As mentioned with the nominations for the Dallas Morning News Best of DFW Awards last week, it’s awards season in the Dallas area. The big surprise this week is that the Texas Triffid Ranch was just nominated for the Dallas Observer Best of Dallas Awards 2022, under “Best Garden Center” in the Shopping & Services section. (The Triffid Ranch is much more of an art gallery than a garden center, much to the consternation of boomers who leave upset that it isn’t an actual ranch, but I’m not complaining.) Not that this is a complete first (the Triffid Ranch won “Best Little Shop of Horrors” in 2017), but it’s a new decade, a newly updated gallery, and a host who has a new hair color, and this is the first time the gallery has been nominated for open voting by the strange and terrible mutants of the Dallas area. Voting is open every day until September, just in time to come around for the big seventh anniversary open house on August 27, so do what thou wilt, and here’s hoping for a plaque at the annual Best of Dallas Awards ceremony. Not bad for Dallas’s pretty much only carnivorous plant gallery, eh?
Category Archives: Gallery
Well, the gallery renovation continues, and last weekend’s open house gave a wonderful opportunity for both regular visitors and new patrons to view the progress. The next few weeks continue the progress, with hope that everything will be in a decent place by the time of the seventh anniversary open house on August 27
Because August is the only month of the year without an official federal holiday, the Triffid Ranch has to take up the slack, and that means open houses after the Aquashella Dallas show on August 6 and 7. The usual noon-to-5:00 open houses resume on August 13, and things switch to a seventh anniversary blowout on August 27. As always, admission is free and masks are recommended, and if you’re averse to going through the whole Eventbrite dance of Europe to get tickets, rest assured that you don’t need tickets to attend. (The Eventbrite listings are mostly for local news venues to include open houses in their event calendars.) At bare minimum, look at it as an opportunity to get out of the heat, get into air conditioning, and view the renovated front space now that the entourage has vacated the premises. The plan includes debuting a whole new series of enclosures by August 27, so if you don’t view them earlier, you can view them then. And so it goes. (And no, the dinosaurs shown here are not located at the gallery. Yet.)
It finally happened. Not only did the summer heat ride in like a Komodo dragon with a mouth full of pinworms and candiru, but we’re looking at the worst heat the state of Texas has seen since the last drought in 2012. We’re not talking about “oh, this is a minor inconvenience” heat: we’re talking about “this could KILL you” heat. Minus-40 may be a gosh number, in that it has the same value in Fahrenheit and Celsius, but that’s not true of positive-40. For Americans, we’re now hitting 107F, and for everyone else, we’re hitting 40C. Either way, it’s completely understandable that nobody wants to get out in this, especially with the repeated warnings about rolling blackouts through Texas if our antiquated and mismaintained electrical grid should conk out due to record use.
This is why I have to thank everyone who chose to come out to the last two open houses, because you didn’t have to. You could have been at a water park, or in a mall, or safely in a bottle of liquid nitrogen, or any place where the temperatures don’t turn unprotected victims into Near Dark cosplayers. instead, you came out to view carnivorous plant enclosures and check out the ongoing renovations to the gallery, and for that, I can’t thank you enough. It gives extra incentive to keep going, and going I shall.
For those who missed out on previous attempts, the gallery is open for one more open house on July 23, and then it’s going quiet for two weeks to get prepared for Aquashella Dallas on August 6 and 7. As always, admission is free and masks are recommended. After that, keep checking back, because the open houses return in August, with a very special evening open house on August 27. See you then.
So…what about this weather, huh?
The first half of 2022 was more than a bit of a tribulation: even with everything happening this year, the end of that first half still counted as the best year the Triffid Ranch had ever seen. The first stages of the gallery renovation were complete and accessible to clients and visitors, shows and events were even more successful than in previous years, and people loved the new changes. The plan for the second half of 2022 was more of the same: build upon everything done so far, go wild with new enclosures, and end 2022 with the biggest party possible. I mean, New Year’s Eve falls on a Saturday this year, so why not hold one last big showing and party to celebrate everything that had come before, right?
Yeah. Things may get even more interesting than before, including the possibility of moving.
The news about the fate of the gallery’s location and the surrounding industrial park hasn’t really been news for a while: according to several people working for the company, the property owner started a six-year plan to tear everything down and build a retail/apartment block, very much like the block across Spring Valley Road, about four years ago, and COVID-19 only delayed the situation. As of last March, when getting the locks changed, I first learned of both this six-year plan and the possibility that things could change sooner if another company bought the property. The first hints that something was happening when the property manager asked for verification that every tenant on the property had their certificates of occupancy in order and inspected the fire alarm systems over the July 4 weekend. I just learned yesterday that the second option happened, and that a new company just bought the whole complex. I’m fully expecting a complete announcement in the next couple of days.
And what does this mean for the gallery? Well, the current lease expires in March 2023, so there are several paths in which things could go over the next seven months. The first is that absolutely nothing changes other than where the rent payments go: the new owner may decide to just keep things going the way they are and wait until the general world financial situation stabilizes. Another possibility is a massive update and improvement: a big strip plaza just east of the gallery was purchased by new owners and massively renovated, and it’s now turning into quite the hangout for those looking for barbecue, pizza, and Middle Eastern cuisine. A third is that things will continue but without renewing leases until everyone moves out: this happened to a big medical office building due west, and it was quickly and efficiently demolished immediately after the last tenant left. The fourth, and it’s always a possibility at any time, is that the new owners decide that the land is more valuable than the rents they’re receiving, give everyone 60 days’ notice, and tear everything out by Halloween. (A medical office facility due east was stripped out that way about four years ago. In that time, the property remains stripped, as a succession of companies have bought the property, started digging trenches for storm drains and water and power inlets, shut down, and sold to someone else. At this point, having seen this happen so many times in Dallas and the surrounding suburbs in the last 40 years, eventually someone will finally build something on this spot, but it may take decades before anything other than weeks actually come up.)
The good news is that, unlike the surprise announcement of the Valley View gallery location being shut down, this has been on the horizon for a while. Right now, not only is the city of Richardson pushing to diversify tenants at a huge block of industrial park spaces just north of the gallery, but Richardson is working toward making these spaces friendlier for artists and others: while checking out the area last night, I discovered where all of the escape rooms and axe tournament spaces had gone over the last few years. Moving to a new location is on the table, and so is staying at the current location for another two years, and I’m already taking advice on good locations if the lease ends early and I have to clear out before the bulldozers start. Right now, it’s all up in the air, and if I get to stay until after the beginning of 2023, that’s longer than I expected.
In the meantime, it’s time to get back to work. If you haven’t had the chance to see the gallery under State 1 of the renovation, feel free to come out to the open houses on July 16 and July 23. (The gallery will be closed on July 30 in order to get ready for the big Aquashella Dallas show at Dallas Market Hall on August 6 and 7.) One way or another, August is going to be a blowout month, with both noon-to-5-pm open houses through the month and a big evening show on August 27. After that, who knows?
As quite a few artists have impressed upon me in the past, there’s “finished” and there’s complete. In the past seven years since signing the original lease on the old space, the Triffid Ranch gallery has never been complete, as it’s always in flux and always being built upon, especially as existing enclosures move out and new ones debut. The important aspect is at least the hope for change, and the Triffid Ranch 3.0 is now live. With no need to make room for the entourage up front, the Entourage Table is gone, and with it the horrible 1980s gold wallpaper that encompassed the whole room. Weeks of painting, finishing, and assembly tied up by the beginning of July, and now the plan is to continue said revamping and updating through the whole of the gallery. It may be done about the time the building owners decide to shut everything down and demolish the whole block, but that’s how it is.
Even in the front, the renovation continues. The gallery redesign intended from the beginning for the front room to hold the larger enclosures, with significantly more room for those than in the past. Between this and moving the old workspace out of the gallery entirely, this frees up a truly impressive amount of room for smaller enclosures, and now the challenge is to fill up said space over the summer. Now that the front room is getting under control, though, that’s not as much of a problem as before.
Another aspect of the reboot: for those outside of North Texas, the Dallas area amped up the heat quite quickly this year. We’re already desperately short on rain, facilitating the purchase of a reverse osmosis filter in order to take care of water needs, and what promised storms coming through just evaporate once passing Fort Worth and Arlington. Because the whole of July and August are just going to get worse, everything is moving inside until September, so no Porch Sales until then. Sorry about that, but if you’re horrified by the idea of standing outside on a parking lot surface that’s burning the soles of your shoes, think how the plants feel.
Now that the front area is done, everyone is welcome to come by to view the work in progress, with Saturday open houses running from noon until 5:00 pm in July. See you then.
Well. It’s not understating things to say that June was an excellent month in the best quarter in the history of the Triffid Ranch, in what’s already the Triffid Ranch’s best year since it opened. Between open houses, Porch Sales, and outside events, 2022 has been a spectacular year so far, all the personal tribulations aside, and the plan is to make it even bigger for the rest of the year. At the rate things are going, I may have to rent space at Dallas Market Hall to have enough room for plants during the holiday season.
(And speaking of Dallas Market Hall, here’s the friendly reminder that the next big Triffid Ranch show is at Aquashella Dallas at Market Hall, on August 6 and 7. If things go quiet in July, it’s only in order to get those things ready. This may be even bigger than this month’s Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo and Texas Frightmare Weekend combined, and that’s saying something. I’m definitely going to need a vaccine for sleep until mid-August.)
Aside from that, the big news involves the gallery renovation and reboot. For the moment, the back of the gallery is going to stay (mostly) unchanged, although with a lot more room as the working area gets cleared out and moved. The front, though, will be unrecognizable. The Entourage Table is gone since there’s no longer any need to seat a now-moved entourage, freeing up a truly amazing amount of room for larger enclosures. Both front and back are undergoing massive changes between now and the end of the year, but the front needed it the most, so removing the sigils and covering over the awful 1980s-era gold wallpaper that was in the place on move-in were the priority. This also gives folks who haven’t been to the gallery in a while an extra incentive to see what’s inside. (Incidentally, this gives further opportunities to expand into contemporary museum design: the Triffid Ranch obviously isn’t a typical art gallery, and moving from an art museum look toward more of a natural history museum motif makes more sense.)
Another reason for the gallery revamp has everything to do with the outdoor temperature. Based on last year, holding Porch Sales outside until Halloween made perfect sense, but this summer is already overly hot and sticky, even by Dallas standards, so moving things back inside for July and August is going to be necessary for both visitors and plants. The Porch Sales will probably make a return in September, depending upon the weather, and they’re definitely returning for October to show off Sarracenia colors, but if the rest of the summer is like June, impersonating a Gila monster and moving underground is both safe and sane. (Discovering what was going on with the new AC unit installed in 2020 made a big difference, too, and the back is now considerably more comfortable in the summer heat than it was last year. I might even try another Nepenthes edwardsiana enclosure this year, now that I know the AC can keep it sufficiently chilly.)
Otherwise, once the gallery reboot is complete, it’s time to get back to debuting new enclosures, which now can be designed and assembled without taking up valuable display space. New materials, new techniques, new references…the first half of the year was rough, but that just set up opportunities for the second half, and everything will focus on a whole extravaganza for the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas shows in December. We have four available weekends then, including Christmas Eve falling on a Saturday, and getting started early never hurt anybody. In fact, it might be necessary.
Three weeks until the big Triffid Ranch 3.0 gallery reboot, and time tends to get away from me, hence the relative lack of updates. As always, everything runs on Riddell’s Law of Artistic Expression (“All art forms derive from painting, because every artist has to find something else to do while waiting for the paint to dry”), but it’s all coming together, along with new enclosures to go with the new front area. It’s the getting there that’s the aggravating part, but that can’t be helped.
Both before and after the gallery reopening, the fun just keeps coming. To start off, the summer Porch Sales continue through June, but taking note of our impending record afternoon temperatures by starting at 8:00 am and ending at 1:00 pm before the day gets too bad. (After the gallery reopens, these will switch between Saturday outdoor sales and Sunday indoor events, both to give opportunities to attend from visitors with prior Saturday commitments and just to give folks a break from the constant lead-smelter heat.) Right now, the next Porch Sales are scheduled for June 11 and 25, but they’ll keep going until Halloween and move inside for rain, snow, asteroid strikes and random volcanic eruptions.
Why nothing on June 18, you ask? Well, that’s because as mentioned in the past, the Triffid Ranch hits the road to go to Austin for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo at the Palmer Event Center that Saturday. This will be the last Oddities & Curiosities Expo show for the Triffid Ranch in 2022, as well as the last one in Texas for the year, so until the new O&C schedule comes out around Halloween, get your tickets now. If the crowds are anything like they were in 2021, the Austin show may well be sold out by midday, and you won’t want to miss this.
This won’t be the last Triffid Ranch show outside of the gallery, either: word just got back about the final Aquashella Dallas floor layout for August 6 and 7, and the Triffid Ranch is near the front door at Dallas Market Hall. In addition, the Triffid Ranch returns to the Palmer Event Center for its seventh year and sixth Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays dark bazaar on November 27 and 27: I purchased the booth as soon as the word came out, because there’s no way I’ll miss it this year.
Oh, and it isn’t on the official calendar just yet, but the Triffid Ranch finally breaks through to the Dallas Arboretum this year, for a lecture on carnivorous plants at the Arboretum on October 28 starting at 11:00 am. This should be perfect timing, as all of the Sarracenia and flytraps should be at their best autumn color before going dormant in November, and there’s no better time for outdoor events in Dallas than the end of October. As usual, details will follow as I get them.
Is this it? That’s a really good question, as a lot of other possibilities are only now coming together. A demonstration of cartoonist Sam Hurt’s adage “it’s not a small world: it’s a big world that’s folded over so many times” involves a return of Triffid Ranch carnivorous plant workshops at the newly reconstituted Curiosities near the Dallas Arboretum (the old Lakewood location is shutting down and everything moved to the space next to the current Curious Garden) is that Curiosities owner and old Exposition Park neighbor Jason Cohen went to high school and college with the Triffid Ranch 3.0 designer Susan Duval. It’s with that in mind that I note that regular carnivore workshops return to Curiosities this year after the move is complete. There’s even a discussion on the Triffid Ranch hosting a Dallas Carbaret outdoor drive-in showing this summer, running either the best documentary about life in 1980s Dallas ever made or the best documentary about Dallas goth culture ever made, complete with a barbecue truck.
That’s it for the moment: now it’s time to get back to plant repotting. See you soon.
It could be the increased circulation in the gallery, especially after discovering that the break room had its air conditioning vent shut off for a very valid reason. It could be that this winter was cold but not THAT cold. Heck, it could be that the crowds coming to gallery events since the beginning of the year are considerably lacking in energy vampires. Whatever the factor, there’s an explosion in new growth among the Nepenthes enclosures, with the most spectacular showing with the Nepenthes hemsleyana in the enclosure Bat God. For the first time since the gallery moved here from Valley View Center, this beast of a pitcher plant finally started producing upper traps.
For those unfamiliar with N. hemsleyana, this is an Asian pitcher plant that goes through a fascinating change once it starts producing upper pitchers. Before this point, the lower pitchers it produces are short and squat, pretty much identical to those from its cousin Nepenthes rafflesiana: in fact, until last decade, this plant was considered a rafflesiana subspecies. When the first upper traps form, though, the plant stops secreting digestive enzymes into the fluid in the bottom of each pitcher. Most species of Nepenthes also fluoresce strongly along the lip or peristome under ultraviolet light: N. hemsleyana doesn’t do a thing. This is because in lieu of attracting insects into its pitchers, hemsleyana attracts bats.
The wooly-haired bat Kerivoula hardwickii isn’t trapped by the pitchers: far from it. These tiny bats are some of the smallest in Asia, and they would regularly be bullied out of other nesting sites by larger and more aggressive bats. Instead. K. hardwickii roosts inside of the upper pitchers. The bats get roosts with a minimum of parasites and no predators, and the plant gets both a regular supply of bat guano but, thanks to bats’ fastidious cleaning habits, a supply of bat fur. Both are excellent nitrogen sources, with the fur being more of a slow-release form, which gives the plant more than enough nitrogen and phosphorus to grow.
What is equally interesting is how the bats know that N. hemsleyana pitchers are a suitable roosting site. Right where the lid of the pitcher meets the lip are two very distinctive flanges or fins, and these reflect back a very distinctive sonar signature to the bats emitting it. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the knowledge of this particular sonar signature isn’t instinctive, but that mother bats teach their young the significance of that pingback.
Anyway, this is just one of many surprises turning up in the gallery, all available for viewing when the new gallery debuts. With luck, this hyperactive plant will produce more upper traps: since they don’t produce digestive enzymes, they can’t be fed with insects, but offering the opportunity for visitors to feed the hemsleyana orchid food pellets could be just as interesting. Just don’t start calling the gallery “Stately Wayne Manor.”
The first month of Triffid Ranch Porch Sales are done, two years after the whole concept started in the literal corner of the gallery porchway, and they’re now becoming a regular event in the Richardson area. This weekend was an opportunity not just for new folks to come by to view carnivorous plants (and the occasional fly or wasp getting a little too close), but for local artists to come by and discuss plans and options for the rest of the year. By the time the tent had to come down, the grand discussions and tentative strategies were still coming strong, and there may be time in the near future to discuss the ones nearing completion.
In addition to discussing other events, several local artists who came by joined in early views of the gallery renovation, which started this last week. It’s all coming together, slower than I’d have liked, but much easier than if the events of last December and January hadn’t happened.
As far as future Porch Sales are concerned, they’re taking a short hiatus for the weekend of June 4 in order to take care of essential errands and get the next stage of the renovation completed. The Porch Sales return for June 11 and 25 (with a sidetrip to Austin for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo at the Palmer Event Center), and then again after the gallery reopening on July 2. After that, they’ll be a regular feature in front of the gallery until after Halloween, when the regular activities move back inside for the winter. As always, details will follow.
Some months seem to drag forever, where you look at a calendar and wonder if the next month was cancelled and the current month is scheduled to run over and over until someone else gets tired. Others whiz by your ear, much like a screech owl of my past acquaintance, leaving a Doppler-shifted yell as it leaves you in the last time zone. May 2022, even for May in general and for 2022 in particular, decided that it was time to pull out the hyperdrive and give everyone the Dave Bowman treatment. And much like Mr. Bowman, now that the trip is over, I’m going to just stand here and shudder for a few minutes, trying to figure out what’s next.
From over this way, everything has been a little anticlimactic since Texas Frightmare Weekend: my first solo Frightmare since 2009 wasn’t just an unqualified success: it was also a great opportunity to get back in touch with a lot of people understandably out of touch since 2019. This and subsequent developments are taking the Triffid Ranch in several new directions, with the final results crystallizing toward the end of the year.
First and foremost is that the gallery renovation and update continues, but now it comes with a deadline. Officially, the debut of Texas Triffid Ranch 3.0 (and that’s what it’s going to be called) is on Saturday, July 2, running from 3:00 pm to 9:00 pm. Details and the Eventbrite listing should be completed by the end of Memorial Day weekend, but those familiar with the former entourage gathering in the front of the gallery won’t recognize things when the renovation is done. Famed Dallas set designer and artist Susan Duval is overseeing the whole process, so if it could be said that Dallas didn’t have an art gallery anything like the Triffid Ranch before, it definitely could be said so now.
Other developments? Well, your humble gallery owner is taking additional time out of sleep to go back to school, with the plan of graduating with a degree in Museum Studies. It’s no longer enough to flail around with gallery and enclosure design, and formal training in design of museum exhibits and displays is increasingly vital for the future, both at the gallery and elsewhere. Besides, a friend in Seattle recently taught me that while museum field work is wonderful, so is the effort to take the information gathered in the field and turn it into forms that an average person can assimilate and expand upon. Now to find someone needing an experimental subject for a new vaccine for sleep…
Otherwise, things continue. Since I no longer need the back of the gallery for enclosure construction and finishing, most of the workshop has already been moved out of the gallery, with the rest of it finishing by the end of June. This not only frees up even more room for enclosure displays, but it also makes appointments for enclosure viewings and purchases easier as well. The new greenhouse is finally completed (YOU try to put one together by yourself) thanks to a much-appreciated donation from an old friend, and setting it up for both carnivores and non-carnivores also continues. This is in addition to making the new house liveable and functional, so, again, any development of a sleep vaccine would be greatly appreciated. (And should I mention that I’m rescinding a two-decade disavowal of professional writing and working on a novel that’s been sitting in my head since 1992? Please send vaccine.)
Just because the gallery is officially closed doesn’t mean that events aren’t happening. They’ve just moved outside. The Triffid Ranch Porch Sales started up again in May to fantastic success: the last one for May starts on May 28 and runs from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, with the usual free admission. After a short break on June 4 for recuperation and renovation (including moving the rest of the workshop out), the Porch Sales return, with an earlier schedule in order to beat the heat somewhat, on June 11 and 25. The Porch Sales go to their now-expected summer times of 8:00 am to 1 pm to avoid said heat, and will keep running regularly until Halloween. (If you’re wondering why June 18 won’t have a Porch Sale, that’s because the Triffid Ranch is moving to the big Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo show at Palmer Event Center on June 18.) Come on out to look and ask questions: sharing is half of the fun.
Long-term, things keep getting odder and odder, in a good way. Several impending projects can’t be detailed just yet, but one that can be brought up is that the Triffid Ranch site will soon have a dedicated space for local journalists and writers to access more information and photos of Triffid Ranch enclosures and events. Right now, the final details are being put in place for a lecture at the Dallas Arboretum at the end of October, but the oddest was the invitation to speak at a high school career fair in September. The nearly universal response to this news is either “That’s like inviting Anton LaVey to the Pope’s bat mitzvah” or “Talk about hiring Jeffrey Dahmer to manage a vegan restaurant,” but one thing I can promise is that I’m going to be incredibly respectful, both of students and the teachers inviting me. After all, if some redhaired maniac had extolled the merits of a carnivorous plant gallery in 1983, I know my life would have been a lot more exciting.
Anyway, it’s time to get back to the linen mines: Porch Sales don’t run themselves. As a major influence on the gallery used to say, “Stay scared,” and I’ll see you at events in June.
Many people get excited on the approach of major holidays, particularly Christmas and Halloween, and others on the approach of the official date for a particular season. It’s been decades since grade and high school, but there’s also the electricity of the calendar approaching the end of the school year. Even after years of the monotony of the day job schedule, there’s still that smell in the air that sets off the anticipation: “Summer vacation is ALMOST HERE.” It’s all about the promise that things will be different, and that everything you accomplish for the rest of the year depends upon what you do in the next few weeks, that makes this time of the year my favorite.
Of course, the first big explosions of growth among the carnivores doesn’t hurt, either. By this point in North Texas, all of the temperate carnivores are awake and active, taking advantage of the corresponding insect bounty. The recent torrential rains certainly helped, so everything is awake, stretching, and wondering what summer is going to bring. Summer could go any number of directions (this IS Texas, after all), but both plants and overgrown kids are rising to the challenge.
For those who haven’t had a chance before now, the last Triffid Ranch Porch Sale for May starts at 10:00 on May 28 and runs until 3:00: if the current weather forecasts are accurate, it’ll end right about the time Dallas gets into its traditional Memorial Day heatwave. If you can’t make it Saturday, the Porch Sales are going to take a short break for June 4 for restocking and regenerating, and then they start again on June 11 and 25. (Wondering about June 18? Look to the Palmer Event Center in downtown Austin for the Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo.) Either way, see you then.
Well, that was a good recovery weekend, but now it’s time to get back to work. The first of the 2022 Porch Sales starts on Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm (all the better to avoid the afternoon heat), and that’s just the stuff you’ll be able to see. Just wait until the gallery renovation is done.
Now that Texas Frightmare Weekend is over and the weather is getting stable, by North Texas standards, it’s time to start up the third year of Triffid Ranch Porch Sales while the gallery undergoes renovation and renewal. The first Porch Sale of 2022 starts on Saturday, May 14 at 10:00 am, ending at 3:00 pm, with redux on May 21 and 28 and possibly one Memorial Day Weekend encore on May 29. Feel free to spread the word.
With everything that happened over the first quarter of the year, it almost didn’t happen. Having to move the entire collection to a new locale. Getting hit with not one but two severely subfreezing cold waves, one late enough in March to delay everything. Getting used to new growing conditions, particularly one of the windiest springs in North Texas history. (The scar on my forehead is a souvenir of the last record-setter back in 1982.) The flytraps were still late, as were the temperate pitcher plants, and the triggerplants might be ready by the end of May. We won’t even talk about the sheer number of competing events through the Dallas area, all of which were trying to catch the attention of quarantine-crazed Dallasites. Not that it mattered: the 2022 Manchester United Flower Show was an overwhelming success, and if the explosion of Sarracenia pitcher plants this month is any indication, the rest of the year might be even more lively.
Not only was this a beautiful time to debut new Sarracenia, but this was the first evening event of 2022,and quite a few people who couldn’t attend the usual early afternoon open houses finally had the chance to come out to view the gallery. Again, it’s shaping up to be a spectacular year for Sarracenia, and the planned Triffid Ranch Porch Sales starting in May should give the opportunity to show off so many other species of carnivorous plant, too.
With this high point, it’s time to hit the road and sustain this. This weekend, the gallery is closed in order to take everything to the Made In Texas Hall at Texas Frightmare Weekend, and then the new gallery renovation begins in earnest. Keep checking back in May, because the wait will be worth it.
Well, this has been fun. Growing season starting, tornado season starting, hail already arriving, discovering that the new house faces right into the south wind onslaught that sums up daylight hours in Dallas…it’s been a little exciting around here, and we’re only two-thirds of the way through the month. I haven’t had this many starts, stops, and dramatic pauses since 1987, and that’s a year from which I’m still recovering.
This missive needs to begin with thanks to everyone who has come out so far to Triffid Ranch events in April, because it’s been intense. Longtime friends who haven’t been out in months or years, new rubberneckers who just wanted to see what’s here, travelers who now feel safe and secure enough to visit for the first time in two years: all are welcome. If anything, it just redoubles efforts to get everything under control by the end of May: the office at the new house is nearly ready for the return of the Twitch stream and more YouTube videos (the TikTok gibberish continues), including a nice greenscreen, and that’s not even touching the renovation of the front of the gallery that starts next week. All of this and a fulltime job brings up the usual question: “Sleep? What’s that?”
That’s where things are getting interesting. The last gallery event of April, the Manchester United Flower Show, goes live at 3:00 pm on Saturday, April 23, and the late subfreezing weather in March means that the gallery will be just FULL of blooms, particularly of the flower emblem of Newfoundland & Labrador. This also means that next week’s Texas Frightmare Weekend, thanks to a last-minute plot twist, has more room than usual to show off said blooms alongside emerging traps. And that’s just the floral side: the return of the Triffid Ranch Porch Sales in May also brings new vendors to show off their wares alongside the Triffid Ranch tent. Oh, it’s going to be a fun summer.
And on the subject of other vendors, there’s a big project coming down the pipe that’s still under discussion and deliberation, but involves the City of Richardson’s efforts to turn Richardson into an art destination in its own right. For those familiar with the truly insufferable traffic and parking issues in Deep Ellum and the Design District, not to mention those who already know about Richardson’s wide variety of art galleries, this gallery is firmly behind the project, and the plan from this end is to help make it more than simply a relocation of visitors and talents. Once things are in place, the phrase “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro,” long a motto around here, really starts applying to the gallery.
Anyway, as with Texas weather, if you don’t like the current lineup of events at the gallery, stick around, because it’ll change in five minutes. The question is how much things are going to be changed by the end of the year.
April is always an odd time at the Triffid Ranch, evocative of Harlan Ellison’s “the hour that stretches.” Everything is dependent upon the weather. Inside, all of the timers shift to the spring/summer schedule as of March 17, so it’s only in April that anyone starts seeing any significant changes to the flora. Outside, one well-placed freeze, such as the big one we had at the end of March, throws off everything for at least a month: thanks to that big freeze, the Sarracenia rhizomes I potted up at the end of February are only now starting to wake up, and only as I write this are the flytraps and non-Sarracenia flava pitcher plants starting to bloom, and the triggerplants and temperate sundews are just emerging. (Flavas always bloom first, and already have working pitchers when everything else is just waking up, so their blooms are fading: considering that the blooms smell like cat pee, this is a good thing for any indoor events, as we don’t need the place smelling like an anime convention.) Until all of the temperate carnivores can join the party, Triffid Ranch open houses are a little lacking, but we make do.
That’s not to say that it hasn’t been busy: so far, this has been the busiest April in the history of the gallery, and in fact since the first Triffid Ranch show in 2008. (Fourteen years as of the beginning of May. Whoof.) Things actually quieted down a bit in April compared to January through March, but that’s to be expected: with Dallasites wanting to get out of our houses and do things before the inevitable summer heat drives us all back inside during the day, the open houses are up against a lot of competition for the same 54 hours each weekend. (Two days plus the last six hours of Friday: don’t argue.) This means that a lot of attendees come in during the last 30 minutes or so, especially the folks who learned about the gallery thanks to Atlas Obscura and want to hit everything in Dallas in a single weekend. All are welcome, and all are appreciated.
Naturally, this is also all preamble. The current distribution and manufacturing issues facing other companies also hits the Triffid Ranch, as does the current Instagram obsession with carnivores. Even with that, expect a lot more over the rest of the year, both with new creations and the variety and range of events. There’s a lot to talk about, and we’re not quite ready yet.
To celebrate the pivot to the full growing season, feel free to come out for this weekend’s Manchester United Flower Show on April 23, running from 3:00 pm to 9:00 pm for the art gallery crowd, and spread the word. After Texas Frightmare Weekend the subsequent weekend, we’re taking a short break to focus on the much-discussed gallery renovation and update, and then come back with the first of the 2022 Porch Sales while that renovation continues. It’s going to be interesting, and not just in the Chinese curse way, either.
With the beginning of spring, the hue and cry is particularly loud this year: “So when will the gallery be open?” Rest assured, this has been dealt with. The next run of Triffid Ranch open houses for April starts this coming Saturday, at the usual time of noon until 5:00 pm, and then the schedule shifts to evening for the return of the Manchester United Flower Show on April 23. (No open house during the last weekend of April, because that’s reserved for Texas Frightmare Weekend at DFW Airport.) May is going to be a mix of early morning and evening shows, moved between Saturdays and Sundays for those working on one or the other, and more of them outside than not. With luck, the renovation of the front area at the gallery will be done by the Manchester United Flower Show, so you’ll have an additional incentive to come look around. Now spread the word.
The last open house before the gallery renovation starts, and things were BUSY. Not so busy as expected in April and May, but after one last cold snap in the previous week to say goodbye to winter, surprising brisk. Why, it’s as if people are actively looking forward to regular Saturday open houses or something.
As a warning, April won’t be as consistent with open houses: toward the end of the month, the Porch Sales outdoors return, and the plan is to try evening and Sunday events for those who can’t get out on Saturday mornings. That’s part and parcel for the extensive changes to gallery operation over 2022, so just keep checking back for updates.
For those who missed out this month, this is sadly the last open house for a little while. The weekend of March 26 is dedicated to the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Dallas’s Fair Park, and then the weekend of April 2 goes into much-needed renovation time. After that, though…
Another Saturday in March, another open house, open from noon until 5. (Incidentally, for those who have only come out to the gallery in winter, the next few months should be very instructive. This week is the traditional week for switching the gallery’s light timers to a 12-hour schedule from the 8-hour photoperiod that runs through winter, so if various plants are going to bloom, the next month will see them doing so. With everyone else, the additional four hours of light should stimulate a whole new run of fresh growth, so that leads to all sorts of new possibilities. Either way, the plants you may have seen in December are going to be drastically different by the beginning of April.)
Ah, March in Texas. As much as everyone wants to joke about Texas weather in general, the real fun is waiting for the week of St. Patrick’s Day/the vernal equinox, because just about anything can happen. Tornadoes, dust storms, snow…stick around Dallas long enough, and you’ll see almost everything. This year, the tornadoes stayed away for a bit, but we got hail across the northern half of Dallas County, thankfully not large enough to cause sustained damage or injury, but still a bit disconcerting. I suspect that March 2023 is the month for asteroid strikes, but we’re only halfway through March 2022, so it could be setting up for the end of the month. (April 2 marks the fortieth anniversary of the dust storm that gave me a particularly distinctive scar that allows me to tell if my hairline is receding, given to me in a pig pen no less, so I literally have some skin in Texas weather prognostication.)
In various developments, the gallery renovation and reorganization starts this month, with the height of the revival in April in time for the Manchester United Flower Show, tentatively scheduled for April 23. It’s already starting with moving the taller enclosures to the front, but it’s the detail that should get everyone. (The designer keeps joking that it needs to look like a Rainforest Cafe as designed by Peter Jackson, but we also agree that it might benefit from a few pylons. If you can’t have fun with the concept of a carnivorous plant gallery, then why even bother?)
On the event front, the last March open house opens the door at noon on March 19, and this is the last open house for a little while. Part of this is because of the Oddities & Curiosities Expo at Dallas’s Fair Park on March 26, and part is to take a break to finish up the renovation. When it’s ready and open houses and Porch Sales start up again, the skies will light up with the news.
Other than the weather and renovation fun, the rest of the month goes toward further surprises, particularly involving the big Texas Frightmare Weekend show at the end of April. Between new enclosures debuting at the show and new species never before encountered at a Frightmare, anyone wanting to attend should get their weekend passes before the show sells out. Yeah, go ahead and laugh, but Frightmare sold out completely in 2019, and the number of people looking forward to coming back out for the traditional April show after two years of lockdowns suggests that you should get those passes NOW.
And in final news, the Day Job that kept things going at the gallery since the end of 2020 ends as of March 18, and I’m currently cleaning up everything for the final cleanout. If you want to know details, come out to the next open house: with luck, some of my former coworkers will be there, too, so you can ask them directly if my work persona is any different from the gallery persona. And after they stop twitching on the floor because they can’t laugh any harder…
This last week, Dallas’s weather confirmed the general warning I give people about any kind of gardening, whether with carnivores or any other plant: don’t make plans to get anything in the ground until after St. Patrick’s Day, Sure, the weather can be perfect from the middle of February on, but eventually one last big winter storm comes through and turns every fresh new seedling to mush. That last storm, which may or may not be the absolute last until November, dropped temperatures well below freezing, dumped rain and sleet across North Texas, and frosted back any number of plants not adapted to that sort of rapid temperature change. By Saturday, though, the temps were pushing toward normal, and the people of the general Dallas area responded the way they always do, which is to get out and do as much outdoor stuff as they can stand before summer heat starts.
As it turned out, because of so many outdoor activities, this last weekend’s open house was relatively quiet, but it was also incredibly productive. The gallery renovations continue, with the front space beginning to shape up, and the light timers switched to a spring/summer photoperiod to encourage both new growth and blooming. Likewise, more and more of the old workspace is moving to the new house, allowing both more enclosure construction and more room for new displays. By mid-May, longtime visitors won’t recognize the place, and that’s the whole idea.
We’re now at the halfway mark for March shows. The last Triffid Ranch open house for March runs this coming Saturday, March 19, from noon until 5:00, and then things start organizing for April. Feel free to spread the word: this is the last time to see the gallery before the Oddities & Curiosities Expo show in Dallas’s Fair Park on March 26. And it’s time to get back to it.
March is always interesting around the gallery: as expected, March 2022 so far is a cross between a frilled lizard and a common house cat. Not that this is going to last, because things are going to get weird.
Now what’s going on, you may ask? Well, besides the number of first-time visitors coming by because of their enthusiasm for Atlas Obscura (including one couple from Minnesota), plans for updating the front of the gallery continue. The current joke involves the front room resembling a Rainforest Cafe as designed by Peter Jackson, and that might be the understated version. By the time the front and the back are complete, most regulars won’t recognize it, and that’s the whole point. Now to get back to work.
One additional surprise: for the last year, the Nepenthes hemsleyana in the enclosure Bat God has been, well, a little fussy. Oh, it adapted well to its new enclosure, and it’s enthusiastically vining and growing up the sides. The problem was that while leaves on the vine grew as enthusiastically as the vine itself, the plant wasn’t producing any of its famous upper pitchers at the ends of said leaves. Instead, a new offshoot from the base started sprouting last December, and finally the first pitcher on the offshoot opened just in time for the open house. With luck, this will be the first of many, and that ongoing vine is getting trimmed, cut into segments, and rerooted to produce more N. hemsleyana plants for future enclosures. Keep checking back, because the front of the gallery may be loaded with more bat plants before you know it.
Meanwhile, the open houses continue over the next two weekends, with the Triffid Ranch opening doors on March 12 and 19. After that, as mentioned before, it’s all about the Oddities & Curiosities Expo show in Dallas’s Fair Park on March 26. (For the next two weeks, I’ll have a limited number of posters and a much less limited number of postcards for the Expo show available at the front of the gallery, so feel free to come by either open house to pick up yours.) See you then.
Five years ago this week, the last vestiges of the old Valley View gallery moved to the current locale, and Dallas hasn’t been the same since. The fifth anniversary celebration of that move became decidedly bittersweet with the surprise move of Caroline Crawford Originals the night before, but it was too late to cancel, and quite a few visitors came out from a very long distance to attend, so it started at noon as advertised. And whoo boy was it a celebration.
And for what’s going to happen to the front of the gallery, that’s where things get interesting. The plan was to turn it into a showcase area for larger enclosures, but now visitors get to watch it transformed in real time. It’s bad enough that the back area has changed drastically since the last pre-COVID event, but for those who haven’t been out in a while, things are going to accelerate by the end of March. By the beginning of May, you probably won’t recognize the place, and that’s a very good thing.
For those who missed out, March is where things start to ramp up for 2022. The plan is for the gallery to open for open houses every Saturday in March, from noon until 5:00 pm, with the exception of March 26. That’s reserved for the first big Triffid Ranch show of the year, with the Oddities & Curiosities Expo in Dallas’s Fair Park. After that…the schedule keeps getting more and more filled. We should all have such problems.
A public service announcement for upcoming open house attendees: the original plan was for Caroline Crawford Originals/Tawanda Jewelry to stay in the front of the gallery until the beginning of May 2022, but apparently the timeline was moved up. As of February 2022, Caroline’s jewelry is no longer at the gallery, her name is being removed from the lease and insurance at her request, and anyone needing information about future jewelry events and commissions should contact her directly. Obviously, I wish her nothing but the best in future endeavors, and we will have one last joint show at Texas Frightmare Weekend in April and May. After that, though, we’re going our separate ways, and the odds are really good that we’ll never see each other again. And so it goes.
And it’s done. The move from the ex’s house is now complete, and with it the move of all of the plants, containers, and accoutrements. Leiber’s ashes now sit on the mantelpiece of my new house, the reference bookshelves were moved from the gallery and now severely impress my new landlady, and I now have a surfeit of walls on which to put up artwork locked away for the last two decades. Next up, the office and the workspace get organized and situated, and then it’s just a matter of waiting until spring.
In many ways, all of this couldn’t have happened at a better time, because all of the flytraps and Sarracenia were still well into dormancy and therefore tolerant of the necessarily rough handling of putting them in tubs and hauling them to the new growing area. As can be seen above, the crew at U-Haul either had a very much appreciated sense of humor with the 10-foot truck reserved for said move, or the inadvertent advertisement of the truck’s contents could be taken for a good sign for the rest of the year. Knowing the crew at my U-Haul, dealing with me for the last 12 years, I lean toward the former.
In any case, it’s done. The next stage involves moving a lot of supplies and accessories from the gallery to the new house, where most of the essential enclosure fabrication will happen in the future. Having room for construction, as well as not having to compete with wind and neighbors over paint drying space, means that the next generation of enclosures will have a lot more in the way of features. As it is, the workroom already has the nickname “The Greeble Room,” and it may require a sign on the door designating it as such. That additional room also allows longer construction on a new series of converted aquaria, without worrying about paint or glue curing time being affected by appointments or open houses. Oh, the crew at Reynolds Advanced Materials are going to be sick of me by the end of the year. This, along with the ex moving out of the front area of the gallery by the beginning of May, means that you can expect a lot of new enclosures and designs by summer, and it’s only going to get weirder by Halloween.
As for gallery events, everything is still dependent upon weather for outdoor events, and considering that February 2022 is determined to kill everyone it meets before it leaves, this may be a while. (As I write this, the Dallas area finally got measurable liquid precipitation yesterday and today, followed by a series of storms and cold fronts over the next week, including the possibility of ice. March couldn’t come soon enough.) Rest assured that indoor events will continue, starting with the Fifth Anniversary (At This Location) open house on February 26. This coincides with the debut of two new enclosures for sundew fans, and then things really get going for March. By June and July, you won’t recognize the place, especially with some of the plans for re-renovating the main gallery.
Well, that’s February. Expect a lot of events in March: the only reason why the gallery will be closed on February 19 is because of an essential road trip for supplies, just so things can stay open on Saturday (and the occasional Sunday) next month. In addition, Triffid Ranch show season starts with the Dallas Oddities & Curiosities Expo at Fair Park on March 26, and then it’s off to the races.
For those keeping score at home, you’re not imagining things: the gallery is hosting a lot more open houses than usual. That’s for a lot of reasons. Firstly, because we’re still in the dead of winter and we still have about a month before the reasonable risk of frost is past, so many people need a touch of green right now. Secondly, this time of the year offers so many reasons to say “You know what? Let’s open up and let people get their fill of green.” And the third? These are all good excuses to get things ready for the spring Porch Sales, when things are going to get really weird in 2022.
While the day before Super Bowl Sunday would have been the kiss of death to any Dallas art event 30 years ago, the fact that it was absolutely perfect for an open house this year says so much about how much Dallas has changed in the last three decades. Not only was the crowd lively, but it was also steady, with things only starting to quiet down in the last 30 minutes or so. Big crowds spaced out so that nobody was being crowded: you can’t ask for more than that.
As for future events, the Triffid Ranch is coming up on its fifth anniversary in its current location at the end of February, and that calls for a celebration. The next open house opens on Saturday, February 26 at noon and runs, as usual, until 5:00 pm, with the usual caveats of free admission and mandatory masks. I’ll see you then.
As seems to be par for the course for the Year of the Tiger, it’s an exciting time around the Triffid Ranch. Fiona Forney at the Richland Chronicle, my alma mater’s school newspaper, added an interview in the February issue just in time for the open house, also in time to show off 15 kilos of weight loss since this time in December. (On top of everything else, I’m having to get new clothes.) The outdoor carnivores, predominately Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants, are moving to the new growing location this week, and the old residence will be stripped of any traces of me by the end of February. The new house is getting into shape, with a lot of sculpting and construction gear currently at the gallery moving there over the next few weeks, and the extensive carnivorous plant and bonsai library at the gallery is already in its new location. (The real fun comes with getting it organized so that references can be found quickly, and I now appreciate the Dewey Decimal System more than ever.) Oh, and on the Day Job front, extensive renovations on the current building mean that I’ll start working from home, with an office that overlooks the loquat tree I dug up and relocated from the old house. As Matt Howarth always used to say, it may stop, but it never ends.
As things warm up, the open houses will change as well, with a return of the outdoor Porch Sales toward the end of March. Right now, though, they’re staying indoors, considering the massive temperature shifts outdoors from “Arrakis” to “Tran-ky-ky.” However, expect some massive changes in the next few months, and expect some exciting new enclosures once the house moving is complete. Among other things, the Porch Sales will have companions through 2022, and I’m already organizing plans for bigger activities through the rest of the year. Details will definitely follow.
In any case, for those who couldn’t get out here last weekend, you’ll get another shot with the Valentine’s Day Massacree and Carnivorous Plant Open House on February 12, from noon until 5:00. Keep an eye open for further open houses and other events, because it’s going to get busy by the time the flytraps and North American pitcher plants start coming out of dormancy.
It happens so often that it’s a Dallas punchline: make any plans on the first weekend of February, expect an ice storm to hit right when the event starts. And so it was with this Lunar New Year, with massive ice and snow storms (at least, by Dallas levels) stopping everything in the area all day Thursday and Friday, with things finally starting to melt off on Saturday. Although a last-minute cancellation was a valid concern for everyone’s safety, temperatures rose just enough on Saturday morning that with the help of plenty of rock salt on the steps, the latest Triffid Ranch open house went through without issue. Good thing, too: a lot of people really wanted to get out of the house on Saturday.
Of particular note is that the big Nepenthes rajah enclosure Gyre, originally constructed for the Half Price Books flagship store just before COVID lockdown, has a new and happy home, meaning that it’s time to build new ones to fill the gap. The next few weeks are going to be busy, but that pretty much summed up last year, too.
To be continued…
Things have been a bit busy around the Triffid Ranch this week, what with Ice Storm Landru (hat tip to a dear friend for that crack) smacking the whole of Texas and all, but things are supposed to clear up by Friday. So far, this weekend’s Lunar New Year open house is still on: if you’re worried about getting out, that’s why you have the option of the open house on February 12. In the meantime, stay warm and safe, and make plans for Saturday.
Well. As if December wasn’t exciting enough, January kept up the tradition and beat out all of 2021. At the rate things are going, either the Triffid Ranch is going to start franchises or it’ll be the last refuge of human civilization in the impending Dalek invasion by the end of the year. If the last two years are any indication of what to expect, we’ll get both.
To explain the relative quiet in January, it’s for two reasons. Firstly, about half of the carnivores available in summer are currently in winter dormancy, and we’re about halfway through. The first signs of spring activity should start up in mid-March and getting going at full speed in April. Hence, right now, everything with the temperate carnivores such as Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants is dependent upon the weather: if we have a “typical” Dallas winter, they should both be ready and available by mid-April. If we get a not-uncommon late cold wave at the end of March or into April, everything waking up might only finish up in May. Keep fingers and other appendages crossed: this time last year, everyone in Dallas thought we’d have a mild winter, and we know how THAT turned out.
The other reason involves the ongoing divorce and the gradual separation of assets and plans in the gallery. The plan is that the jewelry will be moving out by the beginning of May, in which case the front of the gallery becomes a showcase for the BIG enclosures. Likewise, the last week has been spent moving to a new domicile, still very close to the gallery, with a decidedly improved amount of room for working on new projects. If you haven’t been out to the gallery, do so soon, because by July, you won’t recognize it.
Speaking on that subject, the move affected the ability to throw open houses in January, but that ends in February. Specifically, we’re now looking at two events at the beginning of February: an open house on February 5 to celebrate Lunar New Year, and back in a week for Valentine’s Day plotting and scheming. As always, admission is free and masks are mandatory, and those who haven’t been to the gallery since 2021 may be surprised at the new enclosures finished since then.
In other developments, once the move is finished and everything unpacked, other projects start in earnest. This is in addition to the expected shows for 2022: the Oddities & Curiosities Expo (Dallas in March, Austin in June) and Texas Frightmare Weekend shows were just joined by Aquashella Dallas, meaning that the beginning of August is going to be just as busy as the rest of the year. Let’s hope the Daleks hold off until December, okay?
It may be a bit premature, but it’s been two years since the gallery has seen a Lunar New Year open house, predating the current nightmare by a month, and it’s time to bring it back. The next Triffid Ranch open house is scheduled for Saturday, February 5 from noon to 5:00 pm, and Arioch willing, I’ll be finished moving by then.
I’m not much for selfies, but the first Triffid Ranch open house of 2022 was a perfect time to debut the new look: as one friend joked, “New regeneration, new rules.” The harshness of the red dye back on New Year’s Eve has mellowed, as first dye jobs always do, into a much more mellow ginger, and it’s been sorely missed. (The first time was for a very short time in 1987, probably one of the greatest years of transition in my life, and rapidly replaced with albino white for the next two years. The second time started in 1995 and ended in 1999, when shaving it off famously freaked out Harlan Ellison. At this point, it may be permanent, as it suits me a lot more than my natural blond did.)
A lot about this open house was the beginning of one of Ellison’s Hour That Stretches. Among many other things, this show debuted a record six enclosures at once (photos and backstories coming along soon enough), with a crowd to match. This, however, is just the beginning. Over the next few months, expect a lot of changes to the gallery, including a major move to give a lot more room for everybody. You’ll love it.
For those stuck due to the foul weather, or those who want another chance to visit, the next open house is a special event tied to Lunar New Year: as always, admission is free and masks are mandatory. See you then.
January 15 started the way it usually does in Dallas: with massive gusting winds blasting out of the north, promptly dropping temperatures to within freezing. Inside the gallery, though, those who braved the winds found warmth, light, and, most importantly, green. The official start of spring may still be two months away, but the Triffid Ranch opened to general approval and a lot of good post-holiday vibes.
As has been the case for the last year, since indoor events started up again, we had a wide range of visitors from all over the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, and a few who came from much further out. In fact, the crowds kept rushing in until just before closing. The next issue isn’t with getting people to come out: the next issue is with having enough room for everybody who wants to get in.
To be continued…
A break from combined househunting and enclosure construction: the first Texas Triffid Ranch open house of 2022 goes live at noon on Saturday, January 15 and runs until 5:00. Expect lots of weirdness, as well as king cake and an opportunity to get out of the cold. And so it goes.
After the last two years, the traditional resolutions and promises for the new year come off more as daredevil threats: “My plans for 2022…” is right up there with “There isn’t a pepper too hot for me to eat…” The mere fact that a carnivorous plant gallery can survive the last two years, in Dallas of all places, is amazing enough. Making grandiose plans for expansion or renovation is ignoring the voice in the back room, sounding amazingly like the late Bill Paxton, yelling “I’m telling ya, there’s something moving in here and it ain’t us!”
With Bill placated, though, we can talk about potential plans. As I like to tell people, though, I had plans at the beginning of 2020, and they were all going perfectly when I rolled into Austin for the first show of the year, stopped to get something to eat, and saw the announcement on the television at the back of the bar that SXSW was being cancelled. After that, any plans became moot. “Man plans, God laughs” pretty much sums up the last two years, and we can all hope that it’s just laughter and not laughing and pointing.
Firstly, the big emphasis on 2022 is going to be staying home. That is, now that the gallery and its location are established and city leaders are noting its presence, it’s a matter of utilizing the space more and not using it merely as a headquarters for shows outside the area. This doesn’t mean that outside shows will stop: anything but. It just means that given a choice between announcing an open house and hauling everything out for a five-hour show, the open house now makes so much more sense. 2022 will also see an expansion on the outdoor Porch Sales once the weather stabilizes in spring: those are always a lot of fun, and this understandably eases the minds of those a bit leery about indoor events.
Secondly, shows outside the gallery are going to have to be a bit, erm, larger. Just as the separation of the Triffid Ranch and Caroline Crawford Originals is happening at the gallery one bit at a time, the same is happening with our joint presence at shows and events. That was already happening anyway, what with changes with existing shows and audiences, but 2022 will probably be the last year we’ll be sharing space at Texas Frightmare Weekend. After that, the plan is to move to 10×10 spaces, because the plants are outgrowing (pun intended) the standard two tables at Frightmare, to the point where well-meaning friends admitted that they didn’t stop by because “you were just so crowded.” This applies elsewhere, too: both the Oddities & Curiosities shows and the Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays shows have already moved over to 10×10 spaces, and that’s about the only way to have enough plants on hand to make attendees happy. Sadly, that means that the little science fiction and fantasy conventions with which the Triffid Ranch started are no longer an option, but the way those have been changing, it’s for the best for everybody.
Thirdly, 2022 will be a year for telepresence. We just finished a major gallery renovation last year, and now it’s time for another. This time, the renovation is to make video streaming much easier, with the idea of regular events being run exclusively through Twitch and YouTube. The logistics on these are finally getting worked out, and the plan is to start toward the end of January. “I wish I could make an open house, but I live in Antarctica” is no longer an excuse.
Well, enough of that: with a promised thunderstorm followed by severe (for Dallas) cold this weekend, it’s time to batten down the hatches in preparation for the possibility of a white Dallas New Year. Go have fun, tell everyone about the next open house on January 15, and the plants and I will see you then. Go in peace.
Since the gallery first opened in 2015, the Triffid Ranch has made at least some effort at being open on or very near to Christmas Eve for last-minute shopping opportunities. The first few times, this was in the evening: a few people make noises about needing the gallery open in the evening, but realistically everyone is home and unwilling to go out after dark. This year, it was a matter of keeping standard open house hours, noon to 5:00 pm, to make things easier for those off for Christmas Eve but not to get in the way of family obligations. Whether it was this, the recent interview in the Dallas Observer, or a general pent-up demand for carnivorous plants, the last Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas of 2021 was the best ever, and I thank everyone who showed up.
Among many other things, this show found homes for several enclosures designed and constructed during lockdown, along with others intended to be picked up after the holiday season. This, combined with a tentative rental situation throughout the Dallas area starting in 2022, means that if you haven’t been to an open house in a while, the lineup of enclosures has drastically changed. (This, incidentally, is why you won’t see another open house for a few weeks: constructing new enclosures takes time.)
Once again, many thanks to everyone who showed up, both purchasers and interested bystanders (the highest compliment anyone has paid in the last two years came from the very earnest and very considerate person who offered to make a donation for letting her come in, and I told her what I tell everyone: as much as it’s appreciated, getting the word out that the Triffid Ranch exists is a greater help), and I hope that the plants given as gifts made the recipients as happy as you were. For those who want to come back, as well as those who haven’t been here yet, the next open house is now scheduled for January 15, 2022, from noon until 5:00 pm. Feel free to spread the word.
Well, Danny Gallagher’s interview in the Dallas Observer drew some attention, and the crowd coming out for the third Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas open house was quite lively. It was a nice mix between old friends and new people who knew nothing about the gallery before now, encouraged by the unseasonably warm weather last week finally breaking and making the place feel like a typical Dallas Christmas for a day. (Not that it’ll last: after Tuesday, we’re going right back to temperatures more suited for April than December, but it’s not like I get a say in the matter.)
As a little aside, because of the way the gallery is arranged to maximize available space, most of the enclosures are set on shelves to allow maximum enjoyment by people of “average” height. Because there’s no such thing as “average,” because I’m abnormally tall in an extremely short family, and kids are definitely outside of an “average” height range, the gallery offers several stepstools and ladders to allow better access to enclosure details. If you don’t see one, or if they’re all being used at an open house, please don’t hesitate to ask for one. (If nothing else came from a year of lockdown, at least a deep research dive into museum display design opened up a lot of considerations. Unfortunately, the front porch isn’t ADA-compliant yet, but it’s a matter of doing what can be done in the interim.)
As for remaining Nightmare Weekend events, since Christmas is on a Saturday this year, a lot of people will be off on Friday, so we’ll be open from noon until 5:00 pm for the last open house of 2021. After that, expect a big announcement on New Year’s Day, because things are changing very rapidly.
This is now the seventh holiday season in which the Triffid Ranch has been open, and 2021 has been…interesting. Things have been remarkably quiet since before Thanksgiving, and this isn’t just about gallery traffic. Even the roads, and we’re close enough to Dallas’s notorious Central Expressway to hear the road noise, aren’t as frantic and frenetic as in previous years, and running errands on Sunday was a shock as to the small size of holiday crowds. I don’t know if it’s incipient concern about COVID-19 variants, a decided increase in online shopping, or if simply fewer people have any interest in going out this year, but for someone who grew up watching some of the best Dawn of the Dead cosplay on the planet at Dallas shopping malls through the Eighties and Nineties, this is almost surreal.
On a good side, that strange quiet meant quite a few people taking the risk of stopping by the gallery last Saturday, figuring that the relative lack of traffic meant that we and others wouldn’t be overloaded with visitors. That worked out exceptionally well, with many visitors just wanting to see particular carnivorous plants in person for the first time, and others wanting to take in the gallery’s unique ambiance.
One full weekend to go before the Christmas season ends, and we’ll be live on December 18 from noon until 5:00, and again on December 24 with the same hours. By next weekend, I should have news involving several of the enclosures, so make your plans now while they’re still available. And so it goes.
It’s December in Dallas, but you’d never know it by looking outside. Well, until today, anyway, after we flirted shamelessly with freezing temperatures last night. This is getting to be the New Normal: abnormally warm and still weather for three or four days, followed by a windstorm and then getting down to where we normally would be at the end of the year. It’s been great for those of us craving autumn colors (yes, in comparison to Vermont or northern Michigan, we’re pretty much coloring with pastels, but we also still have leaves on trees when those areas are buried in snow), but here’s hoping that the weather isn’t still playing this game in January and February. Right now, though, this weather reminds me of when I first moved to the Dallas area at the end of 1979, and it never stops being thrilling.
In the gallery, we’re much the same way. The 2021 show season is over and we still have months before the 2022 show season starts (both the Dallas and Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows and Texas Frightmare Weekend are on the schedule, and now it’s a matter of looking at other locales), so the next few months are focused on home events. Naturally, the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses are in full swing, but we’re also trying to make plans for January and February events, preferably without interruption from another icepocalypse. First, though, is getting through December.
(And as an aside, because it comes up this time of the year, December also means the beginning of the necessary dormancy period for temperate carnivorous plants, including pretty much every species and hybrid native to North America above the Rio Grande. This unfortunately means that we won’t have any Venus flytraps, North American pitcher plants, cobra plants, or US-native sundews or butterworts until after the beginning of April. Apologies, but this is for the plants’ sake.)
For those looking for outside activities, there’s an ulterior motive for recommending the Dinosaurs Live! nature trail at the Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary in McKinney this month. Namely, after you come back inside the museum proper and view all of the other joys inside, head down to the lower level to see the Nepenthes ventricosa enclosure “Lagerstätte” constructed specifically for the Heard. (The last week in December is shaping up to be a week of large enclosures, but that’s still being negotiated.) It’s getting nicely stabilized and acclimated to the new conditions, and one of these days I’ll have to come down to note all of the extra details thrown in to be a wiseacre. (Among other things, the backdrop on Lagerstätte contains at least one real tektite, as a tribute to Dr. Luis Alvarez.)
Another item on the ever-expanding schedule involves those who want either an existing enclosure or a custom work as a holiday gift, but aren’t quite sure if they have the room or appropriate location. This is completely understandable, because most enclosures are going to weigh more than most people expect, and the holidays are stressful enough without coming home to a shattered bureau or table covered with the remnants of a carnivore enclosure. In addition to delivery in the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area, consultation on the best place to install a new enclosure is just one of the services we offer.
Well, back to the linen mines: the next few weeks should include debuts of several new enclosures, including plans for one last big one for the Friday open house on Christmas Eve. If the weather holds this week (the last forecast was for temperatures this Thursday and Friday closer to those of early October), that just might happen.
Now that the out-of-town shows are over, it’s time to get back into the gallery and open up for the rest of the year. The first Nightmare Weekend Before Christmas for 2021 ran without a hitch (other than discovering that a previous attendee had a fetish for swiping plant identification tags) on an unusually warm and sunny December weekend, even by Dallas standards. Unfortunately, some attendees learned for the first time that Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants need a winter dormancy, and that dormancy started last week, but that gave plenty of opportunity for the Asian pitcher plants and the bladderworts to shine.
One of the best things about ongoing events such as these is having the opportunity to debut new enclosures all month long, even as existing enclosures go home with clients and visitors. This includes the last-minute commission: anyone wishing a custom enclosure by December 24 needs to get in an order by December 12 to guarantee its completion in time for the holiday. (Naturally, anyone wanting a new enclosure after the beginning of 2022 has plenty of time, especially the week before New Year’s Day.)
For those who missed out this last weekend, please note that the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses are plural: the gallery next opens from 12 noon to 5:00 pm on Saturdays December 11 and December 18, as well as on Friday, December 24. Tickets are encouraged but not necessary: they’re mostly intended to get an idea of how many people might be arriving on a particular date, so we know how much we need to bring in snacks and the like. In the interim, it’s time to get back to the linen mines, because the empty spots in the gallery shelves need filling.
Next on the refurbishing: the Nepenthes hemsleyana enclosure “Bat God.” When completed last year, the hemsleyana in it went into replanting shock for a short time, but then exploded with new growth. Over the last 11 months, it made up for its lost time, to the point where it’s starting to overtake the enclosure. The only problem with this: for some reason, new leaves grow and extend well-formed ribs to support new pitchers…but the pitchers aren’t growing. Changes in humidity, temperature, and air circulation all do the same thing: nothing.
With many plants, the best option for dealing with a lack of blooms or other structures is to cut the plant way back and watch it regrow. With Nepenthes pitcher plants, the best option from personal experience is to wait until the plant produces basal shoots, often simply called “basals,” off the roots or from the lower portions of the stem. The actual process is a bit more complex, but the idea is to cut the stem right above the basal and let the basal grow to full size. If the basals also don’t produce pitchers, then the problem lies elsewhere.
All of this gets tested in the next week, as a new basal sprouted early this week and promptly started growing as enthusiastically as the main vine. The plan is to remove the vine and let the basal grow on their own, take cuttings from the vine, get those rooted, and see how many of them succeed. If things work well, this not only means that “Bat God” has a hemsleyana with big prominent lower and upper pitchers so visitors can see the famed bat-attracting pitchers, but rerooted cuttings should be established and ready to be transplanted in time for the big Triffid Ranch event at Texas Frightmare Weekend next April.
Any way this works out, the renovations and updates on available Triffid Ranch enclosures continue, as well as maintenance on previously purchased enclosures. It’s going to be a busy winter.
As of the end of the month, it’s been two years since the Triffid Ranch moved to its next stage, and nearly two years since lockdown shut down that next stage and caused everyone to regroup. Two years later, we’re still dealing with some of the shakeout, and we’re making multiple plans to minimize the damage, to everyone, if lockdown has to happen again. It’s been two years of learning the people you can absolutely depend upon, the people who know how and when to move out of the way, and the people as dependable as a two-dollar phone. All of that is preamble, and the plan is to gather it together and really get going in 2022.
A lot has happened over the last month, and we now have a little over six weeks until everyone starts screaming “Happy New Year!” and puking on each other. Currently, the gallery is on temporary hiatus for the rest of this week and the first half of the next, just to get everything ready and get several new enclosures ready for their debut. Everything starts up with a road trip to Austin to show off new enclosures at the Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays show at Palmer Event Center on November 27 and 28, with this as much an opportunity to talk with people about the possibility of a touring Triffid Ranch exhibition as anything else. (When working with living organisms, the logistics of where, when, and how to move enclosures takes on a special focus.) This will be the last show outside of Dallas in 2021, as well as the last show in Austin (so far) until June 2022.
After getting back and unloading, it’s a matter of getting ready for December fun. As in years past, the gallery will be open for the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses on December 4, 11, and 18, from 12 noon to 5:00 pm. In years past, we had requests to open on the evening of Christmas Eve where the requestors ghosted, but we also have plenty of potential attendees who can’t come out because they normally work weekends, so we’ll also open the gallery on December 24 from noon until 5:00 pm. (After that, it’s time to head back home and watch the best documentary about Dallas retail ever made with friends.) Expect a lot of surprises during the Nightmare Weekends, as the idea is to reveal new enclosures at each open house, and there’s a lot of enclosure ideas currently on standby.
After that, the beginning of 2022 won’t be a slack period, either. We just finished a major upgrade to wireless connectivity to allow better streaming video options, so the Twitch videos should start up again, and it’s time to start lecture events again, both at the Heard Museum and with DFW Tap Talks. This is on top of talking with other galleries through Texas about exhibitions and curated shows. Oh, it’s going to be an interesting year.
Far be it for me to steal a byline from the local writer best known as “The James Lipton of Fandom,” but the 2021 Best in DFW Reader’s Choice Awards were announced today, and the Triffid Ranch won Bronze in “Best Art Gallery.” Many thanks to everyone who voted, and I promise not to let this honor go to my head.
It was quiet, and it was concise. The beginning of November is always a relatively quiet time, when cooler weather encourages everyone to stay in and bolster themselves before the holiday season starts. As such, the last autumn open house for 2021 went without major issue, and now it’s time to get everything ready for winter.
The main upshot of last weekend’s show is that Venus flytrap and North American pitcher plant season is now over. Between shorter days and cooler temperatures, these, temperate sundews, and the Australian triggerplants are going into winter dormancy, so they’ll be missing from Triffid Ranch shows until the beginning of April. The good news is that with a long winter nap, all of these are more likely to have a good blooming season in spring, so keep an eye open for the 2022 Manchester United Flower Show toward the middle of spring.