27 Aug Bogged Up: A Sleek Vertical Home for Our Carnivorous Plants
If there’s one plant — one group of plants — that equally amazes and weirds out visitors to our place, it’s our collection of carnivores.
We’ve written about them before: how some entrap their prey passively with intoxicating nectar and slippery surfaces, others with chomping showmanship, and others with gooey liquid reminiscent of fly paper.
Last year we installed a custom habitat in a corner of our garden for our tropical carnivorous plants (Nepenthes) that also doubles as an outdoor shower. And then there was the very first time we grew Venus flytraps back in 2009, along with sundews and American pitchers. Back then, we made bog garden terrariums out of large glass vases, and the plants did well in them for a couple of seasons.
The latter three carnivorous plants covet consistently damp, nutrient-poor soil, a fair amount of sun and high humidity, making them tricky to care for. Not to mention, they need bugs to survive! Meaning, yes — we fed captured live houseflies to our flytraps and sundews the same way you’d feed a mouse to a snake. And yes, we realize this practice might seem creepy as phlox.
This year (after reading a very inspirational book — more on that in a moment) we decided to restart our collection of non-tropical carnivores: flytraps, American pitchers and sundews.
We also decided these plants needed a sexy new home. So, intent on outdoing our earlier terrarium design, Ryan took matters in his own hands and designed a sleek, slightly menacing, Darth Vader-esque set of habitats made from tinted grey acrylic. This required putting his laser cutting skills to the test (by way of the laser cutters at MakerPlace, a membership-based communal workshop). The design goal: to create a modern acrylic bog terrarium that could sit atop a table or hang from an overhead fixture — while fitting in with our garden’s aesthetic. The horticultural goal: to foster a higher-humidity environment that will mimic that plants’ boggy native habitat.
After designing and cutting six of the terrariums (in four prototype designs), Ryan made a large rolling corner display out of construction-grade douglas fir (studs) to place the terrariums vertically against a west facing wall in our garden.
Then it was time again to shop for carnivores. Instead of sourcing our plants from Home Depot (which sometimes sells flytraps, American pitchers and sundews during the growing season), we put in a few orders to the legendary Sebastopol, CA-based California Carnivores, the largest retail carnivorous plant nursery in the U.S., co-operated by Peter D’Amato — author of the landmark Savage Garden, the book that inspired us this year — and by Damon Collingsworth.
We highly recommend the flora from this nursery, and Savage Garden too, which is written with a showmanship that does justice to these meat-loving marvels. “[I]t is usually much easier to introduce the doomed insect into the maw of a Venus flytrap by means of forceps, because you have to stimulate the trigger hairs within the trap; you cannot simply drop the fly in,” D’Amato writes on page 30. “Often the fly escapes just as the trap closes, which is as cruel to the plant as stealing candy from a baby.”
Major motivation for creating a space that not only houses but celebrates carnivores’ ferocious appeal. Continue with us on our bog-in-a-box adventure, below!