Just as a recap, the gallery is shut down. The keys went back to the leasing manager on March 9, and as of now , there is no plan to revive the Texas Triffid Ranch in any capacity. The site will remain live until March 2024, with decisions made about its status at that time. Likewise, all touring events have been cancelled as well. If you want to see Triffid Ranch plants, I highly recommend the carnivorous plant bog at the Dallas Arboretum: all of the remaining Sarracenia and Venus flytraps went there to live out their lives as educational plants, and I plan to visit them quite often, especially in March and April when they’re blooming. Other than that, the Texas Triffid Ranch is no more.
As for future plans, right now the biggest concern is organizing the remaining items that don’t have room in the house, and then it’s on to new projects. Anybody wanting a heads-up when these are ready might want to subscribe to the old Triffid Ranch newsletter for the update when they’re ready for public consumption. Other than that, be seeing you.
If you hadn’t heard about the greenhouse, there’s one impromptu sale this Friday and Saturday (March 3 and 4, 2023), from noon until 8:00 pm or whenever the last items leave, to move the last remaining inventory: everything is dedicated to getting the last of the stuff out of the gallery and handing over the keys on Monday. Take care of yourselves, and thank you for 12 years of safe weekends and music sharing. (And many, many thanks to Jack Bogdanski for the whole “Have a Great Weekend” concept, which I stole without remorse and with full credit.) Now back to the library: there’s so much reading to catch up on.
Okay, so the move out of the gallery was slightly delayed due to unavoidable issues last week, but the leasing manager was willing to accommodate an additional week. Several potential buyers of the few remaining enclosures just needed a few extra days to come out and pick up their purchases, they said, before they ghosted. No big deal, I thought: let’s just sell what’s left on Facebook Marketplace and maybe move a few into the greenhouse at home. As for the greenhouse itself, while the Triffid Ranch was ending, it would be perfect for raising hot peppers, vanilla orchids, and maybe the occasional Nepenthes. Not a big deal, right?
Well, somebody had other plans. The National Weather Service predicted all day the possibility of severe weather in the Dallas area, including the possibility of hurricane-force winds. Most of the time, these storms break up when heading east after they hit Fort Worth, but this one was special. First, the tornado alert sirens through Garland, Richardson, and Plano all started going off, and then the clouds rolled in. When this happens in daytime, the skies go a Coke-bottle green from atmospheric dust blown in advance of the front. This one had so much dust that the lightning strikes on the edge of the front went a brilliant peridot green, something I hadn’t seen since a similar storm in 1982. Then the wind hit.
For most storms, the greenhouse was protected both by the angle at which the storms hit and by the bulk of the house. This beast hit different, as judged by the amount of detritus and occasional roof shingle caught in the wind. The greenhouse looked as if it were going to be a little shaken but otherwise fine, and then one big gust blew off a front panel that had been well-secured with greenhouse tape just a couple of days before. That flew, and then the whole thing broke off the foundation, tumbled a bit, and attempted to chase the shingles blowing down the alley. The only thing keeping it from becoming a problem for the neighbors was a crape myrtle tree at the corner. It then crumpled and imploded on itself from the force of the wind. The crape myrtle held both the frame and the polycarbonate panels, preventing them from becoming a threat to others, until the storm finally settled a bit.
When things were safe enough for an initial inspection, it was pretty obvious that it would need a bit more than a touch of duct tape. The main structural elements were bent beyond repair, the foundation was ripped, and the whole thing was an utter loss. The only thing to do at that point was to wait until morning and see what remained.
In daylight, the damage was even worse than feared. The wreckage is going to make one of Garland’s scrap yards very happy, as it’s all perfectly good salvageable aluminum, but it’s not good for anything else. Considering that this is now the second of two catastrophic storms coming through the area, the first one being last September, and getting a new one might be folly.
But you know what? It all worked out. Had the Triffid Ranch continued and I started to get ready for the spring show season, that greenhouse would have been full of young plants at the time it tried to fly back to Oz (or, more likely based on the difficulty of the installation instructions, Lankhmar), and the loss would have been total. The cost of a greenhouse replacement would have been one additional expense on top of the gallery rent increase, and its installation would have taken time away from preparing for upcoming shows. If this was a sacrifice to the Lords of Chaos in exchange for the rest of the year being mellow and uneventful, then let them have it and their laugh.
And so it ends. No GoFundMe or small business loans to rebuild: if anything, any last-minute attempt to go back and restart the Triffid Ranch is now impossible. If you feel sympathy and want to help, come out to the gallery on Friday, March 3 and Saturday, March 4 to buy up the last fragments of Triffid Ranch inventory and make offers on the shelves and other furniture. I’ll be there both days from noon until 8:00 pm or when everything is gone. (The big workbenches out in the front are already claimed, but I still have the big Lundia and Skandia shelves that have to come down, and I’d rather have them go to good homes for someone starting their own new businesses.) And most of all, LAUGH. It can’t be that bad, right?
Posted onMarch 3, 2023|Comments Off on The Aftermath: The Final Texas Triffid Ranch Liquidation Sale – Finale
So that’s it. 15 years of shows, 7 1/2 years of gallery events, and it’s all wrapped up, other than the remaining pieces. I’d like to thank everyone who came out to the gallery and the Porch Sales over the better part of a decade, the people who had to crawl over the entourage up front to get to the plants, the folks who came by shows all over Texas, and everyone who just came by because they wanted to know more about carnivorous plants. You were and are appreciated and remembered, and I’ll see you when I see you.
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As for blatant and shameless plugs, it’s also time to note that for those who only now came across the gallery and want to know more about carnivorous plants, the book The Savage Garden by Peter D’Amato is still essential reading, and both the original and revised editions will remain beloved and valued components of my library. I may be getting out of carnivorous plant sales, but those books give a lot of inspiration for a new project to be announced later.
To be continued…
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Posted onMarch 2, 2023|Comments Off on The Aftermath: The Final Texas Triffid Ranch Liquidation Sale – 3
As mentioned before, this is the first time I have shut down a business, and it’s going remarkably well. No investors means no phone calls, no debt means no phone calls, and now I can be very vocal as to exactly why I’m not switching the gallery wifi service to Spectrum. (I have to admit that I’ll miss Spectrum for one reason: the incessant mailings are all on a very stout plastic card stock, which both paints up well and works nicely for paneling and armor in enclosures. Fir the first time, those cards see use other than as lining recycling bins.) The only calls right now are for the last vestiges of plants and fixtures, and all of that should end by the weekend.
The only issue so far with the move is discovering how many items purchased for the gallery are duplicated at home. Glasses, refrigerators, microwaves, spare towels…a lot of the items that could have been salvaged from the gallery’s closing are ones I had to purchase in the last year. Well, the local thrift stores, and friends who frequent them, are going to be happy.
To be continued…
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Posted onMarch 1, 2023|Comments Off on The Aftermath: The Final Texas Triffid Ranch Liquidation Sale – 2
To date, I have never run a business before the Triffid Ranch started back in 2008, and this is the first time I’ve had to shut one down. For the record, there’s nothing wrong with shutting down a business when conditions make keeping it open impossible: far too many businesses drag on when the person or people in charge attach too much of their identity to its continued operation. If it’s at all possible, it’s much better to shut down at a good time, rather than when forced to do so, and this couldn’t have been a better time. The weather was wonderful, the parking not too crowded out by the obnoxious neighbors at the end of the block, and the event itself wasn’t opposite some major Dallas event. Just imagine the fun of trying to do all of this in the middle of July in Dallas.
As mentioned before, there’s still a little left (and currently available for purchase), but the best liquidation sales are the ones where everyone goes home happy. Yes, it’s a bit sad watching the last bit of 15 years of work go out the door, but that just frees things for the next project, and you’re going to love it when it gets announced.
To be continued…
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Posted onMarch 1, 2023|Comments Off on The Aftermath: The Final Texas Triffid Ranch Liquidation Sale – 1
6 years after moving to the current location, and now it’s time to leave. Aside from the fixtures and a few remaining plants (and everything remaining is for sale), the Texas Triffid Ranch has finished its run. Considering the general life expectancy of art galleries in Dallas, it was an extraordinary run, but all things end, and it’s time for Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery to close the door forever.
The good news with the last liquidation sale is that the Triffid Ranch will be missed by many, but I promise that their aim will improve. The weekend was a nearly-neverending parade of longtime regulars, old cohorts and friends from Texas Frightmare Weekend, and a lot of folks who had no idea the gallery existed a week earlier. (So much for all of the advertising efforts over the last three-quarters of a decade.) It was an absolute blast and something that I wish could have run for a lot longer, but time’s run out and it’s time to move on.
To be continued…
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It’s almost done: the last-ever Triffid Ranch Liquidation Sale and Wake runs this weekend from noon until 6:00 pm on both Saturday and Sunday. If you’ve never been out, or if you haven’t been out in years, you’re cordially invited to come out; if you’re looking for Lundia shelving, tables, chairs, and workbenches, then do we have a deal for you. After that, all that’s left is the sweeping out, because the keys get handed over on February 28. See you on the flipside.
Posted onFebruary 23, 2023|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Liquidation Sale and Sarracenia Roulette – 3
One of the things that will be missed the most about shutting down the gallery will be all of the interesting people who came by, including a fascinating cross-section of Dallas’s reporters and journalists. (To date, the only publication without at least some mention of the Triffid Ranch over the years is D magazine: since I neither went to SMU or assisted its efforts to find a cure for levamisole necrosis, have no connections to local real estate developers needing to flip their blue-sky projects to bigger suckers, nor promoted workfare for refugees from the long-dead Dallas weekly The Met, this wasn’t likely to happen, either. I’d have been worried if its advertisers and bulk recipients could read instead of just looking at the pictures when skimming each issue before tossing it in the recycling.) In particular, I have to thank Eva Raggio, Kendall Morgan, and Danny Gallagher of the Dallas Observer and Jackson King at Community Impact for their efforts in letting people know about the little places in the Dallas area, and Jackson’s plug for the gallery’s close is probably the best sendoff I could get. At ave vale, and I hope to remain friends with all of you long after the Triffid Ranch fades from memory.
As for the gallery itself, now we’re down to brass tacks. The Sarracenia Roulette game mentioned earlier keeps bringing in friendly troublemakers in love with their fascinating pendulous blooms due in April, and we’re now down to roughly half of the enclosures that were in place at the beginning of January. There’s still a lot that needs to go home, though, so the final liquidation sale and Irish wake on February 25 and 26 are where the rubber meets the road. (This is also a great time to buy up fixtures, so if you’re needing large quantities of Lundia shelving or particularly hirstute kitchen tables, everything has to go.) This includes the contents of the propagation area and tubs and tubs of dormant Sarracenia, so you might want to bring tubs and other containers to hold all of your prizes.
For everyone coming out on Saturday and Sunday, I look forward to seeing all of you. For everyone who has been here already and can’t make it, you will be missed. One more weekend, and it’s done.
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Posted onFebruary 22, 2023|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Liquidation Sale and Sarracenia Roulette – 2
To explain the whole concept of “Sarracenia Roulette,” it requires a bit of backstory. Most temperate carnivorous plants, which include Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants, go dormant over the winter. In the Dallas area, they slow down and stop growing in mid-November as the days get shorter and the temperatures go down, usually going fully dormant by the end of December. If things get particularly cold, as they did last December, the tops of pitcher plant pitchers burn and brown, but the pitchers still photosynthesize if they’re still green. With flytraps, the longer summer traps die off and shrivel, but a rosette of shorter traps remain to catch every photon of light they can over the winter. As days grow longer in mid-March, the plants start waking up again: Sarracenia pitcher plants first throw off flowers and then pitchers, as their pollinators and their prey are often the same insects. With flytraps, they start stretching out new traps in the middle of March, and if they got enough light during the winter, they produce long straight flower scapes toward the middle to end of April, each topped with tiny translucent white flowers.
This need for dormancy is one of the reasons why the Triffid Ranch traditionally didn’t sell flytraps and Sarracenia until the beginning of April. While most customers paid attention to the need for dormancy, there were always the people who assume they can ignore the instructions, fight to keep their plants active all winter long, and then throw tantrums when their plants died. Well, that and both flytraps and Sarracenia look rather scraggly and decrepit before they reemerge in spring. Most years, it was easier to wait and show plants in their best spring finery.
Since the gallery is shutting down, though, this was a perfect time for carnivorous plant enthusiasts willing to take a risk. Last December’s week-long deep freeze both left all of the Sarracenia in deep dormancy and freeze-dried most of their diagnostic pitchers, leaving them extremely hard to identify in this state. Since winter is the perfect time to repot Sarracenia anyway, so as to minimize root disturbance, the idea is that for $25 a pot, visitors to the Triffid Ranch liquidation sales get plants that have already gone through the worst of winter weather, and are ready to be put into container gardens or large pots full of sphagnum peat.
With this backdrop, should you come by this coming weekend for the final liquidation sale on Saturday or Sunday, February 25 and 26, and note that the Sarracenia look a little worse for wear, rest assured that they aren’t dead. They really ARE pining for the fjords.
To be continued…
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Posted onFebruary 21, 2023|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Liquidation Sale and Sarracenia Roulette – 1
The last week was interesting. The propagation area in the back of the gallery came down last Thursday, and all of the pitcher plants held for future enclosures were cleaned up and put on racks for sale. The last of the sundews and butterworts went into jars and bottles, and the bladderwort propagation containers came out. Normally, you’d never see North American pitcher plants and Venus flytraps at a Triffid Ranch event until they started growing traps, usually in mid-April, but this last holiday season hit Dallas hard enough with freezing weather and sleet that they were in deep dormancy. Yes, they were scraggly and appeared half-dead, but that was half of the fun. That meant playing a game of Sarracenia roulette, where nobody knew exactly what they were getting until the plants come out of dormancy in spring, at very good prices for large rhizomes and colonies.
All said, the penultimate Texas Triffid Ranch show was the largest event ever held in the company’s history, and certainly the largest at the gallery. The place was packed with enclosures, individual containers, and free-range temperate carnivores, with a lot of new and longtime visitors coming by to take them home. It’s remarkably bittersweet, as I’m going to miss so many people when everything closes for good on February 28, but it’s shutting down at the right time for the right reasons.
To be continued…
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For those who thought that last weekend’s liquidation sale was big, you’ll want to come out this weekend to see everything that came from the propagation area. If you haven’t been to the gallery in a while, this is the absolute last chance to see the gallery renovation before everything has to come down next week. If you’ve never been out here, you’ll have exactly one more weekend before the gallery closes forever to move what’s left. February 18 and 19, noon until 6:00 pm each day. (And if you’re interested in one of the larger enclosures, just make sure you bring a vehicle with at least one meter clearance in its cargo area. I learned this from hard experience.)
Posted onFebruary 16, 2023|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Liquidation Sale and Superb Owl Party – 3
As if the Saturday liquidation sale wasn’t lively enough, then came Sunday and the Superb Owl party. For those unfamiliar with the great state, nation, and planet of Texas, the Superb Owl is an annual event where a majority of citizens celebrate the new year with excessive drunkenness, overconsumption of incredibly unhealthy foods, screams, fights in the streets, and a final celebration involving overturned cars and random gunfire. The difference between this and pretty much any other Sunday, though, is that all of this is a sacrifice for the Owl. If the Owl rises from its roost and sees any signs of humanity’s progress, we get six more weeks of winter.
Normally, the sane response to the Superb Owl passing overhead is to stay as far away from supermarkets and bars as possible, find a place to hole up until the next Monday, and very loudly ask co-workers if they need aspirin or something stronger for their hangovers. This weekend, though, the Triffid Ranch held its first liquidation sale in preparation for shutting down at the end of February, and that meant an escape from the Owl. True, it wasn’t a Kurosawa film festival or a chess tournament, but it had its moments. Next year, though, we’re on our own.
If you weren’t able to make this weekend’s show because of Superb Owl droppings (and the way people were weaving, they were especially bad on local highways, thoroughfares, and sidewalks), there’s still a chance to come by before the gallery closes forever on February 28. The liquidation sales really get going on February 18 and 19, with a lot of propagation plants pulled out of the back growing area: they’re looking a little scraggly because they weren’t intended for immediate sale, but this is an excellent opportunity to snag uncommon species, hybrids, and cultivars, already potted up and ready to be taken home. The fun starts at noon on Saturday and runs until 6:00 pm, with everything repeating on Sunday. For those seeking specifics, I’ll be at the gallery the whole week of February 20 for appointments in between packing and dismantling, so if you’ve had an eye on a particular enclosure, snag it now before someone else does. If there’s anything left, it and furniture, fixtures, and accessories are all going to be available at one last sale on February 25 and 26. After that, it’s all over and done. And so it goes.
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Posted onFebruary 15, 2023|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Liquidation Sale and Superb Owl Party – 2
One of the stranger sensations involved with shutting down the gallery involves habits. After a year or so in a new location, there’s a routine: you turn so to get into the driveway, you avoid a particular parking spot when hauling items because a particular overhanging tree gets in the way, or you go to a particular place for the space heaters in case the weather gets particularly cold. Logically, you tell yourself “in two weeks, none of this information won’t matter, because you’ll be gone, never to return.” Emotionally, though, the brain still runs through those habits: the old Valley View space has been gone for six years, and it physically doesn’t exist any longer, but the habits of unlocking and opening the gate, turning on the lights, and getting to work still show up in dreams.
This time, it’s a bit stronger, partly because the Triffid Ranch has existed in one form or another for fifteen years as of this coming April. It’s the realization that ordering new glass jars is no longer a priority, or that the back yard won’t be covered with Sarracenia pools, or that the need for rainwater containment is drastically reduced. Oh, there’s going to be new projects and new plans, but the anxiety dreams of “Do I have enough containers for next week’s show?” won’t apply to carnivorous plants any longer.
To be continued…
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Posted onFebruary 14, 2023|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Liquidation Sale and Superb Owl Party – 1
It’s getting closer, and a lot of back inventory, in the form of plants kept in propagation containers in preparation for 2023 shows that aren’t going to happen, came out for the Superb Owl’s approval. Apparently a lot of people came to see the Superb Owl in its native habitat, and most stayed to view carnivores, purchase enclosures, and ask about the future.
Very seriously, the first actual Triffid Ranch liquidation sale was an absolute blowout, with crowds normally seen at events such as Aquashella and Texas Frightmare Weekend. More than a few folks first came across the Triffid Ranch via these events, and were hoping that even as the gallery is closing, possibly the shows would continue. Sadly, that’s not the case, but the sentiment was greatly appreciated.
To be continued…
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We’re getting down to titanium tacks: this weekend is the Texas Triffid Ranch Carnivorous Plant Liquidation Sale and Superb Owl Party, running both Saturday and Sunday, February 11 and 12, from noon until 6:00, pulling out lots and lots of plants from the reserves and some additional surprises. As always, the gallery is open by appointment if you can’t make it out this weekend for a particular enclosure, and the liquidation sale continues on February 18 to move dormant temperate carnivores such as North American pitcher plants and Venus flytraps. (The only reason why these aren’t available this weekend is available space, so please come out to clear out what’s already here.) Flytraps and Sarracenia are also available via appointment, sold ready to go into outdoor container gardens before they start blooming, so feel free to ask about availability. See you this weekend.
The breakdown of the gallery continues apace, including finding homes for remaining enclosures. (You know that big aquarium in the back gallery full of Brocchinia reducta? It definitely needs a home.) A lot of smaller plants, purchased and potted up when the plan was for expansion and not shutdown, also need homes, so it’s time to announce the first and last Texas Triffid Ranch Carnivorous Plant Liquidation Sale and Superb Owl Party, running from noon until 6:00 pm on both Saturday, February 11 AND Sunday, February 12. Admission is obviously free, and yes, you can touch its little beak. Feel free to spread the word, and the liquidation sales continue until everything’s gone or February 28, whichever comes first.
We’re in the final stretch now: the gallery will be closing by the end of the month. Due to scheduled appointments this weekend, the gallery will not be open this weekend (but if you have an eye on a particular enclosure, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment before it’s gone), but the liquidation sales start on February 11 at noon. One way or another, everything has to be gone and out by February 28, so if you haven’t been able to get out to the gallery before now, get ready for February 11. Details will follow.
Posted onFebruary 3, 2023|Comments Off on The Aftermath: The Last Triffid Ranch Open House – 2
Just as with the opening, the closing of an event tends to sneak up on you. One minute, the place is packed to the gills with customers asking questions, relating anecdotes, and asking “So what’s next?”, and the next, everyone has gone home and you look at what’s left and marvel. This is usually about the time I realize I’ve been talking nonstop for the last six hours and haven’t eaten or drank anything in at least that long, so any comments about the crowd come after getting a good stout glass of ice water. For the last 7 1/2 years, that was the story at least once per month, starting with the old Valley View Artwalks, but it started a long time earlier, with the innumerable big and small shows attended over the last 15 years, where the crowds were sometimes so thick that the breakfast burger started at 9:00 am was still mostly untouched at 8:00 that evening. Even with the shows with minor crowds, which happened a lot in the early days, there was always the satisfaction of putting away everything, loading up the truck or van, and exclaiming “WHOA” before going home.
If there’s anything particularly bittersweet about the gallery shutting down, it’s that there’s no show on the horizon, There’s no rush to get new enclosures ready for the next open house, or getting plants potted for the next Porch Sale, or planning the next road trip. By the end of February, it’s a matter of packing up the cleaning supplies, giving the space one last look-over, handing the keys to the property manager, and that’s it. Six eventful, wild, sometimes joyous, sometimes aggravating years in 405 Business Parkway, and then time to see what happens next.
While this was the last open house at the Texas Triffid Ranch, this isn’t the last event. The weekend of February 4 is concentrated on appointments to move remaining enclosures (if you have your eye on a particular enclosure, now is the time to say something), and then the liquidation sales start on Saturday, February 11 at noon. Looking for show gear, such as a tent, weights, and a heavy-duty battery for lights? How about shelving units and tables, both folding and nonfolding? One way or another, it all has to go, along with plants, containers, and gallery decorations. Details will follow soon.
And so it goes.
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Posted onFebruary 2, 2023|Comments Off on The Aftermath: The Last Triffid Ranch Open House – 1
When starting a venue, there’s all of the work needed to open it to the world, and then the hours and minutes run out and it’s either open the door or stay closed forever. Time’s up, you’re ready, start letting everybody in. This is also true of shutting down a venue: eventually, for all of the preparation for the end, it’s here. You can hope for a last-minute reprieve, or you can just go forward, assured that it’s the right decision for the right time, and make sure everyone remembers the party long after the space is cleared out and readied for someone else.
As far as wakes go, the last-ever Triffid Ranch open house was an outstanding success. We should all have a funeral where people are lined up a half-hour before opening, hoping to get a good view and share the memories. We should also be so lucky as to have a funeral where everyone remembers you at your height, where you went out because it was time and not dragging it out until there’s nothing but sadness and regret. Yeah, there was sadness from both longtime customers, some of whom had been customers back when this little gig started in May 2008, and new visitors who had no idea that Dallas had its own carnivorous plant gallery until that day. As Kurt Vonnegut used to put it, “And so it goes.”
To be continued…
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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.
Posted onJanuary 26, 2023|Comments Off on The Aftermath: The Penultimate Triffid Ranch Open House
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.
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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.
Posted onJanuary 19, 2023|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Panoptikon at Sons of Hermann Hall
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.
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Posted onJanuary 18, 2023|Comments Off on The Aftermath: The First Triffid Ranch Open House of 2023
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.
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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.
Posted onJanuary 3, 2023|Comments Off on The Aftermath: The Last Triffid Ranch Open House of 2022
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.
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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)
Construction: Glass enclosure. polystyrene foam, vacuum-formed plastic, found items.
Posted onDecember 27, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas 2022, the Fourth
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.
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Posted onDecember 27, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas 2022, the Third
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.
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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.
Posted onDecember 23, 2022|Comments Off on Sarracenia In Winter And Other Cold Care Options
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.
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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.
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Posted onDecember 12, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas 2022 – The Second
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.
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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.
Posted onDecember 8, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas 2022, The First
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.
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Posted onDecember 7, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays 2022 – 2
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.
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Posted onDecember 6, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays 2022 – 1
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…
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Posted onDecember 5, 2022|Comments Off on The Aftermath: Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays 2022 – Introduction
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…
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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.