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Nepenthes Fusca Hybrid Cutting Update

Back in September, Paul sent me a vine of a Nepenthes fusca hybrid to try cuttings on. Later that month, the cuttings looked like this. Those little grow point things have been slowly but surely growing, and looking good so far! I managed to slice the vine up into 10 pieces and so far 8 still look ok. As referenced in the earlier post, here’s a great link on how to do Nepenthes cuttings. Thanks again Paul!

Nepenthes fusca hybrid cutting
Nepenthes fusca hybrid cutting

Nepenthes fusca hybrid cuttingNepenthes fusca hybrid cutting

Starting Seeds 2012 – The Next Generation

Back on Sunday, 13 May, 2012 (Mother’s Day), Dahlia and I started to sow the seeds that I’ve left in cold stratification for an extended period of time. I put the seeds in on 26 January, 2012. In the past I’ve left the seeds in cold stratification (or “cold strat” as I like to call it for short) on average anywhere between 4-6 weeks. These babies were in there for a while longer than what I was used to doing in the past. (According to TimeandDate.com, they’ve been in there for 108 days, or 3 months and 17 days.) I was a bit worried that it would be too long for them, but you know what? They turned out FINE!

It’s been a very rough year for me thus far filled with interesting challenges as you’ve probably read about here, here, here, here, and here. Planting these seeds in hopes of future greatness always gives me a faint glimmer of hope that something freakishly awesome will come forth. Isn’t that what breeders hope for every year they make these crosses?

Sarracenia seeds in cold strat, next to the Marionberry jam.

Above is a shot of the seeds in the baggies in the fridge. Next to the Marionberry Jam I got from Seattle. See this post for details on how I prepared the babies for cold strat. Essentially, I am stratifying them in media and all I do next is empty that media into their future germinating pot/home. If I had the time, I really would prefer to let Mama Nature do the stratification. With the amount of seeds and crosses that I usually end up doing, one less step for me could be a good thing. I know many other growers who do stratify in au naturale mode – outdoors, and it works fine. It is just that I’m quite limited on space when it comes to preparation so I decide to do it this way. Again, for you growers out there, I encourage you to try and experiment new methods for yourselves; do whatever works for you. I would love to get some ideas and see how you all handle your seed process!

Got Pot? I was fortunate enough to have some new pots (unused and clean!) to use for this process. I was so so sooooo very glad that I didn’t have to perform any epic toilet scrubber scrubbing pot action awesomeness. If you decided to re-use any type of potting containers, I suggest that you make sure they are clean before starting germination. You don’t want any nasty fungus crap or weird pests sneaking into your germinating area. Stuff like that can be prevented, and you don’t want to loose seedlings unnecessarily. To clean pots, you can soak in a light bleach solution overnight and rinse them out very well the next day. Here I have fiddy-two (52) pots for the seed packs that I have. In years past I’ve done upwards of 120-ish crosses. That may seem like a lot of crosses to some, but this is only a fraction of crosses when compared to some others growers and breeders I know.  With these numbers, the amount of work can be kinda staggering. In the end though, it truly is worth it. For me at least. I’m a bit masochistic perhaps. Yeah baby! Oh, and as a side note about those packs, one of those packs contain Darlingtonia california seeds from fellow grower Sam Brookhardt. (Hit him up on twitter @sammliberty.)

Use protection. Another thing I would also suggest before you buck wild getting dirty is that it’s OK to use protection. Ok, ok – I admit, I love to get nasty and dirty. Hell yes. It’s fun. I love to feel and penetrate the dirt with my bare hands and become one with the earth I’m working with. But the reality is that it’s wise to use protection. Check out an earlier post on using protection. My protection of choice is a nice fitting thin-yet-strong set of nitrile gloves. They don’t tear as easy as latex, and are thin enough to allow me to feel the pleasure of getting down and dirty with the plants. As I mentioned in that post, I keep a bottle of hand sanitizer around in the greenhouse and wipe down after I take my gloves off. I’ll also wash with soap and water once I can get to a sink cuz’ that’s just the clean thing to do.

Prepare the house. My seeds this year are being started indoors in the garage. To start the seeds indoors, I needed some type of housing – a tray system to put those pots in. In the past I’ve used aquariums. Here’s an example of when I started my 2010 crosses in 2011. Now, these current pots wouldn’t really fit the way I wanted into those standard 10 x 20 inch flats, so I decided to use an old hydro tray thing from my local cannabis growing and supply …er… hydroponics store. I ran down to my local hydro store and picked up a smaller used white flood tray. I like white because of the light reflection. I will be starting these seeds off under lights after all and figure it would help.Since it was a used tray, I took the additional precaution of cleaning the large tray with a diluted solution of bleach, about 1 part to every 10 of water. It was soaked overnight, and I rinsed it out the next day. After the rinse, I also washed it down with soap and water both inside and outside then rinsed that off very well. Yes, a bit much perhaps. Then again I don’t want to lose any seedlings to any weird crap that could of easily been prevented.

Above on the left I added a type of egg crate lighting diffuser thing that is used in fluorescent fixtures. This serves as a platform for the pots. There are grooves up in that tray and the pots would otherwise sit kind of wonky there. If you look carefully, underneath the crate you can see the deep grooves. I simply trimmed that egg create thingmabobber with scissors in order to fit the flooring of the tray. I did this to have a nice even surface for the pots to sit on. In the photo above right, you can see all the pots fitting and sitting in the tray quite happily.

Plugging it up.

Plug the drainage. Next I hydrated some long fiber sphagnum moss. I bought a bulk compressed bale and hydrated some in a tray. As you can see in the photo above left, the rest of the 1 kg bale is in the plastic bag and I am hydrating the rest in the container. In the photo above right, I’m placing the damp sphagnum moss at the bottom of each pot. Next, I repeat 51 more times. I do this to keep the peat moss media in the pot. I’ve used weed block in the past. I hear others use coffee filters, or even paper towels. Now, you don’t have to do this step (and I don’t really do this for the rest of my plants), but I like to keep the peat moss from seeping out of the pot. When the peat moss seeps out because of the water it’s sitting in, the peat level in the pot will drop as it settles and can look kind of funky. At least to me it does. Now, the peat will settle but at least wont be flooding out of the pot. This step for me this is just personal preference.

Bottom of the pots lined with long fiber sphagnum moss.

Stuff it, baby! After lining the pots with the long fiber sphagnum moss, it’s time to stuff with your potting media! I use a 1:1 ratio of peat moss to perlite. I’ve used things like pure peat, or coarsely chopped long fiber sphagnum, or peat/sand, and even a combination of all things listed. Again, use whatever works well for you! With 52 pots that needed stuffing – and me feeling somewhat lazy, I asked the awesome rad wifey, to help me out with the pot stuffing project. You know it’s love when your spouse dosen’t mind getting dirty with you. Heh! (Thanks Mahal!)

Dahlia stuffin’ the pots with planting media.

Pots stuffed and happy!

Setting the stage. I wanted to have the seed tray raised off the floor just to make it easier to look at the seeds. Now, I didn’t have any spare potting benches or tables lying around, so I set the stage all McGyver style by using buckets. I also had these wooden things laying around so I used that for – like, 2 more inches of height. This is the platform for the next generation – freekin’ buckets. Hey, whatever works right!? Next I set the entire tray on there just to test the sizing out, and it all worked out quite nicely.

Prepare for light. So since I didn’t have any lighting shelves or whatnot, I decided to use 6 pots as a lighting stand. The black pots above are simply serving as a platform for the light fixtures that I have. If I had white pots, that would be ideal as I’d have more light reflectivity going on, but for now – this works. It’s also cool because I can just water the entire tray by pouring water into one of those pots. The pots that serve as a lighting stand here will have the lamps set on top. That leaves about 4 inches over the other pots that contain will soon contain the seeds.

It’s about time. The photo above left is the timer I am using. I set the timer to turn on at 5 am and off at 9pm – a 16 hour photo period. I’ve had great success with 24 hour photo periods. That also gave me a great electricity bill, LOL!  Anyway, I have 2 spare lighting fixtures that I’m using – kinda mismatched with 2 different fixtures, but hey — it works. Both fixtures are using 32 watt T-12 fluorescent fixtures. I think someone mentioned to me that more wattage is better as equals stronger light. I didn’t feel like getting any more lights or replacing my current bulbs. The lights are pretty close to the pots anyway so it doesn’t really bother me at this point. I’ve yet to try LED grow-lights for starting Sarracenia seeds. If anyone has any experience or feedback in that arena, I’d love to hear about it! (And I’d love a lower electricity bill too while we’re at it.)

Pot it up. Next, we get ready to pot those seeds up! I’ve had the seed stratified in cold stratification in their own media. I kept the container (photo, above left) in the fridge and now I’m ready to start potting each baggie up one by one. The contents of the bag will be placed into each pot. (Photo, above right.)

I open the bag up and just dump entire contents into the pot. Not sure if you’ve noticed that in the previous photos I’ve had the tags indicating the cross already pre made and in the bag. I use that to kind of scrape the seeds along with their stratification / germination media into the pot. After I get the seeds into the pot, I pat it down flat. (Photo below.) For me, I guess it helps to know that the seeds are packed in there somewhat firm. But not too firm. Just a happy medium type of firm. I don’t want seeds from one pot jumping off and landing in another pot. I don’t want no random freekin’ plant showing up in any other pots, yahknowwhaddImean?

Pat it down.

After the cold strat media containing the seeds is all nice and patted down in the pot, I insert the tag. It’s important and just very nice to keep things organized and labeled. In the photo to the left, the first cross I put in the pot was S. purpurea heterophylla x “Green Monster”. If you don’t know me there’s one thing I really love – and that’s anthocyanin free plants. I plan on breeding along these anthocyanin free lines quite a bit. The cross to the left I’m picturing a Sarracenia swaniana-ish looking anthocyanin free plant. Hopefully with more windows or something from the S. “Green Monster” parentage, but who knows what will come out of that pot. Pretty cool, eh? Time will tell. I’ll look back on this photo in a future blog post years from now and see where those plants all started.

After it’s all potted, patted down, and tagged up, my next step is spraying it down! I take a sprayer, set to mist, and give it a few squirts to make sure everything is in place spraying it down helps to clean it up a bit. I also wanted to mention that I’ll also spray off my gloves time to time – especially between seed sets to ensure no seed from the previous pot/pack hitchhikes into the next pot. Dude, that would suck and kind of drive me mad. Before starting on the next seed set, I make sure no visible media or seeds are on the gloves. I know it may seem like a lot of steps at this point, but for me, I like to err on being on the careful side. Am I a bit OCD? Is this me channeling a Virgo thing? Who knows. So anyway, after I finish with one pot I put it back into the tray, and start the process of unloading the seeds from the bag, into the pot, then into the tray 51 more times until I’m finally done. Again, for my growing I like to keep things clean so I periodically cleaned up my work area between the sets to ensure that no seeds from other bags jump to another pot. Yeah, it took a little bit of time, but was well worth it!

After that’s all said and done, gloves came off and I sprayed the seeds with a fine mist to clean things up again. Once everything was in there, the next step was to add water! Yeah!

In the photo to the left, I pour the water into the pot, and the water then drains into the rest of the tray. I’m currently using de-ionized water at a beautiful 0 ppm. I filled the tray with about two bucket fulls – or until the pots were sitting in about a half inch – inch of water. The sphagnum moss that lined the bottom of each pot prevents the peat mixture from leaking out and it also acts like a wick, absorbing the water and watering the pots that contain the next generation of Sarracenia awesomeness. Freekin’ rad! Yeah! After the tray is filled with water, my next step was to cover the tray with plastic!

Cover it up. As you can see, it’s now all coming together! For my cover, I just used regular painting tarp plastic from the hardware store – not greenhouse plastic which is more pricey. If you have greenhouse plastic I’m sure that would do the job too. Anyway, I cover the seeds to keep both humidity and heat in and create a “greenhouse effect” to get those seeds to germinate. In years past, I’ve used heat mats to help get those seeds germinating, but decided not to do it this year as I don’t know how effective it would be sitting under that big hydro tray. I figured that the lamps would emit enough heat to get it warm under the plastic.

Let there be light! In the photo above, I place my the lighting figures on top of the tray, held up by those 1 gallon black pots pots. The lights, as mentioned above, are on a timer and I just set it and forget it!

A peek under the hood. In the photo above, you can see what it looks like underneath the lights. I hope this makes the new babies happy! After turning the lights on, the gentle heat warms up the atmosphere under that plastic – waking the seeds up. Last year’s germination was pretty much a huge fail for me because we had a freak 80F+ day that baked a lot of the seeds before I was able to get home and uncover them… and I think the trichoderma that I used in that post did more harm that good. Who knows. The good thing is that a few of those crosses survived – less than half. Oh well. Shit happens. The important thing here (channeling my inner zen) is that I’ve learned quite a few things from that epic fail. With each “failure” in the garden and in life, take a step back and see what you can learn. Like… don’t fucking leave your seeds covered cuz a freak warm day could roll by and bake yo’ shit. (Had to vent. Sorry.)

ANYWAYYYYYY, I am pleased to say that the seeds I am germinating this year are all doing well and most have already sprouted and are showing vigorous signs of life!

IMPORTANT TIP: DON’T PEEK! Almost any grower out there will tell you that watching the seeds for days on end (like I was in photo above) will cause your seeds to grow at a much slower rate. I don’t know why this is the case. They must be shy or somefin’. It must be some gardening universal law – but please heed my warning and don’t try to watch the seeds sprout. I sat there for days on end and the only thing that grew was my gnarly beard while watching the seeds as nothing happened. The moment I walked away, the magic happend as described in this post… yeah!

So there’s how I set my seeds up this year. I hope this is helpful for you and feel free to use this post as a rough guide for your own seed Sarracenia germinating awesomeness. Happy growing and please feel free to contact me if you have any questions, or if you have anything you’d like to share with me by commenting below or email me directly at Sarraceniadude [ at ] thepitcherplantproject.com.  I’d love to hear from you!

Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea AF x "Green Monster"Sarracenia purpurea heterophylla x “Green Monster”
26 May 2012 

Last but not least – a huge and special thank you to my awesome wife Dahlia for her help in potting these babies up and photographing the new crop set up! (Not to mention her patience in putting up with me and das beard as I sat there for days watching these seeds germinate… lol!) 🙂 Thanks babe, I love you!

Let’s grow!

Manifest Destiny

In  the spirit of all things new and pertaining to growth and expansion, I’d like to share a little bit of my recent expansion process.  Now, I know I’ve been talking a lot about seeds, seedlings, expansion, growth, and all that kinda stuff — but just bear with me.   The past couple weeks have really been quite a transition for me, so I guess some of that is rubbing off on these recent posts.

Manifest Destiny. I’m not talking about the 19th century mindset that the US was going to expand from coast to coast. Nah, I’m talking about all these flippin’ crosses that are now starting to germinate somewhere in my back yard. 120+ different crosses now starting.   The Sarracenia are spreading from one end of my yard to the other. Hah! 🙂

Back in February I wrote about my seed packing project and getting the seeds I harvested into cold stratification. Now I’m showing you how I get them out and get them started.

One thing I didn’t do back then was make labels… so that’s what I did first. I wrote all the crosses down for that particular seed batch on the envelope I had the seeds stored in.   That won’t do for potted plants, so I had to get some label action going on.

2011 Seed Expansion

So, guess what I did? As I was going through all the crosses, I wrote down all the crosses on a label and paired up with said same cross on envelope. Easier said than done.   ESPECIALLY with the complex crosses.

2011 Seed Expansion

I do this just to be organized. I am sure to stick the label in each pot that the particular cross is going into.   After all, ya gotta know what is in each pot one way or another, right?

I began to fill pots up with media to plant the seeds in. What I do is prepare the mix using peat/sand and fill each pot that I will be using for germination up to the top like in the photo below.

2011 Seed Expansion

I then pull the seed batch out of the respective envelope.   Be sure to check out what was going on in February as I go over how I get things in the bag. It’s basically the way I was doing cold stratification as my space is limited.

Inside that envelope are the seeds, and damp peat/sand mix that’s been in the fridge for a while.  As you can see, I had the cross labeled on the little envelope and the bag fit perfectly inside.  This cross in the example below is an S. ‘Alucard’ x leucophylla, anthocyanin free.  The progeny of this cross will not be AF, statistically speaking; however when these seedlings are of flowering maturity and I cross with another anthocyanin free plant – the resulting offspring should partially be anthocyanin free.  Genetics, always interesting, yes?

2011 Seed Expansion

To make it easy to unload, I split open the seam of the bag along one side, exposing the media + seed mix.

2011 Seed Expansion

I then flip it over and the whole thing falls into the pot very easily, and cleanly.

2011 Seed Expansion

I spread it around a bit, pat it down, then I insert the tag that has the proper ID.

2011 Seed Expansion

…and then repeat for 120 times.

2011 Seed Expansion

As you can see in the photo above, I am using two large mixing tubs as a place to keep the freshly sown seeds in the pots. I fill the black mixing tub with about 1/2 inch of water. There’s another small container with a few more pots outside of this shot — but just wanted to show you a small photo so y’all get the gist of what the heck I was doing.

A friend of mine suggested to use trichoderma to prevent fungus problems. It’s a beneficial fungus that fights the bad fungus. Fight fire with fire, and fungi with fungi. So that’s what I did.

I ordered tablets from http://www.growmorerice.com. No, this is NOT a paid ad on my blog. I’m just lettin’ y’all know where I got this stuff, and how this will turn out with the seeds/seedlings. It’s my first time trying this so this is totally an experiment for me. I’ll continue to document my progress here. I actually have been using this stuff on my Sarracenia starting only a few months ago, and so far so good!  I haven’t had any major rot issues either. Maybe one or two plants, but that’s a lot less than what I would normally be seeing.

2011 Seed Expansion

So in that envelope is a tablet you drop into the water, and after a few minutes, it’s all mixed up for ya.  I dropped the stuff into the sprayer tank, gave it some time, and let it dissolve.

2011 Seed Expansion

I’ve sprayed this mixture at the base of my mature/adult plants this year with no bad side effects.  Let’s see how the seeds/seedlings react and if it really does help with rooting/fungus protection.

2011 Seed Expansion

Below is another shot of the “germination chamber” with all the seeds freshly sown.

2011 Seed Expansion

Next, I added a few support posts. Basically some tubes inserted into slots on the makeshift table, and I held together with left over bonsai wire. Yeah, ghetto. I know.

Expand 2011
Since I am *not* starting these seeds in a terrarium or a greenhouse like I normally would, I made my own germination chamber outdoors.  Since I am doing all this outdoors, and I’ll have to protect the seeds from things like rain, wind, and other critters that could dig up the seeds and move them around. That would be pretty tragic.

After I get the support posts up, I cover the entire thing with two layers of thick plastic that I obtained at my local hardware store.  The additional air layer in between the two sheets serves as insulation.  Then to secure the whole thing, I use bungee cords. I also used a couple bricks to weigh down the plastic.

It isn’t greenhouse plastic and this stuff will eventually break down due to the suns UV rays.  It’s good for about an entire season. Before it starts to break down, I’ll recycle it and if need be, throw another type of protective covering on it later on.

Expand 2011

It actually started to rain the day I finished this project up, and I’m glad I was able to get the plastic on or else I would of ended up with those seeds all over the place.  Below is a shot of the germination chamber.  As you’ve read in the last couple of posts, it is working and the seeds are slowly starting to germinate.

2011 Seed Expansion

Another Sarracenia generation and new era of botanical expansion over here. I can’t wait to see what some of these will look like in the next few years.  But for now, I’ll sit back and enjoy the journey as it unfolds. Out of those few seeds, I hope will come some freekin’ awesome stuff!

Pollination: Tools

Hope everyone is having a great weekend thus far! Let’s talk a little bit about sex today. Plant sex. Pollination! For those of you who didn’t see it in an earlier post, be sure to review Brooks Garcias pollination guide.

I love hybridizing Sarracenias. It’s this whole creative process that I find so enjoyable. See, ya got this one plant you really like, and want to combine characteristics from another plant ya really like — then you cross ’em and hope that the babies will have that combined characteristics from both parents for a bomb ass plant you’ll really jockin’.  I am even working on quite a few hybrids that will take several generations to come to fruition. Me gots these crazy plant ideas that will take several crosses to create through the years. It’s all a creative genetic gamble, but that’s something that I find so fascinating about this process.

Just for easy digestion, I’ll break this subject up in several posts, so be sure to check back now and then on updates on this topic. Today, we’ll talk about some tools used to pollinate.  For Sarracenia pollination, the goal is to get the pollen onto the stigma. Then ya hope and pray that the pollination takes successfully. The pollen can be from a different plant,  or from its own self. The latter is referred to as “selfing” a plant. Now, keep in mind that everyone has their own way they prefer to do things, and I encourage you to try things on your own. Be creative!

Here’s a few tools that are used to apply pollen to the stigmas.


So, here are just a few tools:
Figure A. Q-tip
Figure B. Paint brush
Figure C. Toothpick
Figure D. Earwax pick

You notice that all these tools are small enough to get into the Sarracenia flower, scoop out, carry, then apply onto the target stigmas. I’ve used all these tools and have been successful. It’s all personal preference as far as what you want to use, and again – use what you feel is most comfortable for you.

That earwax pick (Figure D) is actually the one that I favor most right now. I was at Daiso (this rad Japanese dollar-fiddy store in Daly City, CA) a couple years ago and spotted this thing as I was wandering the aisles. See Figure D-1 below.


Figure D-1  – Ear Pick. Dude, so when I saw this I immediately thought Sarracenia pollination. And check out the packaging:

“For cleaning cleanly and refreshingly the earhole”

HA! I love that!  So, I guess it’s not only great for cleaning cleanly and refreshingly the earhole, but it’s great for your Sarracenia hole too.  The reason I like working with the refreshingly the earhole tool is because I find it’s efficient with pollen – something I’ll write about soon in an upcoming post.

Figure E below shows yet another pollination instrument that works just fine – the finger.  Yes, finger. It’s perfectly acceptable to go finger your flower to pollinate.

Figure E – Finger

Ok, I’m a SF Giant’s fan (baseball team) if you probably haven’t figured out by now.  See — In baseball, there’s pitchers. With Sarracenia, there’s pitchers. Get it — *PITCHER* plant?!?  Bwahahah!  Ok, that was my corny baseball/plant joke for the day…   Uhm yeah…

Anyway, back to Sarracenia…

Using the finger works well on the plants that have the larger flowers (like Sarracenia flava, or Sarracenia leucophylla to name a couple)  because it’s easier to get the finger into the Sarracenia hole.  You then take the pollen that’s on said finger and apply to the target stigmas.

Figure E-1 – Finger pollination in the Sarracenia hole.

Figure E-2 – SF Giants Torture pollination.

Size does matter, and at times, you gotta just shove it in there and hope the successful pollination takes place. For those of you who are familiar with the SF Giant’s baseball “torture” way of the game, Figures E-1 and E-2 is illustrating SF Giant’s Sarracenia pollination torture.  Hey, if it works for the team, then it works for the plant. 😉

So, this concludes todays pychobabble about pollination tools and stuff. Hope this helps and inspires some of you that are looking into getting into Sarracenia breeding. Word up, dudes.

Pack It Up

Oh Yeah! Packing it up and sharing the Sarracenia love! Recently, a couple folks have asked me about how to pack/send/ship rhizomes out, so I thought I’d share a general kind of how-to on the matter.  Keep in mind, this is a very general – the main focus here is just to ensure the plant protected. There are many ways to go about doing this; just try to keep the plant safe and secure and you should be fine.

Now, the plants that I am growing outdoors are just starting to pitcher; but a few of them, such as the one below,  have not pitchered yet.  I find that this is the easiest time to ship plants as I don’t have to worry about extra packing and handling for the pitchers.  If it ever does come to that, I’ll use those triangular tube things (like they use for shipping large prints), or even cut out and create my own from other boxes I have had laying around.  Anyway, I like receiving Sarracenia in the rhizome state as I’ll let the plant send up pitchers and acclimate itself in my climate.

I start by removing the plant from the pot, and washing away the medium from the roots. I do this to save on shipping costs (weight), and I find it’s just a cleaner way to handle packing. If the plant is in active growth however, I’ll do my best to keep the core of the root ball in tact to minimize stress, then wrap and ship carefully.

[Ready for packing.]

So now that the rhizome is cleaned up, I use a paper towel and wrap the rhizome and roots. I then dampen the towel a bit to prevent the plant from drying out during shipping and to provide a little moisture for it’s journey. Some people will use sphagnum moss, or ship with some of the potting medium on there. That’s fine too.

[Sarracenia wrap.]

After wrapping it up with the paper towels, I’ll drop it into some sort of plastic bag.  If shipping multiple plants and placing it in the same bag, be sure to include a label or some sort of way to identify the plant so that the receiver will know what is what.

[In the bag.]

Next, I just rolled and taped it up. You don’t really have to do this though, it’s just something I did for this shipment.  I also labeled the bag with a permanent marker to ID it. Other times I’ve included a tag with the rhizome as a form of identification. Again, do whatever works for you.  Notice the bubble wrap in the background – I’ll use that later to pack all this up in the box.

[Taping it up.]

You may use a variety of containers to ship – typically you can get the flat rate priority boxes at the post office.  For this particular shipment, I simply re-used and re-purposed another box.  I began by opening the box up. I basically just find where the box is joined to the edge, and gently tear it off from there. (See photo below.)  This will allow me to turn the box inside out so that none of the other markings / labels from the last shipment would be visible. I don’t want to run the risk of confusing any postal employee, ya know.

[Opening the box up. Re-using and re-purposing.]

Next, I just tape that side back to its corner using packing tape. I will also tape up the bottom, and have a clean looking box ready for re-use.

[Taping it together.]

So, after taping it all together, I proceeded to wrap it up snug and secure with the bubble wrap I had handy. The bubble wrap that I used here was also reused from a prior shipment to me.  You can use newspaper, packing peanuts (try to the environmentally friendly kind), or anything else that can cushion the plant and keep it safe.  During times of freezing cold, others will use those 48 hour warmer things to keep the plants above freezing. I have no idea what you call em as I’ve never had to ship to an icy location… at least, not yet.  I usually just communicate with the receiving party and ship when they tell me that the temperatures are fine.

Pack7[Safe and snug.]

After it’s safe and snug, I tape it all up, slap a mailing label on it and then send it off.  Again, do whatever works for you to ensure the plants are safe and sound. Recycling materials is always great. I’ve re-used materials from the office, such as those air-pack things that are used for the toner cartridges. I’ll keep a few shipping supplies on hand as well that were used for prior shipments and just re-purpose those.  No sense in spending additional money or resources for packing, right?

Hope this little packing-up tutorial helps you to spread some of that Sarracenia cheer!  Happy shipping! 😉

Photos: Behind the Scenes

So, I’ve had a few people ask me about how I photograph plants. My response is pretty simple. I just press the button. 🙂 HA!

Recently, fellow garden-plant-homie-dude Derek, who is the author of the wonderful plant blog Plantgasm (twitter: @Plantgasm) suggested I do a post on my set up.  This is actually a post that I’ve been wanting to do for a couple weeks, and thanks to his encouragement, I’m putting this up.

I gotta mention – below is what works for me.  I encourage you to try, experiment, learn, and just play around to see what works best for you! I would love to also hear about your photo experiences too. I have to also tell you that I am NOT a professional photographer.  Just a dude who likes to take a lot of pictures.


So, when I shoot, I use digital SLR (SLR = Single Lens Reflex) cameras, or DSLR’s for short.  I favor shooting with these types of camera because of the control and flexibility they provide for photography. I won’t bore you about all the details here, but you can always check out the wiki and the google and read up about DLSR’s for yourself.  I started out while back just using point and shoots.  On the left is my very first DSLR camera that I still do use from time to time. It’s a Canon XTi that I’ve had for a few years.  On the right is a Canon 7d.  Now: bear in mind it’s not the camera or brand that makes the shot. It’s really about who’s behind that view finder, capturing a vision, then conveying it in the  photo.  There’s always going to be debate on which brand is best, or which gear is best.  To me, it’s not about that but rather what the final product is. Some people think the more expensive the camera, the better the photo. Well, it’s not all about the “bling” factor of your gear.  Just use what you have! 🙂

Those rings above – are actually little macro lens adapters.  This allows me to get closer to my subject.  It’s a rather inexpensive way to get a nice close up photo without spending so much on a macro lens. It comes in varying powers that attach to your lens.  The higher the number, the closer you can get to your subject. You can combine them too.  Now, if you decide to go this route, make sure that the diameter of your lens matches up with the adapters.  For example, this is my 50 mm lens that I use a lot, and the diameter is 52mm.  Often times it’s reflected as the “Ø” symbol.   Depending how close I want to get, I’ll change it up from not using an adapter at all, to combining all of them.

Here’s a photo of the nifty 50mm with the +2 adapter on.

One of the things I really love about photography with these camera’s is being able to control the depth of field, or “DOF”.  This is that “background blurred out” effect you see .  For example, in the photo above of my lens, you see how the focus is on the adapter itself and how the rest of the photo is kind of blurred out?  That’s an example of a somewhat shallow depth of field.  You can control this by adjusting your f-stop on the camera. This is the number  you see next to the “f”.  Above photo was shot at f 4.  The lower the number, the shallower the depth of field.  The larger the number, the more foreground to background you can see.  For something more comprehensive that won’t bore you like I probably am doing,  here’s a pretty straightforward video.


Some folks have asked about the black background in the photos. So, what do I use?  I use various things actually that are solid black – one of which, is just poster board that I painted with black chalkboard paint The chalkboard paint was leftover from a co-workers building project. He asked if I wanted it and I figured out a good use for it!

I try to use something that has a matte type finish so that it minimizes the light reflection.   I’ve used things such as the black back of clipboard, to the flat black luggage inserts.  The board in the above photo needs some retouching though. I’ll probably repaint it this weekend or something.  Others I know use things like… black velvet, black cloth, landscape fabric… Hey, whatever works!

Oh, you see white piece of paper in the shot? That’s actually my reflector!  With some shots, I’ll hold the paper just outside the shot to reflect the light back onto the subject. It brightens it up a bit.

The time of day is important too.  Shooting when lighting is even is best. Morning, dusk, or cloudy days are great times to photograph because you won’t get that strong lighting and strong contrasting shadows.   A lot of times, I’ll take my photos during these periods.

Another thing I wanted to point out in my photo above is that this was mid day with the sun high.  This gave me some issues, but I’m still able to work around it.  When the lighting is even, I don’t have a problem with the background. When the lighting is strong, I have to angle the board away from the sun so that the black side is shaded. Otherwise if it’s facing the sun, or has excess light reflecting on it, I’ll have a grayish cast in the background.  I’ll still throw a few photos up this way, but I always feel lazy when I do. Ha!  Notice in the photo that I’ve angled the board away from the sun and just left it propped up so that the black side is shaded.

Next, I take the camera, and move in on the subject and frame the shot.  I composed both of the shots of this plant below with the main focus in the upper third of the frame.  Photo composure adds some visual interest to the photos.  For example, you can read about it here.  In the photos below,  I AM holding the paper outside the shot underneath the flower and pitcher to brighten it up a bit.  The photo below of the pitcher has a really bright hood just because it was shot mid day and the noon sun was blazing on it. I would of liked to shoot it in more even lighting, but I guess for illustrative purposes, the photos will do. 🙂


Sarracenia hybrid

Sarracenia hybrid

I hope you all liked this little look behind the scenes – now get out there, grow something, and shoot it!

Derek, thanks again for your kind encouragement and prodding to post this process!

Divide and Conquer

‘Tis the season for dividing and conquering.

I’m really… REALLY behind in my dividing, but that’s fine. *Sigh* unfortunately not all of my time is dedicated to the Sarracenia. Would be pretty awesome though.  Anyway, I’m only dividing the plants that need dividing and letting the rest grow out for another season … or three.

For those unfamiliar with the dividing process, here’s a quick example of how to divide and propagate Sarracenia.

The photo below is of a multi-multi growpoint Sarracenia, about to burst into growth. (This, by the way, is a fantastic red moorei)  and it’s on the verge of busting out of the pot.  Those leaves you see are the non carnivorous winter leaves that the plant produces to photosynthesize during the darker winter months. They be called phyllodia.

I like to have a small work area when dividing/repotting. Keeps me focused on the plant I’m working on.  I also have a little tub to work in to keep the work area somewhat clean preventing too much dirt from going all over the place.

After removing from the pot, I loosen up the media a bit.  Here’s a couple shots of the rhizome/roots and what goes on beneath.

Notice the awesome root system action going on below the surface of the soil. That’s hawt.

I look/feel for a place where I can break a good sized piece of rhizome off. See figure below —  my plan of attack will be separating the rhizome at the point where the skizzors will be following the dotted line.

Now, some people do use a sharp knife, or clippers to separate the rhizome. It’s all personal preference. With a plant of this size, I can actually break off a piece by hand pretty easy.

Grab life by the rhizome. Oh, and when dividing, I do like to try to get as much root in there as I can.  However, I have had plenty of success dividing these things and planting them without any root at all (just growpoint)– and they still do survive and eventually grow roots of their own.

Freshly divided rhizomes below, ready to be potted up.

… And after potting up, I trimmed the phyllodia (you don’t really have to, but it just looks cleaner for me…) and now it’s time to just sit back and wait for the new growth to explode.