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‘The Savage Water Garden’

The victim, an unsuspecting Diptera, has no idea what is about to do him in. He’s flying about on this beautiful day, and life is just peachy. The sun is shining, the birds are napping, fragrant flowers and their sweet scents abound, and the sound of water is all around.
This Musca genus member is nearly hypnotized by the intoxicating floral fluid of a bladelike, lime green plant we **** sapiens refer to as the Venus flytrap (Dionaea musicpula).
As the insect zooms in closer, the plant’s trigger hairs are activated, which causes its clawed deathtrap leaves to snap shut with amazing speed to create a carnivorous coffin for the plant’s partial namesake -- the fly.
Glands within the plant’s leaves digest the creature’s soft tissues; then it is literally ready to consume another sucker.
Cultivating a ‘Savage Water Garden’ ecosystem is Exotic Aquatics’ latest pond project, with which we obviously are having much fun! This water feature is not your conventional water garden…it’s savage -- thanks to carnivorous plants that gain some of their nutrition from insects captured by the plants themselves.
These carnivorous or insectivorous plants include, along with the Venus flytrap, the Hooded pitcher plant (Sarracenia minor), Sweet pitcher (Sarracenia rubra), and Water sundews (Drosera intermedia).
The seeds to nurture a Savage Water Garden were planted, so to write, when I was a boy. Having a flytrap plant shut on your youthful finger was in the same cool category as experiencing Star Wars for the first time on the big screen!
As a youth, I killed too many Venus fly traps to recall, but probably no more than most of you. When we two-leggeds perpetrated “planticide,” I justified it as survival of the fittest.
Someone, some how and in some way has managed to keep the Venus flytrap cultivated all these years to entice the public to revisit their childhoods by purchasing the insectivorous plant at super stores, garden centers and even the Wild Animal Park in San Diego. I still have enough kid in me to reacquaint myself with the tiny carnivore.
My fascination with the hungry Venus flytrap, which is native to North and South Carolina, moved me enough to buy a variety of carnivorous plants a few years ago. After just a little research, I learned their specific light, growing media and water requirements. Water needs are key.
These plants have survived in nutrient-deprived water and nitrogen-deprived soil in bogs by evolving as carnivores to derive nitrogen from insects.
To keep your Venus flytrap and other carnivorous plants alive, it is imperative that you water them with distilled water, rainwater or reverse osmosis water. The latter is the purest of water that has been stripped of all nutrients and filtered through fine membranes and carbon filters.
Even though previously I would give my carnivorous plants the proper sunlight and mandatory nutrient-poor water when I watered them, I still would end up killing them because I would get busy and forget to water them as needed.
I reflected on this from the perspective of my years of experience in constructing water gardens and knowing aquatic plants. Because most of the carnivores live in swampy bogs, it occurred to me why not showcase them in a pond – it’s what I do.
Thus was born the Savage Water Garden, which my wife, kids and I enjoy viewing first thing each morning from the safety of our kitchen window. Then we don our flip flops and venture forth for an up-close interaction.
BYOB: Build Your Own Bog
I incorporated into the Savage Water Garden our exciting new line of revolutionary pond equipment from Russell Watergardens in Redmond, Wash. The Exotic Aquatics’ crewmembers – known as The Pond Diggers -- used a Hydro Vortex Biological Waterfall filter and a “Dry Hands Cleaning” Hydro Clean Skimmer as the heart and soul of the pond system.
Next, I traveled to a local rock yard to hand select several tons of beautiful specimen accent boulders, and then headed off to the equipment yard to secure the necessary heavy machinery to install the boulders.
After the pond’s shape was formed, we installed the filtration and plumbing. Now the savage step arrived. For a regular pond, we would have installed a 15-by-25-foot liner; for the Savage Water Garden, we chose a 20-by-25-foot liner to provide extra liner outside the pond in which to create boggy areas for the carnivorous plants.
After the pond was lined with rocks and gravel, and filled with water, and the heavy equipment was gone, we carved out the bog areas on the pond’s outer perimeter. These plant pockets were excavated only two inches below water level.
I chose sphagnum moss as the plant media in which the carnivorous plants would not only survive, but thrive. I knew the sphagnum moss would soak up the water like a sponge to keep the plants’ roots perfectly moist.
My young son Taylor and I filled the planting pockets with four inches of the sphagnum moss. From an aerial view, the bog areas look like land.
The trick now was to moisten this moss in the planting pockets with reverse osmosis water! It turned out that the reverse osmosis unit I ordered was not going to be able to arrive prior to Exotic Aquatics’ “Pond Tour for the Cure” charity event (which was held earlier this year), and the Savage Water Garden was set to debut on the tour.
Therefore, I visited Daryl’s Pet Shop to truck home 140 five-gallon jugs of the reverse osmosis water, which the shop carries for salt water aquariums. The water-filling task and planting commenced.
My wife and kids had fun planting the carnivores with me. Please note that no human was harmed in the process of creating the Savage Water Garden, planting the carnivores, nor viewing the feature on the recent pond tour; however, a few of the less hearty carnivores did meet their maker during this month’s ensuing heat wave.
I am just grateful the bog planting pockets work around-the-sun dial (or clock for non-gardeners) on their own to keep the plants sufficiently watered and in predator mode.
The Savage Water Garden, in all of its eerie delight, will be among the many water features casting enchanting spells during this fall’s fifth annual Moonlight Pond Tour for the Cure charity event hosted by Exotic Aquatics.
Proceeds will benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, along with other well-deserving non-profit organizations.
Due to this event’s popularity, we are expanding the evening tour to two nights. It is set from 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6 and Saturday, Oct. 7. If you are involved with a non-profit that would like to sell Moonlight Pond Tour tickets and benefit from the proceeds, please contact Exotic Aquatics.
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