Sunday, January 20, 2019

Making a Drosera schizandra terrarium

Setting a terrarium up for Drosera schizandra with live Sphagnum moss

I’ve been thinking about doing a terrarium for my Drosera schizandra for some time now, and decided today was the day. The above photo shows the materials used – a 45 cm glass bowl from the local $2 shop, some washed scoria in a layer 2 cm deep in the bottom of the bowl, some leftover live Sphagnum from the Sarracenia bog gardens and of course, a D. schizandra.Finished Drosera schizandra terrarium bowl

Here’s the finished product, hopefully set to grow from years to come. I had to use a hammer to break the coffee jar terrarium open, as there was no other way to get the plant out!. Setup was easy – layer the scoria, spread the root mass of the plant across the scoria and cover the roots with the Sphagnum. The finished terrarium uses a glass plate as a lid to seal in the humidity.

Here’s what I’m hoping it will grow into (the below plant is grown by AUSCPS Canberra member Barry):

Drosera schizandra grown by AUSCPS Canberra coordinator Barry Bradshaw

On the Sarracenia front – its hot and miserable outside, with Canberra breaking an all time temperature record with four consecutive days above 40C. The plants are looking pretty miserable as a result, with the red flava in particular all washed out and green. The S. leucophylla will be up next when temperatures cool down in a few weeks, so I’ll probably hibernate ‘till then for the next blog post.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Some midsummer Sarracenia

Sarracenia collection, midsummer 2018-2019 season

Here’s a few pics of some of the nicer Sarracenia pitchers around in midsummer. At this time of year, the S. flava start to brown off with our hot weather here in Canberra, but a few of the more robust plants will keep looking good well into March. As you can see in the photo above, some of the plants more exposed to the spring-summer winds (annoyingly the S. flava var. atropurpurea) have been blown over. They and the leucophylla may have to swap spots next year… the lecuophylla flop everywhere anyway in Spring, and they won’t be as affected by the winds while providing a windbreak for the flava.

Sarracenia flava var. atropurpurea, Blackwater SF, Florida Sarracenia flava var. atropurpurea, Blackwater SF, Florida

S. flava var. atropurpurea, Blackwater SF clone, backlit (left) and front-lit (right) to show their colour. The pitcher in the right photo is on the right in the first (left) photo.

Sarracenia x moorei ‘David Martin’

S. x moorei ‘David Martin’ showing its magnificently veined and subtlety dappled hood.

Sarracenia flava var. cuprea, Gotcha! Plants heavy vein

S. flava var. cuprea, Gotcha! Plants heavy vein clone

Sarracenia flava var. cuprea ‘Ross Rowe’

S. flava var. cuprea ‘Ross Rowe’

Sarracenia flava var. atropurpurea, FRT 1-1 x Reyter’s slow clone Sarracenia flava var. maxima

S. flava var. atropurpurea ‘FRT 1-1 x Reyter’s slow clone’ (left) and S. flava var. maxima (right)

Sarracenia flava var. ornata (NSW clone) Sarracenia flava var. flava ‘Dragon’

S. flava var. ornata ‘NSW Clone’ (left) re-acquired via Owen O’Neil late last year, and a S. flava var. flava clone I’m thinking of calling ‘Dragon’ (right).

Sarracenia leucophylla ‘heavy red veined’

And to close, a red-veined S. leucophylla spring pitcher (its not quite 2.5 cm across).

The autumn leucophylla pitchers should be up in full force in late February. Until then, its a bit of a lull time for the collection as the heat of summer passes.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Terrariums, Pings, tropical Drosera and a Roridula at the Canberra AUSCPS meeting

Pinguicula terrarium Pinguicula terrarium

I love terrariums – the idea of creating a miniature world really draws me in, as well as being able to have nature close to you in sterile environments such as the office. While I have had Nepenthes in a terrarium on my work desk before, I decided to try Pinguicula on a bright windowsill at work using one of those el cheapo glass terrariums you can get at discount stores. I think the ventilation holes will work well for Pings.

Pinguicula terrarium

I made this terrarium using a blown glass terrarium brought for $9 at a local discount shop and from some live Sphagnum scavenged from some other projects. The plant is a small Pinguicula x sethos (= P. ehlersiae x P. moranensis) that I scored at last week’s AUSCPS meeting for the princely sum of $5. I’ve grown Pings in the office previously without a terrarium, so this plant should do just fine. I have found Pings thrive in small self watering pots designed for African violets if planted in Sphagnum and placed on a bright windowsill without direct light. Unlike Drosera (see below), Pings don’t look so miserable when transplanted. If this terrarium goes well (which I am 99.99% sure it will!), I’m thinking trying P. gypsicola and P. cyclosecta, both of which I have grown well before without much effort.

Drosera adelae bowl with Ikea Vaxer 7W LED lamp

While I was at it, I finally got around to sorting out my Drosera adelae, which have recovered well from the abuse I was forced to put it through last winter. The lamp is a 7W Vaxer LED from Ikea, which works a treat. Interestingly, this clone of D. adelae produces red flowers in full sunlight, and green-white flowers in shade. I know because the last flower stalk it produced grew out of the bowl, with the same raceme producing red flowers under the lamp and green flowers on the part that poked out of the bowl. The terrarium has fogged up nicely and the plants are, well, looking miserable as they re-adjust to their new home. Based on how others have fared here with this species in an identical setup, it should bounce back and grow like crazy in the next month. Here’s how I hope it will look (this is a plant grown by an AUSCPS member, Barry):

Drosera adelae grown by AUSCPS Canberra coordinator Barry Bradshaw

On the topic of Drosera, the D. schizandra in the coffee jars continue to power along. Here’s the most robust plant, which will need its own bowl soon:

Drosera schizandra in coffee jar terrarium

And to close, the plant of the month at the January AUSCPS meeting was this beautiful Roridula gorgonius. It was also grown by Barry, who grew it from seed brought from Allen Lowrie.

Roridula gorgonius; AUSCPS Canberra plant of the month, January 2019    Roridula gorgonius; AUSCPS Canberra plant of the month, January 2019

Monday, January 7, 2019

Growing Darlingtonia–third time’s the charm?

Cobra lillies (Darlingtonia californica) are one of my favourite plants – not that you’d know it at the moment given I mainly post about Sarracenia flava. But if you look back through this blog, you’ll see I used to grow it to a reasonable size (at least by Australian standards) until I lost my plants during hot, still weather soon after we moved house. I’ve tried it a few times since (including in my bog gardens) and lost it each time. When the AUSCPS meetings started up here in Canberra, I brought some to try a few ideas on how to grow it here.

The first two attempts failed because a bird (magpie?) uprooted the plant and dropped it on hot concrete while we out, and the second because the plant was not watered while I was away with work.

The third time seems the charm – I managed to get the plant through the first batch of hot weather (including 11 days straight above 35C and nights above 20C). I did this by keeping the plant in a ventilated site in the shade. That said, it looked very miserable.

My experience with Darlingtonia is that they like an open and airy mix in a broad, shallow tray that is regularly flushed with water, with the plants kept in a shady and breezy (but not windy) position. The plants I got recently were all in a standard height unglazed terracotta pot in 1:1 peat: sand media with Sphagnum top dressing, which I felt was not open enough based on how slowly it drained if wetted (the smell of the media at the bottom of the pot also told me the conditions were anaerobic and thus stagnant).

After the Christmas heat wave, I repotted the last remaining plant into a very coarse mix of 1:1 scoria: Sphagnum, which has worked well for me previously. A note in preparing this mix – it is important that the moss strands are completely separated, as they tend to form clumps or balls that don’t mix evenly with the scoria. I try to mix it by layering spread strands of Sphagnum across the pot and then covering it one stone deep with scoria and repeating.

Here is the result:

Cobra lilly repotted

The plant is clearly not happy given previous treatment – but it had a good, healthy root and rhizome system, so its capable of trying. The new mix drains very quickly, which is a good thing for keeping the medium aerated, while the Sphagnum holds a lot of moisture. The trick will be to flush it out with water every day to keep the moisture up to allow evaporative cooling across the terracotta. I think shallow Terracotta planter bowls work well because they have a larger surface area than a tall pot (if you consider the surface area of the top of the pot as well), which maximises cooling and aeration potential. Not sitting the pot in a deep tray of water also forces water to evaporate from the sides of the pot. I have this plant next to the door of our sunroom where it gets bright, indirect light and a good breeze blowing across it most of the day to help keep it cool. Despite an air temperature of 28C this afternoon, the pot was almost cold to the touch, so it seems to be working.

Here’s hoping!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A farm visit, the AUSCPS Christmas party & the Three Wise Drosera

Sarracenia beds; Strange World Carnivores collection, NSW.

Last Friday was a good CP day on all fronts. Having managed an afternoon off, I visited Owen O’Neil at Strange World Carnivores. Its always a treat to see the tens of thousands of plants he grows.

Sarracenia oreophila x leucophylla; Strange World Carnivores collection, NSW. Sarracenia oreophila x leucophylla; Strange World Carnivores collection, NSW.

One plant that Owen has loads of is this handsome hybrid between S. leucophylla and S. oreophila. It produces decent spring and autumn pitchers.

Sarracenia flava x purpurea backcross; Strange World Carnivores collection, NSW. Sarracenia flava x purpurea backcross; Strange World Carnivores collection, NSW.

Being a S. flava fiend, I also admired this S. x catesbei looking cross.

Owen will be attending the Bus Depot Markets in Canberra right up to Christmas this year, and had some very nice plants on offer last weekend.

After catching up with Owen, I headed back to Canberra for the AUSCPS Christmas party, where I came across one of the most impressive CPs I’ve ever seen: a massive Drosera schizandra grown by meeting coordinator Barry Bradshaw!

Drosera schizandra grown by AUSCPS Canberra coordinator Barry Bradshaw

Here’s my hand for scale:

Drosera schizandra grown by AUSCPS Canberra coordinator Barry Bradshaw

A few meetings back, David Colburn brought some of these beauties down from Sydney to sell (two of which are on my windowsill). They were growing them in coffee jars, and Barry dryly commented “what are you going to do when they get big?”. Now I know what he means! The tube at the bottom of the image is for watering; Barry uses pure live Sphagnum as growing media, with marbles in the base of the bowl for aeration and a water reservoir. The plants get no direct light and are grown indoors, with the temperature not dropping below 20 Celsius.

Barry also brought in the two other Tropical Queensland sisters: D. adelae and D. prolifera. There were all sorts of comments made about The Three Wise Drosera…

Drosera adelae grown by AUSCPS Canberra coordinator Barry Bradshaw Drosera prolifera grown by AUSCPS coordinator Barry Bradshaw

Barry grows all his plants in oversized goldfish bowls, with the D. schizandra and D. prolifera getting some cling wrap over the opening to bump up the humidity. I have some ideas for my plants now, and hope to re-try D. prolifera again next year.

VFT with prey Sarracenia leucophylla with male Common Brown (Heteronympha merope)

To close, here’s some CPs in the collection with prey (and an escapee). More photos to come from the collection soon.