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My Carnivorous Garden.
Carnivorous gardening is experiencing somewhat of a renaissance.  Until recently, carnivorous plant gardening has been the domain of highly specialized and dedicated hobbyists, along with orchid growers and cultivators of other high maintenance tropical and exotic plants.  These plants have been perceived as difficult to grow exotic species with unusual environmental requirements.

I am not an expert in tropical horticulture.  I don't have a greenhouse.  I do not have an active hybridization program.  I live in a suburban neighborhood near Hillsboro, Oregon with a lawn that needs mowing and yard in need of landscaping.  I want my landscaping to stand out as unique among my neighbors.  I have an interest in water gardening, and my first attempt with a small 500 gallon pond was successful.  I selected carnivorous plants because they are unusual, and some of the techniques necessary to maintain a suitable environment for these plants are similar to water gardening techniques.

Using the internet as my initial research tool, I stumbled across the ICPS - the International Carnivorous Plant Society.  Utilizing resources generously provided by member websites, I have assembled the knowledge necessary to create a low maintenance environment capable of supporting a variety of carnivorous plants in my front yard.  While this is definitely experimental, the project is designed and intended to present as a functional and legitimate landscape planting.  If the whole thing is a failure, I'll fill in the hole and return this domain back to the specialists.

I do not plan to expand my collection beyond my initial acquisition (unlike my wife's rose garden  : ) of carefully chosen specimens.  This is the main distinguishing difference between my landscape collection and the hobbyist-turned-swamp-dweller.  I have chosen plants representing a broad spectrum of carnivorous plant types.  These plants were selected based on color, texture, size, and their ability to add interest and focus to the general landscape plan of the yard.  If some individuals plants prove to be unsuccessful, they may be replaced with more suitable specimens, but there is no plan to expand this initial bog beyond its current dimensions.  There are some external issues to consider, such as property values, etc.

This is a real live experiment.  The chronology below will document major project milestones.  The photo album will serve to visually document successes as well as failures.  Students using the bog for science projects will have their results posted here  Your comments and suggestions are welcome.

  • My first Darlingtonia californica, transplanted from the wild in 1973 died a slow and painful death in about 1976.  It bloomed once.  The reasons for this failure are (now) obvious.
  • Discovered a CP website in late August, 1999
  • Purchased 'The Savage Garden' by Peter D'Amato on Sept 16, 1999
  • Created Mission Statement1, and established project budget2 and schedule in October of 1999.
  • Determined desired plant types3 and designed4 bog accordingly, November of 1999.
  • Bog construction commences between Christmas and New Years, 2000.
  • Blew budget, January 6, 2000 (oops!).
  • Physical bog construction completed January 30, 2000 (between storms)5.
  • Electrical and plumbing completed 02/20/2000
  • Initial planting - 02/25/20006
  • Bog Journal 2000 - Details of the first growing season
  • My Bog 2000 - The Year in Review - a summary of a years worth of observations and learnings.
  • Bog Journal 2001
  • Review the 2002 Bog Builders Journal, cont... for the final detals.
  • Sold the house spring of 2003...

The internet contains a wealth of CP resources.  I found these to be the most helpful.
  • The International Carnivorous Plant Society - Enjoying plants through cultivation... working to conserve wild habitat for the future... promoting research.
  • Cascade Carnivorous Plants - My carnivorous plant vendor of choice.  Wide variety of reasonably priced, mature, high quality plants.  Lots of helpful specific information on growing a variety of carnivorous plant species. (apparently no longer in business?)
  • California Carnivores - Peter D'Amato runs this very complete retail CP nursery.  If it's detailed information you want, buy his book. He'll even autograph it for you!
  • The ICPS WebRing - An international collection of CP hobbyists and commercial vendors. (also not functional?)
  • Here's brief a compendium of wetland terms.

Appendix: 1
Mission Statement
To build a representative collection of
carnivorous plants, with preference given to naturally occurring
species, highest priority given to local species.  These plants shall
grow out of doors as part of a landscaped water feature with
minimal 'special' care requirements.

2Project Budget
Item Budget Cost Actual Cost
Labor $0.00 1 vacation day (ouch!)
Liner $10.00 $180.00*
Peat Moss $20.00 $15.98
Perlite $30.00 $10.98
Sand $16.00 $15.92
Decorative Rock $50.00 $130.00
Reverse Osmosis Water Treatment System $180.00 $179.95
Plants $200.00 $250.00
TOTAL: $506.00 $782.83+ (oops!)
*Since the project definition indicated experimental status, the liner was intended to be an inexpensive heavy plastic (7mil) painter's drop cloth.  Unfortunately, the design implementation resulted in dimensions greater than could be accommodated by a 10' wide plastic sheet, and  pond liner material in 18' width was required at significantly greater expense.

3Initial Plant Type Proposal
Cool temperate Sarracenia
Venus Flytraps
Temperate Butterworts
Aquatic Bladderworts

4 Bog Design Specifications
(click here for schematic diagram)
x 'Judith Hindle' "The Bog Complex" (hereafter referred to as The Bog) has three major features, dictated by the mix of species required - The Bog proper, The Darlingtonia Bog and The Cool Water Reservoir.
The Darlingtonia Bog is separate from The Bog proper and elevated approximately 14 inches.  Darlingtonia have an environmental requirement to keep their roots below a reported 70° fahrenheit.  This is accomplished by providing a cool water reservoir 52" deep at one end of The Bog proper.  Cool water is circulated from the bottom of the reservoir directly to the roots of the plants via a small, non submersible pump and appropriate tubing.  The reservoir is protected from solar heating by floating plants.  Recirculating water drips over a small 'waterfall', adding to the cooling effect as it returns to the reservoir.

The Bog proper is directly attached to the reservoir.  The water level in The Bog is monitored by observing  the depth of the reservoir.  Overall moisture depth is controlled by an overflow gate.  Evaporative losses are replenished manually with water purified through reverse osmosis.  The evaporation rate and replenishment needs are yet to be determined.

This system should provide adequate environmental controls for the remaining plant species.  Aquatic Bladderworts will float freely in the reservoir.  Temperate pings (Butterworts) should appreciate the 'waterfall' environment.  Upright Sarracenia species will occupy The Bog proper, providing humidity retention for flytraps and sundews.

Dimensions are as follows - The Bog proper is roughly triangular with a base of approximately 9' and a height of 4'.  The Bog has an adjustable water depth of .5 to 4 inches, currently set at 2 inches.  Soil depth is 6 inches but adjustable depending on specific species requirements.  The Cool Water Reservoir is 50 inches deep, measured from the bottom of The Bog proper, with a diameter of approximately 18 inches.  The elevated Darlingtonia Bog is 18"x24" with a constant water depth of 2 inches and adjustable soil depth.

5 Photo Album Photos of the bog in various stages of development.  Sorry, no actual construction pictures.  I just didn't think about it...
  1. The completed bog complex prior to planting (02/04/2000).
  2. After planting (well, the few plants that aren't dormant) (02/25/2000)
  3. They're growing! (03/07/2000)
  4. Emerging buds - The bog continues to be very unphotogenic. (03/20/2000)
  5. Actual stuff is happening! (04/19/2000)
  6. May update... (05/07/2000)
  7. Late May update... (05/31/2000)
  8. Mid June with VFT activity... lots of pictures, takes a while to load... (05/31/2000)
  9. Sundews in bloom! (06/25/2000)
  10. Summer Color! (07/07/2000)
  11. Spring, 2001... Butterworts in full bloom (04/27/2001)
  12. Spring, 2001 part II... more pings in bloom (05/22/2001)
  13. Sundews (05/31/2001)
  14. Blooms - flava, rubra, purpurea, etc...(05/31/2001)
  15. New spring growth (05/31/2001)
  16. Summer Update (07/08/2001)

6 Inventory - Initial Plant Order
All plants are mature, blooming specimens.  No seedlings or juvenile plants were chosen in order to maximize first year landscape contribution

Sarracenia (American Pitcher Plant)
S. alata - typical
S. flava - typical
S. flava - red throat
S. flava - copper lid
S. leucophylla
S. minor
S. psittacina
S. purpurea venosa
S. purpurea venosa - Burkei
S. rubra wherryii - yellow flower
S. rubra rubra
S. x 'Judith Hindle'
S. oreophila (acquired 06/04/2000)

Drosera (Sundew)
D. binata - 'T' form
D. rotundifolia (Oregon native species)
D. filiformis filiformis

Dionaea (Venus Flytrap)
D. miscipula - regular
D. miscipula - Akai Ryu, Red Dragon

Darlingtonia (Cobra 'Lily', California Pitcher Plant)
D. californica (Oregon native species)

Pinguicula (Butterwort)
P. grandiflora*

Utricularia (Bladderwort)
U. gibba (Oregon native species)

*This European species is similar to native Oregon Species P. macroceras, but reportedly easier to grow.

Additions and Updates -

** NEW ** - check out the PortaBog®

SOLD - Sold the house spring of 2003 and the bog went with it.  The experiment is over, but what a lot of fun! The new owner has continued to maintain the bog. I have not spoken with him about it except for an initial orientation when he picked up the keys. The first spring, one year after the sale of the house, yielded a full crop of blossoms visible from the street. The pitchers are visible from the sidewalk and appear healthy.

International Carnivorous Plant Society
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© Terry Blackburn, 2000
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