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PLANT PICKIN'S

PICTURE-PERFECT PLANT

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Pitcher plants like moist soils.

Interested in the unusual? See the insect-eating pitcher plants — Sarracenia — at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond.

The elegant beauty of the tubed-shaped leaves of the pitcher plant masks a deadly trap. Lured by nectar, insects enter the slender pitcher tube, expecting a tasty treat. Instead, the insects lose footing on the slippery inside surface and fall to bottom of the tube. There they are digested by the plant, becoming the "treat" themselves. This drama unfolds over and over again in the West Island Garden at Lewis Ginter where there is an extensive collection of pitcher plants.

Pitcher plants are among the simplest carnivorous plants to grow. They thrive in moist soils — they like "wet feet" — but they should not be submerged. They grow best in a mix of equal parts peat moss and washed sharp sand, say growers at Lewis Ginter. They also like five or more hours of direct sunlight daily.

The typical pitcher plant takes five to eight years to reach maturity. Over the years, individual plants develop underground rhizomes, from which several growth points emerge. The flowers are especially unusual and beautiful and can be seen in spring. They are 1 to 4 inches in diameter and hang upside down from the tall stem. Depending on the variety, pitcher plants are combinations of shades of yellow, green, white or red.

If you have a wet area, pitcher plants may be an interesting addition to your garden.

Lewis Ginter, located at 1800 Lakeside Ave., is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Admission is $6 adults, $5 seniors 55 and over, $4 children ages 2-12 and free under. For more information, call Lewis Ginter (804) 262-9887 or visit www.lewisginter.org

Pitcher plants also can be seen at Norfolk Botanical Garden.

YIPPEE FOR YARROW

Yarrow is a plant any level gardener — beginning or advanced — loves to grow.

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Yarrow’s flowers are easy to air dry.

The plant — Achillea — demands little attention, no chemicals. It tolerates most well-draining soils and little, if any, summer rainfall. Give it full sun and little or no fertilizer.

Yarrow’s fine fern-like leaves are soft to the touch and nice to the nose. The cluster-forming flowers are flat, giving wildlife a nice landing pad if they want to rest a while during their searches for nectar and pollen.

Fernleaf yarrow — A. filipendulina — bears clear yellow flowers; Coronation Gold is an exceptional variety. The flowers of common yarrow — A. millefolium — are white; cultivars of this species vary in flower color from pink to red.

Stem rot and powdery mildew can be problems. Propagate by division in spring or fall. To dry, hang stems upside down in a dry, dark, well-ventilated room for several weeks. The dried flowers brighten fall and holiday wreaths, swags and bouquets.

Photos: Lewis Ginter Botanica Garden, Blooms of Bressingham

August 2001

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