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Stories from customers
Dragon arum (Dracunculus vulgaris) in the garden of Arjen and Esther Kersten
by Arjen Kersten
This is the story of our Drancunculus vulgaris, a plant that literally takes your breath away with its beauty, but especially with the cadaver air it spreads during the week when it’s in full bloom.
15 years ago, the parent plant stood in the garden of one of our relatives. Then, it was decided that we and our brother-in-law would each receive a part of it to plant in our own garden.
The bulb was excavated from the earth and was broken into three pieces. One third went back to where the bulb had always been, another third was planted in a garden in Weesp and the last part in our own front yard.
The original part never grew again and the second part in Weesp was never successful, but now after 15 years, twelve to fourteen beautiful flowers bloom in our garden and the grove keeps getting broader and higher.
Each year, it’s always a surprise to see how our “penis plant” will appear. And from the moment that the first points of the plant stand up out of the earth, we are enthralled with its flowering habit until it’s in full bloom. It stands in our garden between two side-kitchens in a sheltered cove, some soft ground, out of the wind and has more shade than sunlight. Now, the plant is almost two meters high and has to be propped up, otherwise the stalks lie flat at the very first rain.
Several years ago, when the plant had bloomed and already was on the wane, some rascals broke off the vines and put them down in the bushes of our near neighbours, just as a joke. The following years, it struck us that more and more additional vines started growing. Could it be that this plant is similar to a flower bulb? If you remove the flower, will the bulb/knob grow broader in the ground? Up to that moment, we only had stems which were always neatly cut just above the ground when they had become a pathetic heap of small stalks. Since then, we remove the stems faster after flowering and the plant rejuvenates each year with new stems and flowers.
This year, the calyces were extraordinary large, and when the petals began to dry, we noticed that there were some seeds growing onto the stems of the flowers. They looked like small green corncobs. Through the internet, we learned that if we let them stay where they are, they eventually would become orange and then could be “harvested”. One website says that you must plant them with the flesh, others say that you have to get rid of the pulp with gloves (parts of the plant are poisonous). Of course, it’s a sport to discover whether or not we’ll be able to cultivate some of the seeds!
In any case, it’s not a good plant to place next to your lounge area outside or in a garden where pets and/or children run around (like I said, parts are poisonous). And each year, the smell of the plant - which is excreted during one week to attract flies that provide the pollination; not all flowers do this with honey - is unbearable.
But oh, in that week that the flowers bloom: what are those side-like, deep purple/black enormous calyces impressive with their big purple pestle that protrudes (hence the nickname “penis plant”) on the high stalks and beautiful large green finger-like leaves.
The Dracunculus vulgaris is a bizarre, unique plant that fascinates and certainly gives passer-by’s something to talk about when it’s in full bloom. It makes people wonder if something dead is rotting in the garden...
Arjen & Esther Zaandam, The Netherlands, September 2014
Try the Dracunculus vulgaris yourself? The seeds can be found in our webshop.
My adventure in the kingdom of plants
by Dirk Mullaert
From when I was a little boy, I have been fascinated by fauna and flora. I found everything exciting and experimented with harvesting seeds and shoots of plants, and was always so happy when I could turn a small seed or young shoot into a beautiful, flowering plant.
Now, many years later, I am still obsessed by plants. So much that I even started experimenting with tropical plants. It gives you that little bit more to meet the challenge, to start doing something “special”.
And so it happened. Suddenly, I found myself on the website of Onsseeds and contacted the owner. Sander Onsman helped me realise my biggest dream: in particular by providing me with a young tuber of the largest flower in the world, the Amorphophallus titanum. A small scoop of about 3 cm that came with a great age (I suppose). See pictures 1 and 2.
I then further deepened myself in taking care of this plant, and I can tell you that it wasn’t easy at all! You need to tend to the plant around seven years before it’s mature, and you certainly need a lot of space so it can grow. The leaves can grow up to 4 to 5 meters, and so much room I do not have as a private individual. But I can’t complain: after 3 years, the plant has grown to a blade height of about 1.2 meters. I still have some time to find another location if it decides to grow larger in size. Meanwhile, the tuber has thickened to a good 8 cm and weighs around 350 grams. See pictures 3 and 4.
Concerning the care-taking, this is what I do: Since the bulb is sensitive to nematodes that could cause rotting when they have to opportunity to develop, I sterilize the potting and humus soil by warming them up in my oven, half an hour at 120° Celsius. Afterwards, I let it cool again. To complete the composition of the soil, I add some Perlite to it. This way, I can guarantee the optimal humidity and airiness of the composition.
I also wrap a silicon heating wire of 25W around the outside of the pot. This way, I can keep the temperature at 25° C, which is most beneficial for the tuber and the plant. Then, I place everything in a big scale which I always fill with some water to keep the humidity of the air at 80% Sometimes, when extreme drought occurs during the summer, I nebulize the leaves one or two times a day so the humidity of the air is around 90% and the plant stays refreshed. As a fertilizer, I like to use dissolved cow dung. I also water the soil until it’s moisty, but not completely soaked.
The result: my plant is doing well. I only wonder what I’ll do if the ceiling of my bathroom proofs to be too low? See pictures 5 and 6. (picture 6 shows another, somewhat lager tuber +-11 cm)
Up to now, only 2 Titans have flowered in the National Botanic Garden of Meise in Brussels, Belgium. That’s why I’m thinking of contacting them to see if they are interested in taking care of my darling and try getting it to bloom.
Now, I can only wait and see how it goes with my "darling". But if there is one thing I can say: if I hadn’t met Sander, I wouldn’t have been able to realize my biggest dream. Thanks a lot, Sander!
More photos from this impressive plant can be found on my Facebook address.
Best regards out of Ghent