California Carnivores: The Biggest Little Shop of Horrors in America
Did you know that Northern California is home to the biggest "Little Shop of Horrors" in America, better known as California Carnivores? I had to go check it out for myself recently, and discovered this remarkable carnivorous plant shop tucked away from the busy traffic of Highway 116, just outside of the city limits of Sebastopol. If you’ve seen the Antique Society on the right as you come into town from the south, you’ve found the location of the nursery as well - it’s just down that side street on Old Gravenstein Highway.
Let me say that cultivating a garden of hungry carnivores wouldn’t have been my first choice for a hobby. That is until I discovered the unearthly beauty of those stately, sinister pitcher plants, cute but devious flowering butterworts and glistening dewy pines, among others. Best of all, many of them can survive quite well year ‘round in an outdoor northern California garden. A few would be happiest indoors (I’m thinking one would make a perfect desk plant at the office) and any number of them can be shipped across country. The question then becomes, which exquisitely evolved little carnivore to choose? According to their claim, the shop offers over 1,000 varieties on display.
The atmosphere of the nursery itself is that of an ordered, but eerily quiet, jungle – with hanging vines, exotic blooms and the occasional oversized “Shop of Horrors” style prop tucked into corners. And the carnivores are everywhere: hanging from supportive posts, growing out of the walls and trailing investigative tendrils from under the foliage. More than once I got the uneasy feeling that they were watching me… not altogether benevolently.
The owners are Damon Collingsworth and Peter D’Amato – both experts and educators who are passionate about the conservation of these remarkable plants. In fact, Peter is the author of The Revised Savage Garden, an award winning go-to guide for horticulturists interested in the subject, now in its eighth printing. If you visit, make sure to bring your camera and take the time to talk to one of the owners. I promise that you will come away with a new respect for these ancient and incredibly interesting plants.
Details: California Carnivores is located at 2833 Old Gravenstein Highway, Sebastopol.
The shop/nursery is open from Thursdays through Mondays 10AM - 4PM.