Category Archives: Gallery

State of the Gallery: November 2022

We’re now on the final approach on the end of 2022, with all this entails. Combine last week’s weather’s repeated flirtations with freezing temperatures with this week’s blatant PDAs, and the flytraps and pitcher plants are now nicely on their way to their needed dormancy. What this means is that the early morning hours previously dedicated to watering and weeding can be put toward other productive efforts, as well as having an excellent excuse for staying indoors. Yep, it’s time to get back to the gallery renovation.

Besides the ongoing buildup in the front area and hallway, the back and main gallery continues with its creative reconstruction, including a massive expansion of display space. This, of course, means a comparable expansion of new enclosures to fill said space. The plan is to have the whole gallery filled by mid-February, with the hope for at least one new unique enclosure every other week. Naturally, this is dependent upon how badly the various celestial and infernal forces that run the universe want to mess with the schedule, but that’s the hope.

As for shows and events away from the gallery, the last show outside of Dallas for 2022 comes in next week, when the Triffid Ranch heads out for its sixth Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays show, out at the Palmer Events Center in downtown Austin. After coming back, there’s a very good likelihood of other one-evening shows throughout the rest of the year, and I’m just awaiting word. Obviously, they’re at times that don’t conflict with the return of the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses through December, because those are now practically a tradition around here, and I have a sneaking suspicion that we’re going to need a good dose of green on Saturday afternoons this December.

In related developments, the gallery had one more visitor than the usual open house logs showed: client appointments occasionally bring up all sorts of surprises. In this case, the critter above showed up while waiting for a client, saw the “SUCKER” neon sign on my forehead, and moved right in. All efforts to find who he belongs to (he’s been chipped and declawed, although the chip apparently gives the contact info for a pet rescue shut down since lockdown and never updated) have been for naught, so now his name is “Parker,” because from the moment I wake up in the morning, he’s wanting to talk about the bonus situation. Please come by the gallery at the next event (including the open house on November 19) and buy lots of plants, because what spare funds that aren’t going into the pet deposit are going into food, and he eats a LOT.

Finally, after the concern earlier this year about having to move or shut down the gallery based on the purchase of the industrial park in which it sits, there may be some interesting and much appreciated developments in 2023. Let’s get through the holiday season before worrying about that, though. December is going to be weird enough.

The Aftermath: The Absolutely Final, Full-Stop, Cross-My-Heart-and-Hope-to-Die Porch Sale of 2022

18 months after the first Triffid Ranch carnivorous Plant Porch Sale started out of expediency, they have to stop for a while. The biggest reason is for allowing all of the temperate carnivorous plants in the inventory to go dormant for the winter, and this coincides with a massive cold wave hitting in the second week of November that regularly pushed or exceeded freezing temperatures for most of the Dallas area. The threadleaf pitcher plants lost their famed leaves and died back to their core, the triggerplants lost their blooms, the Sarracenia pitcher plants show the first signs of windburn at the tips of their pitchers, the “Aki Ryu” Venus flytraps are all the color of fresh pomegranate juice, and all is right with the world. This means that subsequent Triffid Ranch shows won’t have any of these until at least the end of March, and that’s exactly how it should be.

That last first weekend in November, though, was absolutely perfect for the last opportunity to show off what all of the plants would look like come spring, and a great opportunity as well to show off their insect-capturing adaptations. If I had to design a final weekend for outdoor Triffid Ranch shows, I literally couldn’t have done better than that weekend, and it just means that besides subsequent open houses being indoors, I now have only four months to make plans for how to exceed this for 2023.

As mentioned earlier, while this is the end of the outdoor show season at the Triffid Ranch, it’s not the end of Triffid Ranch shows and events in general. Right now, November 19 marks the last open house of the month, but that’s only because everything is going into a truck and heading to Austin for the Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays show at Palmer Events Center on November 26 and 27. The subsequent Monday morning, everything comes back to Dallas in preparation for the return of the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas open houses, where the Triffid Ranch is open every Saturday in December, including Christmas Eve. And that’s just the events at the gallery: as with the rest of the year, this December is going to be the busiest since the gallery opened, and as soon as I get confirmation on a couple of events, I’ll get the word out.

In the meantime, many thanks to everyone who came out for Porch Sales this year, both first-timers and regulars. I promised lots of surprises this time last year for 2022, and you’ll really be surprised at what’s coming for 2023.

20 Minutes Into the Future…

A lot of things are going on today, including my grandmother’s 99th birthday (alternately, the twentieth anniversary of her ascension as the Queen of Evil), and combining evening events with a Monday means that a lot of folks might avoid the rise of the big yellow hurty thing in the sky. For those who risked immolation in the deadly rays of the daystar, you might have caught a certain fast-talking pedant on Good Morning Texas talking with Hannah Davis. For those of us whose life in Dallas is a continuous cosplay of the film Near Dark, video will be available soon. Either way, between this and last weekend’s show at the Dallas Arboretum, look for a new announcement on an absolute last, final, full-stop, cross-my-hear-and-hope-to-die Porch Sale for November 6 to go with the Goth Flea Market at Panoptikon on November 5. And just think: it’s only going to get busier around here before New Year’s Day.

EDIT: And the whole video is now live. Feel free to pass it along.

The Aftermath: The (Presumably) Last Porch Sale of 2022

For what was originally intended to be a temporary drive-up event deep in the throes of Dallas COVID lockdown, the Triffid Ranch Porch Sales have turned out to be remarkably popular and successful. A quarter of a decade after the first, not only are they going strong, but new visitors courtesy of Atlas Obscura and the Dallas Observer keep coming. In a better world, the Porch Sales would continue all year, but two factors keep getting in the way. The first is that the temperate carnivores, particularly the Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants, have to go into dormancy over the winter, which means they’re usually looking pretty scraggly by New Year’s Eve. The second is the reason they’re looking scraggly: we may not get below freezing in the Dallas area until the end of the year, but it gets cold enough, and setting up and tearing down a tent in near-freezing torrential rains is entertainment for a certain type of person I hope never to meet. Thus, with great regret, future Triffid Ranch events move inside for the year and into 2023, because visitors would prefer to get out from the torrential rains, too.

With that said, I wish to express the greatest thanks to everyone coming out for Porch Sales in 2023, from the families wanting to see live carnivorous plants for the first time to the regulars who just wanted to see what I was up to THIS time. A lot of plans were delayed this year due to circumstances, but the idea is to bring a whole new level to the Porch Sales next year, and I hope we can all have a blast with it when they restart next March or April. Since the Deep Ellum Arts Festival isn’t coming back, somebody has to step in and fill the niche.

Now, this isn’t the last Triffid Ranch event of 2022, and it may not even be the absolute last Porch Sale. The Triffid Ranch moves to the Dallas Arboretum on October 28 through 30, with a Learn to Grow presentation at 11:00 am Friday and then an ongoing plant show all weekend, and then we hop over to the famed Dallas goth club Panoptikon for the return of the Panoptikon Flea Market/Cookout/Cocktails on November 5. Thanks to a big upcoming development (of which you’ll hear much on Halloween), the gallery will probably open on November 6 for folks who couldn’t make the Panoptikon Flea Market. After that? Sleep. Blessed sleep, alongside the Sarracenia if I can help it.

State of the Gallery: October 2022

On final approach to the end of the year, and Busy Season at the Triffid Ranch is up and going from now until New Year’s Eve. Some of the frantic activity is due to the Halloween season, where everybody wants to get spooooooky plants. Some of the frantic activity is because of the impending general holiday season. The biggest burst of action, though, comes from the drastic changes at the gallery since the end of last year, and it’s time to ride that all the way into 2023.

(And along that line, it’s time to ask a favor of regular attendees and occasional visitors, as well as those understanding of the sad reality that currently polystyrene is a plastic nearly impossible to recycle with current technology. To wit, I’m looking for odd-looking Styrofoam packaging, such as from appliances [the inserts holding the rotating trays of microwave ovens are very desired], as well as any other chunks otherwise destined for the landfill, in order to finish up the back area of the gallery before the weather gets foul. Please feel free to give a shout if you have something you need to get rid of, and I’m very happy to pick up.)

Because this is the busy season as far as carnivorous plants are concerned, the Triffid Ranch is going to be on the road quite a bit for the next few weeks, including booths with the Crow’s Alley Flea Market on October 15 and Dallas’s best goth club Panoptikon on November 5, but the biggest event so far is the three-day lecture and show at the Dallas Arboretum on October 28 through 30. (As much as I’d love to have an event on Halloween night, various situations conspire to keep that from happening, but the last Triffid Ranch Porch Sale of 2022 starts on Saturday, October 22 at 10:00 am and runs until 3:00 pm, out in front of the gallery.) For those seeking temperate carnivorous plants such as Venus flytraps or North American pitcher plants, the Panoptikon Goth Garage Sale will be the last time until next April where you can buy either, as they all really need to go dormant for the winter after that. (Tropical carnivores such as Asian pitcher plants and sundews are available all year round, so don’t let that stop you from coming to upcoming events.)

As for gallery events, the rush of events in October means that the gallery won’t have another open house until the middle of November, but that means that the place will have a new rush of enclosures debuting by November 19. I won’t say much more, other than that the last few months of work combine new enclosure concepts with new materials and new plants, meaning that new visitors to the gallery are going to be extremely surprised by the time the annual Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas weekend events start on December 3.

And on that subject, because of other developments, it’s time to announce that those wanting custom plant enclosures for the holiday season need to make an appointment by November 23, because booking spaces are going to be filled until after the beginning of January 2023. As it is, based on last year, this will be the first year where new enclosure designs are going to be stockpiled until there’s room to plant and display them, because even with the gallery expansion and renovation, it’s a matter of available room.

Finally, we’re still two months out, but now is a good time to mention plans for a New Year’s Eve event at the gallery, early enough that people can come out before going to planned NYE parties but with the opportunity to thank everyone who has stuck with this silly little endeavor for the last year. So far this year, this has been the best the Triffid Ranch has ever seen, and it’s time to return the love. Keep checking back for details, but I have Ideas.

The Aftermath: October 2022 Triffid Ranch Open House

And now we’re getting into the homestretch. 89 days until the beginning of 2023 in the Gregorian calendar, 80 days until Christmas Eve, and precisely four weeks until Halloween. This is when things start getting busy at the Triffid Ranch, between the understandable interest in spooky plants, the Texas heat finally letting up, and the realization that we only have about a month before we have to pull out jackets and turn on the heat in the mornings. Heck, a month after that, we might see the first frost since last March.

In the interim, because the next four weekends are going to be just too nice to be trapped inside, the Triffid Ranch opened up for one big open house on October 1, because it’s going to be a while before the next one. Everything is moving outside, either for the last Porch Sales of the season or for other outside shows, giving a chance to get in some further updates to the gallery renovations and move in a slew of new enclosures. The idea is that by the end of November, if you thought the first stages of the gallery renovation were nicely surprising, you’ll be in shock as to what can get done in two months. Besides, the Porch Sales keep me off the streets and out of trouble.

As mentioned before, everything moves outside in October, with the Porch Sales winding down on October 8 and 22 and events going on the road on October 15 and 28 through 30. After that, the last out-of-gallery show for 2022 will be the Blood Over Texas Horror For the Holidays show in Austin on November 26 and 27, and then things really get busy.

The Porch Sales Continue: September 24, 2022

North Texas may be drier than a Dorothy Parker insult, but that just makes getting out and doing things that much sweeter. Our famously flexible weather makes most of us meteorological experts, if only so we don’t have to discuss politics, and most of that is in a desperate need to know “If I go out today, will I die?” Well, the heat finally broke, with the odds being pretty good that we won’t have any more of our typical summer weather until next May, with stunningly blue skies during the day and unusually clear and crisp skies all night. In other words, we can go outside without bursting into flame, and that’s what happened at the Triffid Ranch last weekend.

For those who haven’t been to Dallas, or who haven’t been here long, it’s time for caveats. Generally, the rainier things get in October and November, the less likely we’ll get severe cold weather December through February. That’s not an absolute, as February 2021 proved, but it’s true more often than not. Right now, the immediate Triffid Ranch area hasn’t received a drop of rain since the big Labor Day Weekend storm on September 4, and the last fall this dry was back in 2012, leading to the famed Christmas Day 2012 blizzard. Now, five minutes after I type this, we could get another 20 centimeters of rain, but right now, it’s dry and crisp, and autumn in Texas doesn’t get better than this.

This coming weekend, partly because of vague chances of downpours and the opportunity to show off new developments, the party moves inside, with a traditional Triffid Ranch open house running on October 1 from noon until 5:00 pm. Don’t worry: the Porch Sales are coming back, and they’ll be running again on October 8 and 22. It’s just that the Triffid Ranch hits the road in October, with a Crow’s Alley Flea Market event at Outfit Brewing in Dallas on October 15, running from 5:00 to 10:00 pm, and the big Dallas Arboretum Halloween lecture and sale running from October 28 to 30. Please come out to buy lots of plants: I don’t have the time to develop my own safe and effective vaccine for sleep, so I need to hire someone to do the work for me.

The September Porch Sales Continue

You know that old trope in war and horror movies, involving the red-shirt who stands up when everyone else is worried about snipers and/or monsters, exclaims “Everything’s fine! Come on out!”, and gets pranged in the head in front of compatriots and audience? That’s what planning for outdoor events in Texas is like. Plan for weeks to take advantage of National Weather Service predictions of spectacular weather, and we get thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes, and the occasional autumn heat wave. There’s a reason why armadillos, with all their armor, dig burrows.

That’s what’s happening in North Texas right now: most years, the third full week of September is when the summer heat finally breaks with a massive thunderstorm and then things come out the other side clean and cool. This may or may not happen, and if we follow what happened during the 2012 drought, we may not see a drop of rain until Christmas Day. I look at it very prosaically: one big storm around Labor Day to spook everyone, and then weekend after weekend of fabulous conditions to encourage people to take a risk and get out…in October.

It’s not October yet, but the Porch Sales continue, with the last September Porch Sale running Saturday, September 24 from 10 am to 3 pm. After that, things move inside on October 1 for an open house to show off new enclosures, and then back outside until Halloween weekend. As for Halloween…oh, the plans to be shared very, very soon.

The Triffid Ranch in the News

Well, word of the Triffid Ranch’s renovation is getting out, starting with this very nice writeup in the Dallas Observer from writer Kendall Morgan. Now to complete said renovation and validate others’ trust in making the Triffid Ranch a Dallas-area destination. (The current plan is to open the gallery for a major open house on October 1 from noon until 5:00 pm to debut new enclosures and the renovation work so far, with a Porch Sale on September 24 to give everyone their carnivorous plant fixes in the interim, and then another major open house on Halloween weekend. I hope this works to everyone’s satisfaction.)

State of the Gallery: September 2022

(For those coming in late, the following is a regular feature highlighting developments involving the Texas Triffid Ranch, including new features, events, and general strangeness. For more of this delivered directly to your mailbox, please consider the newsletter.)

The end of summer 2022 isn’t confirmed yet, and based on previous Dallas weather trends, we can’t confirm it until the end of November. It sure feels like it, though. The convection oven heat faced by the Dallas area all November finally broke on August 22, when we got a full summer of rain in the space of about two hours. The hits kept coming, too, including a surprise storm on September 4 that hit the area with hurricane-force winds. If we can trust standard Texas weather trends, this means that the next couple of months will be comprised of cool and very dry days, with spectacular night skies and a relaxed need for air conditioning, and that’s what the National Weather Service is predicting as of this writing. However, as anyone who has lived in Texas for more than three weeks already knows, we could go to an autumn where we won’t see a drop of rain until Christmas Day, and we could also go to an autumn with torrential rains and even subfreezing temperatures around Halloween. It’s happened before.

Based on the current forecast, though, we’re looking at mild temperatures with gentle nights and no appreciable precipitation until the end of the month, so that means one thing. This means that it’s time to get to work on the gallery. Weather like this is perfect for painting, and there’s a LOT of painting to be done over the rest of the season.

Firstly, because the brain-frying heat of summer is gone, the regular Triffid Ranch events are now outdoors, with lots of opportunities between now and Halloween. For September, the Porch Sales return on Saturdays, running on September 17 and 24 from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm on both days. Since the current weather means that the Sarracenia and flytraps are making up for lost time, it’s a perfect time to come out, look around, and figure out which plants you really need to take home.

While the Porch Sales are going on, the gallery interior continues its renovation, with work starting on the main area toward the back of the space. That’s another reason why I continue to focus on the weather, because autumns in Texas produce the right weather for bulk painting, where it’s not so hot that the paint starts drying as it leaves the sprayer and not so cold that it takes forever to dry. If anything, painting in the evening means a particularly strong and durable paint, as the paint dries slowly under cooler temps overnight and then bakes on in the afternoon. This means that a whole load of enclosures forced to wait because of summer heat are finishing up right now, and the plan is to have an evening open house to show them off on October 1.

(In that vein, because of the gallery’s expansion, it’s actually possible to create multiple enclosure series, which can be shown both collectively and individually. I’m finishing working on the concept for one such series that should be available for viewing at the October 1 open house, that should be as odd as anything else that’s ever come out of the Triffid Ranch before. Keep checking back.)

In ongoing developments, I also want to thank everyone who voted for the Triffid Ranch in both the Dallas Morning News Best of DFW Awards and the Dallas Observer Best of Dallas Awards nominations. The Best of DFW results won’t be available until November, but the Best of Dallas awards will be announced on September 22, with a video discussion of both critics’ choice and readers’ choice winners that evening. The real fun will be watching friends and cohorts win their own awards: there’s a lot going on in this town, and every little boost helps out.

Seeing as how just having weekly Porch Sales and obsessively painting and cutting foam all week isn’t stimulating enough, there’s always more. To start out, the Triffid Ranch is a proud vendor at the Angel Stakes charity benefit from the Vampire Court of Dallas on Sunday, September 18 from 6:00 am to midnight. This is just the start of non-gallery events over the rest of the year, including a Halloween weekend lecture at the Dallas Arboretum, so keep checking back for details as I get them.

And along that line, a prompt for the near future. This Halloween, since the day itself falls on a Monday this year, promises an extra-long weekend, and since I no longer have any family obligations for Halloween, either by blood or marriage, it’s time to try a blowout for the end of the season. Again, details will follow, but it just might include the black-light carnivorous plant show I’ve been promising at the gallery since its Valley View Center days, as well as a celebration of my grandmother’s 99th birthday. The gallery has the room now, and testing commences.

And in long-term plans, there’s always the risk of making major plans and having extenuating circumstances interfere, but expect a lot of news about 2023 events in the next month. The move by Texas Frightmare Weekend to run at the end of May instead of the usual first weekend frees up that first weekend, and it’s time to get more involved in local art events. Even more importantly, the official announcement for the Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2023 schedule comes out on Halloween Day, and this may – MAY – involve new cities on the schedule. I don’t know about anybody else, but I can’t wait.

The Aftermath: Labor Day 2022 Open House

I sure know how to pick an open house date. Labor Day Weekend 2022 started out beautifully: moderate temperatures, sunny skies, and a general feeling of relaxation,. Friday night moved into Saturday, and the weather was just perfect. Sunday can’t be even better than this, could it? Well, the morning was…

…and then the storm hit that afternoon. For those outside of the Dallas area, things went sideways in the space of about ten minutes, as a massive storm roared out of the north. I mean “roar” literally: most of the Dallas area was hit with hurricane-force winds, followed by heavy rain, with downed trees and power lines all over. The gallery was relatively unscathed, although it was touch and go for a while, but the original plan to move everything outside for a Porch Sale would have been a disaster. It wasn’t much better going home, as a whole series of power poles went down in the storm and took out power for about 9 hours, and internet access only came back today. Let’s just say that I’m very glad that Sarracenia are adapted to life in hurricane zones, because they got a little touch of home that Sunday.

With that, I have to thank everyone who came out for the open house, because a lot rushed out to get home before the storm hit and discovered the storm was faster. This definitely qualified as the worst weather the gallery has faced since October 2019, and that involved a literal tornado that hopped over the gallery and took out a subdivision just due east, thereby taking out power for the whole area for nearly a week. It can always be worse.

After this weekend, it’s taking a risk, but the Porch Sales return on September 10 and run from 10 am to 3 pm, and keep going, weather permitting, until after Halloween. For those who couldn’t make it this week, let’s try it again.

State of the Gallery: August 2022

(Dedicated to the memory of Nancy Crawford, whose 90th birthday would have been today. Without her gentle encouragement for 20 years, the Triffid Ranch probably never would have happened.)

Ever been in an amusement park and got in line for a new rollercoaster, and right when you get strapped into the car and sent on your way, the earth gives way and all of you go barreling into an abyss that lay beneath the whole park? And when you gently hit bottom, you find yourself cornered in a city full of vampires that have been feeding on humans above them for centuries? And you manage to take on the vampires with a spare boba tea straw that fell from above, organize the various servant races the vampires have been breeding for menial labor and midnight snacks, relay light from the surface via spare fiber optic cables buried by the CIA, and burn the vampires to ash? And then when you get back to the surface, you discover that the vampires were the only thing keeping a species of sentient exoparasite from the rim of the galaxy and a species of hyperintelligent dinosaur from taking over Earth themselves, and your chainsaw is in the shop? And when you lock them all in stasis tombs deep below the surface of Ganymede, you find artifacts from an indescribably ancient civilization that lead you to their perfectly preserved home inside a series of nested Dyson spheres, and you get exclusive real estate rights to the equivalent living area of three billion Earths?

That’s what August 2022 has been like, but with carnivorous plants.

The best part? 2022 has been this wild, and we still have four months left.

Folks outside of the Dallas area might have heard or read about the bit of rain we got on August 22. The Tallahassee-level deluge wasn’t enough to get us out of severe drought yet, nor will the expected rains through the beginning of September, arriving about a month early compared to most years. However, every bit helps, as do the delightfully cool temperatures right now as compared to three weeks ago. The last time I experienced an August that ended like this was in 1987 (I spent my 21st birthday slogging through rainwater so high that it came up to the axles on my bicycle, and I was having the time of my life doing so), and considering how 1987 went, I’m packing a spare parachute just in case somebody else needs it.

The gallery itself continues to undergo its ongoing renovation and metamorphosis, with the front area, now mercifully entourage-free so that visitors can actually get into the place, pretty much finished and ready for new enclosures. The renovation and remodeling of the back area begins in September, although new lighting and shelves are already there. Considering how well the last open house in August went, the first open house of September attempts to continue the tradition, only moving from Saturday to Sunday, September 4 in order to allow folks who couldn’t get to the gallery on Saturdays to have a chance. Keep coming back through the year and take one picture each time, and you’ll get a view worthy of George Pal and Wah Chang.

One of the other benefits of the ongoing cool and wet outside is that the Sarracenia and flytraps, long semi-dormant in the extreme heat of July and August, are now simply exploding with new growth. as things cool off, the regular Triffid Ranch events move outside for a return of the Porch Sales. Depending upon the weather, expect Porch Sales every weekend until Halloween (in case of rain, everything moves inside) every weekend where the Triffid Ranch isn’t attending a show elsewhere. In addition, the new Porch Sales will feature also guest vendors, the number to be announced in the future.

And speaking of shows, it’s time for a range of local and out-of-town shows in the next couple of months. Unfortunately, the Triffid Ranch can’t be out for this weekend’s Plantopia in Arlington, but I’m signed up for the Crow’s Alley Flea Market in Bedford on October 15 and 29, and then there’s the long-running Blood Over Texas Horror for the Holidays two-day event at the Palmer Events Center in Austin on November 26 and 27. After THAT, it’s all local events at the gallery for the rest of 2022. Since the Day Job offers the whole last week of 2022 as additional vacation time, there may be one last big event before New Year’s Day 2023, but that’s still being discussed.

(On the subject of 2023, things got very interesting with Texas Frightmare Weekend, moving for next year to the Irving Convention Center for Memorial Day weekend. As brought up before, TFW moved to the Irving Convention Center next year due to massive upgrades to the whole of Terminal C at DFW Airport, and one of the upshots was the ability to upgrade to 10×10 spaces as opposed to the smaller spaces in which the Triffid Ranch had been presenting plants since 2009. This means a LOT more plants, enclosures, and other possibilities, and the next eight months are dedicated to stretching the limits of enclosure design and technology specifically to take advantage of the increased space.)

Finally, there’s still a bit over a week to vote in the Dallas Observer Best of Dallas Awards, and the Triffid Ranch was nominated for “Best Garden Center,” so give love to all of the other things that make Dallas such a fun city when we put our minds to it. Me, I’m happy to be nominated, but if the Triffid Ranch should win, the afterparty open house is going to be the stuff of legends.

In the interim, it’s back to the linen mines: as mentioned, the renovations continue, and with them comes a ridiculous amount of room for new enclosures. Again, come out to the gallery on September 4 to get a view now, and be amazed at how much gets put in between then and the end of the year, especially compared to last year. You’ll boogie ’til you puke.

The Aftermath: Seventh Anniversary Open House

Sometimes it’s hard to believe how far the Triffid Ranch has come: it’s been fourteen years since the first-ever Triffid Ranch event and seven since the original gallery opened at Valley View Center, and there’s always something new to put together. This time around, the first stages of the new gallery renovation were reasonably complete, with oh so much more to do in the back area of the gallery and only so many 78-hour days to best exploit. (I kid: I never use anything that short.) Between the revised front area, the revamped and relit hallway, and the space available for additional tables, the beginning of Year Eight was as impressive as hoped back when this all started in the spring.

Considering that the opening date was also the birthday for one of the ea (rly visitors, this was one hell of a birthday. There’s still so much more to do (the whole back area hasn’t had a stem-to-stern revision since the middle of 2020), but at least now it’s a matter of knowing how much is left instead of how much needs to be done first.

To stir things up a little bit, to take advantage of the long Labor Day weekend, and to facilitate those whose work or life schedules keep them from being able to attend Saturday open houses, the next Triffid Ranch open house is on Sunday, September 4, running from noon until 5:00 pm. See you then.

2022 Open Houses: The August Edition

As of August 22, the months of lack of rainfall at the Triffid Ranch were rectified. In fact, Dallas’s biggest concern right now involves flash flooding for the rest of the week. At the moment, both the gallery and the greenhouse are in good shape, and living near the top of a hill has its advantages. The main thing is that a dearth of appreciable precipitation, an issue since last June, is now rectified, and the carnivores are now awash in, quite literally, more water than they know what to do with. For the Sarracenia in particular, the rain and subsequent high humidity are long-awaited blessings, and we’re apparently going to get a lot of it over the next week.

Before our much-appreciated break in the heat, though, the ongoing heat and dust are a usual issue in August in Texas, and that continues in most years until the end of September. This means that people are loath to get out into the heat if they can possibly help it, and if they do, it’s usually for as long a luxuriation in air conditioning as can be managed. Ergo, things were a little slow at the Triffid Ranch open houses this year, but that just gave more time to focus on finishing things for the seventh anniversary evening open house on August 27.

As for the future, those plans have to wait until after the August 27 anniversary event. One thing is for sure: if the brutal heat doesn’t return and this is truly the end of temperatures above blood temperature in the Dallas area, the outdoor Porch Sales return in September…some with guests.

“Vote Now Space Cowboy…”

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?

2022 Open Houses: July 23

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

Even with the unrelenting heat, this week’s opening was enthusiastically received, and I can attest that it’s only going to get more lively once the heat eventually breaks. Yes, that will probably be the middle of October, but that’s Texas for you. In the meantime, the heat just means more of an excuse to stay inside and work on new additions and new enclosures, so look at the rest of July and all of August as an opportunity to rebuild reserves.
Sadly, the gallery will be closed on July 30 in order to prepare for Aquashella Dallas on August 6 and 7, but everything starts back up again on August 13, with evening events planned for August 27 and Labor Day weekend. See you then.

Upcoming August 2022 Events

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.)

2022 Open Houses: July 9 and 16

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.

State of the Gallery: July 2022

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?

Texas Triffid Ranch 3.0

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.

State of the Gallery: June 2022

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.

The Triffid Ranch Schedule…So Far

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.

Hemsleyana In the Belfry

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.”

2022 Porch Sales: May 28

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.

State of the Gallery: May 2022

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.

2022 Porch Sales: May 21

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.

Have a Safe Weekend

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.

Upcoming Events: 2022 Porch Sales

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.

The Aftermath: 2022 Manchester United Flower Show

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.

State of the Gallery: April 2022

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.

The Aftermath: April Open Houses

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.

Triffid Ranch Show Schedule: April 2022

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 Aftermath: March 2022 Open House the Third

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…

Have a Safe Weekend

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.)

State of the Gallery: March 2022

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…

The Aftermath: March 2022 Open House the Second

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.

The Aftermath: March 2022 Open House the First

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.

The Aftermath: Fifth Anniversary (At This Location) Open House

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.

Moving and moving on

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.

State of the Gallery: February 2022

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.

The Aftermath: Valentine’s Day Massacree and Carnivorous Plant Open House 2022

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.