Nepenthes lowii, BE clone.

Nepenthes lowii

Nepenthes lowii

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An experiment: bench top dressing.

Recently, I decided to try an experiment: I wanted to “dress up” the bench surfaces between the pots with live Sphagnum. I’ve seen photos from other people’s greenhouses where they’ve built a living Sphagnum culture on the bench tops in this manner, and the idea appealed to me, so….

Six weeks ago I harvested quite a bit of the sphagnum that had accumulated down the sides of many hanging pots in the greenhouse, and casually plopped mats of it between the pots on the benches. The benches are a plastic grid type surface, with 1″ square holes making up the grid. The question was going to be whether or not the Sphagnum would survive on a plastic surface with large holes like that to contend with. I think I can safely say thats a yes. I still have half of this bench to finish filling with moss, and the other bench on the opposite side has yet to be started, but this is working nicely, with some pots Sphagnum blending seamlessly with the Sphagnum on the benches. The effect is very pleasing, and I bet the Nepenthes don’t mind it either.

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Above: N. lowii X truncata

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The same plant is seen at the center of the frame, but you can see more of the bench and the well-established Sphagnum colony as it appears today.

Darlingtonia experiment

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Darlingtonia californica growing in 8″ x 24″ x 8″ deep plastic window box. In early July I set up this window box planter with three plants of Darlingtonia californica. (From Hortus Botanica, in Ft. Bragg, CA) In brief: the media is a mix of coarse builder’s sand and peat, at about a 50/50 ratio. A mesh screen box was made and inserted in the box (before filling with soil mix. you can see the reservoir with the tube coming out at the top of the photo) In the reservoir is a small “fountain pump” with just enough capacity to circulate water from the reservoir, up the tube and back into the top end of the container. The idea here is to emulate the constant trickle of water Darlingtonia experience in their root zone, in their natural sites. The planting was finished with plugs of live Sphagnum pushed into the mix, in the hopes that it would fill in and create a thick mat of live moss. (It did, and beautifully, too!)

Conclusion? Well, all I will say is so far, so good. Darlingtonia has a reputation for croaking when restricted to container growing. Some people have no trouble keeping plants alive, others find they kill theirs no matter how hard they try to meet the species requirements. What do I think? I think my climate is a great asset, since these plants pretty much must have a night temperature drop into the fifties during the growing season. That is a reliable feature of our climate in the PNW, so I think that goes a long way to making Darlingtonia in pots possible. I also think the water moving over the roots is a good thing. Maybe not an absolute requirement, but I suspect it helps a lot. Some growers say they put ice cubes in the water when the weather gets hot, but I doubt that is essential. I know growers nearby that have measured water temps in native colonies here in Oregon and found the water in the root zone can easily reach the low 90’s during the day. But I expect it is that all-important night temp drop that keeps the plants in good health.

Anyway, as I say, its worked beautifully so far. You can’t really tell from the photo, but these plants all sent out underground stolons (runners) from the main plant, which I take as a sign of appreciation and health. I hope this project continues to thrive, but I won’t call it a success until it has continued to thrive for at least another year. I’ll update next Spring.