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Thomas Skinner

Edenbridge, Kent, UK

Most of us grow plants to feed animals (i.e. ourselves), but Tom Skinner grows plants that feed on animals. When we spoke in June, Tom’s plants were hitting the spring vigour stage, forming psychedelic colours in time for summer. Sarracenia is a genus of several species originating from North America. It attracts insects with secretions from extrafloral nectaries on their jug-shaped leaves, creating a slippery slope for the unsuspecting victim before being digested by the plant’s enzymes. Despite only a few existing species, Tom says they hybridise easily, with thousands of variations. His obsession started when he was eight years old after killing his first Venus Fly Trap. The next one came with a guidebook, and Tom was determined to keep it alive. At 14, he met Simon, an expert grower of Trumpet Pitchers, who blew Tom’s mind with his Sarracenia collection – much larger, more vibrant and more exciting than the poor specimens to be seen on the shop shelves. The plant’s behaviour is also fascinating, one example being their tendency to get indigestion if they overeat! Their leaves go a little crusty, and they slow their growth, only to explode with flowers the following season. Sarracenia’s root system is similar to irises – the rhizomes store food for future developments, so no nutrients go to waste. Naturally, I was curious to ask whether they are good for home insect control. Drosera and Pinguicula are excellent at eliminating fungus gnats en masse. I know what I’m asking Santa for this Christmas!

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Author

Vegetable grower, natural beekeeper and edible spaces designer. Lover of all soil and urban farming techniques. Former head of growing at Incredible Aquagarden.