Unfortunately dad did not make it and I was back at home with my mum for three weeks. I have also been back every other weekend. Care for the plants has thus taken something of a drop in my priorities and my care for them during this period has not been the greatest.
The following documents the photographic log of the plants progress over the last 2 months along with some of the care (and lack thereof) that they have received. At this point my summary would be Dendritic Reflective Week 42.
Although the weather is still cold in places and the chances of an overnight frost have not yet fully passed, overall temperatures are up, the daffodils and primroses are flowering and Spring is visibly in the air.
The Basil Brothers
The Brothers are still going although they are looking slightly devoid of leaves these days. My girlfriend took rather too many from each stalk in her quest for la buona cucina. I have found that when picking leaves, one must always leave a few on each stalk. Where one leaf is picked then more will grow, often at twice the rate. If all leaves are taken from a stalk then that stalk will die and no more leaves will grow. This is why Tall Basil had turned into something of a tree. Unfortunately, now Small Basil has joined him and both plants are far too tall too keep where they remain in the kitchen. This Summer I will definitely be taking some cuttings and trying to grow new plants from these. The Brothers current will be retired to the Greenhouse which so far has required no use at all. In the meantime, the plants remain but are of little use for aiding one’s culinary desire as any further removal of the meagre number of leaves than remain would surely finish both plants off for good.
I must report that Pitch has probably dried out more than once in the last two months. As April approaches it is now time for him to wake up from dormancy although I am not actually convinced that he ever actually became dormant. Although the majority of the taller pitchers from last year have now begun to brown and die, I can happily report that the newer pitchers that developed in late August and September still remain and look extremely healthy. There general advice that I have read in the written and on-line literature tends to suggest that the dead pitchers should not be removed but I will see whether Pitch now springs into life and grows some new leaves or whether the current situation remains. It is ten weeks to go until I have had Pitch for an entire year which will allow a comparison of how he looked twelve months ago at the same time last year. I am pleased to say that a little neglect has not yet seen him meet his end and whilst not flourishing, he still appears mostly healthy.
I have been away multiple times during the last two months, at one point for three weeks which was also somewhat of an emergency leave of absence which did not commence from my home and thus did not allow me to fully prepare my plants for such a time away. Our cat, who did require some level of sustained care thus had to be provided for and those who provided this care were also asked to water Sunny and Piggy with rainwater from outside only. Despite these requests it is highly likely that both have gone dry at least once, and on further occasions the water level in their trays has dropped well below the half an inch minimum generally required as an absolute must. Of all of my carnivores and indeed all the plants contained within these pages, it is Sunny here who has suffered the most and currently I fear for her survival. I have been diligent in keeping the levels topped up since my return but when I am away both plants must contend with the competition for resources created by the cats preference for the rain water provided for these plants rather than the tap water filling her bowl near her food.
In the pot it appears that only one plant base currently remains. I must remind the reader that this plant was not supposed to go into dormancy, it being from a South African heritage and not the more temperate climate found in Blighty. Therefore this plant was brought into the kitchen for the relative warmth of a centrally heated Winter period. This trade off was against the lack of sun which the plant has been getting during the Winter months and I pray that this is a contributory factor to her decline that could be improved now the days are lengthening. As it is now April, and Easter is upon us, I am hopeful that there will now be no overnight frost (Winter never actually producing one this year, temperatures dropping overnight only to about 1°C at their lowest). My plan is therefore to move Sunny back outside to a spot where she can obtain maximum sunlight. The only concern is those overnight temperatures which may still be too low for an African plant.
There is a slight disagreement with overnight temperatures in the two forecasts listed above. 3°C overnight is probably too cold to put the plants outside but 6 or 7°C is probably okay if the temperature will not go any lower than this. I will have to monitor the temperature myself and take some readings. In the meantime, fingers crossed that Sunny hangs in there.
Despite my fretting that Drake had gone to meet his maker as a result of Dry Thursday, where he was left with no water in his tray for a number of days, it is now apparent that Drake is the only carnivore to actually properly go into dormancy. As previously surmised by myself, I believe that this may be due to the fact that Drake is indigenous to this country and thus best suited and in most perfect equilibrium with the external weather conditions. As stated, I was extremely worried that I had killed this plant but there are many many signs of new shoots in the pot, as can be seen in the pictures above if one zooms in. These shoots do look like green hibernacula and thus I am convinced that they are not moss or anything else that may have taken root in this pot over Winter but are genuine bona fide new sundew shoots. I will continue to monitor and will produce some better photographs when they begin to properly develop.
The same issues affecting Sunny have also affected Piggy. It is highly likely that Piggy’s tray has dried out multiple times within the last two months. However, considering the decline in Sunny, Piggy is remarkably unscathed and there has even been some minute growth on top. Now the position Piggy frequents beside the window is a little sun trap and he is best sheltered from the icy cold blasts emanating from the opening back door, so perhaps this may be why he has survived the same hardships so well.
Whilst instinct dictates that Sunny should be moved outside as soon as possible I am of the opinion that Piggy is probably best left where he is. If I could just stop that cat drinking the water from his tray!
In February I was hedging my bets that Venus was actually in dormancy whilst not really knowing this to be so. The literature I have read suggested that a dormant VFT would be characterised by the larger traps dying back – Check (mostly); by smaller traps growing in there place – Check; and, by those new traps being closer to the ground than the traps seen during normal growth – Check! With these conditions present I am happy to accept that this plant has been lying dormant and has survived the Winter. Hopefully Spring will now bring an improved period of growth.
The water in Venus’s tray has also dried out on several occasions during the last two months, BUT, I am reminded of the pre-Winter VPT dormancy advice which stated that soil should be kept moist but considerably dry, although the plant should not be allowed to dry out completely, and that plants may only need to be watered every 10-14 days or so depending on the average temperature. I am hopeful that Venus has not dried out completely and thus the lack of watering may have actually aided her dormancy. Fungal infection is still a possibility considering that I did not really reduce watering over the Winter period because I was not really sure whether the plant had entered dormancy and did not wish to force it into dormancy through lack of watering. Also, I did not removed the dead leaves, preferring that these should provide insulation over Winter with the plants being left outside in what I thought could prove freezing overnight temperatures. Near freezing transpired only, but at least any over-watering was not compounded by its turning to ice.
Now I must wait and see whether new growth will commence. VPT dormancy guides suggest that dormancy will typically last between 12 and 14 weeks, or sometimes 12 to 16+. Looking back through my records with the hindsight that I now have, it seems reasonable to assume that the plant began going into dormancy round about the end of November/beginning of December which is about 17 weeks ago so the plant should definitely be waking up about now.
As an addendum, I must also mention the presence of the squatter sundew which appears to have worried little about Winter. Still not sure whether this is Drosera spatulata or Drosera rotundifolia although am currently edging towards the latter. There are at least three separate plants within the pot and these probably need transplanting before Venus begins to grow, or would it be easier to transplant Venus into another pot and leave them to it. The literature called this type of plant the weed of all carnivores and it is definitely looking pretty hardy. Don’t particularly want to take risks with Venus though until I am certain that she’s alright so perhaps I may leave it for another year. Just hope that this ‘weed’ does not take over the rather small pot.
Whilst Aphro’s traps continue to be highly impressive, his exhibited behaviour has never at any point over Winter suggested a VPT in, or even entering, dormancy. Why should Aphro act so differently to Venus? Perhaps inherent in the answer is the major difference between the two plants that being the ‘flower stalk’ situation.
When Venus grew a flower stalk last Summer I let it develop and flower before discovering that most advice recommended removing these stalks as soon as they developed on the basis that the amount of energy used by the plant in producing the stalk and flower, permanently affected the quality and quantity of the plants traps in the future. In short, the plant was never the same again after flowering and the flower itself was unremarkable and only of any practical use to those wishing to collect the seeds to propagate new plants, something which I currently have little interest in doing. It is true to say that Venus was never the same plant once she had flowered and after flowering she began the slow descent into deformation and dormancy.
Now, imagine my surprise upon returning home to discover that in the three weeks I had been away, Aphro had managed to fully grow a flower stalk. I had not noticed any suggestion of the stalk before and it is only now when I look back at the pictures from 1st February of my last posting that I see the top of the stalk in amongst the traps. Now I have been away quite a lot in March and did not get around to removing this stalk until 31st March, the pictures below recording the before and after of this event. Now I am able to observe any differing behaviour between a VPT that has flowered and one that has not been permitted to.
Aphro has certainly grown smaller traps that are closer to the ground as a dormant VPT should, he has just not shown any signs that the majority of his larger traps are going to die back. Whether this plant has entered dormancy or not may soon become clear and as with Venus I impatiently await any signs of new growth.
Cass and Aggy (The Moroccan Twin Sisters)
Spring smiles or false hope is the game here. This pot has become something of a cat and fox toilet over the Winter and with the diseased state that the mint died back in the late Autumn it was touch and go whether any new and healthy mint would return in the Spring. A very close of the examination of the picture of the 8th March above seems to show the new growth of several mint plants, or they sure look like mint plants. Although I do not have any photographs of the pot towards the end of the month, I did look in the pot and can remember being disappointed that all signs of mint life had disappeared and there were a number of foreign objects beginning to grow in their stead. I am in Devon as I write this and so cannot go outside and check the situation but will document what is occurring as soon I can. Haven’t a good feeling about the mint though. I never did get that cup of mint tea last year and it’s beginning to look further and further away. A miracle required!
After Sunny, Gronda is the plant that has most missed regular care and attention and this plant is quite the attention seeker. I am happy enough that he is still going but he is certainly in quite a shocking state even compared to how he was at the beginning of February. He is not getting enough water and I need to quickly get into a new habit of regular watering before he loses any more leaves. Once he looked truly magnificent and now he just looks sparse and miserable. The only positive in this situation is that he has lasted longer than the previous calathea who eventually died. I love this plant and do not want to see it go the same way but it requires hell of a lot of time and responsibility, something I am currently struggling to provide. There must be a happy medium of habit.
Despite Hulk’s shedding over Winter he has at least got no worse since February. My thoughts again return to a need to quickly get into a watering habit with this plant before he sheds even more spines.
Imagine my horror the other day when even the ever reliable Snake had developed brown fraying to the end of some of his leaves. Now I do remember this plant being in a fairly dismal state when we actually purchased him but God forbid that even this most hardy of triffids has also succumbed to a bout of sickness. Elsewhere there is evidence of new growth, or am I imagining it with Snake. Difficult to tell if there is slow movement or if it is just the complete lack of movement that tricks one’s mind into creating movement that isn’t there. Will be carrying out a more extensive examination and comparison upon my return.
Flapjack was always the runt of the litter to me. An extra chosen by others for which I knew there was no place, there being no other suitable locations for a houseplant with even average needs. Flapjack really has suffered over the Winter although more through neglect than active design. The photo from 8th March shows him looking pretty wretched. Then my girlfriend has rather cheekily elevated him to the previously mentioned sun trap near the kitchen window and it must be said that he has dramatically improved over the last three weeks. If Sunny moves outside then perhaps there will be a place for Flapjack here by the window although preference will always be given to carnivores. I seem to remember that the last time Sunny’s competitive streak was challenged, with the introduction of Drake, she responded magnificently with menace. Perhaps Flapjacks supplanting of Sunny’s sunny position may ultimately benefit both plants. We can only hope so.