Three Things Thursday: 8 June 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with the happy*

Emily of Nerd in the Brain originally created Three Things Thursday, but it’s now being hosted by Natalie of There She Goes. Anyway, here are my three things this week…

First, letter-writing. I mentioned in my  recent post Small Calm Things, that I had made a start on some letter-writing and over the past few days I’ve written quite a few. Sitting in the limery as the rain hammers down in our British summer, it’s rather nice to put pen to paper and know that I will be raising some smiles as a result of my efforts.

Second, new inks. I have a project in mind that involves alcohol inks in muted colours. Until now I only had bright colours, but this morning’s post brought me the earth tones I need, so I’m now all set for getting arty.

a new art project is on the horizon

Third, pitchers. The pitcher plants and the monkey cup in the limery are growing like mad and it does make me very happy to see them doing their job and looking so fabulous.

And if you want to see lovely pictures of some of these plants in their native habitat, check out this post from Nerd in the Brain, who recently went to visit the Stanley Rehder Carnivorous Plant Garden.

So, those are three things making me smile and that I am grateful for this week. What is making you happy?

Three Things Thursday: 20 April 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with the happy*

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain here are my Three Things Thursday.

First, fantastic flowers. The carnivores are growing great guns in the limery – some are busy producing new leaves or pitchers, but the Sarracenia leucophylla is concentrating on flowering, The deep red blooms are each atop a very long stem, towering above all the other carnivores.

Second, back to blankets. I need a bit of mindless crochet for a while to take my mind off politics, so I have got out the squares and yarn that Wild Daffodil sent me and have started creating a new charity blanket.


The colourful ones were donated and the brown ones are mine

Third, getting arty. After being inspired by some of Pauline’s doodling, I bought myself some yupo paper and alcohol inks to play with. I haven’t had much time yet, but I had fun splashing some ink about to see what it did. Since I made these, I’ve bought a few new colours and some thinner, which should allow me to get some more interesting effects…. and I haven’t even started doodling over them yet, which is the plan

So, those are three things making me smile and for which I am grateful this week. What has made you happy this week?

Cohabiting carnivores

When the limery was first built, we noticed that flies had begun to congregate in there and one of the builders suggested getting some carnivorous plants. I liked this idea – no unpleasant chemicals plus interesting specimens to care for.

In the past year I’ve had some successes and some failures – sadly not all of my plants have survived, but I have learned a lot, including what types of carnivores like the conditions available and the fact that slugs eat pitcher plants. It is because of this latter fact that my Sarracenia purpurea has a hole in the lower part of one of its 2015 pitchers (each pitcher in this species lasts a couple of years). As a result no liquid can accumulate in there, but it has attracted a resident – a spider. So I have an insectivore living inside an insectivore!

As you can see, it’s living perilously close to a Venus fly trap that would be perfectly capable of catching it. It has spun its web around all four of the plants in the water tray, but it must be very careful as it does this. This co-habitation has been going on for several weeks now and none of the organisms involved seem to be adversely affected, so I’m not interfering, although I have removed the Sarracenia seedling now as it was getting swamped by the web.

Looking round at my carnivores, it’s obvious how common co-habitation is… well, actually it’s really that sundews seem to be particularly keen to move in with any other carnivore except the Venus fly traps. What is particularly nice is that some of the young sundews must have arrived as hitch-hikers, because they are not species that I have bought.

In terms of doing their job, I’m pleased to report that fly capture is proceeding well – the pitcher plants (and spiders) catch big houseflies and the sundews catch the little black flies that seem to be associated with peppers growing in pots and whitefly that like the melons. I’m going to put the most rampant droopy Drosera dicotoma in a hanging basket, as its long leaves are getting rather out of hand on the window sill and it will then have maximum access to little flies.

And it looks like there may be more offspring to come – assuming Sarracenia is self-fertile, I am hoping for some seeds from this lovely specimen:

And there are likely to be yet more sundews as the Drosera capensis are flowering all over the place and forming seed pods

Now isn’t that so much more fun than fly sprays?


The big chill

Many seeds need to be free of flesh before they will germinate

Many seeds need to be free of flesh before they will germinate

As part of my PhD research, I studied the germination of various seeds – both herbaceous plants and tree species. One thing that I learned was how many species have build-in dormancy. The fleshy parts of the fruit may have to rot away before germination can take place, or be digested within the gut of a bird or mammal; the hard outer coat may need to be physically broken down (scarification); or the seed may need to have been exposed to cold (cold stratification). These are all ways to ensure that germination takes place away from the parent plant and/or at the right time of year. In temperate regions, the latter is particularly common – guaranteeing that the seed germinates after the winter rather than before. Some seeds employ multiple mechanisms and some are particularly fussy (I never managed to get a bluebell seed to germinate, for example).

In damp compost in the bottom of the fridge

In damp compost in the bottom of the fridge

All my experience means that I knew that the sludge left over from my peach scrap vinegar contains the ingredients I need to grow peach trees… namely, peach pits free from any fruit flesh. The key thing now is that they need to be exposed to cold conditions for a few weeks. So, the other day, after I had strained off the liquid that will turn into vinegar, I fished out some of the stones, washed off the last vestiges of flesh, placed them in damp compost and transferred them to the refrigerator (making use of a plastic box that had previously contained slices of tortilla from our wonderful local Spanish deli… yes, I know I should have taken my own box, but it was an impulse buy because the smell was so good). Here they will stay for at least six weeks before being brought out and placed in the limery. Even then, it could take many months before any of them germinate.

On the same subject, I received some Sarracenia seeds as a free gift when I ordered my new carnivorous plants. I checked their germination requirements and discovered that they too require chilling, so they have joined the peach pits in damp compost in the bottom of the fridge (this time in a plastic box that had contained strawberries from our local organic farm).

Sarracenia seeds

Sarracenia seeds

Whether these seeds will germinate successfully remains to be seen, but I love the optimism associated with sowing them… especially since each was a bonus as a result of another action.

More carnivores

I’ve rather fallen in love with the carnivores in the limery… not so much the Venus fly traps (which I expected to be very exciting, but are, in fact, fairly dull), but the Sarracenias (pitchers) and Droseras (sundews). These amazing plants are thriving – they have all grown since their arrival and have been working hard, with the sundews being particularly effective at catching small insects and the pitcher consuming the larger flies (houseflies, horseflies etc).

Unfortunately we have had rather a lot of flies indoors this year because the field behind us has had livestock in it for the whole summer. So, despite the pitcher doing its best – with a little help from the Nepenthes tropical pitcher, which needs to be kept in a vivarium to maintain high humidity – we still have rather too many insects for my liking. Which has given me a great excuse to get some more plants (it was always on the cards once the limery was finished). So, let me introduce the four newbies:

Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea - Purple pitcher plant

Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea – Purple pitcher plant

Sarracenia flava - Yellow pitcher plant

Sarracenia flava – Yellow pitcher plant

Sarracenia catesbaei - S. flava x purpurea

Sarracenia catesbaeiS. flava x S. purpurea (hybrid of the two above)

Cephalotus follicularis Albany carnivorous Pitcher Plant

Cephalotus follicularis Albany carnivorous Pitcher Plant

The Sarracenias are bigger plants than the one I originally bought and are in 9cm pots, but should grow significantly bigger. The Cephalotus is very small as yet – only a few centimetres across – but also should get much bigger.

The structure and morphology of all these plants fascinates me. I could spend hours simply looking at them in wonder…

I now can’t remember which of the builders it was who suggested carnivorous plants, but whichever one it was he truly sowed a seed for me…

Danger! Carnivores!

Because glazing of the limery is not complete, if has turned into a trap for flies – despite the huge hole in the door, the flies only seem to be able to get in and not to get out. On the other hand, butterflies and damselflies seem able to exit without a problem. One of the builders noticed the current fly infestation and asked whether I might get some carnivorous plants. It wasn’t something I had planned to do, but I thought it was a good idea. So, without further ado I searched the internet, placed an order and today the limery has seven new occupants:

Dionaea muscipula - Venus flytrap

Dionaea muscipula – Venus flytrap

Dionaea muscipula 'Akai Ryu' - Venus flytrap 'Red Dragon'

Dionaea muscipula ‘Akai Ryu’ – Venus flytrap ‘Red Dragon’

Drosera capensis - Cape sundew and Drosera capensis alba - white Cape sundew

Drosera capensis – Cape sundew and Drosera capensis alba – white Cape sundew

Utricularia bisquamata 'Betty's Bay'

Utricularia bisquamata ‘Betty’s Bay’

Sarracenia purpurea venosa

Sarracenia purpurea venosa

Nepenthes ventricosa x talangensis

Nepenthes ventricosa x talangensis

One of the sundews has already caught a fly (look closely at the one on the right and you’ll see it), but they have a long way to go yet…

We have glass in the roof (but not the door) and lots and lots of flies

We have glass in the roof (but not the door) and lots and lots of flies

I’m so excited at the prospect of growing these (and other) unusual plants.




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