Thursday, December 6, 2007

THE CARNIVORES ON THE PATIO

Patio Garden, Summer 2007

N. Copelandi, Highland Sumatra
Dec. 6, 2007

S. alata + orophelia (Sarracinia Hybrid)
May 2006 - shortly after arrival

Sarracinia with Blossom
Summer 2007

The Carnivores
Dec. 6, 2007

I don’t have a whole heck of a lot of room to keep plants on my little patio outside the back door. There are two houses on the lot and my landlords (who are the coolest on earth) live in the back. My backyard is really their front yard, and it’s a paved patio really. My front yard has limited growing space, all enclosed in brick planters. I have front steps as well, on which I keep potted plants. I also have a few cactus and succulents in pots under the kitchen greenhouse window at the head of the driveway.

 

But I love plants and became interested in so-called ‘carnivorous’ plants in 2006. I was especially intrigued with the tropical pitcher plants of the Nepethe family and the North American pitcher plants called Sarracinias, which are mostly native to the Southern US. These strange and beautiful plants are truly fascinating and having them is like bringing a bit of the tropics into one’s home. I bought a small selection of specimens from an online seller and eagerly awaited their arrival.

 

They came quickly and were packed well; they set the 4” pots inside large Styrofoam cups (I know, I know—not very eco-friendly) and another cup inverted taped to the top. And they only ship one of several very fast methods to ensure that they don’t spend too much time cooped up on the road.

 

I set up a little area with some wrought iron table frames and miscellaneous squares of slate. I put out an old plastic litter box for the Sarracinias, whose pots need to be submerged in about 2” of water. And not just any water—it has to be distilled water because the minerals and salts in tap water will kill the plants. This goes for watering the Nepenthes; only distilled for them, too. The Nepenthes, because their pitchers hang down from the pots, had to be elevated. My plan is to hang them from the rafters of the patio when they get bigger, but they are still pretty small for that. So for now they are on the shelf arrangement I made for them (see photo above).

 

The growers recommend adding dead flies, etc. to the pitchers of Nepenthe if they don’t appear to be attracting them on their own, for purposes of fertilizing and nutrients. I have not had to do that with mine; they seem to be thriving without the addition of food. This summer they threw out pitchers like crazy and grew quite large. I think they might be ready for a 6” pot and ready to hang, but I won't be able to transplant them to bigger pots until spring.

 

The Sarracinias have grown, too, especially the alata hybrid. I put it in a 6" pot and it really took off. These plants DO attract flies and last fall when I was trimming down the old pitchers, one of them was positively crammed with dead flies! Yuck! But that’s what they do, so who am I to squirm about it? At least I don’t have to feed them mice or something like I would with a snake.

 

I was amazed at how easy these plants are to grow and take care of. It is a marvelous thing to be able to have something exotic like this to watch right outside my back door. The cost wasn’t much to get started and it only requires buying a couple gallon jugs of distilled water every couple of weeks. A small price for so much enjoyment!


[Composed during a musical romp by Tangerine Dream entitled "Poland" -- a live performance in Warsaw]

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