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.