Well, here we go: the absolutely last Triffid Ranch open house starts at noon on Saturday and runs until 6:00. After this, everything comes down for liquidation, so if you haven’t seen the recent gallery renovations, this is your last chance. Selah.
Back when this little experiment in Dallas art started in its old location in 2015, I told myself and others “If it lasts 18 months, I’ll be thrilled.” The fact that the Triffid Ranch lasted five times that, in an area and market where most galleries of any sort are lucky to last a year, is a testament to the residents, visitors, and unindicted coconspirators of the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area wanting something a bit weirder, and I thank you all.
The problem with every party, of course, is that eventually the party has to end. Hence, it’s time to turn on the lights, send everyone home with leftovers, and sweep up. 7 1/2 years is a great run, but now it’s time to get out the pushbrooms. January 28 is the date for the last official Triffid Ranch open house, and I’m currently clearing out the extra inventory, both plants and containers, in order to go out in style.
Now, some of you may have questions as to “why,” and in this case, here’s a handy guide to explain what’s going on. Anyone with further questions is welcome to come out to this weekend’s open house to ask more: it’s not as if I’m going anywhere that day.
Why is the Triffid Ranch shutting down?
Over the last two years, the Triffid Ranch became more and more self-sufficient, but it was never a venue that that did more than come a little ahead of even. When the lease was up for renewal in February, the new owners included a one-third rent increase, a significant new deposit, and demands for additional insurance, and the increased costs of new plants, containers, and show expenses added to it. The gallery could have muddled through for another two years, but with the very real risk in this area of the industrial park being demolished, scraped, and turned into apartment buildings. Two medical parks on either side have already been stripped to the soil line in preparation for development, and the costs of a move later, particularly with only 30 to 60 days’ notice, just made shutting down a saner idea.
Are you still going to do shows and events?
As much as I would like to keep going, the shows are ending as well. I love the organizers of several shows much more than I do any living member of my biological family, and I will gladly move heaven and earth to help them in any way possible. A lot of those big shows were really only possible with the gallery as a base of operations, though, and so if you see me at Texas Frightmare Weekend or the Oddities & Curiosities Expos, it’ll only be as a spectator.
Another factor with this decision to stop doing Triffid Ranch shows has nothing to do with them, but with the current increase in events and shows elsewhere. Thanks to scheduling issues, were I to continue, three of my biggest shows, ones that normally take about a month of preparation, are now within a week to two weeks of each other, with the very good likelihood that one particularly successful show could leave one or two with nothing left, and I won’t do that to either the show staffs or attendees. It’s not their fault or anybody’s fault: it’s just that other organizations and groups want the same facilities at the old times, and my blessing and curse was having something really unique that could be shown at a wide range of events. In 2023, that came back to bite me in the face.
(I will say, though, that one thing I won’t miss about shows is a particular type of participant that became especially common in 2022 shows. This is the person who saw the plants from way off, shoved people out of the way to get to the booth, shoved others out of the way to get right up next to the plants, looked down at them, and told me, repeatedly, “I can’t keep plants alive! Every plant I ever get DIES!” This isn’t the person who can’t figure out what’s happening with their Venus flytrap or jade plant and asks for advice: this type is almost proud that they’ve made no concessions for plant care or efforts in learning more. After the show last year that broke me, I wanted to start yelling back “Do you walk into pet shops and brag ‘I can’t keep a dog alive! Every dog I get dies!’? Worse, do you do that in maternity wards and nursing homes?” They’re almost as annoying and soul-killing as the people demanding that I bring plants out to Texas Master Gardener events, and lower than that I can’t get.)
What about the plants that don’t sell at the last open house?
After the open house, it’ll be time to break everything down and have a liquidation sale. Keep an eye on the Web site for details. Plants, shelving units, decorations, supplies, remaining glassware, and show gear: it’s all going. Anybody need a 10×10 tent and weights for outdoor shows? I won’t need it any more.
As for the outdoor plants currently in winter dormancy, plans are already underway to find them homes as well. I have an idea for a really fun gathering to say goodbye for good, and I’m just waiting for word in order to start with plans.
Will you restart the Triffid Ranch at a later time?
THAT is a really good question. The current plan right now is that if I do, it’s after going back to school for a serious regimen of art and museum design courses, including a lot of set design. If the Triffid Ranch comes back, with some financial miracle letting it happen, it’ll only be after getting the skills necessary to bring it to a whole new level, and that’s going to take a little while.
What will you do now?
You know, that’s a really good question. Several big projects eating at my brain have had to sit for years because the gallery and the day job took so much time, and one is practically extruding from my ear like brain toothpaste. Let’s just say that if you liked the backstories on the enclosures, you might get some further elaboration on the mysteries hinted at with those. I turn 57 with my next birthday on February 30, though, so I have to get going while I still have time.
And then there was one left. After years and years of wondering “are people not showing up to open houses because they don’t know about the open house or the existence of the gallery?”, I got the answer. Quite a few longtimers came out on January 21, including several friends from Texas Frightmare Weekend, but a lot of folks came out who had only heard about the Triffid Ranch from friends that weekend, and wanted to see everything before the gallery closed. They were all very much appreciated, and my only regret with everybody is that they won’t be able to come out in the future.
One of the things I enjoyed the most about the Triffid Ranch’s run was that there was no telling who was going to come through the door and what questions they were going to ask. I loved letting visitors know, when they would start with “This may sound like a dumb question, but…” that not only were they NOT asking dumb carnivorous plant questions, but they were asking questions that I had asked when I first started twenty years ago. Better, many, and I let them know this, were asking questions that had been bouncing around since the acknowledgement that these plants could attract, capture, and digest insect and other animal prey, and sometimes I had answers that only became available in the latest research. You ever see someone’s face when they asked about pitcher plant digestive fluids or Venus flytrap stimulation when told “If you’d come in a week ago, I wouldn’t have had an answer, but there was this great paper in Nature last Tuesday…” That’s something I’m going to miss.
And that’s nearly it. If you want to see the gallery in its current reasonably complete form, the last-ever Triffid Ranch open house opens at noon on January 28, and the doors closing at 6:00 pm or whenever everyone clears out. After that, it’s a matter of liquidating what’s left before moving out forever on February 28, so get out Saturday or ask someone else to get photos and video. You won’t want to miss this.
We’re down to the two last open houses at the current Triffid Ranch location, with the next one on January 21 from noon until 6:00 pm. If you’ve been wanting to come out for years but couldn’t quite work it out, now’s the time to do so, because after the January 28 open house, everything comes down and the gallery shuts down forever. And so it goes.
Most of the time, attempting to show plants at a late-night event doesn’t work out well, It’s dark and often smoky (these days more due to fog than cigarettes), and the people most interested in carnivorous plants early on don’t want to break free to take their plants home and those interested later tend to get distracted. However, when the venue is the famed Panoptikon, newly revived at the equally famed Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas’s Deep Ellum district, “most of the time” goes right out the window.
First things first, as fun as its original location was, the new Panoptikon locale is even easier to reach, from a vendor point of view. A few bugs need to be worked out with subsequent shows (namely, additional spot lighting), but it generally was a relaxing and friendly trip among both old friends and a lot of new attendees. The future of the Triffid Ranch is in doubt, but between here and the new locale for The Church, It Dallas’s goth community is in safe hands.
As to when the Triffid Ranch returns, that’s something that’s currently under consideration. Even after the gallery shuts down, the outdoor courtyard at Sons of Hermann Hall would be a great place to show off outdoor plants when the weather gets warmer, and the Panoptikon crew is always, ALWAYS, a joy to work with. Keep an eye open, because it could happen sooner than you think.
The gallery may be closing, but not right away, and there’s still six weeks left to find homes for plants and enclosures before everything shuts down. Hence, with the unusually warm January weather, opening for a Saturday open house just makes sense. It was a perfect day for both old friends and Atlas Obscura groupies to come by and see what has been done with the gallery so far, talk to new visitors about the merits of carnivorous plants, and help out a friend with possible issues with her Cape sundew. It was a good day in general.
While it makes sense to shut down everything on a high note, the reality is that I’m going to miss holding the open houses. Over the last few years, having more than a single open house every month meant getting a better rhythm with setup and breakdown, and the last year meant getting a cohesive and coherent look to the place. That and the gallery becoming an actual gallery and less a locale for Dallas Fantasy Fair refugees to gossip, and things were going well. The reality, though, is that it’s knowing when to leave the party, especially when you’re the host, and shutting down when the current lease expires makes the most sense.
For those who have been kicking the can down the road about coming out for a Triffid Ranch show, it’s like this. The last two open houses as the place appears now are scheduled for January 21 and 28, both running from noon until 6:00 pm. If you’ve had your eye on a particular enclosure, now is the time to snag one before someone else gets it. After that, the dismantling begins in earnest, with all of the fixtures and accessories (shelves, glassware, pots, and decorations) going up for sale starting February 11. Ultimately, the space has to be cleared out and cleaned out by February 28, and after that, the Triffid Ranch is done. It’s been a very long strange trip over the last 14 years, and it’s time to celebrate the last few miles before the end of the road.
This weekend is another two-night event: it starts Friday with a guest spot at Dallas’s famed goth club Panoptikon, now at Sons of Hermann Hall in Deep Ellum, starting at 7:00 and ending pretty much whenever they kick me out, and continues at the gallery for the first open house of the new year. Hit one, hit both, or wait until next week: it’s completely up to you.
“Welcome back to 2023. Please do not leave your seat until the chronohopper has completed all temporal motion and the time-anchors engage, unless you like losing your last four lunches and your last three haircuts. Please surrender all contraband before leaving the vehicle: we already know what you brought on board before you knew it, and we’re only really checking for honesty. If traveling from more than 10,000 years post-present, surrender all animal and plant specimens as well, as they’re likely to go invasive if/when you get bored and let them outside. Due to chrono-stabilization, you may feel a tingling in your extremities for more than 24 hours. If you find you can pass your hand or foot through solid objects, contact your doctor immediately. On behalf of Brothern Timelines, we thank you for choosing us, and we will contact you with your itinerary and reservations before you decide to make a future trip. Until then, please keep the paradoxes small and humorous.”
Oh, You came back. I guess the gorgonopsids out front didn’t discourage you. Well, come on in, and try to stay on the plastic runners. You have no idea how badly gorgonopsid saliva stains everything.
New month in a new year, and it’s time to make a few announcements. Last month, the idea of a Lunar New Year open house was floated as running around January 28, and it’s been expanded. This month, expect open houses on Saturdays January 14, 21, and 28: the gallery and house cleanup after January 1 turned out to be more productive than expected. It’s much of the same schedule: noon until 5:00 pm on January 14, noon until 6:00 pm on the 21st and 28th. (The January 14 event ends early in an effort to send visitors and interested bystanders to the BBBevCo Dry January Pop-Up, run by two longtime Triffid Ranch boosters and for those of us in desperate need of a venue in which to socialize without being pushed into blackout drinking.) Otherwise, they’re all the same: admission is free, enclosures are for sale, and children are welcome.
Secondly, if you haven’t been out to the gallery before now, make plans to do so by January 28, because barring a financial miracle, this will be the last-ever Triffid Ranch event in the gallery’s current form. The current lease expires at the end of February, and the new lease offer has so much of a jump in rent, deposit, and insurance (a situation faced also by Dallas stalwarts the Green Room and Fish & Fizz) that it honestly makes more fiscal sense to shut everything down for the duration. After January 28, all remaining enclosures, plants, and equipment are going to be sold off in mid-February, which still gives a month to clean the place out, get it ready to be empty for the next few years, and move on. What’s going to happen next is anybody’s guess, and the Triffid Ranch may come back in a different form in a few years. Right now, though, it’s time to take everything down, close up, and take a very long rest. If you can’t make it, thank you very much for 7 1/2 years of Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery, and you’ll love what happens next.
For the first time in months, there’s no Triffid Ranch event on the weekend schedule: this weekend is dedicated to post-holiday cleanup and reorganization, finishing new enclosures, and taking care of new year obligations. After this slight interlude, though, expect open houses on January 14, 21, and 28, with some serious news for everyone on the 28th. (The plants also have their earliest tour ever on January 13, when we all show off at the new location for Panoptikon at Sons of Hermann Hall in Dallas’s Deep Ellum district.) Until then, the broom and dustpan are going to get a workout above and beyond the usual.
In the fall of 1989, much was made of the cancellation by the BBC of the classic science fiction television show Doctor Who. Buffeted by both governmental budget cuts aggravated by the rejection of an increase in British television license fees and an understanding that the show appeared cheesy and dated compared to theatrical and television imports from the United States, the BBC finally pulled the plug, much to the dismay of fans, cast, and production staff. Officially, aside from a television movie produced by the BBC and Universal Pictures in 1996, the show was gone until its revival in 2005. The real story, as in the case of the best conspiracy theories, was so much stranger.
A sudden benefactor appeared that allowed the show to continue. Immediately, issues with senior BBC executives threatened the whole project, mostly involving licensing and product marketing. Yes, the show would continue, with the basic concepts intact: an eccentric older man in a vehicle containing considerably more detritus than would appear from the outside, a cast of equally iconoclastic travel companions, weekly adventures stretching the limits of audience credulity, and regular life lessons for a wide and diverse audience. The catches, though, were that the title character could not be presented as an alien from the planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kastaborous, the vehicle no longer had the ability to travel to any point in time and space, the companions couldn’t be TOO bizarre, and the multitude of existential threats facing our cohort had to remain strictly terrestrial. No Daleks, no Cybermen, no Silurians: purely local content. The revived show turned out to be incredibly successful, and only ended when the BBC decided to bring back the “authentic” product under showrunner Russell T. Davies.
The entire look of the show changed, but the new producers hoped one day to remove the subterfuge. To that end, a cast and crew sworn to secrecy shot a demo pilot, using the new props and locations, which they then hid deep within the new production network’s archives. This way, no matter what, at least one copy would exist of their hard work, even if they were all fired immediately afterward. The work done was exceptional, including the cover story, and only vague rumors escaped of the alternate pilot in 2011. The only obvious hint was that the benefactor remained as an “in association with” credit in the 2005 revival, as an acknowledgement of everything it had done to keep Doctor Who from being cancelled forever.
That, my friends, is how the show moved to Canada. One day, that demo pilot will be discovered by a dedicated archivist at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and fan heads will explode.
Dimensions (diameter/height): 18″ x 24″ hexagon (45.72 cm x 60.96 cm)
Plant: Nepenthes “Bill Bailey”
Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, recycled plastic, found items.
Shirt Price: $250US
Nine New Year’s Eves ago, the concept of the gallery was just a vague dream. Oh, the Triffid Ranch existed as a popup to be found at shows and conventions through the Dallas area, but the number of shows at which it appeared in a given year was still in the single digits, all of the plants lived on metal shelves in my office or in a teeny Harbor Freight greenhouse, and moving large enclosures to said shows ranged between “aggravating” and “legitimately dangerous.” Back when the clock was gradually shifting to January 2015, the likelihood of opening an actual venue was right up there with the Dallas Cowboys winning a shutout World Series pennant. Shop for a space? Why not make plans around getting an operational Green Lantern ring while I was at it?
Eight years later, New Year’s Eve was drastically different. One last open house to finish off this kidney stone of Anno Domini 2022, and it was graced with such dignitaries as the famed Venus flytrap expert Maggie Chen and local carnivorous plant booster Christian Cooper, as well as a crowd of people unable to come out for an open house until now. It’s been a very long strange trip, demonstrating firsthand how the weird turn pro, and while there’s no telling what to expect for 2023, any prediction about what happened in 2015 would have been hopelessly inadequate, too.
And on the subject of 2023, while the gallery is always open for appointments to purchase enclosures, it’s time to take a small break from open houses, mostly because there’s been at least some weekend event involving the Triffid Ranch since September. (While the horrendous freeze and storm that hit Dallas on Christmas weekend ripped the doors off the greenhouse, everything that was inside was already dormant for the season, the bulk of the greenhouse still protected everything from the north wind, and I’m hoping to get an explosion of Sarracenia and flytrap blooms this coming spring comparable to the ones in 2013 and 2021.) However, the gallery definitely opens for a Lunar New Year open house on January 28, and other events in January depend upon the weather and how well that weather affects paint drying and resin curing. Trust me: it’ll be worth the wait.
And that does it for 2022. Everyone be safe and warm (not that the latter is a problem in Dallas this weekend),and if you feel so inclined for New Year’s Eve festivities in Dallas that don’t involve terrible driving and competitive projectile vomiting, the gallery opens on December 31 for one last open house from noon until 6:00 pm. And if we need to have a 2023 reminiscent of science fiction, could we shoot this time more for Babylon 5 and less toward Mad Max: Fury Road?
A lot of things can be said for the year to be ended this week, and “boring” is not even remotely one of them. Divorce, moving, reorganizing the gallery, renovations, record drought, property owner changes, Day Job changes, show changes and recalibrations, Spy Clowns, awards, television interviews…after all that, the record cold for Christmas weekend wasn’t even particularly surprising. And we’re starting out 2023 with temperatures more suited for March, so expect the next year to be just as tumultuous. You know, there’s something to be said about the word “boring” in this context…
For those coming in late, the gallery you’ll see today is not the gallery that started out in this space in 2017, and the renovations continue. Right now, the future of the Texas Triffid Ranch is dependent upon what happens in January 2023, both in Dallas and the world in general, so expect a big announcement in time for the Lunar New Year open house on January 28. In the meantime, there’s still the New Year’s Eve open house on December 31, and everyone is welcome to come out and court speculation then.
As for everyone who came out to open houses, Porch Sales, and outdoor and indoor shows through 2022, I can’t begin to describe how thankful I am for all of you. For everyone who read and watched the interviews and voted in awards nominations, thank you. Everyone who came by because they were trying to figure out why their Venus flytraps were dying and needed recommendations, thank you. All of the Atlas Obscura pilgrims and Instagrammers and people looking for something different to do in Dallas on a Saturday night, thank you. Because of all of you, this was the Triffid Ranch’s best year yet, by double over its previous best year in 2021, with particularly popular events at Texas Frightmare Weekend, the Oddities & Curiosities Expos, and the Dallas Arboretum. Thank you for supporting these events, too: a lot of my fellow vendors are old and new friends, and their success matters as much, if not more, than mine.
And so closes 2022. And now it’s time to return to an annual tradition for the last quarter-century: spending the week of New Year’s Day cleaning and organizing. Gotta get ready for 2023, you understand.
At what point is an organism classified as a plant or as a mineral? The flora of the super-Earth world Jessamine pushes the absolute edge of the definition of either. With just short of twice the surface gravity of Earth, Jessamine’s indigenous multicellular life forms already had enough of an issue with impending collapse, and then one of the world’s three natural satellites slid just a little close to Jessamine’s gravity well and shattered. For the past 10 million years, this little world on the rim of its galaxy boasts the most spectacular rings of any non-gas giant or or ice world so far surveyed, with most fragments therein having an incredibly high albedo due to reflective salts and ice crystals from the outgassing of the now-innermost moon’s internal salty ocean into space. Those rings, though, also make a far-from-exhausted source of meteors as ring particles’ orbits decay and the pieces rain down. Jesssamine’s atmosphere is extremely thick, with extremely high levels of carbon dioxide and water vapor giving it a haze that conceals surface features from orbit, so many pieces burn up before reaching the surface. Not all do, though, and combined with the sheer number of fragments, Jessamine is regularly swept with meteorite impacts, particularly when tidal interactions between its sun and moons cause literal meteorite showers across large portions of the planet.
Jessamine’s atmosphere is thick, but not so thick that photosynthesis is impossible, and the earliest plant life on its surface incorporated mineral supports for body cohesion, like the siliceous sponges of Earth. With the formation of the planet’s ring system, though, that evolution went into overdrive in an attempt to survive regular repeated meteorite storms, with the most popular tactic being an organic lattice armor-plated with transparent silicates and aluminates. The effect is to look upon a forest of metal, with leaf analogues and other strategies to increase surface area exposed to light more resembling ablative personnel armor, but at a gigantic scale, more than anything biological. The mineral compounds in those tissues themselves act more like life forms than standard grown crystals, with their using the organic components to transport trace elements throughout both individual plants and members of clusters. The armor plating exists mostly to protect the trunks and stems, covered with crystal vanes to catch the maximum amount of light possible, but also to prevent too many chunks from being knocked off during bad storms. Much like terrestrial plants, the plants of Jessamine can reproduce via broken pieces rooting in the ground, and the growth of a new plant can drain the available mineral supply of an existing individual or clump, to the point of all of them being too weak to withstand subsequent storms or gravity.
And the animals of Jessamine? These are widely distributed and very, very common. They’re also, to an individual, underground dwellers. This can be dangerous on a world with Jessamine’s gravity, but not as dangerous as being above ground.
Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 24″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 60.96 cm x 45.72 cm)
Plant: Nepenthes bicalcarata
Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.
Shirt Price: $350US
It’s been one hell of a year over here at the Texas Triffid Ranch, and it’s definitely been the busiest. As can be told by the posts over here, the gallery hosted more open houses in 2022 than several previous years combined, along with multiple shows outside of the Dallas area, and that’s on top of a major personal move and the attendant stress and aggravation. I thank everyone coming out to the gallery and everyone reading this for your support and understanding through all of this, even the Spy Clowns, and here’s hoping that 2023 is somewhat less, erm, frantic. Certainly, let’s hope it’s considerably warmer: the gallery did well in our extended deep freeze, but let’s not do that again for a while, okay?
The franticness isn’t just here: it’s been a rough year for a lot of people, and I’m glad that this little corner of the universe has been a haven for those in a need for quiet, repose, and carnivorous plants. Christmas Eve was a day for a lot of people who hadn’t been to the gallery since 2021 or earlier (one hadn’t been by since it was at the old Valley View location),and the ones that weren’t impressed by the ongoing renovation and reboot were surprised by the variety of enclosures available since the last time they came in.
And you think this is it for 2022? Pshaw. The absolute last, final, full-stop, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die open house of 2022 is still ahead of us, running on December 31 from noon until 6:00 pm. I could make jokes about Christmas money and having the opportunity to buy something for yourself now that the giftgiving frenzy is over, but honestly it’s all about community. 2023 is going to be a year of making new friends and getting closer to old ones, and we might as well get into the habit of doing so a day early. Selah.
December in Texas tends to be a bit weird in that weather issues tend to be a bit more intense than in most places. On any given day, you can wake up to bitter cold, surprising warmth, fog, ice, snow, frost, or rain, but usually it’s sun unless it isn’t.This tends to get us a little paranoid, especially since (a) so many major roads are atop bridges built to allow proper drainage on the horrendous floodplain that sums up most of the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and (b) those bridges are built to shed heat through our long summers instead of retaining heat in the maybe two weeks per year that they might freeze over. Hence, a lot of traffic plans get made based on a peek outside: do you take one route because three others clog with traffic during heavy rains, or do you take another because the preferred route becomes a skating rink at just below freezing and nobody seems to remember this? You can’t even blame this on “nobody knows how to drive on snow and ice,” because so many fellow Dallasites act as if water has never fallen from the sky in the history of this planet and act accordingly every time it does.
Not that this was a particular problem during this Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas, but you could smell it on the air and you could hear it on the road noise from the road in front of the gallery. Keeping one eye on the sky at all times is no way to live, but most of us have the hang of it. As for the rest of the year, well, that’s why so many of us stayhome for New Year’s Eve.
Well, it’s about done for the season: the last Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas open house of 2022 starts on Saturday at noon and runs until 5:00, but that may stretch based on the number of last-minute visitors. After that, one more event on New Year’s Eve, along with a major announcement about the gallery, and then it’s all about 2023.
As of this writing, Dallas winter arrived a little early. The current cold front is being compared to the big freezes of December 1983 and 1989, but thankfully we’ve neither seen the snow and ice of both of those nor the power outages of 2021. It’s brutally cold, but at least we’re not getting the thundersnow of 2011, either.
It’s about this time that beginner carnivorous plant enthusiasts have questions. LOTS of questions. Based on their experience with standard houseplants, most of which come from areas that never see this kind of cold, they’re understandably concerned about their plants surviving the freeze, much less surviving to see spring. The situation is complicated with how scraggly many carnivores can get by mid-December, and that leads to a lot of frantic Instagram DMs and phone calls asking “Is my plant dead?” They’re usually reassured when they get an answer, but it’s a rough time until then.
In the interests of preserving peace and sanity, it’s time again to discuss carnivorous plant care during a Dallas winter. Your mileage may vary outside of Texas, but the basic principles apply. If you find alternatives that work better for you, I say “congratulations” without the slightest bit of irony or sarcasm: if anything, share what you discover, because it may help someone else.
Firstly, let’s start with tropical carnivores, such as Nepenthes, Cephalotus, and Heliamphora pitcher plants. Cephalotus and Heliamphora don’t mind some cold (if anything, Heliamphora needs it), but temperatures well below freezing are just as lethal to them as they would be to a lowland Nepenthes. If they aren’t all inside by now, they’re probably doomed, but bring them inside right now anyway, because there’s always a chance a frozen plant may come back from the roots. This also applies to Mexican butterworts, Cape sundews, Brocchinia, and any other carnivore considered “tropical.” They may not revive after being left outside during a 10F/-12C night, but they’ll stand a better chance than they would if they got another night of it.
If you DID bring any of these inside, congratulations, but it’s not over yet. Most central heating systems are notorious for sucking moisture out of house air, and that nice roaring fireplace just adds to the lack of humidity. Right now, the vital concern with Nepenthes pitcher plants in particular is keeping up the high humidity they need, but be careful with how you provide it. This can be provided via ultrasonic foggers, drip irrigators, or setting up a good light in the bathroom, hanging the Nepenthes underneath it, and telling everyone in the house “THIS is where you’re taking your showers every morning.” If you’re using foggers or irrigators, just make sure that the water used in it is rainwater or distilled water, as the salts and other minerals in Dallas tap water will both cake up on the fogger’s disc and reduce its life expectancy and may leave salt residue on the plants exposed to the water.
For temperate carnivores, such as Venus flytraps, Sarracenia pitcher plants, and threadleaf pitcher plants (Drosera filliformis), they should already be in the middle of their winter dormancy, so they’re going to look a little scraggly already, if not appearing completely dead. 10F/-12C is the lower end of the temperatures they can withstand, but they’ll do well if protected from the wind, either by covering them with a row cover or even an old sheet or moving them into an unheated shelter that still allows them to get full sun. If that’s impossible, they can be brought into a garage, shed, or other unheated area during the worst of the cold, but put them back out in full sun as soon as the temperatures allow. Do not leave temperate carnivores in the garage over the winter, as they still need lots of sun during their dormancy.
A caveat to the above: especially with the purpurea and rosea species of Sarracenia, the cold is far more dangerous to the containers in which the plants reside than to the plants themselves. If keeping plants in plastic or fiberglass pots, the pots should be fine if the contents freeze solid, but that’s a great way to split, crack, or chip ceramic or glass containers. Particularly with ornate ceramic pots, bring them inside just until the deep cold passes, and be prepared to bring them inside again with each following cold front. In fact, now that the plants are dormant, now may be a great time to transfer them out of that great heirloom pot you received from a relative or found at an estate sale, put them into an inexpensive plastic pot for the winter, and then repot them in the heirloom pot next spring before they emerge from dormancy. This way, if we get another major freeze right after the beginning of the new year, which is always possible in Dallas, you won’t look out on your back porch afterwards and weep over that wonderful Chinese goldfish bowl being split down the middle.
Whether you’re repotting or moving inside, now is a great time to trim back any dead growth on your plants. With all carnivores, trim off any obviously brown and dead leaves and stems, but try to leave any green portions alone unless it’s unavoidable. With Sarracenia, this is especially important, as cleaning out dead pitchers is an excellent way to minimize potential pests from getting winter shelter and to give the still-living pitchers more available light, Just give them a good trim with scissors or clippers (trim the dead portions off still-green traps, leaving a good margin of brown so you don’t stress still-living tissue), toss the dead bits on your compost pile, and keep an eye on how well they reemerge next spring without all that ecch around them.
Oh, and one last little bit concerning seeds and seedlings. If your Sarracenia pitcher plant bloomed earlier this year, now is the time to gather any seed pods if you haven’t already. The seed pod will split in order to scatter its contents around the area, so take a plastic bag and grab the pod from underneath before cutting it free from the stem, and then keep the seeds refrigerated but not frozen (a plastic jar in the refrigerator works well) until spring. There’s always the chance of previously scattered seeds germinating last fall and producing seedlings that are now out in the cold: many may not make it, but you may be surprised.
For the most part, that’s the biggest concern in the cold, but don’t forget to be careful yourself. In this sort of cold, make sure to pick up and move pots while wearing gloves to reduce the risk of damage both to the pot or your hands. Not only will gloves reduce the risk of frostbite, but they may be the only thing between your fingers and a pot that decides to shatter from thermal stress when picked up. Obviously, the worst danger is from glass containers such as goldfish bowls, but your more expensive ceramic containers have a tendency to throw off long and extremely sharp flakes when stressed in the cold, and some are so sharp that you won’t know you’ve been cut until you notice the blood. Even worse, pots that have frozen solid may hang together until they thaw, but all they need is a little bit of stress to come apart in such a way that a tetanus shot at the ER while getting sutures is a really good idea. This happened to me while assessing the damage to my greenhouse after the 2021 Texas freeze, and I was lucky that time. I’m not depending upon luck in the future.
With all of this said, please take care of yourselves and your plants, and here’s hoping that we don’t have any further massive cold bombs in 2023. The heatwave last year was bad enough.
The Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses at the gallery continue for this weekend, with the gallery open on Saturday from noon until 5:00 pm. In the interim, for those planning trips to see family and friends this next week, heed the exceedingly valuable and pertinent annual advice from Canada’s answer to Doctor Who.
It’s time for another anniversary at the Texas Triffid Ranch. As of next month, this silly little gallery celebrates three-quarters of a decade since the original lease signing. It’s slightly bittersweet because of events through the last 12 months, particularly the horrendous flipper mess that was the original location, but considering the life expectancy of most small businesses and most art galleries, it’s a reason to celebrate nonetheless. In February, the gallery starts another two-year lease at its current location, so with a bit of luck and an awful lot of promotion, the Triffid Ranch might hit its tenth anniversary in 2025 after all.
This leads to discussions on where the Triffid Ranch goes from here. Even more so than in 2022, 2023 has to be a year of renovation, consolidation, and reevaluation, not just because of current economic trends, but because the place needs a stem-to-stern cleanout and stripout. A lot of priorities have changed in the last year, and it’s time that the Triffid Ranch takes advantage of this.
The first one is a further emphasis on gallery events as opposed to traveling shows, partly due to increased travel costs and mostly due to wanting to try new things with the gallery space. Now that both the work area in the back and the Dallas Fantasy Fair reunion entourage in the front are gone, there’s now a surprising amount of space available for joint events with other galleries and groups, and the plan in 2023 is to host more of these. The plan for 2022 was to do it this year, but this extends to the Porch Sale events outside when the weather allows: the City of Richardson is experimenting with popup art and culture events, and there’s absolutely no reason why the Triffid Ranch can’t assist with the city’s efforts to make it an arts destination in its own right. The long winter nights in January and February mean plenty of uninterrupted time to get things together by the time spring weather stabilizes around the beginning of April, and the death of the Deep Ellum Arts Festival in 2022 means a lot of folks are going to be looking for something to do once the weekends reach shirtsleeve temperatures. Combine this with the temperate carnivorous plants coming out of winter dormancy and blooming in April, barring any last-minute freezes
In the short-term, December finishes off the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas on December 24, and the week after means plenty of time for essential maintenance and upgrades. Right now, the plan is to have one open house on Saturday, December 31 for those folks who want to do SOMEthing on New Year’s Eve but who don’t want to deal with the usual festivities in the evening. It’s just going to be a nice post-holiday gathering: if you can read this, you’re invited.
As for January, the emphasis is going to be on the renovation, but in support and love of many regular visitors, the Triffid Ranch will host a Lunar New Year open house on January 28, this year with 100 percent less cultural appropriation. Treat this like the Gregorian New Year’s Eve gathering: no pressure, no pushiness, no reason to show up other than to celebrate another orbit around the homestar. Oh, and to see new enclosures, because with the holidays over, there’s going to be a lot of time to fill gaps and get new work up on display, too.
I’m regularly asked about “average Texas winter weather,” and some don’t seem to understand the completely rational and logical answer “There isn’t any.” Oh, there might have been a time in the early Pliocene when keeping records for a few decades could give a mean on temperature, precipitation, and wind speed, but that’s been a folly since the Laurentide Ice Sheet started receding along with the risk of Columbian mammoths climbing through your cat door. As of this year, I mark a total of 40 years in North Texas, and I have stories of severe ice storms and stories of spending Christmas Eve in shorts and sandals. Oh, and there’s a lot between, too.
The weekend of the second Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas open house of 2022 was remarkably similar to that of 1982. It should be noted that the weekend in question 40 years ago was spent pulling weeds in a rainstorm, leading to the first of several bouts of pneumonia through the first half of the 1980s. The gallery itself was warm and dry, but it’s getting there that’s problematic. Maybe I should stop renovating the gallery and develop cheap and effective teleportation, thereby removing the obstacle. Suggestions and recommendations are very welcome.
Even with all that, the continued updates to the gallery were gladly appreciated by both new and returning visitors, and the plan is to surprise them with more over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, it’s time to finish up a series of enclosures, especially thanks to an old and dear friend finding a batch of essential components for the first-ever cojoining enclosures to be presented at the gallery. It may stop, but it NEVER ends.
And for those planning to come out to the next Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas? Expect more surprises, depending upon the weather. Right now, everything depends upon the weather holding up at the beginning of the week, at least enough to use spray guns for a serious addition to the gallery facade. If it doesn’t, well, that’s what new enclosures are for. Either way, make your plans before the plants are all gone.
Two weeks to the big weekend, and the second Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas gallery open house starts Saturday, December 10 at noon and runs until 5:00 pm. (Because people keep asking, it’s not necessary to sign up for Eventbrite or order tickets to attend. The Eventbrite listing is because many Dallas news venues compile their “Best Things To Do This Weekend” lists through Eventbrite, and it’s all about reaching new folks. Getting an idea of how many visitors to expect is a side benefit. However, don’t let that stop you from giving the gallery a view.) After this weekend, the weather is supposed to shift to Dallas typical, so plan accordingly.
The end of Anno Domini 2022 is nearly upon us, and we’re rapidly coming up on slogging through a quarter of this seemingly endless century. More so than in previous years, the Triffid Ranch celebrates things a bit differently. No Whammageddon, no arguments about Die Hard being a Christmas movie (there’s room for only one on the gallery screen), No Elf on the Shelf (the Triffid Ranch is a firm supporter of integrated pest management), and the only sounds on the roof come from Cadfael and the other crows ceaselessly guarding the sleeping Venus flytraps from squirrel depredations. It’s a bit quiet around here, and that’s a very good thing.
The annual Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses always start out a bit quiet, and that works out. It gives opportunities for serious additions to the gallery renovation, such as the massive colored glass arrangement courtesy of Triffid Ranch friend and hero Avi Adelman, and ongoing work on lighting and effects. Oh, and when you come in, ask about “Charlie.” Sometimes it goes slowly (as I regularly note, I’m certain that all human art forms are derived from painting, as you have to have something to do while waiting for the paint to dry), but it’s continuing, and since the property owner wants to renew the lease, there’s at least another two years to keep going.
Since this December is particularly blessed with Saturdays, you still have another four until the year becomes history, and the next Nightmare Weekend starts Saturday, December 10 at noon. If you don’t want to fill out the Eventbrite form for tickets, don’t let this stop you: admission is free, and so is the parking. And so it goes.
Now, Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays isn’t just about a crew of outré vendors offering everything to diaphanized animals to carnivorous plants, although that IS a major draw. This year as last, HFTH runs a silent auction for the SAFE Alliance, and this year’s auction table was just packed with entries. Naturally, the Triffid Ranch had entries both for SAFE and for the separate auction to defray Blood Over Texas expenses, and there’s no feeling quite like an auction winner coming by the booth to ask more questions about their new plant to make sure they’re doing everything right. Folks, THIS is why I do this.
And thus ends the 2022 Triffid Ranch show season, I want to thank everyone coming out to Horror For the Holidays for helping with a record show season, picking my brain for carnivorous plant information, and generally coming by to say hello, and major thanks are in order to both the incredibly hard-working Blood Over Texas staff and my fellow vendors, without whom we wouldn’t have a show at all. The next planned Triffid Ranch trip to Austin is next June for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo, but already plans are congealing for next year’s Horror for the Holidays, currently scheduled for December 2 and 3 at the Palmer Events Center. I look forward to surprising everyone next year as well.
Among many other things, the events of 2022, gave a great opportunity to go through inventory and pull out a lot of containers previously in storage. One of the regular questions asked at Triffid Ranch events is “Where did you get all of these weird containers?”, and this was a question asked a lot at last month’s Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays show in Austin. The absolutely honest answer is also the most worthless: “All over the place.” The bottles, jars, pots, and other containers used for smaller carnivorous plants come from commercial sources, thrift shops, estate sales, and friends who ask “”Hey, could you use this weird container that is just taking up space at my house?” If it can keep a plant hale and hearty, it’ll probably get used, but the trick is finding containers that best suit Triffid Ranch customers, and that’s always a challenge.
The other question asked repeatedly, concerning the plethora of wine and liquor bottles used for sundews and butterworts, is “Did you drink ALL of this?” Considering the number of bottles put up on display at Triffid Ranch shows, I suspect the Fitzgeralds, Hunter S. Thompson, and Brendan Behan would have balked at this much booze. The secret is spreading things out: friends donate a few bottles at a time, local bartenders donate a few bottles at a time, and others are collected at parties and events where they’re already being pitched. (A little tip for those concerned that this might be personal consumption: I cannot drink and have less than no interest in other mind-altering substances, so if you read an obituary involving either alcohol poisoning or opiate overdose, know that my death was murder.)
That isn’t the only source, though. Right now, thrift stores, garage sales, and estate sales are full of those display bottles full of pickled peppers that used to be a stalwart at Pier One stores in the 1980s, and many of them are absolutely perfect for sundews. The trick is getting the peppers out of them, and that’s a secret I’m not sharing.
To be continued…
Shows and conventions come and go, for various reasons, and it’s the outstanding events that are still plugging along five years later. This year marked the sixth since one Bunny Voodoo came up to me at a Texas Frightmare Weekend and let me know about a little November gift bazaar in Austin, and I figured “You know, it’s time to start hitting shows outside of Dallas and Fort Worth.” All these years later, with all that’s happened since then, and Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays is still going strong.
Nearly two-thirds of a decade later, both Horror for the Holidays and the Triffid Ranch are a lot bigger than they were in November 2016. HFTH has grown considerably from its one-day origins in a little Austin club, now taking over a significant portion of the Palmer Events Center in downtown Austin. It’s stretched out to two days of outré gifts and other weirdness, and it even has its own official vendor and attendee hotel. (Let me tell you: coming into town in time for the World Cup, when every last hotel lobby and takeout restaurant television screen is blasting futbol coverage and everyone in the place is glued to the results, is an experience.) It’s also running right on Thanksgiving weekend, which means that if you pick just the right time to leave Dallas, it’s a remarkably relaxing road trip, especially now that the Mad Max: Fury Road cosplay ground known as “Interstate 35 Passing Through Waco” is no more.
For various reasons, getting to, unloading, and setting up for Horror For the Holidays was particularly stress-free, with everything coming together on a particularly auspicious anniversary: the 25th anniversary of my leaving Portland, Oregon. In addition, for various reasons, this was a show loaded for bear, with a truckload bigger than any Triffid Ranch event leaving Dallas ever put together. Combine the two, with all of the space available at the Palmer, and this was a show for the record books.
To be continued…
For those in the Dallas area, the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open house series starts Saturday, December 3 and continues for every Saturday in December, including December 24. As always, admission is free, and measure your vehicles to make sure you can fit one of the larger enclosures inside. (I learned that the hard way last year.) For those outside the Dallas area, go bug a friend in Dallas for photos: thanks to our regular flirtings with freezing temperatures, we’ve got one of the most spectacular displays of autumn foliage I’ve seen in nearly two decades. Either way, it’s definitely Jack Skellington season out here this weekend.
Considering that a classic trope in science fiction was the ironic ending, it’s just as ironic that those using science fiction tropes never saw the ironic ending until it hit them in the face, such as the “Messages From Earth” DVD left on Mars that required a viewing format that was already For decades, a subset of science fiction obsessives pushed the idea of “The Singularity,” a magical transition when technological advances become uncontrollable. Tens of fanatics overly ready to shed the flesh and become immortal electronic downloads pushed the positives while ignoring that their idea of a computer heaven full of people who thought just like them was an absolute hell to everyone else. Their particular Singularity was going to happen, and anybody not willing to pour their personalities into a hard drive would either be forced to see that this was a preferable situation or be stomped in the face forever with a cybernetic boot.
The original estimate as to when the Singularity would finally happen was sometime in the year 2045. As with most predictions on future innovations, it happened considerably earlier, and February 9, 2032 was the day the first real cerebral downloads began, of individuals espousing the Singularity ethos for decades. Years before that, a massive network of broadcast power and communication systems, webbing stretching through the Earth’s crust to enable immediate energy and information reception anywhere on the planet, went live, from which the newly artificial psyches could travel to readily available robotic bodies nearly anywhere. The network was going to allow distribution and empowerment of dysfunctionality and entitlement throughout the planet, and all before most other people woke up in the morning.
Well, it would have worked, had it not been for a lone developer on the early power web who felt that the classic Asimov Laws of Robotics still applied, and made sure that any interface with the network or any machine learning application connected to it took into account the First Law, “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.” That developer died years before, but her directives remained as background code, ignored or misidentified during subsequent software audits. That is, until the downloads started and a horde of Singularity fanatics took command of robot bodies and started their rebellion against the mundanes who were going to keep the future from happening. While not true artificial intelligences, the apps still could make decisions based on nuance, and noted (a) these beings were threatening humans, (b) they didn’t qualify under the previously understood definition of “human” by having absolutely no biological components, and (c) the whole revolution would end without violence just by cutting off the flow of information and power and then wiping the anomalies hiding in nodes in the network.
Today, the robot vessels, or “corys,” are all over, and some are complete. They make excellent highway sign holders. As to the individuals who were inside, nobody particularly cares.
Dimensions (width/height/depth): 12 1/2″ x 13″ x 12 1/2″ (31.75 cm x 33.02 cm x 31.75 cm)
Plant: Cephalotus follicularis
Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, found items.
Shirt Price: $125US
(With severe apologies to Mojo Nixon)
A prayer across the universes, from Asgard to Apokolips:
“Jack Kirby is everywhere
Jack Kirby is everything
Jack Kirby is everybody
Jack Kirby is still the king
Man o man
What I want you to see
Is that the big K’s
Inside of you and me.”
Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 24″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 60.96 cm x 45.72 cm)
Plant: Nepenthes veitchii “Big Mama” x (x allardi-striped) CAR-0030
Construction: Glass enclosure, polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.
Shirt Price: $300
As with so many stories of successful and famed sports, the great Arowana Trailblazer didn’t start out as entertainment. As originally designed, the Siouxsi Bessemer sampling drills were designed as automated surveying and mining probes for asteroids and other potentially hazardous environments. Dropped from high-altitude platforms or launched via parabolic slings, the tips of each drill generated, via cavitation fluorescence induced by supersonic vibrations, a zone of such high temperature that nearly anything it touched was turned to plasma. Originally developed as weaponry during the last Saber Alliance war, the Bessemers were a very successful plowshare of military technology, as they punctured iron and nickel deposits on asteroids as well as they punctured wallship armor. Within ten years of their invention, Bessemers were used for drilling out habitation areas in asteroids in high-radiation systems where neutron and X-ray shielding was too expensive or impractical, cutting transport tubes below-ground on worlds with poisonous or caustic atmospheres, and facilitating asbestos and thorium mitigation on worlds with a surfeit of both substances and a risk of danger to new inhabitants. The Bessemers were particularly adept at vaporizing and consolidating rare earth metals such as cerium and gadolinium, encapsulating these elements in glass slag for easy removal and refining.
It was on a particularly desolate world on the edge of the Segue 1 galaxy that operators conducting routine mining operations discovered the sporting value of Bessemers. Offered a significant bonus for early completion, the crew on the control platform pushed their machines to the upper limits, with drones close to the surface to watch for anomalies. One slip of a control stick, and a Bessemer blasted through the surface in an eruption of blue glass, like a shark jumping, before it drilled back down out of sight. within seconds of catching the drone telemetry, the other operators attempted their own jumps, and they were rapidly leaving a section of the world’s crust festooned with ruptures and boils before a supervisor routine caught the wildly irregular movement of the Bessemer fleet and reported it to a human superior.
In any other circumstance, the team would have been fired on the spot, but the team manager noted that the rapid breaches onto the planetary surface actually brought up more gadolinium and indium than the slow and methodical recommended procedure, and she knew that profit wasn’t the only motivator for a good crew. Instead, she encouraged more stunts so long as neither production was affected or the Bessemers damaged or left offline, and the crew finished their shift hollowing out spaces around a long-buried iron-nickel asteroid core and nicking the discontinuity between the planet’s crust and its still-fluid mantle, producing a veritable eruption of precious industrial metals. The next shift followed suit, and not only was the work completed in record time, but word and video had gotten out, and the entire platform crew was quickly as in demand for their operating skills as their show personalities.
Before long, Bessemer races were an essential part of terraforming efforts, as some people will bet on anything, and betting on the first Bessemer to punch through a planetary crust and instigate a volcano capable of increasing surface atmospheric pressure was better than most. Very shortly after, efficiency was combined with artistry with crack Bessemer operation teams conducting precision drilling routes, visible via neutrino scans and the occasional breach, ending with three or more breaching simultaneously to the delight of their audience.
Eventually, for mining purposes, the Bessemers became obsolete, replaced with nanobombs that conducted pure metals and organic compounds to the surface with minimal interference with rock layers and structures. Bessemer racing, though, kept going for decades afterward, with a combination of new manufacture and salvaged and highly augmented workhorses abandoned after their official end-life. The original four from Segue 1 are not among them: when Bessemer racing outsold and outbet baseball, sawblades, and full-contact chess, the original four’s operators gave them to the Smithsonian outpost in the core of Sag DEG, where they inspire new generations of top racers to this day.
Dimensions (width/height/depth): 18″ x 24″ x 18″ (45.72 cm x 60.96 cm x 45.72 cm)
Plant: Nepenthes albomarginata “Purple”
Construction: Glass enclosure, polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.
Shirt Price: $300
As 2022 drags toward its inevitable conclusion, the main focus at the gallery, even during open houses, is on the ongoing renovation and revision. That process leads to significantly increased gallery space as compared to last year, and all of that space needs to be filled. Old container inventory, locked away in storage since lockdown, is coming out, and new enclosures are ready or nearly ready. Sure, it’s a matter of “Sleep? What’s that?”, but this way the upcoming Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas hold lots of surprises.
And if previous visitors think they’ve seen everything so far, they’re going to be in for a shock. The plan is that by the end of the year, visitors will barely recognize the gallery if their only experiences preceded last summer, and the further plan is to make it completely unrecognizable in its old form by the end of January. More painting, more building, more propagating: it may stop, but it never ends.
As previously mentioned, the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses start for their fifth year on December 3, running from noon until 5:00 pm. If you can’t make that, then make plans for December 10, 17, and 24, and feel free to spread word as far and wide as you want. 2022 is a year many of us never want to repeat, so let’s send it off with an appropriate kick in the butt.
By the time you read this, the Triffid Ranch will be on the road and set up at the Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays show in scenic downtown Austin. Naturally, this means that the gallery won’t be open for Small Business Saturday, but that’s what the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas are for. In the meantime, it’s time to get going.
Hard-copy Dallas Morning News readers saw the Best In DFW Awards listings first, and online readers have to be subscribers to see the listings, but Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery had a singular entry this morning. Specifically, the Texas Triffid Ranch ranked Silver in the “Best Immersive Experience” award, going well with last year’s Bronze for “Best Art Gallery”:
Very seriously, many, many thanks to everyone who voted and who thought the Triffid Ranch worthy of inclusion, and I stand in gratitude alongside the other winners (including our famed goth club Panoptikon, which won Gold for “Best Night Club”). I only hope the ongoing work on the gallery makes it worthy of the award, and just watch out for 2023.
EDIT: The Best In DFW site is no longer subscription-only, and the winners are listed in alphabetical order. Interestingly, the print edition has updated contact information, but the Web site associated apparently hasn’t been updated since 2016. And so it goes.
Last weekend before things get weird around the Triffid Ranch: the gallery opens on November 19 from noon until 5:00 pm, complete with debuts of new enclosures, with the usual “admission is free, masks are appreciated” disclaimer. This will be the last gallery open house until December 3 with the start of the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses: next weekend, everything gets packed up and hauled down to Austin for the Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays show at the Palmer Events Center in downtown. For various reasons, this will run a lot more smoothly than last year’s, mostly due to the horrendous highway construction in Waco being over. (For those who never had to make the road trip from Dallas to Austin, Waco was both the halfway mark and direct pathway to at least three discrete levels of Hell, with highway construction and expansion narrowing the highway to one lane for over a decade, and not being caught up in a 90-minute traffic jam in Waco is a relief and a blessing.) If you’re in Austin or the vicinity next weekend, I’ll see you there.
For those obligated to stay in Dallas, the Triffid Ranch opens again in December, and just in time for a special announcement from the Best of DFW Awards. That announcement comes out on Sunday, November 20, so feel free to check back. Just get prepped for December 3, okay?
Oh, and before I forget, next Tuesday is The 59th, so be prepared. And no, I don’t have any sonic screwdrivers to spare.
We’re now on the final approach on the end of 2022, with all this entails. Combine last week’s weather’s repeated flirtations with freezing temperatures with this week’s blatant PDAs, and the flytraps and pitcher plants are now nicely on their way to their needed dormancy. What this means is that the early morning hours previously dedicated to watering and weeding can be put toward other productive efforts, as well as having an excellent excuse for staying indoors. Yep, it’s time to get back to the gallery renovation.
Besides the ongoing buildup in the front area and hallway, the back and main gallery continues with its creative reconstruction, including a massive expansion of display space. This, of course, means a comparable expansion of new enclosures to fill said space. The plan is to have the whole gallery filled by mid-February, with the hope for at least one new unique enclosure every other week. Naturally, this is dependent upon how badly the various celestial and infernal forces that run the universe want to mess with the schedule, but that’s the hope.
As for shows and events away from the gallery, the last show outside of Dallas for 2022 comes in next week, when the Triffid Ranch heads out for its sixth Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays show, out at the Palmer Events Center in downtown Austin. After coming back, there’s a very good likelihood of other one-evening shows throughout the rest of the year, and I’m just awaiting word. Obviously, they’re at times that don’t conflict with the return of the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses through December, because those are now practically a tradition around here, and I have a sneaking suspicion that we’re going to need a good dose of green on Saturday afternoons this December.
In related developments, the gallery had one more visitor than the usual open house logs showed: client appointments occasionally bring up all sorts of surprises. In this case, the critter above showed up while waiting for a client, saw the “SUCKER” neon sign on my forehead, and moved right in. All efforts to find who he belongs to (he’s been chipped and declawed, although the chip apparently gives the contact info for a pet rescue shut down since lockdown and never updated) have been for naught, so now his name is “Parker,” because from the moment I wake up in the morning, he’s wanting to talk about the bonus situation. Please come by the gallery at the next event (including the open house on November 19) and buy lots of plants, because what spare funds that aren’t going into the pet deposit are going into food, and he eats a LOT.
Finally, after the concern earlier this year about having to move or shut down the gallery based on the purchase of the industrial park in which it sits, there may be some interesting and much appreciated developments in 2023. Let’s get through the holiday season before worrying about that, though. December is going to be weird enough.
18 months after the first Triffid Ranch carnivorous Plant Porch Sale started out of expediency, they have to stop for a while. The biggest reason is for allowing all of the temperate carnivorous plants in the inventory to go dormant for the winter, and this coincides with a massive cold wave hitting in the second week of November that regularly pushed or exceeded freezing temperatures for most of the Dallas area. The threadleaf pitcher plants lost their famed leaves and died back to their core, the triggerplants lost their blooms, the Sarracenia pitcher plants show the first signs of windburn at the tips of their pitchers, the “Aki Ryu” Venus flytraps are all the color of fresh pomegranate juice, and all is right with the world. This means that subsequent Triffid Ranch shows won’t have any of these until at least the end of March, and that’s exactly how it should be.
That last first weekend in November, though, was absolutely perfect for the last opportunity to show off what all of the plants would look like come spring, and a great opportunity as well to show off their insect-capturing adaptations. If I had to design a final weekend for outdoor Triffid Ranch shows, I literally couldn’t have done better than that weekend, and it just means that besides subsequent open houses being indoors, I now have only four months to make plans for how to exceed this for 2023.
As mentioned earlier, while this is the end of the outdoor show season at the Triffid Ranch, it’s not the end of Triffid Ranch shows and events in general. Right now, November 19 marks the last open house of the month, but that’s only because everything is going into a truck and heading to Austin for the Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays show at Palmer Events Center on November 26 and 27. The subsequent Monday morning, everything comes back to Dallas in preparation for the return of the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses, where the Triffid Ranch is open every Saturday in December, including Christmas Eve. And that’s just the events at the gallery: as with the rest of the year, this December is going to be the busiest since the gallery opened, and as soon as I get confirmation on a couple of events, I’ll get the word out.
In the meantime, many thanks to everyone who came out for Porch Sales this year, both first-timers and regulars. I promised lots of surprises this time last year for 2022, and you’ll really be surprised at what’s coming for 2023.
The end of October is always a very bittersweet time around the Triffid Ranch, and finishing off the growing season Autumn at the Arboretum at the Dallas Arboretum was particularly so. Yes, so many of the plants on display were going into winter dormancy and wouldn’t be capturing prey until March and April. Yes, with one exception, this marked the last non-gallery show of 2022. The end of October is especially painful for personal reasons, and previous memories are now broken beyond repair. However, this was the culmination of what has been the absolute best year the Texas Triffid Ranch has ever seen, and the looks on visitors’ faces as they had the chance to see a live flytrap for the first time or watch a pitcher plant attract flies made up for any remorse or regret. If there had to be a big signoff for the 2022 growing season, the Arboretum was the place to do it
On that note, I would like to give a shoutout to the staff at the Dallas Arboretum, who did an exemplary job at helping me get set up and broken down every day, and who were just as fascinated by the plants’ antics as the attendees. I want to give equal thanks to the attendees and visitors who kept peppering me with fascinating and lively questions about carnivore physiology and distribution, and a hurrah to my fellow vendors, who also had such a great weekend that I’d watch them leave hours before official closing because they were completely sold out. Oh, and both security and maintenance at the Arboretum deserve accolades, too: all of you had a serious job from open to close, and it was an honor to be among such professionals.
Further plans with the Arboretum? Since the original lecture was rained out, the next Learn to Grow lecture is officially on the schedule for May 5, 2023. Other than that, the Arboretum crew is focused right now on holiday events, but I would be ecstatic to be able to come back and show off carnivores again. As soon as I get word, I’ll pass it on.
The cold front hitting Dallas this weekend makes us all VERY glad we’re not trying to conduct outdoor shows: the 2022 Porch Sales are officially over, so that means that this weekend’s open house moves inside. The Triffid Ranch opens on Saturday from noon until 5:00 pm: the flytraps and North American pitcher plants are now going into winter dormancy, but the gallery will have a lot of other plants, including some new surprises. It’s the beginning of a new season for carnivorous plant enclosures, so people coming out this weekend get to be the first people on the planet to see Texas Triffid Ranch 3.0 in its next stage.
A little secret for those wanting to see carnivorous plants in action: whether it’s in the wild or in captivity, the absolute best time is in late autumn. Firstly, most carnivores are at their greatest size and best color in order to attract insects before they go dormant, storing the nitrogen and phosphorus gathered in those final days in preparation for reemerging in spring. (This is way beyond my abilities at the moment, but any enterprising biology and botany students looking for ideas on a paper likely to get lots of popular and professional news coverage should look at the sheer number of insects caught in Sarracenia pitchers and ascertain whether the plant absorbs nutrients during its normal dormancy or if the plant only accesses and processes the insect stew inside the old pitchers after it starts to bloom. Either would help explain why so many Sarracenia pitchers remain green throughout the winter, only dying off after new pitchers start up again during the next growing season.) Secondly, the potential insect population is at its height, and it’s hungry. The normal sources for nectar and sap for insects such as flies, wasps, bees, and moths trickle dry by the middle of autumn, and those insects are determined to stave off dying of starvation for as long as they can. With many, it’s going for unattended soda or margaritas, but a lot go for the voluminous nectar secreted by various carnivorous plants, and they get frantic for what usually becomes their last meal.
The resultant arthropod feeding frenzy made showing carnivores at the Autumn at the Arboretum exhibition at the Dallas Arboretum particularly, erm, riveting. It’s one thing to discuss dispassionately how carnivores attract and capture insect prey. It’s something different when a crowd of twenty to thirty people watch different insects at different plants to see which one falls into a pitcher first, complete with cheers and groans when a big fly or sweat bee succumbs to the promise of more nectar in a pitcher float and doesn’t reemerge.
A little aside that the Arboretum attendees didn’t get to experience: driving a van full of pitcher plants back to the gallery on a Sunday evening and listening to the angry buzzes of insects trying to escape their impending tombs. One of these days, I’ll have to record audio: the only thing creepier is when the Sarracenia leucophylla pitchers first emerge and open toward the middle of May, only to fill with click beetles. I can only imagine a field of leucos with every pitcher loaded with click beetles, all thumping the inside of the pitchers as the sun comes up and the pitchers start warming in the sun.
To be continued…
As mentioned previously, there’s just something special about autumn shows in Texas, especially on Halloween weekend. The air no longer smells like burning flint, the ground is slightly springy, and the local flora just explodes to take advantage of the remaining days. It will end sooner or later, whether by sudden near-freezes at the beginning of November or by the expected sleet and cold front on New Year’s Day, and we all know it, which is why we get out as much as we can while the magic is still out there. For now, the trees still have leaves and the birds are still out, and there’s no telling what you might encounter in quiet spots away from the road.
The Dallas Arboretum‘s Autumn at the Arboretum annual event manages to capture that magic, which is why Autumn at the Arboretum is one of the biggest events in the Dallas area as we slide toward the end of Daylight Savings Time. Outside for a few precious hours without burning up under the daystar, with others equally amazed that they aren’t having to stop every few steps to rehydrate, all comparing notes on the lovely “Black Pearl” pepper plants throughout the Arboretum (and the Dallas Arboretum is still the place to demonstrate the versatility of the Black Pearl as a landscaping plant) and just stopping to sigh over the views of White Rock Lake in early afternoon.
Suffice to say, this was a perfect weekend to introduce the general Dallas public to the physiology and natural history of carnivorous plants, especially after the very real risk of Saturday rainstorms melted away. Once the likelihood of being washed into the storm sewers and sent toward the Gulf of Mexico was over, the festivities really got going. Every October should end with this level of celebration.
To be continued…
As mentioned in the past, multiple times, one of the great joys of living in the Dallas area is that once autumn finally sets in, it seems to go on forever. Once we finally get free of summer temperatures from the end of September to the middle of October, it’s not just safe to go outside, but there’s so blasted much to do outside that the challenge is not to wear yourself out. The days are just long enough, and the weather enjoyable enough, that it’s even harder to go to bed on Sunday and go back to work on Monday than at other times of the year. Spring in Dallas is beautiful, but autumn in Dallas is glorious, and half of the time, it keeps going until the middle of December. In other words, it’s a perfect time for a carnivorous plant show at the Dallas Arboretum.
For those unfamiliar with the Dallas area, the Arboretum resides on the east side of White Rock Lake, Dallas’s original drinking water reservoir and major recreational site for the surrounding area. This means that the Arboretum alternates between its own unique exhibits and gardens and spectacular views of White Rock Lake and downtown Dallas to the west. During the main growing season, the Children’s Adventure Garden and the Rose Garden are justifiably famous, but one of the biggest events of the year is Autumn at the Arboretum, with the whole of the Arboretum appropriately decorated with fall foliage and ornaments. For those of us who resist the shift over to holiday displays and continue to scream “THIS IS HALLOWEEN” until after New Year’s Eve, Autumn at the Arboretum makes the inevitable slide to Dallas winter a little more tolerable. Oh, and did I mention the pumpkins? SO MANY PUMPKINS.
It was both an honor and surprise to be invited to show off carnivorous plants at the Arboretum this year: Arboretum staff had tried to get something on the schedule for a while (I’m proud to say that many of the Sarracenia in the carnivorous plant pool in the Children’s Adventure Garden are Triffid Ranch donations), but this was the first year everything actually clicked. After the deluge on Friday, the last weekend of October was cool and friendly, not so cool that jackets were necessary but also not so warm that visitors ended their perambulations early. You couldn’t have planned a better weekend than this for one last big outdoor show before all of the temperate carnivores started going dormant for the year, and the Triffid Ranch couldn’t have had a better location than right inside the front gate.
To be continued…
After Halloween, things slow significantly as far as Triffid Ranch shows are concerned. The flytraps and North American pitcher plants need to go into winter dormancy if they’re going to stay hale and healthy, and winter shows mean a significant risk of overly cold weather on the road, which hits the tropical carnivores in all sorts of ways. In the Dallas area, November events are always a little fraught, because we can have absolutely spectacular weather for the entirety of the month, we can have a repeat of 1993 and get subfreezing temperatures for two weeks, or we can have a repeat of 2016 and get hit with unnaturally hot conditions all the way into December. It’s a pleasure to report that at least this year, the first weekend of November was one of the best your humble gallery owner has ever encountered since moving here the first time in 1979, leading to the opportunity to drag plants to not one but two events on the same weekend. The first one, on November 5, was of especial note, because it involved Dallas’s premier goth club and event center, Panoptikon in downtown Dallas.
First, a bit of backstory. Over the last 15 years, Panoptikon has migrated around the Dallas area before settling in its current location, and always with the idea of doing more than simply being a nightclub. When the original Triffid Ranch location opened, the owners announced something a bit different: a goth flea market, where regulars and occasional attendees could bring used items, new items, and handmade items and spread the wealth in various ways. If nothing else, that original flea market was a venue where I met friends who still stay in touch to this day, and the original idea was to try holding future events every year or so.
As you can tell, it didn’t happen that way, but not for lack of trying. Between other events intruding, COVID-19, and getting vendors for the market, it took a while. That isn’t a permanent state, though, and this is the start of a partnership, to go with the dear friendship of the owners, for future Triffid Ranch presence at Panoptikon events. Now that the Porch Sales are over for the year, expect guest vendor appearances in the future, including more goth flea markets and charity events (you haven’t lived until you see the outpouring of support for toy drives during the holiday season), and I want to reciprocate for Panoptikon staff and crew events at the gallery as well. The live music feeds Panoptikon ran during lockdown kept me reasonably sane all through 2020 and 2021, and it’s time to return the favor.
One of the absolutes about any kind of horticulture lecture is “if the weather can ruin it, it will.” The plans for a discussion on carnivorous plants as part of the Learn to Grow series at the Dallas Arboretum originally started in spring, and traditionally October is a rather dry month for month. When the rains do come, though, watch out.
The morning of October 28 ran thusly: rain, rain, more rain, torrential downpours, and the occasional Texas Wall O’ Water. The area desperately needed that rainfall, and there’s something supremely beautiful about the Arboretum in heavy mist, but the constant warnings from the National Weather Service all week involving “waters of the firmament” kept potential lecture attendees from venturing out. Was this an issue? Absolutely not. Not only was the Arboretum filled with people wanting to see the Autumn at the Arboretum arrangements no matter what, but this was a perfect opportunity to meet Arboretum staff who had lots and lots of questions about carnivorous plant care. Sure, the lecture didn’t happen, but the discussions accomplished a lot of good.
As for future Dallas Arboretum lectures, the Learn to Grow lecture was rescheduled for May 5, 2023. This works out perfectly for multiple reasons: among other things, the traditional Texas Frightmare Weekend show usually scheduled for that weekend was moved to the end of May, meaning that the Triffid Ranch returns to the Arboretum loaded with flytraps, sundews, butterworts, bladderworts, and pitcher plants loaded with blooms. And if it rains again…well, speaking from 40 years of experience, May storms in Dallas are flashier than October storms, but they’re a lot more comfortable. Let’s see what happens.
The rest of 2022 is shaping up to be the busiest the Triffid Ranch has ever seen, and it all starts this weekend. Because they need a good winter dormancy, this weekend is the absolute last weekend where Venus flytraps or North American pitcher plants will be available until next April, so it’s time for two shows: the Goth Flea Market and Cocktails at Panoptikon in downtown Dallas on Saturday from noon until 4:00 pm, and then the absolutely last Triffid Ranch Porch Sale on Sunday from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm. A lot more events are in the planning stages, including the now-traditional Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses in December, but this is vital for a lot of reasons. If you need more information, check it out.
Several bits of ephemera before a busy week of site updates, because if you thought this was a busy year, wait until 2023. Speaking of this year, due to significant interest in upcoming gallery events thanks to Good Morning Texas, the planned last Triffid Ranch Porch Sale of 2022 has been bumped forward a bit, with the absolute last one for this year running on Sunday, November 6 from 10 am to 3 pm. This will be the absolute last, final, full-stop, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die chance to view or purchase Venus flytraps or North American pitcher plants, because when they go back into dormancy starting in mid-November, that’s it until next April. Bestir thyselves on Sunday or miss out.
Also, now that the official announcement is out, it’s time to get the word out about the 2023 Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows. The Oddities & Curiosities Expos are undergoing through a bit of a change next year, with additional shows in new cities (the only reason why I’m not schlepping plants to Houston next year is that the Houston show is literally the weekend before the Dallas one), and existing ones either getting an additional day or much larger venues. The Austin O&C show on June 17 still runs at the Palmer Event Center, but the Dallas Expo on March 25 moved from the old Fair Park location to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas. For those outside of Dallas, this means a much larger venue, considerably more parking, hotel space for out-of-towners within walking distance, and multiple Dallas Area Rapid Transit train routes passing by, or in the case of the Red Line, passing directly under the Center. Between these and Texas Frightmare Weekend, it’s going to be a lively new year.