Stump your gardening friends, and wow your senses, with these beautifully unusual stunners

Rare plants can be tricky to keep alive, but the challenge is part of the fun.

ADD AN EXCITING dimension to gardening by collecting rare and unusual plants.

I love to show off my garden to visitors, and it’s especially fun when a rare plant stumps fellow garden enthusiasts. When I find a plant that’s new to me, I immediately begin researching all about my new treasure to learn where it’s from and what its needs are.

I’ll admit I’ve lost quite a number of rare plants over the years, but the challenge is half the fun. Many of the rare plants I collect are only semi-hardy, and the key to keeping them around long-term is to plant them early enough in spring to give them time to establish deep roots and thick stems before cold fall weather sets in.

Consider covering borderline tender plants for the first winter with Frost Protek. It’s a lightweight plant cover made for that purpose, available at charleysgreenhouse.com. If your semi-hardy plants make it through their first winter, they usually will survive for years without covering, except as a temporary measure if exceptionally cold weather is forecast.

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Much as I love basking in the envy of my gardening friends, the main reason I love growing rare plants is that most of them are incredibly beautiful, or have fascinating shapes and/or textures. One of the truly cherished rarities in my garden is Sinopanax formosanus, a relative of Schefflera and Fatsia. The stems and undersides of the shallowly lobed, thick leaves are coated with golden furry indumentum. New leaves emerge silvery white, contrasting beautifully with the shiny, dark-green mature foliage. Hardy to only about 10 degrees, these shrubs do best in full sun and well-drained soil. They can grow to more than 30 feet in their native Taiwan, but aren’t expected to grow anywhere near as tall in our cool Northwest climate.

My newest favorite rare plant…

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