Hey!… it’s Hay!

Like that old phrase goes, “there more than one way to skin a cat”… funny, as I typed that I’m sitting here wondering where that came from? Odd… anyway, there’s also more than one way to winter Sarracenia in cold climates.  Here is another method…

These photos came from a chap in northern New Jersey.  He grows his plants potted in these large containers.  Using hay, he built himself a “fortress” around his containers to shelter his plants.


As you can see, the plants came though beautifuly!


Thanks so much for allowing me to share these…


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A Successful First Winter – Thanks to the Pink Box!


Man… I can remember the apprehension I felt the first winter I put my plants outside! There were points where I thought I was nuts! For 30 years, I had grown my Sarracenia collection in a greenhouse of some shape or form.  Granted I’m not gonna lie, I did have a couple small outdoor turtle pool bogs over the years. However, my “good” plants never went out there! I planted these with “extras” in case they were killed during the winter! But moving an entire collection outdoors to be at the mercy of the elements with no “backups” in a greenhouse was downright scary!

In my situation, I have made huge outdoor bog gardens to host my collection, but what if, you don’t want giant bogs, or don’t have room, or don’t want that sort of permanency and would rather grow your collection potted… and you don’t have a greenhouse!  Can you still winter your plants successfully outdoors? The answer is resounding YES!

A long time friend and fellow Sarracenia grower Jay, has been wintering his plants in a pink box in his unheated garage for years.  I’ve been meaning to blog about it… for whatever reason.. just haven’t! Luckily, I know another grower who is new to Sarracenia and wanted to winter his collection outdoors (in pots).  So I suggested the “pink box” and Michael and he gave it a try… I’m happy to report, his collection is alive and well.

I asked him to recount his experience:

I trimmed the plants and put the plants to sleep on NOVEMBER 20th 2014. I woke them up April. 1, 2015. (the opening closing really depends on the weather!)

I made a box out of 1.5 inch pink insulation. All the pieces around the box and including the top were 1.5 inches thick, except for the bottom where I added extra piece (making it 3 inches” as the garage floor gets cold.  I used outdoor calking to seal the seams.  I put the plants (Sarracenia & Venus fly traps) that were in biggest pots around the outside of the box and the smaller ones going in towards the middle. For fungicide I sprayed (crowns) with Safer’s neem oil first  then I used sulphur powder generously all over the remainder of the leaves & soil,  I then put two layers of burlap over the plants and then covered them with 24 inches of pine needles. Then I put the lid one.

I stored the box in a detached garage with no heat, so the temps in the garage were as low as outside just without the windchill, I had a thermometer in the middle of the pine needles the temps in the box when I opened it was -5 to -8C. However, the temps were much colder than that during the coldest days of our winter.

Here is a photo of one of his VFT’s as it came out of the box.  Looks great!


Here is a photo of Michael’s growing setup and what his plants looked like after coming out of the box. Again, they look great!  Congrats on your success and I hope this inspires others who want to grow potted/outdoors year round!



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Spring? is it finally here?


Here we are, 7th day of April and its looking like the middle of March! Actually, its been feeling like the middle of March as well… actually maybe not even that good! We even had snow flurries here on Easter Sunday!  Felt like wishing everyone a Merry Christmas instead! None of it stuck… but really!?

My long time friend John Hummer sent me an email the other day with a link to the 6-10 day temperature outlook from  National Weather Service. For the first time in a long time, we were in the “orange” this means we’re likely to experience temperatures at or above seasonal averages! Of course, this depends on how “orange” we are on the map! The darker the orange, the more propable it will be warmer than average!  I sometimes post these maps from time to time… Anyway, feeling possitive, I decided to take a look at the 10 day forecast… wasn’t exceptional… but pretty much seasonal and slightly above. It actually looks like spring is finally in the air!

As for the bogs, in my last post I mentioned that I finally took off the majority of the pine needles.  Over the last few days, I’ve been cleaning up the left over needles and loose stuff (leaves, branches, rabbit nests! acorns and whatever else I find).  I’ve also been pulling off any completely dead leaves and pushing any plants that have heaved up at all back down into the soil. Unlike last year, I had very few plants come up… everybody pretty much stayed put. Once things warm up and the plants start growing, I will go through thoroughly and cut off any dead folliage.


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The season officially starts … FINALLY


Well… it’s a start!  Finally I made the decision to start the process of opening up the bogs for the 2015 growing season.  I’m not going to sit here and harp about how cold and snowy this winter was or how it was relentless or how we’re at least two weeks or more behind… I’m going to focus on the positive!  Everything looks just fine!  AMAZING!  Coldest February EVER recorded in Niagara and the plants look fresh an healthy!  Guys and Gals…. I’m convinced these plants are very, VERY hardy!  So those of you who have been fearing making the move to outdoor culture, make 2015 the year to make the leap!!!!

So, as you can see, there is a lot of work to be done.  I basically just removed the bulk of pine needles.  There are still lots of needles that need to be cleaned and dead material that should be removed, but for now… its good, gets sun to the soil, and air circulating around the plants… Keeping the needles on too long will encourage mold and fungus as temps warm… What I look for is a 10 day forecast where the temps do not fall much below -2C (28F) at night and the days are consistently above freezing!  This week is that week.


as you can see in the photos… I did chop the plants down a little last fall with the weed whacker, but did not cut them to the ground.  This way plants with phylodia, still have them and the pitcher bases that still have decomposing bugs stay on the plants.  As they emerge from dormancy, the decaying insects in the tubes provide some food for the winter starved plant.  Keeping the phylodia is important too. The phylodia producing species use these flat leaves to catch the early spring sun and get the photosynthesis happening as the providing food as the plants emerge from dormancy. So don’t cut them off… keep them on!

The other spring project, is squirrel proofing my Flytraps!  For now, I just layed some chick wire down.  I will be making a frame that will hold the wire up about 6 inches off the surface so that the VFT’s grow, and still be protected from the squirrels.  After a month or so, the squirrels seem to leave the bogs alone again… at that point, I will remove the mesh!


I’m really looking forward to the new growing season!


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Slow but sure!


Well after our record cold February and crapload of snow, there are signs of spring here in zone6b.  We literally went from winter to spring in a week.  Temps were really cold here (still) into the start of March, but then one day, all of a sudden, we got up to seasonal temperature values (3-7C) and the mounds of snow have slowly but surely disappearing. Granted the long range temperature maps suggest we’ll be below average for the rest of March… but at least the snow will be gone!

I am getting anxious to get the needles off and assessing the plants… but alas, its really not warm enough yet.  I have people ask me when is the best time to get the needles off.  The answer is… there is no hard and fast date or time.  The key is to get air circulation to the plants and not let them get too warm too early. Mild daytime temps and cold night time temps are a recipie for mold and at the same time, keeping the needles on the surface  traps heat, which will get the plants moving before they should.  So… I’m thinking it will be in the next couple of weeks. Once all the snow is gone and the days are consistenly over 5C (40F) they need to be uncovered. Sure it can still frost, but they plants are fully dormant and won’t be affected.

As I mentioned in my last post, we had very cold temperatures with now snow for the first half of January. The coldest night in January was -22C (-7F), but on average nights consistently were below-10C (12F)… I’m very curious to see how the plants were affected if they were at all.

Hopefully, I’ll have lots of positive things to report after I get these bogs uncovered! So welcome to spring and the 2015 Growing Season!!!  I hope its a good one!


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Greetings from Zone6B! My first post of 2015

I’ve been thinking about posting for a while now.  But in all honestly, there hasn’t really been much to say! My bogs are buried under 50-70cms (a couple feet) of snow! I can tell you this though, its been a hell of a winter here! And I thought it couldn’t be worse than last year! WRONG!

We have just come out of a record setting February.  Not the good kind, where the weather guy tells you its been the mildest February ever… the bad kind, the one where the weather guy says “this has been the coldest February EVER recorded in Niagara since Environment Canada started keeping records way back in the 1800’s”.  There were points where Niagara Falls was almost frozen solid, and we’ve either matched or came very close to record ice cover on the Great Lakes. So ya, February sucked! Not only that… January was bitter cold as well. The sad part…  Alaska was warmer than we were most of the winter!

So what’s with the map.  Well, for the first time since November, its showing we are probably going to experience temperatures above the seasonal averages here for the next two weeks.  What is seasonal in early March, 5C (40F) ish.  All I can say is bring it on, that’s going to feel like being in tropics compared to what I’ve been through these last couple of months


Hopefully it will melt ALL the snow we have… February has been a snowy month, and its been so cold that it just kept piling up, no melts at all.  That’s good news for my outdoor bogs, they were good and covered keeping them comfortable through or record setting cold.

That said, January was very cold too, the difference, NO snow cover. So its going to be interesting to see how the Sarracenia have been affected – or not.  Since I’ve been growing my Sarracenia outdoors, they have for the most part, been covered with snow for the coldest parts of our winter in January and February.  So being exposed for January should prove interesting (and hopefully not catastrophic).

As I mentioned in one my late season posst in 2014, I’m planning on changing the soil in at least 1 or maybe 2 of my bogs this spring.   I’m doing this because, like a potted plant, soil changes are required to maintain plant health.  It is a huge undertaking… but necessary… and slightly overdue. This will be the first soil change, since I built these bogs.  Don’t remember off hand when that was, 3-4 years ago I think.   I will certainly be posting progress pics as I go.  This will also give me an opportunity to inventory what I have as well as clean and divide the plants ( and sell off extras).  Many Sarracenia seem to loose vigor when they get too “clumped”, so dividing every few years is a good thing to do to maintain their health.

So… welcome to the 2015 season, I hope that the past and future posts here help inspire other growers, new and seasoned, to make the leap to the rewards of outdoor cultivation in cold climates!


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2014 in review

This summary is really cool… The best thing is my MOM got the award for the most comments!  Thanks Mom!

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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