13 January 2010
In The Garden With the Fluvanna Master Gardeners
By Irene C. Burke - Fluvanna Master Gardener
Fluvanna County Extension Office: 434.591.1950
In the 1960 comedy, The Little Shop of Horrors, Seymour crosses a butterwort and a Venus flytrap to create Audry, a people-eating plant. Though set in a grimy, depressed area of Los Angeles, it seems to me a snowstorm and some cabin fever can lead to similar tinkering.
After reading The Savage Garden by Peter DAmato during the blizzard of 2009, Ive decided to try my hand at carnivorous plants in the naturally boggy areas of my garden as well as a terrarium. On a former property, native sundew found a small seep to their liking. Perhaps I can convince a native Virginia pitcher plant to take up residence in Fluvanna.
Though DAmatos 1998 work recommends pesticides, fertilizers and soil components that are contrary to sustainable landscape management, you can make successful modifications using more current research, and the recommendations of the International Carnivorous Plant Society (ICPS).
Principle #1: Never cull native plants from the wild for your garden. They are unlikely to survive transplant shock and may be endangered and protected.
Principle #2: Never introduce a non-native (exotic species) carnivorous plant into your garden. That includes plants from the U.S. but not native to Central Virginia or wherever your garden is located. The ICPS aptly calls this biological pollution. Your transplant will artificially contaminate the local gene pool of a native plant and may then out-compete the local, perhaps endangered native.
Principle #3: Purchase from a reputable nursery that clearly indicates its sources and whose sources comply with U.S. regulations for plant collection, culture, propagation and distribution. The ICPS website provides a list of nurseries at http://www.carnivorousplants.org/. They recommend that you patronize Dedicated carnivorous plant nurseries the best places to buy carnivorous plants, especially for the beginner.
Know what climate the plant likes before thinking you can train a plant to like where you place it. This will save you time and money, and perhaps a complete redesign of some indoor space. DAmatos book clearly formats basic information about a plants suitability for a natural (your garden) or artificial climate (a terrarium). The ICPS in its FAQ section, supplements DAmato with current best practices.
If this winter proves more brutal than expected, a carnivorous plant project will surely capture your kids interest after an exhausting day of sledding.
Whet their appetites with some gory drama from YouTube. Enter carnivorous plants in the search window to find macabre scenes like the autopsy of a mouse-eating pitcher plant. Turn up the volume for creepy music.
Sundews are the easiest for beginners, not Venus flytraps. The ICPS website lists three more. These plants are less picky about their environment, but if you do not duplicate it, they will protest.
To control humidity, cut off the bottom of a cleaned 2-liter plastic bottle and pop it over your sundew. Give it the sunniest location; dont drown it. Feed it the hapless fruit flies hovering over the bananas or all those stinkbugs crawling about. Cabin fever conquered!
Tip of the Week
Just before the next snowfall, gently lift deer netting from shrubs so that a heavy accumulation does not crush and snap branches. Replace after greenery is exposed because the tender tips will surely entice the deer to your garden buffet.