Ewen's garden

A collection of columns, paintings and photographs about gardening on an offshore island in New Zealand.

Thursday, June 01, 2006


Recently I bought three insectivorous plants, two of which were forms of the genus Sarracenia comprising only about six species but 18 plus hybrids. The plants were named for Dr. Sarrizin of Quebec who first sent specimens to Europe from North America in the 17th century. The leaves are basically fly traps, in the form of slender tubes (bladders) broadening to the tip and fitted with a lid. The unsuspecting insect approaches and upon delving inside is trapped and unable to escape! Once inside the ‘bladder’, the plant digests the insects, absorbing nitrogen in an assimilable form. These bladder leaves have red venation giving them a rather sinister appearance like miniature participants from ‘Day of the Triffids’.
The second genus is a pitcher plant, Nepenthes, a genus of some forty species and many more hybrids. They are natives of South East Asia and are of bog habitats or epiphytic, climbing through the limbs of small trees. The species I have is of the bog variety. Nepenthes have ‘pitchers’ suspended from the tips of its leaves by thin tendrils. The mouth to the pitcher has glands secreting honey which attracts the insects. Once inside they are on ‘the slippery slope’, reaching liquid at the bottom in which they drown. The plant is then able to digest its imprisoned wee beasts at leisure. By all accounts both genera are not difficult of cultivation, their main requirement would appear to be moisture during the summer. In light of this I have planted both in my bog garden; I suspect I shall have to mist them during the height of summer. I have put small rocks around them in the hope this will assist in moisture retention and also keep them a little warmer during the winter. One can but try! Adjacent to this garden I have some subtropical plants, as this is where the irrigation field for our septic is. To this planting I have recently added a velvety black leafed taro, colocasia sp. and a parataniwha, Elatostema rugosum. The parataniwha I hope will survive adjacent to the bog garden as it too requires good moist soil and will benefit from the shelter of the bananas. The natural habitat is Taranaki, King country, and moist areas of the Kauri forests. I have seen it growing abundantly around the Waitomo caves region where it forms thickets 50cm high plants. The leaves are slightly purple in colour and so should look good near my new garden carnivores with their purple veins, we shall see!


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