeast Asia, southern China, Japan, Italy, and tropical America. Its Chinese name, ling ko, means “spiritual horn.”

Storage: Store water chestnuts, unwashed and unpeeled, in a loosely closed paper or plastic bag in the refrigerator crisper for up to 2 weeks. Keep water caltrops in a cool, dry place.

To Grow: Easy to grow in a tub filled with dirt about 4" high . Water to 2" above soil level. Consider appropriate spacing as each corm produces quickly about 8-10 new corms. The closer they sit the harder it is to separate them.

To Buy: 
  1. Tricker Aquatics: Water Chestnuts 1 Bulb $6.50
  2. COTW Rare Seeds: Fresh Asian Water Chestnuts 8 Bulbs 

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It's Time for Some Color!!!

I just bought masses of seeds to get started on the spring. I am so ready!!!!!! Pink  is the first color of choice this time and off we go, planting our acquired seeds from the magnificent Pink Coral Vine

It's also called Queen's Wreath, Queen's Lace, Chain of Love, Chinese Love Vine

The Pink Coral Creeper is native to Tropical America. Not often seen, the rare coral creeper is a favorite for its showy flowers seen mostly in summer and fall. Makes a fabulous container plant in cooler areas.

Coral creeper climbs on tendrils and has interesting heart-shaped leaves. Plant in full sun in most any soil. Water to establish, prune to control. Best used to run up supports such as a tree or a trellis. According to the seller, it is a carefree plant to own.

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Moringa, Tree of Life

Also known as Moringa oliefera, Moringa pterygosperma, Drumstick tree, (Horse)radish tree, Mother’s best friend, West Indian ben, Árbol del ben, Morango, Suhanjna Moringa, is native to north India but is now found throughout the tropics. It grows fast and reaches up to 12m. The bark is gray and thick and looks like cork, peeling in patches. It looses its leaves from December to January and new growth starts in
February to March. Moringa produces cream colored flowers when it is 8 months old and the flowering season begins in January and continues through to March. The fruit ripens from April to June and the pods are triangular in cross section, 30 to 50cm long and contain oily, black, winged seeds.

It will survive in a temperature range of 25ºC to 40ºC but has been known to tolerate temperatures of 48ºC and light frosts.

Moringa prefers neutral to slightly acidic soils and grows best in well-drained loam to clay-loam. It tolerates clay soils but does not grow well if waterlogged

This is a plant of wide and diverse uses.
· Human food
· Animal fodder
· Water purification
· Natural medicines
· Fertilizer
· Living fence
· Natural pesticide
· Domestic cleaning agent
· Fuel wood and other uses

Its leaves are said to contain 7 times the vitamin C of oranges, 4 times the calcium in milk, 4 times the vitamin A in carrots, 3 times the potassium in bananas, and 2 times the protein in milk.
Human food
All Moringa food products have a very high nutritional value. You can eat the
leaves, especially young shoots, young pods, flowers, roots, and in some
species even the bark. Leaves are low in fats and carbohydrates and rich in
minerals, iron and vitamin B.

Fresh leaves
Of all the products of the tree the leaves are used the most. They become
tougher as they get older so it is best to pick the growing tips and young
leaves. Remove the leaves from the woody stem, as this will not soften
during cooking. The leaves can be used in the same way as spinach. An
easy way of cooking them is to steam 2 cups of freshly picked leaves for a
few minutes in one cup of water, seasoned with an onion, butter and salt or
other seasonings according to taste.

Seeds Found here

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Phanera Fairy Vine Bauhinia corymbosa

A stunning and hard to find evergreen vine in sub-tropical conditions, that can be semi-deciduous in cooler climates with older leaves dropping in cold winters. The beautiful vine has very attractive and unusual foliage and orchid-like flowers with unique 2 lobed leaves.

The pale pink flowers with dark veining are abundant from spring to autumn and are complimented by the purple tinged new growth. It is perfect for covering a pergola, fence or over a tree and is spectacular as a ground cover especially when in flower.
Found here: Bauhinia corymbosa

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Tips for these hard to germinate seeds....

Starting seeds the traditional way usually includes a seed starting mix made up of equal parts of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite. When mixed together with a little water, this mixture will hopefully support the growth of your new seeds. The risks are too much water, too little water and even seed rot if the soil is too wet. Here is how you can start to germinate seeds in more efficient manner.

Gelatin is the perfect medium to grow seeds, especially those difficult to start seedlings. Gelatin is made from animal bone and therefore has high level of nitrogen and other minerals. Add to that the sugar from the gelatin mix and water and you have a perfect place to grow those little seeds

You will need:
  • Seeds Gelatin mix (like jello)
  • Water Sterilized containers such as baby food jars or small yogurt containers
  • Sheet of clear plastic or piece of glass
  • Powdered cinnamon

Prepare your gelatin per package instructions. Pour at least 2 inches of liquid gelatin into sterilized containers Once the gelatin mix has cooled, push at least 3 seeds in each gelatin filled container.  Place your containers in a warm, sunny spot and cover with clear plastic or glass.

Be mindful of mold forming. If you see mold, just dust with a little powdered cinnamon to keep the mold in check.

Once your seedlings have sprouted and are about an inch or two tall, transplant them (with the gelatin) into the seed starting mix that is described above. The gelatin will continue to "feed" your seeds as they grow and you have less risk of injuring your new seedlings.

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Spectacular Snowdrops on a Branch

The Japanese Snowbell is a beautiful small tree. Rounded and horizontally layered. 3/4-inch bell-shaped white flowers with yellow stamens. Dark green leaves turn yellow or orange-red in the fall. Native to Japan. Great to use as a border in a garden or to provide shade on a patio.

When choosing a location, keep in mind that the Japanese Snowbell has a moderate growth rate. It grows up to 30 feet in height and 30 feet in spread. It can be planted in zones 6 to 8. Prefers full sun to light shade and moist, acid, rich, well-drained soil. Shallow root system.

How To Start These Seeds:
Scarification: Soak in water, let stand in water for 24 hours.
Stratification: Warm stratify for 90 days, cold stratify for 120 days
Germination: Sow seed 3/8 inch deep, tamp the soil, mulch the seed bed.

If refrigerated upon receipt, these seeds can be stored for up to a year before you decide to use them.

Seeds found here:


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Edible Dead Man's Fingers

Sounds gross doesn't? But really isn't. The strange fruit is also named Decaisnea fargesii, Bluebean, Blue Sausage and Blue Cucumber and is really a site to behold.

This is a shrub that is definitely different. From China, it is a deciduous shrub forming clumps of tall, upright shoots with large, pinnate leaves, themselves ornamental, up to 3 ft. in length. The somewhat unusual flowers too are attractive, yellow-green in colour and appear in early summer in drooping racemes up to 18 ins. in length. However, the main reason for growing this plant is for its quite remarkable seed pods. An eye-catching, fruiting shrub with an exotic appearance! Great for juicing.

Decaisnea fargesii is self-fertile, but will produce more fruit if planted in small groups (2 or 3 plants).


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Green Living Natural Moss Jewelry

And the plant saga continues. Happy New Year 2011. There is a conversation piece or two or three. Handmade natural Moss Jewelry.
Silver plated bezel cups filled with genuine alpine grown soft moss, soft to the touch. Lives on natural air and humidity. 

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