16 September 2012

Bogging it up

I drew this a year or two ago... It was meant as a dramatic exaggeration, but... um... this is what my truck looked like after a trip I took earlier this summer visiting the great plantsman, Stan Tyson:

And yes, that is a pickup truck. The bed was already full.
And those plants are, sarracenia pitcher plants!
This what many of these plants look like growing in a bog garden we visited.
Along with venus fly traps, and sundews. All cool carniverous plants... and growing outside in zone 5 Illinois. I vaguely knew that these were native, hardy plants, but until I saw them growing so happily and beautifully in ground in Illinois it never really struck me what cool and useful garden plants they are.
So, thanks to Stan's incredibly generosity, I loaded up with an amazing collection of pitcher plants, and back at Arrowhead, started preparing them a place to live.
Basically all hardy carniverous plants grow in very acidic, nutrient poor bogs. That's what they catch bugs -- they don't really eat them, they simply break them down as a source of nitrogen and other nutrients. Bugs as fertilizer. (most tropical carnivorous plants grow in another nutrient poor situation -- as epiphytes on the branches of trees.) So, to grow them at the nursery, I've built an artificial bog along the side of one of our greenhouses. We dug out an existing (weedy, over grown) bed, put down a pond liner, and filled it with a mixture of peat and sand.
I divided each plant, and into the bog they went. I've got to say, so far, these are some of the absolutely easiers plants to take care of. With most plants you have to walk the line between over and under watering. These guys want to be totally soggy, so as long as they're not actually submerged, they seem to be pretty happy. The only trick is keeping the water acidic. Most tap water is quite alkaline with disolved minerals, and will bring the pH up too much. Positioning this bed where it catches the runoff from the roof of the greenhouse means they get mostly rainwater, which is what they prefer, only getting water from our well as a last resort.

I'm really excited about this new collection of plants! Once they bulk up a little, we'll be listing them in the catalog. So dramatically beautiful and unlike anything else we grow.

I have the feeling these are just going to be the start of a new obsession... there are so many more sarracenias to collect, not to mention beauties like this gorgeous little sundew:

Flies around the nursery better look out.


Wm Jas said...

Breaking something down as a source of nutrients... isn't that kind of what "eat" means?

In my experience, pitcher plants are easy to take care of only in theory. Knowing how much water to give them is easy, but actually giving it to them is another story. Ours shriveled up and died after not being watered for a whole two days! One weekend away from home was all it took.

Joseph said...

Well, they aren't getting calories from the insects. More like taking vitamin pills, which I wouldn't call eating.
They are also much easier in a large outdoor bog which holds a lot more water and gets topped up by the rain. I've only watered ours a couple times, probably won't have to again until next summer.

Randy Emmitt said...

Great post seeing you get all of those plants and set them up in a 'new' bog. Bet you'd be floored if you ever saw the VW beetle sized pitcher plants masses in the Okefenokee Swamp in GA.

ConnieB said...

Had to laugh at your drawing because it's exactly what my friend had to do a few weeks ago!! In my Kio Rio with a alaskan cedar. LOL.

I would love to try these myself, I might get brave and try it next year.

James said...
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sensiblegardening said...

Another whole realm of interesting plant material... strictly indoors for us. Plant buying trips are such great fun, it's amazing what a jeep will hold!

Jeana said...

My bog is in an pond insert filled with peat and sand. We drilled holes 2 inches from the top so no worry about too much water. We only water with rain water and after the first year - I never water. I did put spagnum moss on the top - read that would help suck up water during dry times. Plants doing great in zone 5 CT

Unknown said...

It is too informative blog. I want to ask a question. I have small pond in home. I want to grow these plants in my pond. Is there maintenance will be busy? answer here

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