Tag Archives: RHS Chelsea Flower Show

Upcoming shows, probably not involving the Triffid Ranch

In every hobby and business, you get years where the calendar is as bereft of excitement as a terrestrial radio playlist. Other years, you’re practically tripping over exciting events and opportunities. 2013 is one of those years where I’m going to need to invent something really life-changing to be able to afford the garden show trips.

Firstly, while I could never return to living in Portland, Oregon, any excuse to visit both St. Johns Booksellers and Sarracenia Northwest is a good one, and I have a beaut this year. Namely, the Peninsula Park Rose Garden is 100 years old this year, and the park needs to put down a lot of mulch to get it ready for the Portland Rose Festival in May and June. After the main show season ends in May, well, this may be an option.

Likewise, this year also marks the centenary of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, and I’d probably head out there if I could get proper pontoons for my bicycle. Sadly, this isn’t a likely show, but if it coincides with the opening of the Manchester United Flower Show, I may have to make it happen. Between that and a trip to Kew Gardens, all I’ll need is clothes, money, and my pet ferret.

Other than that, I’m still waiting for word on the 2013 International Carnivorous Plant Society conference, seeing as how crashing last year’s conference wasn’t an option. It’s almost like they’re trying to keep it quiet to keep me from attending or something…

Road trip

The 2012 show schedule is already packed pretty well, between shows and the International Carnivorous Plant Symposium next August, and the Czarina is insisting upon a trip to San Francisco as a very late honeymoon event. (When I say “insist,” don’t think that I’m complaining about this in the slightest. At bare minimum, we both want to see the Conservatory of Flowers while we’re out there, and that’s in addition to everything else to visit. I haven’t been to the Bay since 1996, and she’s never been there at all, so any escape to feed my addiction really won’t be an escape so much as a sidetrack.) Additional trips? The only way we can afford them is by my selling body parts, and I’m down to only three kidneys and a handful of hearts to last me until Christmas.

That said, well, reading about Erica Glasener hosting a tour of English gardens, complete with a tour of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, just makes me whimper a bit. Time for me to invent something really spectacular, such as a zero-point energy generator or a composter that can make garden soil from stupidity, to pay for this trip.

More background is always a good thing

By now, thanks to the wonder of what I call “news churn,” just about everyone on the planet not obsessed with Kim Kardashian’s wedding has heard about the bird-eating Nepenthes in the UK. The Sun ran with it, the BBC ran with it, and surprisingly the Central Somerset Gazette has the only reasonably complete account of the situation. This is how I know I have friends who love me: I had literally dozens of well-intentioned friends E-mailing and calling me to let me know about the BBC article. I’ve also literally had to bite my tongue in one case to keep from yelling “YES, WE’VE GOT A VIDEO!”

Now, what’s really illuminating about this story isn’t that a blue tit was caught in a pitcher plant. Carnivorous plants capturing vertebrates is rare, but it occasionally happens. The Carnivorous Plant Newsletter featured a cover a while back of a Venus flytrap with a baby anole caught in its trap, with only rear legs and tail hanging outside. Sundews are very good at catching newly metamorphosed frogs, and the protocarnivore Roridula has been documented capturing small birds. The widest range of vertebrate carnivory, though, is with the Nepenthes pitcher plants, ranging from frogs to lizards to rodents and even (anecdotally) baby monkeys.

I want to add, at this point, that many of these presumed cases of carnivory are probably accidental. Frog skeletons occasionally show up in Sarracenia and Nepenthes traps, but those are probably frogs using the traps as handy hunting sites that died of natural causes. The rodents found in particularly big Nepenthes were probably attracted by the traps’ fluid as something to drink, and this blue tit was probably trying to steal prey out of the trap when it found itself stuck inside. The surprise isn’t that the plant could catch a bird, but that the bird was so unlucky as to get caught in this situation.

If anything, this story demonstrates what happens when carnivores get prey too big for them to digest before it rots. Carnivores generally have no way to chew or otherwise process larger prey, and many species take advantage of animals that either remove large dead items or take over the job of digestion. In America, you have green tree frogs that camp inside of Sarracenia pitchers, snagging really large prey attracted to the plant and then defecating inside the pitchers: the plants don’t care about the source of nitrogen they’re receiving. In South America, Heliamphora pitchers work well as campgrounds for indigenous frogs as well. Spiders and other arthropod predators have no problem with snagging large prey, and one species, Misumenops nepenthicola, lives inside the pitchers and has special adaptations for dealing with the pitcher fluid.

The other aspect of the story that’s neglected involves Nigel Hewitt-Cooper, who’s already understandably respected for his plants. I first heard about him not just because of his gold medals for entries at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, but because of his position as councillor of Croscombe and Pilton. He’s a very interesting fellow all the way around, and one day, I’m going to the Chelsea Flower Show just to meet him in person.