How to find Interesting/Obscure Cultivars?

CliffracerX

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Hey Nuts, long time no see! Been lurking for a while since I last posted here, and while I do plan to give a proper update to all my mad-hat shenanigans from last summer, I think I can safely say that a year down the line, I've gotten a lot better an understanding of my skills - or frankly, lack-there-of, and how much work and energy I can put into the hobby to boot. After struggling over the winter with some of my fussier plants and losing a good few of 'em, I've found myself on the hunt for more laid-back, easy-going trees & regular houseplants alike that don't need babied quite so much, and while the hunt for that has largely slowed down as I think I'm getting close to the right # of plants in my care, my big question now is - how do you all actually get whatever interesting materials/species that've struck your fancy? There are plenty of species (or cultivars, as applicable) that're well-documented and photographed...but then next to impossible to actually track down for sale, be they from propagators or enthusiasts on Etsy or similar, or from larger-scale nurseries and the likes, who seem to ominpresently be out of stock.

For example, high on my list is Ficus Benjamina 'Golden Benjamin' or other 'neon' cultivars like it, like the beautiful one here pictured by Forsoothe! at the Ann Arbor show.

full


There's a lot of similar cultivars out there, but thus far I've had very little luck in finding any place of getting any of them, let alone the more consistently-vibrant, non-variegated cultivars like this one. Sellers of propped plants on Etsy or the likes seem to appear and disappear at random, while most dedicated nurseries a Google search turns up show no signs of ever being in stock. So, my question in all of this being - how do y'all actually get weird, interesting, or obscure material like this to work with, and on the off-chance anyone has specific experience with it, does anyone have recommendations on how to find a place I can get my mitts on a neon Ficus like that from, even if just in brand-new cutting form?

(Postal note - I will write up a TL;DR follow-up to my original newbie's first thread at some point, but to faces who recognize me, most of that newbie overenthusiasm has finally worn off & now I'm having the usual 20/20 hindsight of realizing just how nuts I was jumping straight into trying to work with red maple seedlings - whoops. I've gotten better at the basics of keeping things alive in the year since, though still definitely not 100%, with a majority of the casualties having either been mysteriously self-destructing Ports - more on that in my update post - or any and everything spider mites have been able to get their fangs into, alongside a few victims of underwatering. Still want to do some proper bonsai-ing, and have been using what I've learned to help slowly shape the plants in my care - as well as propagate like a crazy person, haha - but I've been forcing myself to go to the basics I should have started at and just work on keeping things alive & doing clip-n-grow/regular maintenance to shape stuff rather than doing Proper Bonsai(tm) - part of why I'm focusing on species like Ficus right now, as I've found them extremely resilient to pests, care mishaps, and all manner of abuse, above or below, plus I know they can make some very pretty little trees in pots.)
 

Wires_Guy_wires

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I email, I call, I ask to be put on lists for when the new deliveries come in.
Not always the best idea for VERY obscure plants.. I mean, being on a naughty list can be a bad thing!

But yeah, that's about the best method; keep in touch with the people selling them, or ask them for their source and buy those cultivars there.

Specific forums attract specific people. Take ficii for example, half of us own one, but on a ficus forum it'll likely be a 100% of the users that own one or more cultivars. More chances for you to find cool stuff.
 

Forsoothe!

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I find that I stumble upon more interesting cultivars by dumb luck than I capture by persistent pursuit. I've been searching for a variegated F. benjamina that has 50% white for ten years and only able to buy 'Starlight' which I'm convinced has that name because, like the stars in the sky, you can't see the thin white edges in the daytime. There's a jerk I know who has one that he won't sell or trade to me, and I'm doomed to only drool at his. You need to be on catalog lists for plants and when they first arrive, peruse them for new stuff. Glasshouse Works, Rarefindnursery, Logee's, RareTree, ConiferKingdom, Singtree, et al.
 
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CliffracerX

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I email, I call, I ask to be put on lists for when the new deliveries come in.
Not always the best idea for VERY obscure plants.. I mean, being on a naughty list can be a bad thing!

But yeah, that's about the best method; keep in touch with the people selling them, or ask them for their source and buy those cultivars there.

Specific forums attract specific people. Take ficii for example, half of us own one, but on a ficus forum it'll likely be a 100% of the users that own one or more cultivars. More chances for you to find cool stuff.
Trying to get on mailing lists might not be such a bad idea, now you mention it - but gosh dang do I feel silly for not thinking of poking members of ficus-specific forums. >.< I'll defs need to give that a whack & see how things go!

For rare conifer cultivars, join the American Conifer Society.
This looks to be a useful resource, thank you! Thus far I've not done much with coniferous species - not many of 'em catch my fancy, and the ones that do (Dwarf Alberta Spruce for just looking like a miniature pine, and Lemon Cypress for being largely indoors-friendly, having verdant-lime needles, and smelling friggen amazing) I've actually been able to find locally - the former is omnipresent at local garden centers, while the latter I was able to find in spring at a local Kroger of all places and in good health to boot.

I find that I stumble upon more interesting cultivars by dumb luck than I capture by persistent pursuit. I've been searching for a variegated F. benjamina that has 50% white for ten years and only able to buy 'Starlight' which I'm convinced has that name because, like the stars in the sky, you can't see the thin white edges in the daytime. There's a jerk I know who has one that he won't sell or trade to me, and I'm doomed to only drool at his. You need to be on catalog lists for plants and when they first arrive, peruse them for new stuff. Glasshouse Works, Rarefindnursery, Logee's, RareTree, ConiferKingdom, Singtree, et al.
Thus far that's been my story too, as mentioned above - a regular trip into Kroger revealed a big, healthy Lemon Cypress packaged with body lotion of all things - didn't care for the latter, but for the price it was a good deal on the tree! As for your own search for variegated Ficus, oof - that's relatable and sucky. I hope your quest meets with success one day, and I'll keep my eyes peeled in my own search. Thank you for the extra resources - I'll be sure to take a look!
 

Forsoothe!

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Come to think of it, the Rock Garden Society is another group that caters to small, interesting stuff. Find the local group and try to sneak into their yearly auction, usually held at a member's home.
 

HorseloverFat

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In addition to things said...
Strike up good relationships with local nurseries.. IF they do “from-seed” propagation, there is a high likelihood that they run into MANY unique variations.. desirable OR not. 🤣 The worst they can tell you is, “grow your own seeds!”
 

CliffracerX

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In addition to things said...
Strike up good relationships with local nurseries.. IF they do “from-seed” propagation, there is a high likelihood that they run into MANY unique variations.. desirable OR not. 🤣 The worst they can tell you is, “grow your own seeds!”
Perhaps it's time for me to buy a package of 'Bonsai Ficus' seeds and hope some of 'em are interesting 🤣
In seriousness though, that's not a bad idea - I've been on this hunt for like half a year now, can't hurt to wait a bit longer in hopes of getting something interesting from seed!

Lemon cypress is the hip retail name for Monterrey cypress. Though I wouldn't think you could grow Monterrey cypress indoors...
They sell them here at Christmas time. They are short-lived indoors.
Per my research - which could very well be wrong, as finding reputable sources (read: not friggen sfgate :rolleyes:) with Google has been a bit of a task - their big weak spot indoors is that they're incredibly light-hungry, which fortunately I can provide as I've got a dedicated plant shelf with grow lights mine has been living on to little complaint for a few months now. We'll see if it lasts long-term, but so far other than complaining when it went an extra day without water and having one side crisp up a little, it's been very well-behaved and is actively growing. (Relatedly - even in the pure organic slop it came in, it still wants watered every other day or so. I've never seen a plant this thirsty, and I am frankly afraid to try moving it to my usual Bonsai Jack mix for fear of losing the rest of it!)

As an update to the general intent of this post, though- I have done more looking, and it seems like the most readily-available candidates for the 'neon ficus' look I'm going for are Ficus Benjamina 'Reginald' or one of the related cultivars, like 'Gold Bit' as offered by Glass House. While they are all slightly variegated with olive in the center of the leaves (rather than the pure-chartreuse look seen in the OP's linked picture), I don't hugely mind that. With that in mind, do any of the resident Nuts have experience mail-ordering from them? Reviews I've been able to find have been a bit mixed, but I tend to take the negative with a grain of salt given half the time they usually seem to be people complaining about non-issues or things out of both their & the sellers' control - I trust peeps here to be a bit more level-headed about things :p
 

penumbra

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What gets me about these ficus cultivars is that many of the growers are wrong about what they are selling. What I have from sellers as Dutch Treat I feel certain is Nightingale. And my Nicole looks exactly like Starlight, not like pictures I have seen of Nicole.
 

Forsoothe!

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What gets me about these ficus cultivars is that many of the growers are wrong about what they are selling. What I have from sellers as Dutch Treat I feel certain is Nightingale. And my Nicole looks exactly like Starlight, not like pictures I have seen of Nicole.
My experience, too.
 

Tums

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Perhaps it's time for me to buy a package of 'Bonsai Ficus' seeds and hope some of 'em are interesting 🤣
In seriousness though, that's not a bad idea - I've been on this hunt for like half a year now, can't hurt to wait a bit longer in hopes of getting something interesting from seed!



Per my research - which could very well be wrong, as finding reputable sources (read: not friggen sfgate :rolleyes:) with Google has been a bit of a task - their big weak spot indoors is that they're incredibly light-hungry, which fortunately I can provide as I've got a dedicated plant shelf with grow lights mine has been living on to little complaint for a few months now. We'll see if it lasts long-term, but so far other than complaining when it went an extra day without water and having one side crisp up a little, it's been very well-behaved and is actively growing. (Relatedly - even in the pure organic slop it came in, it still wants watered every other day or so. I've never seen a plant this thirsty, and I am frankly afraid to try moving it to my usual Bonsai Jack mix for fear of losing the rest of it!)


As an update to the general intent of this post, though- I have done more looking, and it seems like the most readily-available candidates for the 'neon ficus' look I'm going for are Ficus Benjamina 'Reginald' or one of the related cultivars, like 'Gold Bit' as offered by Glass House. While they are all slightly variegated with olive in the center of the leaves (rather than the pure-chartreuse look seen in the OP's linked picture), I don't hugely mind that. With that in mind, do any of the resident Nuts have experience mail-ordering from them? Reviews I've been able to find have been a bit mixed, but I tend to take the negative with a grain of salt given half the time they usually seem to be people complaining about non-issues or things out of both their & the sellers' control - I trust peeps here to be a bit more level-headed about things :p
Ordered from them once. They mean it when they say they take a while to ship. The email I got said 1-3 months, ended up being 1 month. Plants were healthy but small. They did send the wrong cultivar of hibiscus (they look identical out of flower). I'd still order again because of their selection and hope they got it right next time.
 

rodeolthr

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I find that I stumble upon more interesting cultivars by dumb luck than I capture by persistent pursuit. I've been searching for a variegated F. benjamina that has 50% white for ten years and only able to buy 'Starlight' which I'm convinced has that name because, like the stars in the sky, you can't see the thin white edges in the daytime. There's a jerk I know who has one that he won't sell or trade to me, and I'm doomed to only drool at his. You need to be on catalog lists for plants and when they first arrive, peruse them for new stuff. Glasshouse Works, Rarefindnursery, Logee's, RareTree, ConiferKingdom, Singtree, et al.
I searched and searched until I found 'Starlight' at a nursery in SoCal. I planted one at my winter getaway in Palm Springs, and brought one with me to Seattle. Those growing in the desert are mostly white, the tree that I had here, until a friend killed it, had far more green and looked like a standard variegated type. Just my personal experience
 

penumbra

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I am becoming more and more convinced that the cultivar names of the variegated ficus are meaning less and less and that there is a lot of variability from cutting to cutting. The above post tends to confirm that this is due to factors other than the cutting itself and that environment is a key factor.
 

penumbra

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A have three "Nina" from the same stock. First picture is a normal "Nina" and other pictures are a cutting with pure white leaves. I know a cutting from it it will not survive on its own without chlorophyll, so I am just watching to see what happens next.
IMG_5228.JPGIMG_5223.JPGIMG_5220.JPG
 

penumbra

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This is a "Nicole" that looks very much like a "Starlight". "Nicole" is described as green leaf with white border.
IMG_5225.JPGIMG_5227.JPG
 

CliffracerX

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Haven't had much to add to what's going on, but I'm glad to have spawned such a lively conversation about ficus cultivars & coloration! Indeed, it seems like there's a lot of variability from plant to plant or cutting to cutting on what colors it has - which makes me wonder if folks who have Dream Ficuses(tm) might not be able to make a killing on propagating cuttings with particularly notable traits; for instance, *no* cultivar I've yet seen listed matches the sheer verdancy of the ficus in the OP, but presumably its colors will stick if cuttings are made from portions that retain that vibrant color, and similarly, layering the Starlight above to try and propagate the portion with nearly all-white leaves could yield interesting results. That being said, I also suspect environment plays a large part in it - presumably the OP ficus gets a lot of light, which ensures the leaves won't go dark with extra clorophyll, and the all-white shoot on the Starlight could very well have a similar story. Curious to hear what people's growing conditions are!
 

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