Hargrave Triffid

A Photographic Record of Plant Growth


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Dendritic Reflective: Week 17

Here is my review of progress after seventeen weeks:

The first question over the next few weeks is likely to be, will it be Spring, Summer, Winter or Autumn in London this week?

Weather Forecast wc 12-10-14

We have severe weather warnings for rain tomorrow night and some wind is threatened but the coldest expected night temperature is predicted to be a mere 10°C this week. I have ordered an external thermometer that can be stuck to the external window and viewed from inside so that I can take precautions should the Winter suddenly descend in a hurry without warning but it has not yet arrived, despite being supposedly delivered by yesterday at the latest!!!

In the meantime I have been taking measurements with my Maximum/Minimum Thermometer in the greenhouse in various states to see whether the plants will be happy.

Start of Measurement End of Measurement Location Max Min
Date Time Date Time
05/10/2014 1430hrs 06/10/2014 1730hrs Greenhouse – Top Shelf 37.1*C 9.2*C
06/10/2014 1730hrs 07/10/2014 1711hrs Greenhouse – Top Shelf 46.5*C 9.0*C
07/10/2014 1711hrs 08/10/2014 1943hrs Greenhouse – Top Shelf – Left Zipper Open 39.2*C 7.7*C
08/10/2014 1943hrs 09/10/2014 1943hrs Greenhouse – Top Shelf – Left Zipper Open quite widely 42.5*C 11.0*C
09/10/2014 1943hrs 10/10/2014 1828hrs Greenhouse – Top Shelf – Left and Right Zipper Open quite widely 40.3*C 8.9*C
10/10/2014 1828hrs 11/10/2014 1856hrs Greenhouse – Top Shelf – Flap fully open and draped over the roof 34.4*C 10.3*C
11/10/2014 1856hrs 12/10/2014 1750hrs Greenhouse on SW side – Top Shelf – Flap fully open and draped over the roof 17.9*C 9.8*C

The weather has certainly been quite mild with day temperatures in the last week hitting the unexpected heights of 17°C and my initial observations have shown that the greenhouse certainly is likely to prove too hot during the day for dormant carnivores if placed against the South Eastern facing wall. I have now placed the greenhouse against the more sheltered South Western facing wall where Piggy and Drake currently reside. This area will get much less sun meaning that the temperature in the greenhouse will hopefully remain lower. I am resigned to the fact that if I use the greenhouse then I may have to zip it up at night and then remember to unzip it in the morning before I go to work lest I wake my sleeping beauties.

Greenhouse 12-10-14

I have also recently bought the book ‘The Savage Garden’ by Peter D’Amato which I must say has been a very enlightening read and certainly a good point of reference against which to compare all that wealth of contradictory information gleaned from the internet. Mr D’Amato states that mini-greenhouses like mine are suitable for carnivores but he doesn’t recommend them unless the user doesn’t mind rebuilding them every time there are high winds. The structure is indeed quite light although it currently sits in quite a sheltered position. The threat of high winds on Monday night will give me a chance to investigate how the greenhouse fares before I stick any plants in there!

 

The Basil Brothers

Basil 12-10-14

Growth certainly seems to have slowed at least in the bulking out department although that infernal Tall Basil seems not put off one iota and continues to grow upwards with gay abandon. The Guinness Book of Records states that the tallest Basil plant ever measured 3.34 m (10 ft 11.5 in) on 4 July 2012 and was grown in Ierapetra, Crete, Greece. Not sure Tall Basil will get that far but the time for taking cuttings would seem to be fast approaching if I wish to continue these fellas’ dynasty.

 

Pitch

Pitch 12-10-14 Pitch 12-10-14 (2)

My previous Autumn/Winter advice for Pitch was as follows:

  • Pitch will require a period of cold dormancy of between 2 or 3-4 months
  • Dormancy will be triggered by shorter daylight hours and a drop in temperature below 10°C
  • Pitch should survive overnight temperatures as low as -7°C but if the temperature falls below this then he may be harmed
  • A combination of freezing temperatures and wind can also be harmful
  • If the temperature drops below 0°C for more than a week then this can be harmful as well

All in all, it seems that Pitch can survive his dormancy outside unless temperatures drop below -7°C, there is a combination of wind and freezing temperatures or the temperature remains below 0°C for more than a week. If any of these situations occur then I should move Pitch to the greenhouse but can return him to his outside position once the cold spell has alleviated. In the greenhouse Pitch should be placed near a cold wall.

 

Now the night temperature has definitely dropped below 10°C this week but Pitch does not seem bothered and there is no indication at all that he is even considering dormancy. According to D’Amato the pitchers of Californian plants should have blackened and died by mid Winter so we will have to see. I reckon that the Winter in California is warmer than here. Wikipedia suggests that most places in California are akin to lowest Winter temperature here, although there are much colder spots but one must remember that California as a State is way way bigger than the UK.

I am going to do nothing until Pitch gives me a sign unless it gets real cold real fast.

 

Sunny

Sunny 12-10-14 Sunny 12-10-14 (2)

My previous Winter Care Guide for Sunny was as follows:

My Winter care guide for Sunny is as follows:

  • Sunny does not require a dormancy period
  • Sunny should not really be exposed to an overnight temperature of less than 2°C
  • Where Sunny is exposed to a shorter photoperiod and lower temperatures between 13-21°C she may be susceptible to root rot and fungus.

My experience and research indicates that no plant is happy with too acute a change in its environment. At the end of the current warm spell it will therefore be time to decide whether to bring Sunny inside over the Winter where she can be placed near/next to a South East facing window, or whether to leave her outside, putting her in the greenhouse should the overnight temperature be likely to drop below 2°C. The latter path seems too risky unless I keep her in the greenhouse all Winter where she may not receive as much light. It is probably better to transfer her to inside the kitchen.

 

Sunny is not showing any particular signs of decline but as the temperature is now dropping routinely into single figures over night I am planning to transfer her to the Greenhouse before moving her to the kitchen. D’Amato recommends that a Cape sundew will quite happily sit out the Winter next to a South Eastern facing window. Am going to have to do a bit of rejigging of the plants but think I can find a protected space next to said kitchen window. I do not want to move her inside without at least a couple of nights in the greenhouse lest such an abrupt change in environment causes her to go into shock, and I also need to sort out a cleaner vessel in which she can stand as she’ll be next to my clean crockery.

 

Drake

Drake 12-10-14 Drake 12-10-14 (2)

The dormancy guide for Drake was as follows:

  • Drake will require a period of dormancy of 3-4 months (October – January)
  • In the late Autumn Drake will die back and will form firm hibernacula
  • A shorter photoperiod (8 hours or less) is required for hibernacula production
  • Drake should be kept at approximately 0°C
  • The soil must be kept moist but not sopping wet during Winter
  • Watch out for fungal infection and use fungicide if necessary

As Drake should be kept at around 0°C he is probably best put into the Greenhouse over Winter. A little top down watering from time to time is recommended to keep the soil moist but not soggy. I must also regularly check that the hibernacula remain healthy but dormant and look out for signs of fungal infection.

 

There were some stubborn sundew leaves hanging around but these are now almost completely gone and hopefully Drake is now dormant (and not dead!!). I am now going to stop topping up his water tray and will only top down water until the Spring. Gonna leave him outside as D’Amato has filled me with confidence that one should try and mimic a carnivore’s indigenous environment for best results. Now, as I have already stated, Drake is indigenous to Britain, and is found in one habitat that I am directly familiar with, that being Dartmoor. Dartmoor in Winter is pretty cold, wet and windy so unless we hit a super cold spell I am going to keep Drake outside for as long as I can.

 

Piggy

Piggy 12-10-14 Piggy 12-10-14 (2)

Piggy like his cousin Sunny does not seem too phased as yet by the single figure temperature Winter nights but whilst I still have no formal Winter care guide for this plant, my plan for him is much the same as that for Sunny. I will transfer him to the greenhouse for a couple of nights and then bring him inside with his cousin where he will sit out the Winter in the South East facing kitchen window. Hope he likes it.

 

Venus and Aphro

Venus 12-10-14 Venus 12-10-14 (2)

Aphro 12-10-14 Aphro 12-10-14 (2)

My VPT dormancy guide was as follows:

  • VPTs entering dormancy have their summer traps die and turn black with new lower traps developing closer to the soil level
  • Leaves may die back just leaving a very compact rosette at ground level
  • Dormancy can last between 12-16+ weeks but 12-14 weeks is more typical
  • Although VPTs can stand temperatures of -10°C, freezing can be very harmful
  • Most of the hours of the day the temperature should remain between 4-13°C
  • They can survive temperatures in the 21-30°C range during dormancy provided most of the hours of the day are on the cool side
  • On especially frosty nights or extended cold spells the plants should be extended further cold protection
  • Watering needs to be reduced during dormancy
  • Keep the soil moist but considerably dry. Do not let the plant dry out completely
  • Plants may only need watering ever 10-14 days or so depending on the average temperature
  • Soil moisture content  can be tested by poking a finger down into the soil to see how wet it still is under the surface. As a rule of thumb you should be able to stick your finger in the media and have it come out with only a few flecks of soil without needing to wipe any wetness off.
  • Consideration should be given that overwatering can increase the risk of rotting or fungal/bacterial infection. The plant should not remain wet for too long
  • Dead leaves should be removed to prevent fungal infection and to maximise light exposure to surviving winter leaves
  • Unless the plant requires protection from the cold in which case leaves should be left as self-insulation
  • Monitor fungal infection and use a fungicide as necessary (this should not be diluted with tap water)

Venus and Aphro can probably survive the UK Winter in the greenhouse but on exceptionally cold nights or during extended cold periods they should be given extra insulation or brought inside (suggestions include polystyrene or bubble wrap). I will need to work out a regimen for watering that I continue throughout the dormancy period. This is likely to last for between 12-14 weeks. Soil should be kept moist but dry and not be allowed to dry out completely. I will also have to monitor the weather forecast when deciding how often to remove dead leaves in case the plant requires some left for insulation. It will also be important to monitor both plants for root rot and bacterial/fungal infection.

 

The traps for both are still beginning to go black but there are still quite a few healthy traps yet so I am not yet going to reduce the watering for either plant. Considering all that I have read I am also going to leave both plants outside until it gets much colder. Indeed, unless the Winter is exceptionally cold I may not bring them in at all unless we have a prolonged period where it is close to freezing during the day.

 

Cass and Aggy (The Moroccan Twin Sisters)

Mint 12-10-14

It is probably fair to say that I am a bit narked with the rapid decline of the Sisters and am leaving them to their own devices. If they survive the Winter then I can only promise to take better care of them next year but they were purchased to be low-maintenance and have not really fulfilled their part of the bargain. Currently I am spending most of my time worrying more about the carnivores and any extra worrying time will be shared between Gronda, Hulk and Flapjack as I try to calculate their Winter watering regimes. Ladies, you are on your own!!

 

Gronda

Calathea 12-10-14 Calathea 12-10-14 (2)

Gronda is looking more or less okay although perhaps a little more threadbare than he has previously. Interestingly, a great number of his leaves appear to be growing towards the window and the sun, on the right of the left picture above. He has now not been given a drain and soak since around September 10th or so, about a month ago. I have also not been misting him much and this seems to indicate that he does now definitely need much less watering over Winter and outside of his growing season. However, four of the leaves have curled up, with at least two almost completely rolled up and one that appears to have discoloured and is probably dying. I have used the moisture metre and Gronda’s soil is showing a score of just over one which seems to suggest that he’s pretty thirsty. I have therefore giving him a good misting and will try to remember to mist him a few times during the week. Not really sure if he will need a drain and soak after four Winter weeks but will have to see how he responds to some mistings this week and I will then reconsider next weekend.

 

Hulk

Hulk 12-10-14

To make room for the sundews, Hulk is going to have to relinquish his spot and I am currently considering where might be a good place to put him during the Winter. Surface spots are quite scarce in my compact and rather crowded kitchen (hence Flapjack never being found a more suitable spot since his arrival). The moisture meeting gives a score of less than one meaning the more blighter is pretty dry.

The Winter advice previously provided was as follows:

http://www.plantandflowerinfo.com/sansevieria/sansevieria.html states that, “During the winter months, water is restricted and the plants are watered only enough to keep the leaves from shriveling. During this period, we let nighttime temperatures drop to 50° F (10°C). At temperatures lower than this, the leaves will take on a pinkish hue and will eventually drop.

The bottom leaves are definitely shriveling and I have tonight misted the little fella and moved him to his new spot near Flapjack. Will continue to mist maybe once again this week but will consider a drain and soak next week as well.

 

Snake

Snake 12-10-14

Winter? Am I bovvered?

 

Flapjack

Flapjack 12-10-14

Definite signs of further droopage for little Flapjack. Didn’t bother to use the moisture metre, largely due to the tiny pot size and the evidence of my own eyes. Have misted this guy as well and may look to bring his Winter watering schedule in line with Hulk although reckon this chap may need slightly more water than his cacti companion. Will consider a drain and soak next week and will look to mist him a few times during the week.

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Temperature Calibration and the Prize Scalp Predation

Greenhouse 05-10-14

As can be seen above, I have now erected my greenhouse. I am currently checking the temperature to ensure that it is suitable for my dormant triffids. For this I am using a digital thermometer which can measure the maximum and minimum temperature over a period. I need to make sure that it will not be too hot or too cold in the greenhouse. The measurement I took from 1430hrs on the 5th October to 1730hrs today, 6th October, revealed a minimum temperature of 9.2°C (including overnight) but unfortunately a maximum temperature of 37.1°C. This will be far too warm for the dormant plants who will be fooled into thinking that summer has returned. Looks like I may have to undo the zipper every morning to ensure that the plants are not too warm in the day if the sun shines. It was however exceptionally warm yesterday and is much colder today, with Autumn even Winter looking as if it has finally arrived, so it will be interesting to see what the results are tomorrow. I will need to monitor the temperature on each shelf so that I can get a good idea of how suitable the greenhouse will be.

 

Sunny 05-10-14

The other main talking point in Hargrave Triffid Land is the fact that Sunny has caught a Mayfly, certainly the biggest prize that she has caught to date. This photo must have been taken not soon after the capture had taken place and the fly was still struggling away. Unfortunately for the fly, in its struggles it had become stuck to three separate sundew leaves so don’t think it’ll be going anyway. Am looking forward to seeing how Sunny will deal with this meal. Will provide a new update with any progress later in the week.


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Decline Towards Dormancy

Have been very busy over the last few weeks and it has been very difficult to report on the triffids. Had I posted last weekend then that would have been my Week fifteen report. I have however still been caring for the plants and taking photos so the following will combine a record of progress over the last two weeks since 14th September:

 

21/09/14

21/09/14

30/09/14

30/09/14

The Basil Brothers

No great shakes with the brothers as me move through Autumn into Winter. The sparsity seen in the photo from the 30th is more to do with my cooking of spaghetti bolognese at the weekend.

As I noted on August 24th http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/herbs/msg1017171922025.html says that, “Many people think that it is a sin to let a plant die but the “Grow @ Kill” method might be best for winter harvesting of annuals like basil. It grows from seed readily and it will thicken into a very nice initial mat of vegetation if given a little light and water. From the 4″ stage is where it starts to go downhill.” Tall Basil is definitely over four inches so perhaps this is why the plant does not appear to be flourishing as he has previously. With another contributor on the same website saying that he has, “kept basil in my office over the winter. What I have done is I take cuttings from my best plant and I put them in water, in about 2 weeks I have some roots and then I pot these up. In 4 weeks I have a thriving little plant. I make sure I pinch them once the growth is strong to make them bushy.

My lack of diligence in the last fortnight means that I have not got around to potting the basil cuttings that I took before I went on holiday. As these cuttings were taken specifically to insulate against the eventuality of the basil dying whilst I was away I am not feeling too guilty but it is nice to know that there is a good chance that future cuttings will yield new plants. Will have to monitor as it seems that the basil may die if it gets too cold in the kitchen over Winter.

 

21/09/14

21/09/14

30/09/14

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30/09/14

Pitch

Pitch marches on. Little difference in his condition a fortnight later. No sign of dormancy yet. This September has been uncharacteristically mild, even hot. It was 25 degrees in London last Sunday and the average temperature has been much higher than normal, my mum reports from Devon that she has primroses flowering! The weather forecast suggests that this warm weather will continue into next week but with November approaching it must be time soon to construct my greenhouse.

 

http://www.growcarnivorousplants.com/Articles.asp?ID=258 says the following regarding dormancy for Sarracenia rubra:

As winter approaches, your pitcher plant will slow down in growth and eventually stop growing. It’ll retain its leaves throughout the winter months, but the leaves will turn brown around the edges. This is perfectly normal. Pitcher plants require 3-4 months of winter dormancy triggered by cold temperatures (below 50°F or 10°C) and shorter daylight hours.

Even while dormant, your plant will still need to sit in a small amount of standing water to prevent its soil from drying out.

Don’t worry about overnight temperature dips as low as 20°F (-7°). While dormant, your plant can certainly tolerate overnight frosts with minimal winter protection. However, plants are very susceptible to freeze damage when grown in containers. You will need to protect your pitcher plant when the temperature falls below 20°F (-7°C) or whenever there is a combination of freezing temperatures and wind. Both types of winter conditions can certainly cause serious frost burn. To prevent frost burn, cover it with black plastic or a tarp, or move it into an unheated garage or shed. As soon as the freeze is over and the temperature climbs above 35°F (2°C), uncover your plant and allow it to continue its dormancy outdoors.

If you live an area where the temperature routinely goes below 32°F (0°C) for more than a week at a time, … you will need to winterize your container plants. Container plants can certainly tolerate brief freezes. But with prolonged freezes, your plants are at risk for frost burn.

 

http://www.pitcherplant.com/care_sheets/sarrac_care.html has the following to add:

If greenhoused, put near a cold wall. Sarracenia go dormant and do best with a cold dormancy of two to four months. … Trimming dead leaves is easier in Feb.-March, before new growth begins.

 


 My dormancy guide for Pitch is as follows:

  • Pitch will require a period of cold dormancy of between 2 or 3-4 months
  • Dormancy will be triggered by shorter daylight hours and a drop in temperature below 10°C
  • Pitch should survive overnight temperatures as low as -7°C but if the temperature falls below this then he may be harmed
  • A combination of freezing temperatures and wind can also be harmful
  • If the temperature drops below 0°C for more than a week then this can be harmful as well

All in all, it seems that Pitch can survive his dormancy outside unless temperatures drop below -7°C, there is a combination of wind and freezing temperatures or the temperature remains below 0°C for more than a week. If any of these situations occur then I should move Pitch to the greenhouse but can return him to his outside position once the cold spell has alleviated. In the greenhouse Pitch should be placed near a cold wall.


 

 

21/09/14

21/09/14

30/09/14

30/09/14

21/09/14

21/09/14

30/09/14

30/09/14

21/09/14

21/09/14

Sunny

Sunny is absolutely flourishing. Her late growth spurt appears to have actually increased through September and she is still flowering.

According to http://www.growsundews.com/sundews/Drosera_nidiformis.html Drosera nidiformis, being a ‘subtropical sundew from South Africa‘ has no dormancy requirements and, “can be grown year-round if grown indoors during the cold months“.

In cooler temperatures (55-70 F) [13-21°C] and shorter photoperiod (8-11 hours)/ lower light intensity: When growing indoors, I have found that Drosera nidiformis has a succeptibility to root rot and fungus if its roots are flooded when grown in low lighting/photoperiod and cooler temperatures. Try to keep the media moist, occasionally letting the the soil dry out a bit more if you’re experiencing problems with fungus, or if the plant doesn’t look happy (This should not be an issue in bright lighting or warm temps).

http://www.flytrapcare.com/store/drosera-care-sheet/ states the following:

Tropical Drosera can be given the same basic care year round. They do well in a very sunny window and do not need a dormancy period during the winter. Where they are native to rarely gets below 55°F, but nearly all species can stand temperatures down to freezing. In fact, I grow my tropical and subtropical sundews with my temperate carnivorous plants all year long. I make sure that they never freeze, but they don’t mind experiencing temperatures down to 35°F [2°C] in the winter.

 


My Winter care guide for Sunny is as follows:

  • Sunny does not require a dormancy period
  • Sunny should not really be exposed to an overnight temperature of less than 2°C
  • Where Sunny is exposed to a shorter photoperiod and lower temperatures between 13-21°C she may be susceptible to root rot and fungus.

My experience and research indicates that no plant is happy with too acute a change in its environment. At the end of the current warm spell it will therefore be time to decide whether to bring Sunny inside over the Winter where she can be placed near/next to a South East facing window, or whether to leave her outside, putting her in the greenhouse should the overnight temperature be likely to drop below 2°C. The latter path seems too risky unless I keep her in the greenhouse all Winter where she may not receive as much light. It is probably better to transfer her to inside the kitchen.

 


The latter path seems too risky and requires too much attentive care unless I can predict a very mild Winter (which is never easy in Britain) or I keep Sunny in the greenhouse all Winter. In the greenhouse she is likely to not receive as much light as in her current spot and I may be unable to keep as close an eye on her should she suffer root rot or fungal infection. I also worry that on very cold nights even in the greenhouse it may be below 2°C. In the kitchen, she may not get as much light, will have to accommodate regular and sporadic artificial light and may also be vulnerable to being too close to the washing up but despite these dangers I still feel that inside is best.

Weather Forecast w-c 02-10-14

It is likely that if I transfer Sunny inside then I must stick with my course of action as subsequently transferring her outside to the greenhouse may be too much of an environmental change. As the weather looks reasonable for the next few weeks, with one expecting things to really start getting cold come November, I may trial the move inside to allow time for re-acclimatisation back to external conditions should the move not work.

 

 

21/09/14

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30/09/14

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21/09/14

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30/09/14

Drake

Drake was the real worry amongst the triffids as we waved goodbye to September. There are maybe only three healthy leaves still remaining and the new growth does not appear to have developed into new leaves. I was horrified that ‘dry Thursday’ may have finished him off but to give myself hope, I reasoned that the little fella was declining due to entering dormancy. He is after all indigenous to the UK whereas his cousins are all from sunnier climes, although this logic left me wondering why those more used to the sun had not entered dormancy first!!

But, tonight I have been rewarded with a eureka moment. Research has revealed that those ‘new growths’ about which I had mused appear to be hibernacula, ‘a protective case or covering, especially for winter, as of … a plant bud‘ according to Dictionary.com [http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hibernacula].

Drake 14-09-14 (4)

The above picture was taken on 14th September but having looked at a selection of drosera hibernacula I am now sure that this is what they are.

According to http://www.growsundews.com/sundews/Drosera_anglica_temperate_forms.html : “D. anglica forms firm hibernacula in the winter. Keep them at approx. 0 degrees C or just slightly above this if storing in the refrigerator. A shorter photoperiod (8 hours or a little less) is needed for hibernaculum formation.

Unfortunately, the only picture that I can actually find online showing Drosera anglica hibernacula shows them to be green and not dark brown like mine.

Drosera Anglica hibernacula

 

http://www.carnivorousplantsforsale.com/pages/sundews has the following to say about dormancy for temperate sun dews:

  • Temperate sundews require 3 – 4 months of dormancy every year (October – January)
  • Growth in most temperate sundews will slow down, and some species will die back almost completely in the late fall to form a winter bud or hibernacula
  • Place the plant in a cool dark area; a north facing window in the basement or garage are good places
  • Keep the soil moist, but not sopping wet

Although the above seems to suggest that the plant may well just have gone into dormancy, it now being October and the plant certainly having almost completely died back. I have read before that a sundew turning brown indicates that it has gone into shock meaning that this plant could well not survive the Winter, but either way I am just going to have to hope and pray and wait until the Spring to see the full extent of ‘Dry Thursday’!!

 

http://world-of-carnivores.net/droseracare.html suggests that fungus again may be a problem in the Winter months and recommends treatment with fungicide if there is an infection. This site is general to all drosera but offers that as long as the hibernacula remain in their static state then the conditions are helpful to the dormancy. The site also suggests that the grower should look at ‘the area where the sun dew grows naturally’. Knowing that Drake’s wilder family grow on Dartmoor in Devon gives me hope that they can survive the Winter in London.

 


My dormancy guide for Drake is as follows:

  • Drake will require a period of dormancy of 3-4 months (October – January)
  • In the late Autumn Drake will die back and will form firm hibernacula
  • A shorter photoperiod (8 hours or less) is required for hibernacula production
  • Drake should be kept at approximately 0°C
  • The soil must be kept moist but not sopping wet during Winter
  • Watch out for fungal infection and use fungicide if necessary

As Drake should be kept at around 0°C he is probably best put into the Greenhouse over Winter. A little top down watering from time to time is recommended to keep the soil moist but not soggy. I must also regularly check that the hibernacula remain healthy but dormant and look out for signs of fungal infection.

 


 

 

21/09/14

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30/09/14

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21/09/14

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30/09/14

30/09/14

Piggy

The late warm weather also seems to have tickled Piggy’s fancy and he has been showing some small signs of good growth in the last two weeks.

http://www.sarracenia.com/faq/faq5250.html states that, “After the pleasant winter, a long hot summer follows. Pygmy Drosera plants enter a dormant state to survive; their leaves die back and only the leaf stipules remain as a shiny white bundle of hairs or bristles at the rosette center. This reflective bundle presumably keeps the plant cool. There the plants sit, for many long hot months, awaiting the cool winter’s return.

So Drosera dichrosepala, a native of Western Australia, grows dormant in the Australian summer to protect itself from the heat. Unfortunately for me, most carnivorous plant care guides agree that carnivorous plants require a period of dormancy to survive in the long term. Perhaps it is the lack of dormancy which results in pygmy sundews having relatively short life expectancies. As http://www.cpukforum.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=42572 states, “Some tropical sundew’s don’t live for very long the ‘pygmy sundew’ can sometime’s only life for 2 year’s or 3“. This also leaves me not only wondering how this plant will reach dormancy in the UK, but also rather anxious about how I will care for it over the Winter Period.

According to http://www.flytrapcare.com/phpBB3/pygmy-sundew-d-dichrosepala-t2838.html , “Pygmy sundew’s are a tropical plant.. so when it get’s cold outside bring them in or you can keep them indoors year round like i do haha.. just in a bright window (east or south). Keep the soil moist and basically that’s about it.

On the website http://www.cpukforum.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=3894 , Ellis suggests that plants should be grown inside from October – Mid April, placing them in the shade upon reintroduction to the outside to harden them up.

 

Expanding on this, the website http://www.bestcarnivorousplants.com/cultivation_pygmies.htm states the following:

During winter we move the plants indoors or into a greenhouse. The plants require maximum light, especially during the short, dark autumn and winter days. Rare species will not do well when provided with insufficient light! We keep the plants within a temperature range of 15-25°C in winter. By late autumn to early winter the plants start to form gemmae from the central bud. Gemmae are brood bodies for propagation of pygmy Drosera. Some species form gemmae in two (exceptionally three) waves (autumn and spring), often forming dozens of gemmae. Mature, already falling gemmae may be sown on the surface of suitable planting media or around the mother plants, where they will germinate within several days or weeks. After several next weeks they will be fully grown. It is not that rare to grow a plant from gemmae in autumn and have it forming gemmae in spring (D. roseana, D. pygmaea)!

 

A grower from Melbourne called Sean Spence, also on the website http://www.cpukforum.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=3894 , provides some very useful looking information:

Firstly, not all pygmy Drosera are Summer sensitive and not all of them go dormant in Summer.

Generally, it doesn’t matter which country you live in- the US, UK or Australia, the plants should be grown in the same way. Although I live in Australia, the information I present is also applicable to growers in other countries.

The following information details the growth cycle of some of the more sensitive species which do go dormant in Summer. (eg- D. barbigera, miniata, sewelliae, echinoblastus, closterostigma, citrina and others)

These pygmy Drosera have a number of growth phases throughout the year. In Autumn the plants slow down in growth, cease forming leaves and instead begin to produce gemmae. At this stage all species can be grown in a water tray without any ill effects.

Once gemmae production has ceased- generally some time in Winter, the plants begin to produce leaves again. Once again, the pots can remain in the water tray at this time. Growth at this time of the year is slow until the temps warm up and the daylength increases in Spring.

As Spring approaches, the growth rate increases and most species will begin to form flowers. Flowering can affect the growth of some species, but it is usually worth letting the plants flower for the sheer beauty of the flowers.

As Summer approaches you will probably notice that many species will cease producing leaves and the stipule buds in the centre of the plants will increase in size. At this stage it is a good idea to remove the pot from the water tray and let it dry out until it is just moist.

From this time until early Autumn when the temps drop, the plants are only watered every few days. The top of the potting mix of my plants generally remains dry and crispy throughout this period. To water I place the pots in a water tray (about an inch of water) for a period of around 10 minutes until the pot becomes noticably heavier. I do not allow the pots to be immersed long enough for the moisture to reach the surface. This procedure is repeated throughout the hotter months until the plants begin their next phase of growth.

At the end of Summer the plants will break dormancy and a rapid growth spurt will occur. The pots can now be placed back into the water trays. I have found that some species can even flower for a second time during this period. This growth period will continue until the gemmae production begins again in Autumn.

There are many species and hybrids which will grow happily throughout Summer and won’t go dormant. These species can remain in the watertray all year (eg- D. pulchella, pygmaea, occidentalis, nitidula sp. nitidula, scorpioides, mannii and others)

If you have any questions or need any clarification on any of the above information please feel free to ask. As I said, even though this is the way I grow my plants in southern Australia, plants in the UK can/should be grown in a similar way to ensure success.

 

Food for thought indeed. If what the last gentleman says is true, and he sounds very knowledgable, then I need to work out what season my plants think that it is. It certainly seems that growth has been slowing down. I have noticed little real change over the last few weeks so perhaps I should be looking for gemmae.

In contradiction to some of the above advice, around July 12th I moved Piggy from the South East to the South West facing External Kitchen Windowsill believing him to be suffering due to too much sun. This reasoning was supported by Marcel Lecoufle’s book, Carnivorous Plants: Care and Cultivation, which confirms that pygmy sundews prefer shade or half-shade rather than the full sunlight preferred by other carnivores. Now admittedly at this point I had only been in possession of Piggy for just over a week but the fact of the matter is that the plant did look a bit frazzled before being moved and improved greatly once having been moved. Maybe, the frazzlement was merely a reaction to an extreme change of environment following having been sealed inside a dark parcel and sent through the post or maybe the plant genuinely does like shade or part shade. Sean Spence’s advice was, after all, general advice for Pygmy Sundew and not Drosera dichrosepala specifically. What would a Melbournian know about a West Australian plant anyway!!! (Only Joking)

 

In terms of Winter care, http://www.droseragemmae.com/CareGuide.html helpfully suggests that, “The light has to decrease in intensity and the plants have to receive less hours of light as winter approaches. This and the cooler temps are the trigger in gemmae production“.

This website also stipulates that pygmy sundew, “can take low temps even under 32F but i always try to avoid going under 35F“. In Celsius that equates to being able to survive freezing conditions but being best left no lower than 2°C.

 

Gonna take some further advice before I reason my Winter care guide for Piggy but moving him inside at least seems a certainty so may move him in with Sunny reasonably soon.

 

 

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Venus

Most of Venus’s traps have now opened and the tall right middle trap actually looks pretty healthy, despite the rest being rather deformed. In recent weeks her growth seems to have slowed to a sedate if at all mobile pace and this leads me to believe that she has had impending dormancy on her mind for some time.

 

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Aphro

Aphro has still been chomping away, with particular note being proffered by the tall trap at the back which seems to have digested a small snail, the shell still being visible. However, a number of traps are beginning to die off and it seems that Aphro is leading Venus into dormancy, dying back faster, although maybe he just has more foliage to lose.

 

The website http://www.carnivoreplants.co.uk/wintercare.htm has the following to say regarding Venus Fly Trap dormancy:

“[You] will start to see there summer leaves & traps die back over time to which they will start to turn brown/black in colouration. The Venus Flytrap plant when entering dormancy will shed there summer upright traps for new lower traps which are closer to the soil level. Alot of the Red forms of Venus Flytraps can completely die back to the centre crown without developing any new traps until the arrival of spring.

As the summer traps begin to die back in the autumn you should remove each dead trap as they develop. This helps to prevent rot & mould from starting to form. As if you leave the dead traps on the plants they can start to rot back to the centre crown of the plant which this can sometimes rot out the whole plant over the winter months.

Also you will need to reduce your watering. It is best to just add a little amount of 3 to 4 mm of rain water into the plants tray or saucer. Then allow all the water to be absorbed fully by the plant so that the tray or saucer just starts to dry slightly before topping up the tray or saucer again with rain water. Your plants soil MUST never become totally dry as this will kill your plant. Lightly moist soil is the best consistency of water for your plants during the winter period. If kept to wet they can rot out.

Venus Flytraps … are very hardy. They can stand temperatures down to around -10’C

Venus Flytraps … require a cool dormancy period each year. For a period of 3 to 5 months

 

The contributors at http://www.flytrapcare.com/phpBB3/vft-dormancy-in-the-uk-t16659.html also add some interesting points. Steve Booth states that his VFTs have survived UK temperatures as low as -16°C (although these were in a outdoor bog so may have been better insulated than those in pots) and that they can be quite slow to restart in the Spring. A number of contributors to this site suggest that a greenhouse is fine for VPTs in the UK Winter although SnapSnapIOM says that ‘ if it gets really cold for extended amounts of time then think about insulating the surroundings eg polystyrene bubble wrap or even a paraffin heater‘.

 

http://venusflytrap.info/how-to-grow-venus-flytraps_dormancy.html suggests that, “[Starting] in late summer as the nights become cooler and the days shorter, Venus Flytraps’ new leaves grow more slowly and progressively smaller, until they form a very compact rosette at ground level. This gives Venus Flytraps some protection from freezing air temperatures by being close to the thermal mass of the earth, which is usually quite a bit warmer when the air above it is cold, generally warming and cooling much more slowly than the air.

The above site agrees with trimming back dead leaves stating that this, “importantly prevents the dead leaves from shading the new leaves from the sun they want and need.

There is however an exception to trimming the dead leaves in the [Autumn], and that is when the Venus Flytraps are left outside all winter, in places that experience only light frosts and no hard freezes (hard frost can kill Venus Flytraps). When grown outdoors all year round, the dead leaves can help protect and keep the plant warmer during its winter dormancy, a little like a protective mulch functions on other garden plants, or a blanket over a cold person. Although Venus Flytraps can recover from having some leaves frozen and killed (the part of the leaf that is above ground), it requires using some of their stored food to grow new leaves, which means that there will be a little less food for the plant’s initial Spring growth. It’s better for the Venus Flytrap to protect its leaves from freezing during the winter.

According to this website, “Venus Flytrap dormancy can last for 12 to 16 weeks or more. … Although Venus Flytrap dormancy usually lasts about three-and-a-half to four-and-a-half months in nature, 12 to 14 weeks is more typical in the sheltered and at least partially controlled conditions that Venus Flytraps are typically grown under. The shortest length of time one can expect for Venus Flytrap dormancy is about 10 weeks.

Regarding dormancy temperatures the website states that, “Venus Flytraps do not need to be very cool or cold during dormancy, and should be protected from frosts and freezing conditions if possible. In order to give Venus Flytraps a comfortable dormancy, most of the hours of the day (but not all) should be somewhat cool to fairly cold, for example in the … range 4-13 degrees Celsius. But it’s fine for the temperatures to rise during the day, especially in sunny weather, into the 70s Fahrenheit or even the 80s (21-30 degrees Celsius). So long as most of the hours of the day are on the cool to cold side, the rest of the hours can be warmer. Remember, no freezing. So long as a Venus Flytrap’s leaves are alive and exposed to sunlight, they create food for the plant through photosynthesis and store that food for later use. If the leaf is frozen, it dies and another one must grow using some of the stored food to replace the dead leaf.

On watering and fungal infection, “Venus Flytraps use much less water during their dormancy because they aren’t growing much. In addition, water doesn’t evaporate nearly as fast in cool to cold weather as it does during warm or hot weather, especially if there is also considerable wind. The plants should be watered thoroughly (in the morning ideally, to give the soil surface some time to dry before night time and colder temperatures that can promote fungal infection) and then allowed to dry out until just moist (much more dry than wet) before they are watered thoroughly again, and that regimen should be continued throughout dormancy and during the active growing season, allowing the plants and soil to dry considerably between thorough waterings.

During dormancy, Venus Flytraps can be susceptible to fungal and bacterial infection and rot, even to the point of death. Cool, wet conditions promote these kind of infections, so when the plants are cool in dormancy, care should be taken not to allow them to stay wet for too long, and to be more dry than wet most of the time, without ever drying out completely. It requires a little experience to learn and know how often to water one’s plants, but with some observation and testing of the soil for moisture content (by simply poking a finger down into the soil to see how wet it still is under the surface) you’ll learn a regimen that is suitable for your plants in your environment. As a rough comparison of water needs, during the active growing season, depending on container size, temperature, wind, etc., Venus Flytraps might need water every 2-5 days; during cool dormancy, those same plants in the same containers might need water only every 10-14 days or so.

 

The website http://www.rayandtrish.com/vft_dormacy.htm adds the following:

It is important to remember that when a plant is dormant it still requires light. You must still provide a light source for the plants.

I will also add that a greenhouse or a cold frame is ideal for carnivorous plants. Make sure you take the plants out of their saucers of water and buy some fungicide from a garden centre as damp December days are ideal for mould developing. Dilute it (not with tap water! ) as instructed and give them a thorough spray, especially around the centre of the plant. You can then leave them but make sure they are protected on especially frosty nights – bubble wrap or an upturned fish tank will do this. Check them every week or so and remember to snip off any of the black leaves.

Q) How often should I water them?  

A) Not very often, remove the tray and only top water enough to keep the media damp. As a rule of thumb you should be able to stick your finger in the media and have it come out with only a few flecks of soil without needing to wipe any wetness off.

Q) How much fungicide should I spray into the soil?

A) Enough to wet the plant and the surface of the media

Q) Do I only need to apply the fungicide once?

A) Once should be enough but keep an eye on your plants and if you see fungus spray again.

 


 

 My dormancy guide for Venus and Aphro is as follows:

  • VPTs entering dormancy have their summer traps die and turn black with new lower traps developing closer to the soil level
  • Leaves may die back just leaving a very compact rosette at ground level
  • Dormancy can last between 12-16+ weeks but 12-14 weeks is more typical
  • Although VPTs can stand temperatures of -10°C, freezing can be very harmful
  • Most of the hours of the day the temperature should remain between 4-13°C
  • They can survive temperatures in the 21-30°C range during dormancy provided most of the hours of the day are on the cool side
  • On especially frosty nights or extended cold spells the plants should be extended further cold protection
  • Watering needs to be reduced during dormancy
  • Keep the soil moist but considerably dry. Do not let the plant dry out completely
  • Plants may only need watering ever 10-14 days or so depending on the average temperature
  • Soil moisture content  can be tested by poking a finger down into the soil to see how wet it still is under the surface. As a rule of thumb you should be able to stick your finger in the media and have it come out with only a few flecks of soil without needing to wipe any wetness off.
  • Consideration should be given that overwatering can increase the risk of rotting or fungal/bacterial infection. The plant should not remain wet for too long
  • Dead leaves should be removed to prevent fungal infection and to maximise light exposure to surviving winter leaves
  • Unless the plant requires protection from the cold in which case leaves should be left as self-insulation
  • Monitor fungal infection and use a fungicide as necessary (this should not be diluted with tap water)

Venus and Aphro can probably survive the UK Winter in the greenhouse but on exceptionally cold nights or during extended cold periods they should be given extra insulation or brought inside (suggestions include polystyrene or bubble wrap). I will need to work out a regimen for watering that I continue throughout the dormancy period. This is likely to last for between 12-14 weeks. Soil should be kept moist but dry and not be allowed to dry out completely. I will also have to monitor the weather forecast when deciding how often to remove dead leaves in case the plant requires some left for insulation. It will also be important to monitor both plants for root rot and bacterial/fungal infection.

 


There is quite a lot of contradiction regarding how to water the plants. Too much watering or watering trays can increase the chances of fungal, rotting or bacterial infection so some commentators recommend top down watering only. Treatment with a fungicide is also recommended but am not really happy to do this unless there is a real infestation. Morning watering could also be better as it allows the greatest time for absorption before colder night temperatures and less evaporation that otherwise leads to a soggier plant for a longer time period increasing the chances of infection or root rot. Will also have to decide how much of the dead leaves I wish to remove, the balance here to be struck between the rising chance of infection and insulation for warmth should the Winter turn exceptionally cold. Always difficult to call in the UK.

 

 

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Cass and Aggy (The Moroccan Twin Sisters)

What was I saying about those caterpillars? Not fast enough I’m afraid, my mint crop is decimated and gone are my dreams of mint tea this year. I am pretty sure that mint dies back in Winter and will return in Spring so will not expect any growth this late in the year.

Rather interestingly, the website http://www.gardenaction.co.uk/fruit_veg_diary/fruit_veg_mini_project_january_3_mint.asp mentions that, “Mint suffers from only one disease and that is rust – allow it to get a hold and it will kill all your mint plants. There are chemical sprays for rust, but they can often be only a part solution. The best method is to examine each plant carefully for signs of rust (orange blobs generally on the underside of the leaves) and remove any leaves affected – spray as well with a chemical if you want. If this does not remove the infection chop the plant down to ground level and burn it all – drastic, but the only cure in the late stages of rust infection. 

I will have to check just to make sure that rust has not infected the Sisters, and there certainly seem to be orangey yellow spots all over some of the remaining leaves.

The website also mentions that, “Mulching the soil will go a long way to keeping mint happy – it will achieve the all important job of keeping a moist root run which mint likes so much. A twice yearly feeding with bonemeal will keep it even happier. Remove the flowers by hand as soon as they appear because if left, they will reduce the amount of leaves“.

Now, between slugs, caterpillars, potential rust and allowing the plant to flower, it seems that I have not done such a good job at looking after my mint. Fingers crossed that the plant will return in Spring. And I thought that mint was low maintenance.

 

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Gronda

Last weekend the moisture meter finally arrived, hurray!! I have however noted in the previous two weeks that despite not misting his leaves as regularly, Gronda’s curl factor has still remained remarkably low. With the nights drawing in and the temperature beginning to drop it seems that Gronda is moving into his Winter phase.

http://www.theflowerexpert.com/content/aboutflowers/exoticflowers/calatheas states the following:

  • Calatheas actively grow from march to october when the soil is moist.
  • During winter allow the top soil to dry between waterings.
  • The ideal temperatures are 60-70 degrees farehheit.
  • Repot during late spring when the plant becomes crowdy in its containers.

Whilst on the subject of re-potting, http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/houseplants/zebra-plant/calathea-zebra-houseplant.htm  says, “As time passes, caring for zebra plants will also include repotting. This should be done in the spring about every two years. These plants do not like to be pot bound. If there are several rosettes at the base of the plant, now is the time to divide. Use a sharp blade to separate the rosettes and plant each in its own pot.

 

I won’t have to worry about re-potting until late Spring if at all but it does look like the plant now requires much less water so the drain and soak is probably out until the temperatures improve. Will also have to watch the draft from that back door over Winter.

 

 

 

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Hulk

Hulk looks about the same. Will have to check his Winter requirements and whether his watering needs reducing. Just when I thought I had cracked his watering cycle then Winter comes along.

http://www.plantandflowerinfo.com/sansevieria/sansevieria.html states that, “During the winter months, water is restricted and the plants are watered only enough to keep the leaves from shriveling. During this period, we let nighttime temperatures drop to 50° F (10°C). At temperatures lower than this, the leaves will take on a pinkish hue and will eventually drop.

So, all I will have to do now is make sure those leaves don’t shrivel.

 

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Snake

Spot the Difference. Answers on the back of a postcard if you please.

 

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Flapjack

Like a botanic nomad, Flapjack still doesn’t look too happy. Will have to review his Winter requirements and see if a new watering regime is required, not that I have given him much of a stable watering regime since he arrived. Should probably look at when the most suitable time to repot him is.

 

According to http://thepalmroom.wordpress.com/plant-care-discussion-forum/kalanchoe-thrysiflora-kalanchoe-luciae/ instructions for this plant were as follows:

Light
Full Sun

Sun to Partial Shade
Light Shade
*if kept in low-light conditions, they will become leggy and create interesting shapes …  In bright to full sun, expect them to get wide and bushy.

Water
Water regularly, when soil dries about an inch down into the pot or ground.  Kalanchoe thrsiflora and luciae are very drought tolerant.  They are susceptible to overwatering, however, so err on the side of not watering when unsure.

Bloom Time
Late Winter/Early Spring

 

So he has no specific winter watering requirements but is probably not going to be too happy with a lack of Winter sunshine. Am tempted to repot him and start testing him with the water metre.