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Friday, April 18, 2014

Sarracenia t-shirts to support the NASC & Sarracenia forum!

The Sarracenia forum have launched a t-shirt campaign through Teespring to promote their excellent forum and raise money to support the North American Sarracenia Conservancy. Both are seriously great things to support, so get behind them if you haven’t already.

Here is the link to the online order form:

They are around US$20 each, available in a few styles, and can be got the campaign ends in just over two weeks from today.

Thanks Melody (Hooray! Plants) for making me aware of this.

Changes to the collection coming with this year’s repotting!

Its been a while since I posted, so here is an update on what’s happening. Above is a shot of the collection a few months back. Note the area behind the plants…

Here is the same view now. Note the gravel and the pond shells replacing the bare earth? This is the new collection area, which will free up our paved entertaining area.

The intention is that the collection will be consolidated during this Winter’s repot and go into the ponds, which will serve as giant, potted bog gardens. The advantage of this method is that it is easy to maintain water levels, display the plants and provide the added bonus of habitat for frogs and dragonflies. I will be putting white cloud mountain minnows (Tanichthys albonubes) in to clean up any mosquitoes (and not eat the frogs!). Inspiration for this approach came from the Sarracenia forum’s master grower Meizzwang, whose collection shots can be seen on the forum here. He uses wading pools to house his plants, and they look amazing.

As for the reason for collection consolidation – well, you eventually reach a point where you realise you cannot have everything. The pond approach kind of enforces this. Between the two ponds, I can fit in 20 pots at either 250 or 300 mm each comfortably, including a 400 mm in the rear middle of each as a centrepiece. Smaller pots – well, yes they allow more plants, but the light penetration is not so great once they get growing, and the collection in smaller pots did not do so well as those in the big pots in our hot summer. The larger pots seemed to provide a more stable environment by the virtue of their size, and looked awesome to boot!

I plan to mass plant each pot with individual clones or comparable hybrids (maybe 4-8 rhizomes each), which should mean they will look amazing mid Summer. The spacing between pots will allow plenty of light in to everything for colour, trap humidity and keep a good microclimate going on, while allowing room for fish and other fauna to be happy. The idea is that the pots will also be below the rim of the pond so the Sphagnum can go nuts. I will also double pot so that the outer pot – whose bottom 50 mm will be full of pond gravel – will act as a place holder, so I can lift plants in and out without having to disturb everything.

I have way more than 24 clones of Sarracenia – see the grow list. So what is staying? My favourite clones of Sarracenia flava (can you say 400 mm pot mass planted with S. flava var. atropurpurea “FRT 1-1”?), a few hybrids, the leucophylla “Tarnok” and a few other species. I am sure what stays and what goes will be a moving feast for a while…

For a small number of clones, I will barely have enough to plant such large pots, while for most others I will have plenty of spares. So what will happen to the spares? I am throwing over between a bare-root, mail order dormancy sale (Australian eastern states only) or via the AUSCPS meetings later this year. Stay tuned for what happens, but if you are after something in particular (but not the FRT 1-1 or the Tarnoks – there are just enough for my needs at the moment!), drop me an email.

I do plan on keeping one of the current trays to allow me to do some Sarracenia from seed. I have a bunch of seedlings maturing now (maybe flowering this season for a few flava var. rugellii, and am anxious to see how they turn out. I also have seedlings from previous seasons coming up too. The seedling trays also allow me to keep weedy Drosera going in the collection, as they are dormant when I usually do repotting and often get inadvertently thrown out, no matter how careful you are. This is especially true of annuals like D. burmannii. I am also tempted to have a small side tray just for each of the D. binata clones I have – they look awesome in 200 mm pots!

So watch this space!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

More butterflies on the Sarracenia

A while back, I posted about an unusual capture by one of my Sarracenia leucophylla 'Tarnok' plants - it caught a relatively large butterfly. Over the course of this summer, I kept an eye on what Lepidoptera were hanging around the pitcher plants. The same butterfly caught earlier, the common brown (Heteronympha merope), was a regular visitor, as was the grapevine moth (Phalaenoides glycinae). The latter was more frequently seen, but hard to approach.
However, I did manage to snap some shots of another male common brown nectaring on Gotcha! Plant's giant clone of Sarracenia flava var. rubricorpora:

Here is a closer shot, wings closed:
And another shot, wings open:
This male was not caught, probably because of my presence. As the traps will soon go down for winter, I will dissect a few to see what was caught. Until then, happy growing, and good luck for this year's season to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Best. Season. EVER!!!!!!

I suppose most growers say that every year is the best year yet. Likewise, I say every year that this year's growth has been the best ever, and every time I tell the truth, probably because Sarracenia get better as they get older. Accordingly, this year's crop of pitchers is without doubt the best I have ever grown. The largest pitchers in the photo above are well over 60 cm tall, approaching 70 cm in one flava var. rubricorpora and my favourite S. flava, a var. atropurpurea called FRT 1-1.

One take away message I got from this season is that multiple divisions in big pots definitely are the way to go. The plants above are the ones I have learned this from. Last time I repotted, I put 4-8 divisions per 8"/20 cm pot because we were about to move house and I didn't have the time or space to do everything separately.

This strategy seems to work well because the clumps that are produced over time seem to create a microclimate that supports better pitchering. Take for example this S. flava var. cuprea "F1", a 35 year old clone originating from the collection of David Martin (the heat has bleached out the copper lids). This pot started out in 2012 with four divisions, and is now very bushy. Compared with smaller pots, it has no deformed primary pitchers, and is still producing half-pitchers, with phyllodes following. In contrast, the plants in smaller pots had a much higher rate of aborted or deformed pitchers during windy and/or hot weather, with only those plants in the middle or at the opposite end of the tray to the wind producing the best pitchers. In addition, the pH of larger pots is far more stable, meaning less repotting. If I wanted to, I could leave this plant go another year because a recent pH test showed the peat still has a pH of 4.5.

Here are some close ups of some of the better plants this season, in no particular order:

My all time favourite Sarracenia - S. flava var. atropurpurea "FRT 1-1".

This year, they got to 60+ cm, but they can get to 90+ cm! Maybe next year... Oh, and none of these photos are in any way 'shopped. The only correction I made was to tweak the contrast (not the colour balance!) to get rid of glare. FRT 1-1 really is this red! It is the best atropurpurea I have ever encountered.

This is a Sarracenia flava backcross of unknown parentage. It was a creation of David Martin, the owner of the now defunct Fly Free Zone. It reaches its peak mid summer. David was a master hybridiser. Note the pitcher at rear right was split open during hail late last year.

Sarracenia flava var. flava, reputed to be Slack's Maxima. It was imported specially from Germany in the early 1980s by noted Pinguicula grower Helmut Kibelis, who also produced the leucophylla clone Helmut's Delight. Whatever it is, this is one of the best flava var. flava here in Oz in terms of colour, although it can get a little floppy as the season wears on. It is a moderate divider.
Another flava var. flava, this clone is widely distributed in Australia - I have brought it as both var. flava and var. ornata of at least three people. IMHO, this is a good var. flava; its venation is not quite extensive enough to be an ornata. This plant can also get very tall; alas, it was in a smaller pot this year and, while producing nice pitchers, did not quite crack 40 cm. Next repotting, I will put all divisions of this clone into a 20 cm pot and watch what happens.
Sarracenia flava var. maxima, the all green variety, is uncommon in Australia - it was the last variety I managed to acquire. I grow four clones; three are Carolina seedlings from Ron Abernethy, and this clone that is again common regionally - Victoria to be precise - but not elsewhere. This is again another large plant, but again it was in too small a pot with too few divisions to reach its potential. Still, it cracked 50 cm this year, so not bad. I have only three or four divisions so far. Many var. maxima clones here are impostors, especially a clone circulating in many NSW collections that is actually a flava x alata cross.

A red tube - flava var. rubricorpora. This clone came from Steve Amoroso, who sells plants on Canterbury Road in Summer Hill, Sydney. It stands out because it holds its colour the best through even hot summers, but does not always get as red as this, especially after repotting. Another clone I grow, FRT-1, invariably gets very red, but looses its colour once it gets consistently hot daytime maximums. Maybe I need to cross these plants, although this clone has not flowered for me as yet. 
Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea, complete with photobombing Utricularia. A seed grown clone from the collection of another local Sarracenia grower, it gets part solid red, part covered in thick red venation. This plant was only a few cms across last year, so I am looking forward to seeing how big it can get. Again, the best purpurea I have ever grown were in large pots that allowed them to spread out. 

Sarracenia 'Scarlett Belle'. John Creevey of Gotcha! Plants imported it as tissue cultures, and it is a best seller for him. David Martin once had a clone similar to this, but with much larger white windows. It was magnificent! Sadly, he seemed to have lost it some years ago, as I went through his collection looking for it. I foolishly left my plants in an in-ground bog garden when my parents moved house in the early 2000s, thinking I could easily get it again.
A Sarracenia x mitchelliana looking thing bred by David Martin, probably crossed to a leucophylla x rubra or even selfed. This is only a small plant, with pitchers not quite getting to 30 cm at flowering age. It pitchers non-stop once the season starts, and divides reasonably freely. I once had a similar plant to this whose white windows filled in pink-red within a few weeks of the pitcher opening! Again, I left it behind thinking I could get it again...

One plant I've sadly let go a bit is my Cephalotus. These plants are not in the best spot here, and they need frequent spraying with sulphur to clean up outbreaks of downy mildew. I've also let them dry out a bit too long between waterings, which hasn't helped. Still, they are pitchering nicely, albeit with very small traps - to give a sense of scale, the pygmy sundews around it are dormant D. palacaea, and the Nepenthes tendril is from a neighboring N. sanguinea.

The Sarracenia are pretty much done for this year now, or at least the species I grow, with only a few later summer pitchers and phyllodes yet to come. To close, I am planning a major collection re-vamp that will blend the Sarracenia into the garden and hopefully make them look more awesome than ever! I have just to finish some general landscaping before I can get started on it. Its repotting year too, so I am hoping to get some nice photo essays done to update the how-to pages. In the meantime, happy growing, and wishing those in North America and Europe a successful start to the 2014 season.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Video of Mike King's Sarracenia collection (Shropshire Sarracenias)

Mike King's collection/nursery - Shropshire Sarracenia's - is the stuff of legend among Sarracenia fanatics. I was mucking around on YouTube tonight and came across a virtual tour of his nursery that he had posted. Now THIS is a collection! And just look at the colours! Just magnificent...