I’m just back from a few days with family in Sebastapol, up in the Russian River and Sonoma Valley wine country north of San Francisco. I’ll post on the garden destinations I managed to drag people to while we were up there, but I’ll start backwards with one of the events on the way home yesterday.
On the return trip the car was plagued for a few minutes by this fly that kept buzzing around the inside of the car, evading all our attempts to shoo it out the windows. In the back seat we had three plants that were my souvenirs from a visit to California Carnivores, a carnivorous plant specialty nursery that was just five minutes form the hotel where we stayed. (I’ll post more on the nursery visit later.)
One of the plants was this sundew, Drosera filiformis ssp. filiformis ‘Florida Giant.’ Well, I think you know where this story is headed…
When we got home John noticed that a fly had been trapped by the sundew, most likely the one that had been annoying us at the beginning of the trip. That explains why we hadn’t noticed the insect after the first few minutes of the return trip.
After this experience I’d like to suggest that every automotive manufacturer should make a drosera standard equipment on all their models, especially for this buggy time of the year…
Yesterday saw some of my pitcher plants opening up their springtime blooms. These are carnivorous plants that primarily dine on insects that slide into leaves which have evolved into elegant long tubes that contain a digestive juice at the bottom. (See the young Sarracenia leucophylla ‘Tarnok’ pitchers in the picture to the left.)
Almost all the species have evolved so that they flower, offering nectar to their guests, before they develop their mature pitchers–effectively helping assure their reproduction by not dining on their pollinators. These soft yellow flowers appear on Sarracenia alata, the pale or yellow trumpet.
Sarracenia leucophylla ‘Giant’ looks like it’s only a couple days behind in its flowering schedule. This bud is about to open to a dark red little mop of petals.
In the “eat-or-be-eaten” world of carnivorous plants, it’s interesting to see that it’s not the plants that always have the upper hand in their relationship with insects. Here the top of an emerging pitcher has been munched on by some insect.
This was my first pitcher plant, purchased in the flower aisle of the local Trader Joe’s store. (It must have been a special purchase because I’ve never seen them there again…) Like many plants sold for decoration, it came with no label. I want to know the name of everything, so this bothers me to no end. (It could be the common decorative hybrid Sarracenia Judith Hindle, or it might not…)
I’m still fairly new to pitcher plants, so I can’t offer much advice on growing them other than to keep them wet, and to use good-quality water. These are about as far from drought-tolerant plants as you’ll ever encounter. And to that I might add that when given an option to select between potting them in half-peat/half-sand or half-peat/half-perlite, choose the sand mixture, at least if you’re doing a little bog planting. Otherwise the perlite just floats to the top, looking like little styrofoam peanuts that have floated to the surface of a polluted lake. Not pretty. If I were ever to re-do the bog, that would be the first thing I’d do differently.
I’ve been working on printing some of my Yellowstone photographs. While I wait for the scanner to scan and the printer to do its thing it’s a perfect opportunity to step outside and snap some random pictures of what’s going on in the garden.
The first Cherokee Purple tomato, grown from seed saved from farmer’s market tomatoes last year: I’ve been watching it turn color for a week now, and I thought it was finally time to pick it. It’s smaller than most of the other fruits on the plant, but I’m guessing it’ll be pretty tasty…
Peruvian daffodil (Hymenocallis festalis): John’s sister sent down a little package of presents the last time she visited over ten years ago. A bulb of this plant was in that package. That one bulb has multiplied all over the place, some in places where we put it, others in places where soil with the some bulb offsets was moved to. And some are even coming in places–like the lawn–where it probably have only arrived via seed.
This plant clearly has a life wish. No problem. We like it. It’s happy with little or heavy watering, dappled shade to full sun. And it smells great.
A moth that died in the arms of Drosera dichotoma ‘Giant,’ a carnivorous sundew in the bog garden: When I first put out some carnivores I was thinking, “Ooh cool! Bug-eating plants!” Now that I’m starting to see all the carnage–this moth, plenty of gnats, and a beautiful orange dragonfly–I’m starting to worry about my ethics. I’m a vegetarian, so why can’t the plants be too? Still, I guess it’s some sort of karmic payback: I eat veggies, so some of my veggies eat meat.
The flowering stem of another carnivore, Drosera x ‘Marston Dragon.’ Droseras have a reputation for reseeding like weeds. No weeds spotted so far, but it’s early yet in the season…
This sad little lupine is the descendant of a package of seeds that were given out at a wedding we went to on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. There was a bare spot in the yard, so the package got emptied into it. But there was a reason the spot was bare: The area got almost no water and even weeds had a hard time getting a hold. The lupines never have attained much size–this one is less than four inches tall–but enough keep coming back to remind us of that misty summer day.
And oh yeah, here are a couple of the images I’m printing up. The first one: Undine Falls, Yellowstone National Park. The second: Tower Falls Viewpoint, Yellowstone National park.
I’ve been looking at WORDSWITHOUTPICTURES, an interesting online journal and discussion space hosted by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. True to its name, the site is a big pile of words without a single picture, an action that’s particularly willful since the topic of the site is photography! Actually, since the real reason for the site’s existence is criticism and discussions about photography, the decisions to suppress the imagery might actually be appropriate.
Even without pictures, the site is no visual slouch. Designed in just black and white, using three fonts in compelling, graphic ways, the site calls to mind Bauhaus, De Stijl and Constructivist experiments filtered through contemporary web stylesheets. What can you do with a few horizontal borders mixed with helvetica, times and courrier using bold font weights and -1 to -3 letter spacing? Take a look!
And yes there is a garden connection with all this. There was a recent interview with Charlotte Cotton, the new Curator of Photography at LACMA and the main person behind the site. In it, the interviewer described her apartment in a building in the Wilshire District near the museum, an apartment that was decorated tastefully as you might expect. But the apartment also included a collection of carnivorous plants!