This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
We have here a very interesting group of dwarf Pitcher-plants, most of the species being natives of temperate habitats, and consequently all the more valuable from the fact that they are easily cultivated to perfection in a moderate temperature. The pretty little Cephalotus is from Australia, while the Sarracenias, and their congener, Darlingtonia, are American. Sarracenias have been in cultivation for nearly a century; and in vol. vi. of 'Andrews' Botany,' plate 381, will be found an excellent figure of Sarracenia flava, one of the most valuable species at present existing in our collections. The above-mentioned work was published about 1707, at which period four species existed in London gardens, though extremely rare. Andrews says, "The side-saddle flowers are rather difficult of cultivation, succeeding best when treated as greenhouse bog plants and plentifully supplied with water." Although these charming plants have been inmates of our gardens for so long a period they are still uncommon in collections, which is somewhat surprising when we consider the ease and facility with which they can be grown.
The whole group will luxuriate in a fresh open compost composed of lumps of fibrous peat, living sphagnum moss, and coarse river-sand, taking the precaution to have the pot or pan thoroughly well drained. After they are potted, add a layer of living moss over the compost, and give them an abundant supply of moisture both at their roots and also in the atmosphere. Sphagnum moss, when of good quality, is simply invaluable to the culturist who wishes to succeed either with Orchids or Pitcher-plants. Bear in mind the important fact that the whole of this group are essentially bog plants and must be treated accordingly, taking care they never suffer from lack of moisture, while the moss should be induced to grow as freely as if in its native marshes. A moderate temperature suits these plants admirably, but the atmosphere must be kept both close and humid, aridity being exceedingly injurious to them; indeed few plants suffer more from excessive transpiration. It is a good plan to set the base of the pot or pan in another pan filled with water and partially full of crocks, and in the case of small or sickly plants, they may be advantageously covered with a bell-glass, so as to prevent any loss from excessive evaporation.
Sarracenias and the Darlingtonia may be grown to perfection in a fern-case along with Todeas, or Filmy Ferns, the humidity and subdued light being agreeable to both; or they may be grown along with Odontoglossums, Disas, and Masdevallias in the "cool" Orchid-house. They would also be very interesting objects to plant out in a temperate fernery arranged in the natural style. A plant of Sarracenia purpurea grows planted outside in the "rock-garden" of Messrs James Backhouse and Sons, at York. This plant had a reputation as being efficacious in cases of smallpox, but the idea is now nearly exploded. There are about half-a-dozen species of Sarracenia, all of them being found in the swamps or marshes of N. America. They vary in height from six inches to two feet, and bear very small rounded leaves at the apex of swollen trumpet-shaped petioles. These swollen petioles are very efficient flytraps, for which purpose they are not unfrequently used in the localities where they are found. The flowers of these curious plants are borne singly on scapes longer than the leaves; some species having pale greenish yellow flowers, while in others they are of a dull purple colour. The flowers themselves are peculiar, having a very large five-lobed disc, beneath which the stigmas are situated.
In practice it will be found best to remove the flowers as they appear - that is, if specimen plants are required - thus reserving the vigour of the plants for the production of foliage, which is their chief attraction. Well-grown specimens of Sarracenias are very effective for exhibition purposes, as all can testify who have seen the Sarracenia flava of Mr Thomas Baines, or the noble plants of Sarracenia Drummondii at Chats-worth.
The Californian Pitcher-Plant, Darlingtonia californica, is nearly related to the Sarracenias, but is if anything more rare and beautiful. It bears swollen pitchers about a foot high, which curve over at the top, forming a hood; and the lid or leaf, instead of being rounded and entire as in Sarracenia, is divided like a fish's tail. The pitchers, like those of Sarracenia and Nepenthes, secrete a slightly glutinous fluid, and old pitchers are generally found partly full of decomposed insects.
Cephalotus Follicularis, or the Australian Pitcher-plant, is the smallest in the group, but highly interesting, bearing a profusion of its green, purple-spotted pitchers, which are borne on separate stalks - not at the apex of the leaf-like petiole as in Nepenthes. The leaves of this curious little plant are about 3 inches long, and of a dark green colour, and are quite distinct from the urn-shaped appendages amongst which they are interspersed. This plant grows well in the above-mentioned compost, and enjoys the protection of a bell-glass. It is a plant of doubtful affinity, and at present enjoys the distinction of having a whole natural order to itself. I saw a fine specimen of this plant some time ago in the collection of John Water-house, Esq., Well Head, near Halifax, Yorkshire. It was in excellent health, and bore numerous large and richly-coloured pitchers.
The species of Sarracenia at present in cultivation are all of them very beautiful and interesting. There are two distinct varieties of Sarracenia Drummondii, and at least three of its congener Sarracenia flava.
This is a fine robust species, growing in spring and autumn like its allies, but making by far the finest growth at the latter period. It varies in height from a foot or 10 inches to 2 feet, and forms a noble specimen when well grown. Its pitchers are of a greenish colour beautifully mottled with purple, or white near their trumpet-shaped mouths. This plant and its variety Sarracenia Drummondii alba succeed best when potted in the later summer months just before their autumn growth commences.
This, like the last, is a vigorous species, bearing pitchers very similar in shape and size to the last, but of a pale yellowish green colour. It makes a fine specimen when thoroughly established, though like its congeners it speedily goes wrong unless the compost is sweet and open.
One of the rarest and most beautiful of all the species in this genus. Its pitchers are green, finely veined with crimson, and the flowers are perfumed very delicately and not unlike violets.
This is one of the commonest species, bearing great winged pitchers about 9 inches or a foot long. The pitchers are borne in great profusion, and are very broad in proportion to their length. They are of a dark green colour, veined with reddish purple. This plant is often known as the " Huntsman's cup," and being easily grown, is well adapted for general culture.
This is a remarkably distinct species: the upper part of the pitchers curve over the orifice or mouth, something after the style of the Darlingtonia, but from which it is readily known, as it is destitute of the drooping, swallow-tail appendage, irrespective of a marked difference in colour and size. This fine species is rare in cultivation, and bears pitchers about 6 to 9 inches long, which radiate from the centre, spreading out horizontally - not growing erect like the other species. This plant grows well at Chatsworth along with its congeners. They are placed close to the glass at one end of the "cool" Orchid-house, and at few places have we seen them thrive so well.
A mean winter temperature of 45° is amply sufficient for these plants; but when growing, a rise of 20 or 30 degrees during the daytime will do them no injury. They must be protected from bright sunshine and copiously supplied with moisture, never allowing the compost to become thoroughly dry, not even when they are resting. All the species mentioned in this paper are readily propagated by division, and will not be found more difficult to manage than choice Ferns or Stove plants. E. W. Burbridge.