Lord of the fly-traps: Meet plant lover Mike.
Byline: Report by Mark Andrews firstname.lastname@example.org
IF you're a fly or a wasp, it's probably wise to give Mike King's garden a swerve.
His two huge greenhouses are filled with 6,000 plants that gobble them up at a prodigious rate.
"Each leaf will get through over 1,000 flies over a summer," says Mike, who has been growing carnivorous plants for 40 years.
That is a lot of flies. Even if each plant had only a single leaf - in reality there are many more - that's two million a month, in one man's garden. Where do they all come from? Does he have to buy flies in to feed their voracious appetite? "No, nothing like that, they all occur naturally," he says. Who would have known that flies and wasps were so populous? Mike, from Wrockwardine Wood in Telford, is a big name in the carnivorous plants world. His 1,500 sq ft greenhouses are packed with some of the rarest species on the planet, and is one of just two designated "national collections" in the UK.
"People come from all over the world to see them. I have had somebody come from Florida," he says. He also exports plants to a variety of countries, with customers in New Zealand and Australia.
Most people will be familiar with the Venus fly-traps, which famously appeared in an advert for Peperami in the 1980s, and indeed this was Mike's first introduction to carnivorous plants as a 14-year-old in 1979.
But they are just part of the world of meat-eating horticulture. Mike has more than 4,000 of the trumpet-like plants which can grow to heights of more than 3ft.
"The idea that a plant could deliberately catch and kill its own food was something that fascinated me," he says. "I bought my first Venus fly-trap at Waterloo station in 1979. I had been to Kew Gardens, but they wouldn't sell them there, and I saw one at the station on the way home. You used to be able to buy these kits to grow them in a plastic dome, and I grew it on the windowsill. Somehow I managed to keep it alive, and it went from there." He still has the 40-year-old plant which started it all, and is keen to talk about the countless special varieties of pitchers he has developed himself. His favourite at the moment is one he has called"Angel of Death".
"I love that light colouring with the red border," he says. Maintaining such a large collection takes a serious amount of work, and Mike devotes a good 20 hours a week to his plants.
Mike King has spent most of his life growing and developing new plant varieties
The Venus fly-trap is a well-known carnivorous plant Pitcher style fly-catchers use colour to lure