Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in advance from the Pitcher Plantation!

FRT 1-1_tallest pitcher_blog
An 80-something cm (nearly 3 feet) tall pitcher of my favourite plant,
Sarracenia flava var. atropurpurea “FRT 1-1”. This pitcher was produced last season; the plants have not yet forgiven me for repotting and fertilising them this season, and are still sulking! This is the biggest Sarracenia I have ever grown.

We are moving! As of this Friday, we will be packing up the Sarracenia collection. Our new house looks like it will be very amenable to Sarracenia growing, so here’s hoping! As it will take 2-3 weeks for our new internet to be connected (!), there will be no updates to the blog until next year.
In the meantime, we would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy, successful and prosperous 2013. Take care over the silly season and stay safe too.

The Bog Man and His Secret Garden – the story of Rob Sacilotto and why our hobby should become so much more than growing plants for pleasure


Rob Sacilotto and some of his many Sarracenia. Photo: © Patricia Lyons, reproduced here with the permission of Garden & Gun Magazine, whom I thank for their generosity.

This story is very inspiring to read: http://gardenandgun.com/article/bog-man-and-his-secret-garden

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Outdoor growing – bring on the colour!

outdoors and loving it

Here is the overflow collection, growing happily in the full sun. These plants were all split late last summer because the parent plants had grown too dense and had started to experience rhizome rot. I had them in the greenhouse to start with, but soon moved them outdoors because they stopped me entering through the door!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Australasian Carnivorous Plant Society Meeting on 9 November 2012

I managed to get up to Sydney yesterday to attend the Australasian Carnivorous Plant Society meeting, which was a talk by Robert Gibson on his trip to Los Angeles and the ICPS 2012 conference plus field trips. Here are a few photos of the display plants:

Helmut's all red flava_blog

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The pros and cons of fertilising Sarracenia–and what happens if you overfertilise them

You don’t have to fertilise to get lovely Sarracenia! This is a Sarracenia flava var. cuprea ex Gotcha! Plants. Fortunately, it survived the fertiliser carnage described later on this page.

Prologue - If you are an experienced CP grower and read only one article on my blog, it should be this one. I wrote it in response to questions people had asked me about fertiliser use in late 2012. By mid summer, I had lost significant numbers of plants to what I thought was a weird fungal rot. I later learned it was fertiliser burn.

Fertilising Sarracenia is a relatively new thing. It was not usually mentioned in the original texts on CPs (although I think Schwartz in his 1970s book did suggest it from memory), and even today opinions vary widely on how to fertilise and what the benefits are.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Monday, October 1, 2012

Nipping Sarracenia in the bud

Sarracenia flava shooting

A few years back, I tried de-budding Sarracenia after repotting to see whether it made a difference. Although the trial consisted of one plant, it was a lot larger than a duplicate that was allowed to flower by the end of the season. This year, seeing I was not interested in making seed, I set about de-budding every repotted Sarracenia.

(Bad iphone photos of) Nepenthes at the Sydney Botanic Gardens Tropical Centre

The Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney were the location of the International Carnivorous Plant Society Conference way back in 2008. Located in the heart of Sydney, right on the harbour, it provides a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.

RSBG_tropical centre

Monday, September 3, 2012

Recent happenings


Its been a busy winter here in chilly Canberra – not that you’d know from the blog, which has been silent for some months! Among other things, I’ve had to balance a work trip of three weeks and a complete repotting of the entire Sarracenia collection.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012



Welcome to a Canberra winter morning! This was our backyard yesterday morning – the temperature was a fresh –4*C! There was a nice coating of frost over the lawn, and the Sarracenia growing outside.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A dormant collection…

Dormant greenhouse

Winter arrived a little early this year. Normally, the cold starts in early May, but this year we had two days of frost immediately after Easter, complete with snow in the Tinderry Ranges (30 km south of us) on the night of Easter Monday (9th April) and frost here the following two mornings. The plants normally go dormant before the cold and, true to form, they were down in late March. Here is the greenhouse collection as of yesterday evening, trimmed and ready for the winter. Compare with the collection in full growth earlier this year:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Sarracenia rhizome issues


Sarracenia rhizomes do strange things. This plant, a S. flava var. flava from Gotcha!, buried itself deep into the substrate (although the Sphagnum growing over it probably did not help). This spring, it put up a nice flower… and then nothing. When Sarracenia do this, it means the growing point has failed after the flower for some reason.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Autumn splendour: Sarracenia alabamensis ssp. alabamensis


While spring is great for Sarracenia flava, they are more or less finished serious pitcher production by mid January. By the time February comes around, they are getting quite floppy and starting to produce phyllodia. It is this time of year I enjoy members of the Sarracenia rubra complex, which do the inverse of Sarracenia flava  - produce floppy, phyllodiform pitchers in spring and summer, followed by nice pitchers in late summer. Growing a mix of spring- and summer-peaking species is great – it gives you a spectacular show year around!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Revenge of the mealybugs!

A few years ago, I picked up a plant – not sure where exactly – that had mealybugs on it. They have been the bane of my plant growing ever since. Every year, they re-surface on one poor plant or another, appearing without much warning in their hundreds. By this stage, they will already be on plants nearby, and if I’m not quick enough with applying pesticide, they will be on every plant in my greenhouse.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Breaking My Venus’s Flytrap Curse…

The patient, ever hungry mouth of a Venus' Flytrap.

Venus’s flytrap (Dionaea muscipula or VFT for short) is without doubt the iconic carnivorous plant and the one most people are familiar with. Unfortunately, most people also have a story that sounds something like “I brought a Venus’s flytrap, but it died”! I, too, have brought – and killed – lots of VFTs in my life. In fact, it was nearly 19 years ago today that I got my first VFT. It lasted about a year before it died. The next pot of them did not even last that long, neither did the next, or the next. No matter what I did – and I had quite a library of books at my disposal for advice – my VFTs died. I did exactly what the books said – full sun, lots of water in summer, drier in winter, peat moss and sand for soil. Winter temperatures should have been alright, as I grew Sarracenia easily. Nonetheless, they died right next to Sarracenia that were thriving, under the same conditions. I tried them in pots, in terrariums, in bog gardens – they all died equally well.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Monday, January 2, 2012

Nursery reviews # 1, Part 1: Gotcha! Plants, Queensland

Gotcha! plants is, in my opinion, far and away the best supplier of carnivorous plants in Australia – if not the best in the world – because they grow every plant they sell from seed and are continually striving to breed better plants every year. Their range is therefore always increasing and the quality of their species and hybrids is nothing short of spectacular. As if this was not enough, Gotcha! this year acquired the entire holdings of another carnivorous plant nursery – Fly Free Zone – whose owners (David & Felicity Martin) had spent the best part of 30 years breeding and selecting some of the best Sarracenia in cultivation anywhere. Gotcha’s manager, John Creevey, even described David Martin as the “Geoff Mansell of the Sarracenia - an impressive compliment given Gotcha! and Fly Free Zone were competitors at the time. Not that John can talk though – his plants are the Rolls Royce’s of Sarracenia! We’ll see David and Felicity’s plants in part 2.


Nursery reviews # 1, Part 2: Gotcha! Plants, Queensland

This half of the Gotcha! Plants review focuses on the collection of the former CP nursery Fly Free Zone.
Fly Free Zone was a CP nursery run by David and Felicity Martin. They went commercial around 1994, but David had been growing Sarracenia, Nepenthes and Dionaea for some 20 years before that. And when I say growing, I mean he started off with different species that he grew from seed (mostly from the late Fred Howell) and started crossing them to produce hybrids. He then selected the best, based on their colour and vigour. These things truly set David’s plants apart – the colours of his hybrids are breathtaking and his plants tend to form nice, compact rhizomes and strongly clumped plants. They are near-perfect in cultivation – their compact growth means you can have a large variety of plants in a relatively small space. I have been growing these plants since they appeared in 1994. Sadly, David & Felicity closed up shop last year and moved north, with the Sarracenia going to Gotcha! Plants. I was fortunate to receive a lot of his S. flava, some of which were started from seed in 1979!

The world's largest form of Drosera binata


Could this be the biggest form of Drosera binata in existance?