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See bug-eating plants at Sacramento showcase

Sacramento Bromeliad and Carnivorous Plant Society hosts 53rd annual show and sale at Shepard Center

North American pitcher plants make themselves at home in a backyard pond in Sacramento. Unlike most plants, they feed themselves – by catching insects.

North American pitcher plants make themselves at home in a backyard pond in Sacramento. Unlike most plants, they feed themselves – by catching insects. Debbie Arrington

In most gardens, bugs eat plants. But these plants eat bugs.

Discover the fascinating world of carnivorous plants during the 53rd annual Sacramento Bromeliad and Carnivorous Plant Society Show and Sale, set for this Saturday and Sunday, June 17 and 18, at Shepard Garden and Arts Center.

Club members will be on hand to answer questions and offer advice. An excellent selection of plants will be offered for sale. Find pitcher plants, sundews, butterworts and other bug eaters as well as tillandsia (air plants) and bromeliads in a rainbow of hues. Don’t miss the Venus flytraps!

See hundreds of intriguing bug-devouring specimens, with several carnivorous species that are right at home in Sacramento. North American pitcher plants, for example, can be grown outdoors in our area. Also known as Sarracenia, they do particularly well as part of a backyard water feature such as a half wine barrel or small pond; their roots get the boggy conditions they prefer while the plants have access to insects that may fly by.

California also has its own native pitcher plant: The cobra lily or California pitcher plant (Darlingtonia californica). A member of the Sarracenia family, the cobra lily is native to sunny wet areas such as stream banks or bogs throughout Northern California. Cobra lilies need cold to thrive, but also require summer heat protection.

“Growing Darlingtonia californica in your own bog garden requires patience and diligence,” says the U.S. Forest Service. “Cool nights are required and as the temperatures warm up in the summer months keeping the roots cool during the day is a must.”

Because they evolved to grow in such poor soil, carnivorous plants get most of their nourishment from insects that can become trapped in their specialized (often sticky) foliage. Likewise, bromeliads trap moisture and nutrients in the center of their swirl of colorful foliage.

Show and sale hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. Admission and parking are free.

Shepard Center is located at 3330 McKinley Blvd., Sacramento, in McKinley Park.

Details and directions: www.sgaac.org.

-- Debbie Arrington

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Dig In: Garden Checklist for week of April 7

The warm wave coming this week will shift weeds into overdrive. Get to work!

* Weed, weed, weed! Whack them before they flower.

* Mulch around plants to conserve moisture and control weeds.

* Smell orange blossoms? Feed citrus trees with a low dose of balanced fertilizer (such as 10-10-10) during bloom to help set fruit. Keep an eye out for ants.

* Apply slow-release fertilizer to the lawn.

* Thoroughly clean debris from the bottom of outdoor ponds or fountains.

* Spring brings a flush of rapid growth, and that means your garden is really hungry. Feed shrubs and trees with a slow-release fertilizer. Or mulch with a 1-inch layer of compost.

* Azaleas and camellias looking a little yellow? If leaves are turning yellow between the veins, give them a boost with chelated iron.

* Trim dead flowers but not leaves from spring-flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. Those leaves gather energy to create next year's flowers. Also, give the bulbs a fertilizer boost after bloom.

* Pinch chrysanthemums back to 12 inches for fall flowers. Cut old stems to the ground.

* From seed, plant beans, beets, cantaloupes, carrots, corn, cucumbers, melons, radishes and squash. Plant onion sets.

* In the flower garden, plant seeds for asters, cosmos, celosia, marigolds, salvia, sunflowers and zinnias. Transplant petunias, zinnias, geraniums and other summer bloomers.

* Plant perennials and dahlia tubers for summer bloom. April is about the last chance to plant summer bulbs, such as gladiolus and tuberous begonias.

* Transplant lettuce and cabbage seedlings.

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