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Saga of a new Bogger
Saga of a new Bogger
Published by NEBogger
Default Saga of a new Bogger


Ever have an idea of something you'd like to try - decide to go for it - then halfway through, you feel you’re in too deep? Asking yourself "why am I doing this?" It must boil down to the simple fact that you have to, because you want a new challenge.

I'm just your average backyard dirt player, and scientifically inept about proper names and such. Just destined to be outside with my hands in the earth.

I found myself ordering more nursery catalogs to look for something different. Pitcher plants would pop up every so often. Maybe it was the scarcity of them that bit me; nah, they would just be fun. Whenever I saw one, I thought, “Oh, how cool would that be”—I'd never seen any of those around here, except at a large Omaha, NE nursery in a dried arrangement. My mind was imprinted now!

So I ordered one from Plant Delights nursery. Oh, what a beautiful plant. I potted it up in awe, even added some sphagnum peat moss to the soil. I had overturned a big pot in my little fish pond, so I proudly set it in the water, just gleaming because I now had a carnivorous pitcher plant! It survived the whole summer, never grew too much though. Then fall arrived. I put it in the shed with a tray of water.

Spring finally arrived. I anxiously awaited signs of life; "it must be a late sleeper", I'd tell myself. No, it was dead. Another plant for my “it's history” list.

The notion kept biting me. In the spring of '07, I caved into that inner turmoil. I started searching the web and found some forums, which were all new to me. I became a member of one that had several helpful posts, got responses to my trivial questions and a lot of encouragement.

I now knew the ingredients. Washed sand, sphagnum peat moss, pine needles and rain water. Okay, I was ready to dig me a hole for a real acidic peat bog! I had help at the ends of my fingertips now. I decided where I wanted it, on the north side of the house where some of Nebraska's hot dry winds would be blocked, but far enough away from the house to get sun for three-fourths of the day. I had gotten a bunch of used roofing liner for free, which would help keep the cost down. At first I thought it would be a good idea to slash drainage holes in the liner, but I was advised against that.

While digging my kidney-bean-shaped hole, I kept telling myself “go two feet down, go two feet down, if I'm going to do this, I want to do it right.” My thoughts were, if I built it big enough, it might be more self supporting as far as the acidic level and capability of holding moisture.

I found myself becoming co-dependent on my new forum buddy. “Work woman, work, build those musclesOnce you go soggy, you'll never go back,” were words of encouragement I needed and so loved. So I continued shaping my hole. I'll compare it to cutting hair, “just a little bit more.

Finally I had my hole dug. Over two feet deep in some places, four feet across so I could reach the middle easily, and about nine feet long. The bottom had a couple inches of gravel; I came across a lot of glass while digging. Finally I was ready for the liner, yeah, one step done! Oh crap, my hole was bigger than my liner!!

I thought, “Well, I have more, I'll just put another big piece over it. The weight of the sand and peat will seal it, the ground will eventually quench its thirst for the leaking water.” Now to begin the process of washing sand. I wound up using a lot of pea-sized gravel in the bottom. That was so easy to wash and would fill it up faster. I mixed in some sphagnum peat moss, then...on to the sand.

My husband is a good egg. But gardening is not his type of relaxation,” and doing any unnecessary work is not his forte. Don't get me wrong, he's not lazy, he's remodeled our home, cuts the wood, does the chores, and even picks up after himself, far better than me. So you can imagine his reaction after we brought a pickup load of washed sand home, and I told him I had to wash the washed sand! It was the day after our 31st anniversary and my 51st birthday. He bravely bit his tongue, for the most part, and let me go “play.” Oh I certainly got those, “looks” and low hanging head shakes. Poor man, he knows I'm nuts anyway.

Washing sand is not a pleasant ordeal. I tried several methods, the wheelbarrow three quarters full of running water: whoa... “I'm not getting anywhere and that's a lot of water! I needed something that would let the dirt go through it, not rise up and over when I stirred it. I finally wound up using an old industrial dishwasher basket, lined with burlap, over a plastic fifty-gallon barrel or drum. I tried a screen, but it was too coarse. I should have bought a finer mesh and tried that, but I didn't.

Saga of a new Bogger-50-590-393.jpeg

In the meantime, I had put a couple of old gutters from behind the shed together, connected to the house gutter, and let a good rain fill my new hole up. In no time, all the water was gone. My insecurities were building up fast. My mind kept telling me I just needed to break down and buy a big piece of liner at this stage. I continued to add sphagnum moss and washed sand. Then we were fortunate enough to get another nice rain. I knew the sphagnum would soak up a lot of water, but this seemed to be leaking so fast. So I bought some bentonite, pushed all the mixture to one side, and put the bentonite in between the liners, hoping that would take care of the problem. It didn't. Neither did some rubber sealant. But I kept on washing sand, mixing in the sphagnum, hoping, and telling myself to stop being such an insecure worrywart. Besides, it was too late now.

I was getting closer to the top. I made sure I had the soil raised along the edge, so it would be three inches above ground level, not wanting any runoff from a heavy rain to get in and contaminate my mixture. At this time, I placed a 2" PVC pipe down almost the length of the bog. This had holes drilled in it, one end plugged and the other with an elbow and straight piece sticking up above the mixture. (Hubby did that for me). This way I could water it more evenly from below the surface and look down the straight piece and see how high the water level actually was.

Next, some pine needles. White Pine was suggested, but that's not what we had. Ours might be Austrian Pine, so that's what I used. They were to be cut up. That didn't sound like any fun either. I had bought a leaf shredder at a garage sale for $15, so I tried that. It worked! I did rinse them before I added it to the mixture. I'm getting to the top!

I mounded the mixture up in the middle and made a small “pool” about a square foot in my low spot. This was another way for me to see where the water level was. It was a wonderful year to do this, so many beautiful rains to fill the bog up with water. With my pipe and low spot, I just watched the water leak, or rather run out, more than a couple of inches some days.

Great, I'd screwed up, should have put a new liner in. Inquiring about the leaking on the forum, people thought I should be okay; a little leaking should be fine. I had learned the importance of good water for a bog during my research. I kept thinking, when we have a dry summer, our well water wouldn't work. The TDS readings of 325 and hardness at 18 were way too high. I had learned that TDS, total dissolved solids, was not healthy for the bog plants. The expense of an reverse osmosis system was out of the question. So I wouldn't have a way to water it; that's why I wanted it so big. “Why didn't I just put a new liner down before!!

All right, I'm going to do what I should have sooner. Just break down and buy a stupid new liner. So I did. Burned a vacation day from work, dug the whole thing out, lined it and replace all the mixture back in one day. Now my husband knows I'm not just nuts, I'm flat out crazy... There was absolutely no water in the bottom. The mixture was damp and flaky. “Well, I'm glad I went ahead and did it, everything is going to be okay now.

Saga of a new Bogger-50-590-393.jpeg-empty-bog-1.jpeg

What a blessing, more rain. The bog filled up and ran over. The water left just as fast as it did before I spent all that money, and I knew there were no holes in the liner. We went through this process several times, rain and drain. Guess what, it simply took that long for the hydrophobic sphagnum to absorb the water! Good grief... And I was thinking of slashing drainage holes in it at the beginning!

Finally I was ready for the next step, plants! I wound up getting a "bog in a box" deal from Dangerous Plants nursery. I had called and visited with the owner and told him that I not only didn't know what I was doing, but had no idea what to order. He was so kind and sent me some plants he thought might work here. I had explained that I had too many other plants I dig up for winter, that I planned on over wintering these outside with heavy mulch.

My baby plants finally arrived. They were: sundews or Drosera (Droseraceae): Drosera filiformis, D. intermedia and D. spatulata (tropical); pitcher plants or Sarracenia (Sarraceniaceae): Sarracenia 'Dixie Lace', S. 'Judith Hindle', S. flava, S. ornata, S. rubra, S. leucophylla, S. [(leucophylla x flava) x ?)], S. 'Tarnok' and S. purpurea. Venus fly traps or Dionaea muscipula (Droseraceae): D. 'Red Dragon' and D. 'Dentata'.

Everything was planted and looking good. Then it happened—hail. Beat the little guys up pretty bad, tiny fly traps were lying all over, pitchers were broken and shredded, sun dews and ferns took the same abuse. Thank goodness they're tough, as they marched right on, and pulled through it without a single death!

My work paid off; I thoroughly enjoyed my bog this summer. The plants grew and ate quite well. I did have to water it a few times. I had set a 50 gallon drum under a gutter to catch the rainwater. I also learned that after a dry spell, it's best to let it rain for a while before you start catching water from the roof. This way the rain has washed all the dust and other impurities off the roof and out of the air.

Saga of a new Bogger-50-590-393.jpeg-newbog508.jpeg

Fall was arriving. We kept getting all of those beautiful rains. The bog was saturated, finally. The water was standing, no more “leaking.” But with winter coming, I couldn't have it that wet. Although I had mounded the mixture in the middle, it was still too wet for winter. With a knife shaking in my hand, I slashed a drainage hole in that new liner! I knew I had to do this for a better chance of plant survival.

Now to start mulching. I cut some of the pitchers off, but left most of them on. Through correspondence, I learned another new word, phyllodia. It was explained to me this way: Sarracenis form phyllodia so that they can photosynthesize over the entire winter, and temperate Drosera form hibernaculum to protect the apex from desiccation over winter.

Hibernaculum and phyllodia are winter leaves that the plants evolved over time to help them break dormancy the following spring.

Saga of a new Bogger-p1010075.jpg

I covered the bog with about eight inches of pine needles, then four inches of burr oak leaves, then another four or five inches of pine needles, knowing this would settle down quite a bit. Now I'm just riding the winter out, with great anticipation of spring and not having to add too many plants to that “dead list.” Without the plants, the saga of a new bogger wouldn't be as joyous...
By biigblueyes on 09-10-2009, 09:44 AM

"I'm just your average backyard dirt player, and scientifically inept about proper names and such. Just destined to be outside with my hands in the earth."

That's me too!

NEBogger, that's an impressive undertaking you have there. I almost said "project", but this is much more than a project. I'm not brave enough to try bogs yet, but it's fascinating! Thanks for taking the time to put all of that in writing for our enjoyment!
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By Hedgerowe on 09-10-2009, 10:59 AM

The story of your self-education is so engaging, NEBogger. What an awful lot of back-breaking work you have put into your passion. I am so impressed! Your story is inspiring to me. Thank you for taking the time to share it with us.
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By NEBogger on 09-10-2009, 08:36 PM

Thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I have thoroughly enjoyed my bog, even tho my husband still laughs at me. Mainly because, I have to ask anyone who comes over, "Do you want to see my bog?"
I have to admit that I asked for help on the paragraph with the plant names. Pitcher plants, traps and sun dews are so much easier for me than the scientific names. I certainly understand the benefits of the scientific naming of plants tho.
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By Equilibrium on 09-11-2009, 12:05 AM

Work woman, work, build those musclesOnce you go soggy, you'll never go back,”Hey!!! I resemble that remark. You crack me up but you know something... you did it and you didn't hardly lose any skin rinsing the sand and you ended up with one of the best bogs I've ever seen. A leaf shredder to cut the pine needles down to size is brilliant. When I do a bog I sit on my rear with a scissors taking pine needles from one bag... cutting them into thirds... placing them in another bag... ending up with hives all up and down my arms. Scoring one for $15 at a garage sale makes me so jealous. Carnivorous plants are fascinating. Absolutely fascinating for young and old. You done good!
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By NEBogger on 09-12-2009, 10:20 AM

Hey Equil, I did work, and am reaping the benefits! My little bog has room to add a lot more, this winter will get serious about a new plant list.
When I wrote this article, I was putting it to bed for the first time. This spring was very exciting for me to say the least. Hubby didn't even have a 'true' reason to laugh at my efforts (you see, when I do give him reasons, it makes me mad!)
Following are some current pictures of 'The Bog'.
Saga of a new Bogger-p5210025.jpg My first flower this spring! S. purpurea

Saga of a new Bogger-p1010021.jpg Saga of a new Bogger-p1010018.jpg Saga of a new Bogger-p1010017.jpgSaga of a new Bogger-p1010012.jpg
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By Equilibrium on 09-12-2009, 08:33 PM

Your Sarracenia are doing GREAT! Take that all nay sayers that said someone from NE couldn't create a bog! This is a photo of a plant that will be released soon. I have it but I'm friends with the man who named this naturally occurring sport. Meet 'White Knight'.
Attached Thumbnails
Saga of a new Bogger-white-knight.jpg  
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By milkweed on 09-12-2009, 08:53 PM

Great story.
White Knight is a beautiful plant. But would being white, instead of pinkish, be a disadvantage. Don't Sarracenia attract insect by smelling like rotting meat? So looking more like rioting meat would be better?
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By biigblueyes on 09-12-2009, 08:54 PM

wooo hoooo! You have it first. And it's gorgeous. Do you feel special?
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By NEBogger on 09-13-2009, 10:37 AM

'White Knight' would surely stand out with the darker varieties, making a nice contrast, Equil, your so lucky.
Hi milkweed, no sarracenia don't attract insects by that smell. They do have nectar around the top edge that attracts insects, once they are past the rim and fall in, they are doomed because the 'tubular leaf' is very slick and they can't crawl out. It's not a very pleasant death. They pretty much die of exhaustion and then getting in the goo.
Now here's where I'm going to have to look at a book: Near the bottom of the tube, the plant secrets digestive acids and enzymes to aid in the digestion of the soft parts of the insects. Micro-organisms play a part in this also. The pitcher plant absorbs this nutritious 'soup'. This is how they have evolved to attain their food in nutrient poor soils.
When I first started noticing pitcher plants, I thought that the hooded part was the flower. But that is a modified leaf, to feed its self. The flower is very unique and beautiful. It hangs upside down and is large. Mine is still hanging there from this spring, only had one, maybe next year I'll have more.
S. purpurea, drowns it's prey with the collected rain water.
In regards to the smell of rotting meat, you may be thinking of the voodoo lily, Amorphophallus. Some of those babies get bigger that a person, and reek of rotting meat. Flies galore surround that one for pollination.
Carnivorous plants just fascinate the day lights out of me. I need to gather up some links to post with some nice pictures, the sun dews are so beautiful, but you have to have a good macro set up.
I would sure love to hear from others who have some experience to share, I'm open for suggestions, and would encourage anyone to correct me when I get something wrong. And I would LOVE to see pictures of others' bogs! If not here, in the soggy thread.
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acidic peat bog, bog, bogs, building a bog, dionaea muscipula, drosera, droseraceae, droseraceae dentata, droseraceae. red dragon, how to, make a bog, peat bog, pitcher plants, saga, saga of a new bogger, sarracenia dixie lace, sarracenia flava, sarracenia judith hindle, sarracenia leucophylla, sarracenia ornata, sarracenia purpurea, sarracenia rubra, sarracenia tarnok, sarraceniaceae, venus fly trap

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