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"Is there a Carnivorous Bog Garden in Your Future?" by the Whistling Gardener

Of all of the wonderfully exotic species of plants on this globe we call home, carnivorous bog plants have got to be high on the list when it comes to weirdness. They absolutely look like they belong on some alien planet, despite the fact that many of them are actually native to our very own part of the world.
Carnivorous Plant. Photo courtesy of Sunnyside Nursery.

This column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.

Of all of the wonderfully exotic species of plants on this globe we call home, carnivorous bog plants have got to be high on the list when it comes to weirdness.

They absolutely look like they belong on some alien planet, despite the fact that many of them are actually native to our very own part of the world and can be found from the humid climates of the east coast all the way out to the Pacific Northwest. 

And while they certainly don’t have the stature or impact of a 150-foot-tall redwood or Western Red Cedar, they have carved out a niche for themselves in our ecosystems where they are quite happy and thriving. 

Incredible as it might sound, with a few modifications, we can actually grow these jewels successfully in our gardens, or at the bare minimum, in containers for our viewing pleasure.

Of the four main varieties of CBP’s (that’s shorthand for carnivorous bog plants), pitcher plants (Sarracenia species), cobra lilies, sundews, and Venus fly traps are the most domesticated and hybridized of the lot. 

Just north of me in Stanwood is a fellow hortaholic” named Jerry Addington, who was smitten by these plants several years ago after getting burned out from growing every conceivable variation and mutation of hens and chicks” succulents (Jerry never does anything halfway). 

Turning his greenhouse from an arid environment into a humid microclimate, Jerry then let his passions run wild. He painstakingly, with a small paint brush, made cross after cross of varieties, harvesting and sowing the seeds, selecting and transplanting the progeny, and then waiting, often for several years, to see the results of his breeding. 

I have made several trips up to his business and am always in awe of his patience and perseverance. His company, Courting Frogs Nursery, and Jerry himself, have become internationally recognized in the world of CBP’s and is the wholesale supplier for our nursery and many others across the country. 

As a side note, you really need to visit his website and read Jerry’s story, it is a delightful piece of composition.

As for establishing CBP’s in our landscapes, they grow best in wet, acidic soils with full sun and don’t need to be fed (that’s what the bugs are for).

All that is required is a hole in the ground that retains moisture, which can be accomplished by either installing a pond liner or submerging a bathtub or plastic garden pool. Drill a few ¼ inch holes in the bottom or sides to allow excess water to drain out. 

The perfect soil for these plants is a blend of peat moss and sand or perlite or pumice, in a ratio of about two parts peat to one part sand. Soak the mixture down really well before you plant and monitor the water level.

It helps to bury an empty nursery pot (the top of the pot at surface level) so you can see the water in the pot deplete, helping you determine when it is time to add water.

A small bog garden can be a real conversation piece, and as an added bonus, these plants will help control unwanted insects like flies and mosquitos. If, however, the thought of digging up your yard to accommodate their special needs is more than you can deal with, you can also enjoy CBP’s by planting them in a container that retains lots of moisture.  Simply keep them well watered and enjoy. It’s that simple. 

Stay safe and keep on gardening!

Sunnyside’s free online class will be returning with "Thrillers, Fillers, & Spillers" on Saturday, May 22nd, at 10:00 am; and "Cascading Color" on Sunday, May 23rd, at 11:00 am.

To sign up or for information, visit www.sunnysidenursery.net/classes.

We will also be hosting in-house free events that coordinate with the classes - "Free Container Planting Day" on Saturday, May 22nd from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm; and "Free Hanging Basket Planting Day" Sunday, May 23rd, from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.  More information can be found on our website at www.sunnysidenursery.net/events.

Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville, WA, and can be reached at sunnysidenursery@msn.com.

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