Bog Gardens and Trees

Bog Gardens and Trees

Part of Ep. 1401 Pot It!

Visit Olbrich Gardens in Madison where horticulturist Jeff Epping talks about plants that thrive in wetness. He displays some bog gardens with carnivorous pitcher plants.

Premiere date: Mar 04, 2006

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
We are in Olbrich Gardens in Madison to look at some more unusual container gardens. I'm with the Director of Horticulture, Jeff Epping. Jeff, before we look at the containers I understand congratulations are in order. You guys have won a wonderful award this year.

Jeff:
Thank you. It's the American Association of Botanic Gardens and Arboreta, a long name. It's basically a group of about 500 gardens that we all belong to here at botanic garden. We received their award of Garden Excellence this year. So, that was quite an honor, we're proud of it.

Shelley:
You should be. I look around and I can see why you won, it's beautiful. Let's look at some unusual containers. You have put bog gardens in the containers.

Jeff:
Yeah, they're a fun group of plants. Aquatics are big right now. This is sort of an offshoot of that. What we see here are mainly pitcher plants but you can do sundews and Venus fly traps, and such. But you see the real neat funnel form shape. This is more of a species type that's very yellow in color. Then we have some hybrids that get a lot of coloration through the speckle nature of Ladies in Waiting and Dixieland, and such. There's even a flower for us, as well.

Shelley:
So, that's the flower of these. So they're happy?

Jeff:
They're wonderful. If you look down the tube, they're chock full of bugs which they use to feed themselves, actually.
Shelley:
So, they truly are a carnivorous plant.

Jeff:
They're native to very infertile soils, and such so that's what they use to grow.

Shelley:
Soil is the next question, in fact. What would I have to do if I wanted to create something like this?

Jeff:
You use sphagnum moss, the very coarse moss. You can add a little silica sand with it to add weight to it so the containers aren't so tippy. Other than that, that's about it. You have to line the pot with something impervious so that it holds the water.

Shelley:
We don't want drainage holes this time.

Jeff:
Exactly, usually that's the case.

Shelley:
What about actually watering them?

Jeff:
Well, the water, you don't want to use city water with chlorine and chloride, and such unless you let it sit for a day or two. The best thing would be just to collect rain water.

Shelley:
Which we should be doing anyhow. I can see this being a great kids' garden. What about over wintering something like this?

Jeff:
These are hardy plants. They're somewhere in zone two or three, so we're in good shape there. But any time you have a pot above the ground you have to protect it during the winter. You have to protect the root system which are sensitive to real cold temperatures. So, either popping them out of the pot that you have them in and just burying them in the ground. A north-facing exposure so they so they stay frozen. Come spring, you just pop them right back into the pot and you're ready to go.

Shelley:
I could do that in my rush times. Well, that leads to another issue. A lot of people want to plant tender trees and shrubs in pots. The question always comes up what do you do with them in the winter, especially if they get big. You've got some, let's go look at them. Jeff, in this container, you've got a combination of plants. It's beautiful, but what is this down here?
Jeff:
That's a little variegated osmanthus variety which is absolutely gorgeous, isn't it?

Shelley:
It's beautiful. Now, that's not hardy here?

Jeff:
You know, we go out in the east coast, it would be. But for us, it's just marginal being an evergreen takes it one step back. We have to worry about over wintering it differently.

Shelley:
And different from this.

Jeff:
This is sort of a silver leaf poplar. It turns gold in the spring. That is top-hardy. The root systems on either one would be sensitive. The poplar, we can just bury the pot or bury the root ball, if you will like if you were planting it. Probably the north side of the house would be the best so once you plant it in, it stays frozen. But the osmanthus is a little less hardy so you might have to protect it a little more. You might get by. I think it's about a zone six or seven plant, so you might tuck it in in the same spot but maybe shelter it with a burlap border, or something. If it was any less hardy then consider moving the pot into a somewhat heated porch a garage, or even a cold section of your basement a second bedroom, if you don't need it much. You're looking at about 35 to 40 degrees, ideally.

Shelley:
Ideal. We can fudge. And you've got lots of examples of it. Like here's another plant. Again, this is mixture of the hardy sumac.

Jeff:
That's a nice little gold, called Baggesen's Gold, honey suckle. If you go to English gardens they're all over place. Just a beautiful, fine texture. You saw that fishbone pattern on it. But again, not hardy for the outdoors, so you should over winter it like we did with the osmanthus. Whereas the sumac, this Golden Eye sumac, that's a zone two plant so that one would easily over winter outdoors just burying the pot in the ground.

Shelley:
When they're combined, one goes in the ground and the pot goes into the basement or cool area.

Jeff:
Sure, that would be ideal.

Shelley:
Next spring, you have to decide, do you re-pot that leave it there, or plant it somewhere else.

Jeff:
You can buy smaller plants, that are less expensive. Use them in a pot for a year or two and then plant them out in your landscape. You know, that works out really well. There's a lot of plants that we like to use for structure. That's really why we put in woody plants to give height, and structure all times of the year, especially spring. If you have to wait for your other plants to get big it takes a while.

Shelley:
Well, name a couple other favorites.

Jeff:
Well, boxwood is certainly a favorite of mine. You can get little guys and put them in pots or make topiaries, you can do anything with them. The hardier varieties, hybrids like Winter Green work real good for something like that.

Shelley:
This is a way for me to grow a tender Japanese maple.

Jeff:
Definitely, all those marginal plants we probably shouldn't be growing, you can get away with in a pot.

Shelley:
We've talked about what goes into the pot. What about the pots themselves?

Jeff:
We like to match the pots to the situation. We saw the Styrofoam pots with our bog plants around stone, so it has a more natural look. In our Thai garden, we used very ornate, glazed pots that go well with the lacquer of the pavilion. In the rose garden, we custom designed some pots to reflect the prairie style and reflect the architecture of the building. I always like to think about what pots to use and where and sort of match it architecturally. In the early season, you can see the pot.

Shelley:
More than anything!

Jeff:
It blends much better if you think ahead.

Shelley:
A few minutes with the design of the pot helps. Some good lessons, thanks Jeff.

Jeff:
Thank you.

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