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The Savage Garden, Revised: Cultivating Carnivorous Plants Paperback – July 2, 2013

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Ten Speed Press; Revised edition (July 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1607744104
  • ISBN-13: 978-1607744108
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,632 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

PETER D’AMATO has been growing carnivorous plants for nearly forty years and his nursery, California Carnivores (, houses the world’s largest collection of carnivorous plants. D’Amato is cofounder of the Bay Area Carnivorous Plant Society and he lectures on the subject nationwide.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

I find it ironic that this introduction to the revised edition of The Savage Garden is the final section of the book I am completing, only one week after returning from the 2012 International Carnivorous Plant Society (ICPS) conference hosted by the New England Carnivorous Plant Society. I had a wonderful time at the conference, and in a presentation I gave, I briefly told the audience some details of this new edition. The irony is that at the very first world conference of the ICPS, held at the Atlanta Botanical Garden in 1997, I gave a slide show preview of the first edition of the book. Little did I truly comprehend at the time the potential impact of the book. It won the American Horticultural Society’s book award in 1999 and became a best seller in the genre, and only two weekends ago in New England I autographed dozens of copies for attendees of the conference. Nearly all of the books were well worn, well read, many with colorful bits of paper bookmarking sections of the book important to the reader—well, I was humbled and pleased.

The Savage Garden was not just a coffee table book of pretty pictures, but a resource that people actually read for the helpful information it contained. It was the type of book I wish had existed when I was a kid in the late 1960s, when carnivorous plants first took hold of my life, yet information on them—especially how to grow them—was sorely lacking.

There have been many ICPS conferences since 1997 all over the world, from Japan to Australia, from Europe to North America. The one this past month in New England was startling not only for the amazing show of fantastically beautiful carnivorous plants on display and for sale, but also for the delightful variety of people attending. Adults and kids, men and women, boys and girls—things have certainly changed since I was a teenager—when you could count on one hand the serious growers of carnivorous plants in the United States. Since then, thousands of people all over the world have found the hobby an intoxicating experience. Carnivorous plants are educational, sometimes challenging, utterly and strangely beautiful, and a lot of fun to grow! Plus, unlike other plants—they don’t just sit there!
So how does this revision differ from the first edition? A lot has happened in fifteen years.

Most of the cultivation information has remained primarily intact, but I have tweaked and fine-tuned many details learned over the years. Much of this has come from customers of my nursery, California Carnivores, who have done things unimaginable a decade and a half ago. Other changes came from continual experiments at our nursery, resulting in adjustments to soil recipes, or discovering the cold and freeze tolerance of various subtropical plants. The results were often surprising.
Perhaps the greatest changes have occurred in the identification of many of the plants and the astounding numbers of new species discovered and brought into cultivation in the past fifteen years.

When I first wrote The Savage Garden, for example, most of the varieties of Sarracenia, the American pitcher plants, had nicknames only, such as “red tube” or “coppertop” or “okee giant.” All of these plants, and many new ones discovered and cultivated since, now have true names (see Registered Cultivars, page 357).
The vast number of new species that have been discovered and identified is truly amazing. When I first wrote the book, there were five known species of South American sun pitchers (Heliamphora). Now, the count is approaching twenty-five! The butterworts (Pinguicula) have jumped from seventy species to more than one hundred. And when I first wrote the book there were around eighty species of tropical pitcher plants (Nepenthes) known—the count is now approaching one hundred fifty—with many more expected to be discovered as modern-day enthusiasts climb the countless unexplored mountains from the Philippines to New Guinea. More carnivorous plants have been discovered in the last decade than at any time in the past.

I have also updated some technological advances, like the invention of polycarbonate greenhouse glazing, which is far superior to fiberglass and glass. Grow light technology has also improved greatly, with far superior artificial lights on the market. We have discovered a new fertilizer that doesn’t kill live sphagnum moss, and many new insecticides—some completely natural—that can control bothersome pests with no harm to plants or people.
I have also added the metric system to the revision—a tedious effort that nearly drove me insane. Please keep in mind these systems of measurements are rough and approximate!
I want to thank my business partner, Damon Collingsworth, for taking on the task of coordinating all the photographs for the book. He took dozens of new photos at our nursery and solicited many others from our friends both near and far. As just one example, the photography of plant autopsies, taken by California Carnivores volunteer Patrick Hollingsworth, is unsurpassed. And the astounding images lent to us by naturalists like Ch’ien Lee, Fernando Rivadavia, Stewart McPherson, Barry Rice, and Andreas Fleischman are certainly compelling and hypnotic.
I must end this preface to a book on a topic that has brought so much joy to so many people around the world with a message of sadness and pain.
After the recent conference in New England, many of the attendees went on field trips to see carnivorous plants in the wild. They saw local bogs in New England as well as sites in New Jersey, North Carolina, and the Gulf Coast of southeastern North America, where more species of carnivorous plant genera exist than anywhere else in the world. The excitement of seeing several habitats in protected, pristine beauty was unfortunately overshadowed by one heartbreaking fact: these astounding forms of life are disappearing from our planet at a rate that is beyond alarming.
As a few examples, I went to southern New Jersey to see a couple of my favorite sites I knew as a kid growing up on the Jersey shore. Both of these habitats had originally been bogs in the 1800s, but the slow-moving streams had been dammed to create lake reservoirs for drinking water by the early 1900s. Still, there were vast numbers of surviving plants along the edges of the lakes when I was a kid. Apparently, however, the dams were rebuilt in the past decade, and when I saw them a couple of weeks ago, the enormous quantity of sphagnum moss, pitcher plants, and sundews I remembered were virtually all gone, drowned by the higher lake levels the new dams created. And this was in the Pinelands National Reserve, which “protects” an amazing 22 percent of the small and densely populated state of New Jersey.

Around Wilmington, North Carolina, we saw some very nice, small sites on Nature Conservancy property that is well managed with controlled burns and protected by a locked gate across the road. However, beyond that, we were left having to hunt for plants along dismal drainage ditches along the sides of roads where occasional patches of Venus flytraps, sundews, and pitcher plants barely survived among broken bottles and discarded fast-food containers.

In fact, the most Venus flytraps we saw were in the back yard lawn of a kindly old gentleman who loved and protected the pitcher plants, flytraps, and sundews that survived on the edge of his lakefront property. Originally the area was a vast bog of carnivorous and other rare plants. A few decades ago the creek that drained the bog was dammed, a large lake flooded the bog, and lovely estates were built along the lake. The few plants that survived now grow in grassy lawns, if they are not removed by the homeowner.

A simple ditch dug one or two feet (0.3–0.6 m) deep along the edge of a wet carnivorous plant habitat can drain vast areas, killing off all the plants that rely on wet soils. As Mark Todd, our host in Wilmington and member of the North American Sarracenia Conservancy (, told us, “There are just fewer and fewer habitats where the plants are able to grow.” And sadly, this is occurring all around the world.

Thankfully, many readers of The Savage Garden first encounter the book to find out how to grow a Venus flytrap or pitcher plant they’ve rescued from a local nursery. If this is the case for you, I hope that your initial interest will grow and evolve, leading you to support the various organizations that are trying to save these wonders of nature from extinction.

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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 145 customer reviews
The book is well written and is very easy to understand.
Rebecca Reeves
It has a great section on growing CPs in general wherin soil types and ingredients are discussed as well as other important topics like water, diseases & pests, etc.
Marya Schultz
D'Amato's book is the result of all those years of passion and experience cultivating a SAVAGE GARDEN.
Armando Manolo Alvarez Torres

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Sean Kuhlmeyer on August 24, 2005
Format: Paperback
Warning! Carnivorous plants are addictive. Don't be fooled by that cute little Venus Fly Trap or Sundew and think that you will just buy one. Wrong; one will morph into five, five into twenty-five, and the next thing you know, you will have a great terrarium set up, carnivorous houseplants competing with your African violet, and planters outside that the neighborhood kids come to feed bugs to. You will also be giving impromptu science lessons for anyone who stops to look at your unique plants. And this book will help. It is probably the most accessible book on carnies out today, and seems to have fueled a mini-explosion of publishers trying to follow D'Amato's lead. The writing is clear, and written for people who like plants but are not botany nuts, or botanists. D'Amato also did a very good job of explaining how to grow plants from different areas of the world without having to resort to charts of zones and endless consultations of thermometers. If you are interested in carnies, buy this book, you could also pick up Adrian Slack's book as well, but start here first.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Jessica L. Lawrence on November 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book is one of the best I've read for carnivorous plants. It has background information on plants, as well as detailed information about the different species' general requirements, information on different growing settings, how to set up those settings, what to plant each kind of plant in, what NOT to plant each plant in, what you can fertilize/feed your plant with, and plant pests that commonly bother carnivorous plants and how to deal with them. The book also contains many quirky comments such as "(I am not suggesting you feed your plants humans, since this is highly illegal...)" and "Some CP's will accept...even chocolate (female plants)." It is a very fascinating and useful book!! A must-have for carnivorous plant lovers!
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful By sda on May 5, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've long been interested in carnivorous plants, and have managed to collect a number of books on the subject over the years. This book, without a doubt, is the very best on the subject I've ever read! It is written in an easy to understand, matter-of-factly way, gives easy to follow instructions on how to grows these amazing plants, and is beautifully illustarted with numerous photos. If you buy only one book on the subject make this the one.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Jeff Dallas ( on July 17, 1998
Format: Paperback
As a grower and seller of carnivorous plants I always try to refer customers to a good book on the subject to delve deeper into the subject. When Peter D'Amato published The Savage Garden I found I had a resource beyond my highest expectations to lead them to. This book is detailed, concise, easy to read, has lots of beautiful photographs, and is designed to let the average person be successful growing carnivorous plants. I can't recommend it enough.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 29, 1998
Format: Paperback
A must have for people that want a well written and practical guide to the different Genus of carnivorous plants and how to grow them. Well written and not overly technical, The Savage Garden was interesting as well as practical reading for the hobbyist grower. When I received this book, I read it cover to cover, staying up until 3AM.
The Savage Garden was exceedingly well organized and the information was, by my experience, accurate. I particularly like the way he organized the book, with growing information for the Genus and species grouped logically at the end of each section, instead of spread throughout the book. It makes it much easier to use as a reference for growers.
If you own but on book on these plants, this should be the one.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
The book is outstanding. It covers most types of carnivorous plants, and has many excellent color photos. It has a section on how to grow & care for each type of plant. From pot size, soil, light, humidity, fertilizers, growing period and more.
A very minor negative - some additional information would have been useful. I wish it had a little more information on the optimal pot size for the plants, some have this info, some don't. And don't expect it to have every complex Sarracenia Hybrid covered, although it does have a lot of them.
Ive read many books on CPs published in the last 50-60 years, and this one covers more, provides more info, and has better pictures. This deserves 5 stars, unlike the typically inflated rating. I use it to research any plants I consider buying. If you're interested in CPs this book would be worth buying. It's a steal at its current price....
Do a net search for Orgel Bramblett of Orgels Orchids in FLA to find another excellent source of CPs.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By J. Green VINE VOICE on May 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
If you've ever bought a venus fly-trap and had it die on you, but would still like to give it another try, this is the perfect book. And not just for fly-traps, but nearly every other carnivorous plant out there!
This book is packed full of information on all kinds of plants that trap and eat insects. But best of all, Peter D'Amato, who runs the largest retail store selling such plants, gives helpful advice on how to grow them. Pretty much everything from soil mixes to light and humidity levels is detailed out here. He even gives lists of plants that do well in different settings, such as windowsills, terrariums, and outdoor bogs. And the writing style is such that it is easy to understand and follow, and even has a nice sense of humor. And while the author's experience is growing them on the Pacific Coast, the advice is easily adaptable to other climates with some adjustment.
This is a must-have book for anyone interested in carnivorous plants - and the "bible" for anyone who hopes to grow them successfully.
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