Monday, December 22, 2014

Bog garden update

This post has been long overdue and is in no small part due to my recovering broken foot. To be precise, I managed to break one half of the lisfranc joint on my left big toe while chilling at the foot of Thornton’s Peak on a friend’s property. Drosera prolifera is endemic to Thornton’s Peak, so maybe one day I’ll get myself up there to see them. But this post is about the new Sarracenia gardens (I think “bog garden” sounds a bit crass personally). Last time I blogged, they were in the process of being planted. What happened since?

Sarracenia gardens

Sarracenia garden # 1

Pond # 1 is the flava var. atropurpurea / rubricorpora and non-veined flava var. cuprea garden. It also has red VFTs (plus the giant clone, B-52).

Sarracenia garden # 2

Pond # 2 is the flava (excl. atropurpurea & rubricorpora) garden. But a flava var. atropurpurea clone made it in by mistake; I thought I had put it in the appropriate garden and wedged it in here when I found it just as I was finishing up.

Pond # 3 is the hybrid / purpurea / leucophylla and general VFT garden.

As you can see, the gardens have matured, but it has been a frustrating season so far (another reason for the lack of posts). The plants have done well, but for a while I was beginning to think I had made a mistake because it took them a long time to settle in. A few things contributed to this, some natural and some due to design flaws with the gardens themselves. For one, Sarracenia never look good after being repotted. They always take a season to get over it and settle in. Then there was our windy spring, which resulted in a lot of pitchers being deformed. And then there were design flaws.

The major design flaw was not providing an overflow and a drain. It may seem counterintuitive to have a drain in a bog garden, but I learned the hard way. The pond at far left in the above pictures got in a lot of trouble because, during a hot and windy day, I filled it to overflowing to make sure they plants had enough water. This promptly turned the Sphagnum into soup, and allowed many plants to be uprooted in the wind. In the other ponds, even a day of water sitting on the surface saw a lot of live Sphagnum (which were planted in clumps) grow loads of algae.

Overflow bulkhead prior to installation

Here is the bulkhead I used to provide an overflow. It creates a seal with two rubber gaskets. I decided to install them about 2 cm below the surface of the garden; this way there is still a high water table without water pooling on the surface.

Overflow installation on my Sarracenia garden

Installing bulkheads onto the gardens is easy. You need a circular, hole-cutting bit (different to a drill bit) and a high-speed drill. Use gentle but firm pressure to ensure a clean cut and remove any burring with a craft knife. Then fit the inner seal onto the bulkhead, insert the threaded end through the hold from the inside to outside, attach the outer gasket, and tighten the holding nut to finger tight only.

Overflow installed on my Sarracenia garden.

Here is what the bulkhead looks like installed. Sure, you could just drill a hole, but if you ever wanted to use the pond to brim full, a bulkhead provides you with the flexibility to do so. Since they have been installed, I merely fill the garden until water starts to come out the overflow. I am very sure I am using a lot less water than I was using the tray method.

There is a lot more to tell about these gardens, but writing about them will have to wait for another night. The plan is to get out and take a stack of macro photos, upload them to Flickr, and then upload them here and write about it. That will take a few days to organise, so bear with me. Until then, good growing.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Getting back into gear–the 2014 Mt Tomah CP sale

Its been a long while since I posted anything, for good reason – a few months ago I broke my foot and this is my first week sans crutches or moon boots. The CP season is in full swing, and now I’m off on holidays, its time to get back into the blog. To get things started off, here are some pics from the Australasian Carnivorous Plant Society’s sale day at Mount Tomah in the Blue Mountains West of Sydney.

View from Mount Tomah botanic gardens.

The drive to Mount Tomah not something I look forward to – the road is rather awkward with the dogleg through Richmond, the Sydney traffic (terrible by Canberra standards) and multiple speed changes in quick succession as you go up the Blue Mountains themselves. Once you get to Bilpin its smooth sailing – all 10 minutes of it! But it is worth it for the plants, the food (I had a magnificent steak and mushroom pot pie for lunch!) and the view. The day I was there had a wet and stormy afternoon.

Sarracenia on sale at the Australasian CP Society Sale Day

I didn’t make it to the sale until nearly lunchtime, by which time there were some sizeable holes in the offerings. Lyn Hanna took the above photo of the sale table before people were let loose on it. As you can see, Sarracenia were dominating the scene.

Sarracenia on sale at the Australasian CP Society Sale Day

There were a few Nepenthes though, including some magnificent N. ampullaria that went very quickly. I ended up leaving with a number of S. flava clones (what else!) and the famous pink clone of S. leucophylla that originated from a single seedling germinated by the English family near Wollongong in the late 1970s. By the time I left, over half of these plants (and all bar a handfull of Nepenthes) had sold! These photos were taken by Lyn Hanna, and she and her husband Gordon allowed me to post them here. I always enjoy catching up with both Gordon and Lyn, especially since I hadn’t seen them in several years.

Waterfall at Mt Tomah Botanic Gardens

What I also love about going to the sale days at Mt Tomah is the chance to wander through the alpine gardens. They are beautiful, especially if you are like me and enjoy alpine and cool climate plants and landscapes. The waterfall adds a special ambience to the gardens, and feeds their stunning bog garden.

Panorama of the bog garden, Mt Tomah Botanic Gardens

The bog garden at Mt Tomah is beautifully landscaped and a pleasure to spend time at.

Panorama of the Mt Tomah Bog Garden

The substrate is coco peat and live Sphagnum moss, which grows in billowy carpets. Apparently, the gardens are soon to be re-planted.

Here are some close-ups of the bog and its inhabitants:

Pygmy drosera

Apparently, when the bog was set up, great care was taken to ensure all soil was removed from the plants to prevent non-indigenous Drosera and Utricularia making it into the garden. Well, some gemmae and seeds must have hung on pretty hard, as Interspersed through the Sphagnum are thousands of tiny pygmy Drosera, which I was once told were a hybrid, plus Utricularia subalata, U. praelonga and the infamous Drosera capensis.

Drosera and Dionaea

Dionaea (flytraps) are always crowd pleasers, except they are apparently very often stolen. Note the yellow Utricularia praelonga flowers and both normal and form alba of Drosera capensis.

Sarracenia flava in the Mt Tomah Bog Garden

This Sarracenia flava var. flava is a plant I have dubbed the NSW clone. I need to re-gain this plant for my collection… read about my bog garden woes which are coming up soon. In the background are some alata x psittacina and giant form S. minor.

Sphagnum cristatum and inhabitants

Drosera rotundifolia also grows prolifically in the garden. I suspect a dense covering of low, spreading herbs helps keep the Sphagnum protected during hot weather. The herb with heavily divided leaves are a type of native Geranium. We had a rather large and lanky species in the south of Canberra that became a garden weed.

Utricularia dichotoma

Here is a flower of our native Utrricularia dichotoma. My plants have done very well since going into the new bog gardens.

Ply Sarracenia figurine

To raise awareness of the CP sale, there were some figurines of Sarracenia placed through the garden, including this S. minor look-a-like.

Overhead pano of the Mount Tomah botanic gardens bog

And to close, an overhead view of the bog garden.

And speaking of bog gardens, I have been patiently waiting to provide an update of my bog gardens. Stay tuned, as I have some suggestions on how to (and how not to) build bog gardens for carnivorous plants.

Until then, happy growing!