Category Archives: Shows

The Aftermath: Dallas Arboretum Autumn at the Arboretum 2022 – 3

The end of October is always a very bittersweet time around the Triffid Ranch, and finishing off the growing season Autumn at the Arboretum at the Dallas Arboretum was particularly so. Yes, so many of the plants on display were going into winter dormancy and wouldn’t be capturing prey until March and April. Yes, with one exception, this marked the last non-gallery show of 2022. The end of October is especially painful for personal reasons, and previous memories are now broken beyond repair. However, this was the culmination of what has been the absolute best year the Texas Triffid Ranch has ever seen, and the looks on visitors’ faces as they had the chance to see a live flytrap for the first time or watch a pitcher plant attract flies made up for any remorse or regret. If there had to be a big signoff for the 2022 growing season, the Arboretum was the place to do it

On that note, I would like to give a shoutout to the staff at the Dallas Arboretum, who did an exemplary job at helping me get set up and broken down every day, and who were just as fascinated by the plants’ antics as the attendees. I want to give equal thanks to the attendees and visitors who kept peppering me with fascinating and lively questions about carnivore physiology and distribution, and a hurrah to my fellow vendors, who also had such a great weekend that I’d watch them leave hours before official closing because they were completely sold out. Oh, and both security and maintenance at the Arboretum deserve accolades, too: all of you had a serious job from open to close, and it was an honor to be among such professionals.

Further plans with the Arboretum? Since the original lecture was rained out, the next Learn to Grow lecture is officially on the schedule for May 5, 2023. Other than that, the Arboretum crew is focused right now on holiday events, but I would be ecstatic to be able to come back and show off carnivores again. As soon as I get word, I’ll pass it on.

Fin.

The Aftermath: Dallas Arboretum Autumn at the Arboretum 2022 – 2

A little secret for those wanting to see carnivorous plants in action: whether it’s in the wild or in captivity, the absolute best time is in late autumn. Firstly, most carnivores are at their greatest size and best color in order to attract insects before they go dormant, storing the nitrogen and phosphorus gathered in those final days in preparation for reemerging in spring. (This is way beyond my abilities at the moment, but any enterprising biology and botany students looking for ideas on a paper likely to get lots of popular and professional news coverage should look at the sheer number of insects caught in Sarracenia pitchers and ascertain whether the plant absorbs nutrients during its normal dormancy or if the plant only accesses and processes the insect stew inside the old pitchers after it starts to bloom. Either would help explain why so many Sarracenia pitchers remain green throughout the winter, only dying off after new pitchers start up again during the next growing season.) Secondly, the potential insect population is at its height, and it’s hungry. The normal sources for nectar and sap for insects such as flies, wasps, bees, and moths trickle dry by the middle of autumn, and those insects are determined to stave off dying of starvation for as long as they can. With many, it’s going for unattended soda or margaritas, but a lot go for the voluminous nectar secreted by various carnivorous plants, and they get frantic for what usually becomes their last meal.

The resultant arthropod feeding frenzy made showing carnivores at the Autumn at the Arboretum exhibition at the Dallas Arboretum particularly, erm, riveting. It’s one thing to discuss dispassionately how carnivores attract and capture insect prey. It’s something different when a crowd of twenty to thirty people watch different insects at different plants to see which one falls into a pitcher first, complete with cheers and groans when a big fly or sweat bee succumbs to the promise of more nectar in a pitcher float and doesn’t reemerge.

A little aside that the Arboretum attendees didn’t get to experience: driving a van full of pitcher plants back to the gallery on a Sunday evening and listening to the angry buzzes of insects trying to escape their impending tombs. One of these days, I’ll have to record audio: the only thing creepier is when the Sarracenia leucophylla pitchers first emerge and open toward the middle of May, only to fill with click beetles. I can only imagine a field of leucos with every pitcher loaded with click beetles, all thumping the inside of the pitchers as the sun comes up and the pitchers start warming in the sun.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Dallas Arboretum Autumn at the Arboretum 2022 – Introduction

As mentioned in the past, multiple times, one of the great joys of living in the Dallas area is that once autumn finally sets in, it seems to go on forever. Once we finally get free of summer temperatures from the end of September to the middle of October, it’s not just safe to go outside, but there’s so blasted much to do outside that the challenge is not to wear yourself out. The days are just long enough, and the weather enjoyable enough, that it’s even harder to go to bed on Sunday and go back to work on Monday than at other times of the year. Spring in Dallas is beautiful, but autumn in Dallas is glorious, and half of the time, it keeps going until the middle of December. In other words, it’s a perfect time for a carnivorous plant show at the Dallas Arboretum.

For those unfamiliar with the Dallas area, the Arboretum resides on the east side of White Rock Lake, Dallas’s original drinking water reservoir and major recreational site for the surrounding area. This means that the Arboretum alternates between its own unique exhibits and gardens and spectacular views of White Rock Lake and downtown Dallas to the west. During the main growing season, the Children’s Adventure Garden and the Rose Garden are justifiably famous, but one of the biggest events of the year is Autumn at the Arboretum, with the whole of the Arboretum appropriately decorated with fall foliage and ornaments. For those of us who resist the shift over to holiday displays and continue to scream “THIS IS HALLOWEEN” until after New Year’s Eve, Autumn at the Arboretum makes the inevitable slide to Dallas winter a little more tolerable. Oh, and did I mention the pumpkins? SO MANY PUMPKINS.

It was both an honor and surprise to be invited to show off carnivorous plants at the Arboretum this year: Arboretum staff had tried to get something on the schedule for a while (I’m proud to say that many of the Sarracenia in the carnivorous plant pool in the Children’s Adventure Garden are Triffid Ranch donations), but this was the first year everything actually clicked. After the deluge on Friday, the last weekend of October was cool and friendly, not so cool that jackets were necessary but also not so warm that visitors ended their perambulations early. You couldn’t have planned a better weekend than this for one last big outdoor show before all of the temperate carnivores started going dormant for the year, and the Triffid Ranch couldn’t have had a better location than right inside the front gate.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Goth Flea Market and Cookout at Panoptikon – November 2022

After Halloween, things slow significantly as far as Triffid Ranch shows are concerned. The flytraps and North American pitcher plants need to go into winter dormancy if they’re going to stay hale and healthy, and winter shows mean a significant risk of overly cold weather on the road, which hits the tropical carnivores in all sorts of ways. In the Dallas area, November events are always a little fraught, because we can have absolutely spectacular weather for the entirety of the month, we can have a repeat of 1993 and get subfreezing temperatures for two weeks, or we can have a repeat of 2016 and get hit with unnaturally hot conditions all the way into December. It’s a pleasure to report that at least this year, the first weekend of November was one of the best your humble gallery owner has ever encountered since moving here the first time in 1979, leading to the opportunity to drag plants to not one but two events on the same weekend. The first one, on November 5, was of especial note, because it involved Dallas’s premier goth club and event center, Panoptikon in downtown Dallas.

First, a bit of backstory. Over the last 15 years, Panoptikon has migrated around the Dallas area before settling in its current location, and always with the idea of doing more than simply being a nightclub. When the original Triffid Ranch location opened, the owners announced something a bit different: a goth flea market, where regulars and occasional attendees could bring used items, new items, and handmade items and spread the wealth in various ways. If nothing else, that original flea market was a venue where I met friends who still stay in touch to this day, and the original idea was to try holding future events every year or so.

As you can tell, it didn’t happen that way, but not for lack of trying. Between other events intruding, COVID-19, and getting vendors for the market, it took a while. That isn’t a permanent state, though, and this is the start of a partnership, to go with the dear friendship of the owners, for future Triffid Ranch presence at Panoptikon events. Now that the Porch Sales are over for the year, expect guest vendor appearances in the future, including more goth flea markets and charity events (you haven’t lived until you see the outpouring of support for toy drives during the holiday season), and I want to reciprocate for Panoptikon staff and crew events at the gallery as well. The live music feeds Panoptikon ran during lockdown kept me reasonably sane all through 2020 and 2021, and it’s time to return the favor.

The Aftermath: Learn to Grow at the Dallas Arboretum

One of the absolutes about any kind of horticulture lecture is “if the weather can ruin it, it will.” The plans for a discussion on carnivorous plants as part of the Learn to Grow series at the Dallas Arboretum originally started in spring, and traditionally October is a rather dry month for month. When the rains do come, though, watch out.

The morning of October 28 ran thusly: rain, rain, more rain, torrential downpours, and the occasional Texas Wall O’ Water. The area desperately needed that rainfall, and there’s something supremely beautiful about the Arboretum in heavy mist, but the constant warnings from the National Weather Service all week involving “waters of the firmament” kept potential lecture attendees from venturing out. Was this an issue? Absolutely not. Not only was the Arboretum filled with people wanting to see the Autumn at the Arboretum arrangements no matter what, but this was a perfect opportunity to meet Arboretum staff who had lots and lots of questions about carnivorous plant care. Sure, the lecture didn’t happen, but the discussions accomplished a lot of good.

As for future Dallas Arboretum lectures, the Learn to Grow lecture was rescheduled for May 5, 2023. This works out perfectly for multiple reasons: among other things, the traditional Texas Frightmare Weekend show usually scheduled for that weekend was moved to the end of May, meaning that the Triffid Ranch returns to the Arboretum loaded with flytraps, sundews, butterworts, bladderworts, and pitcher plants loaded with blooms. And if it rains again…well, speaking from 40 years of experience, May storms in Dallas are flashier than October storms, but they’re a lot more comfortable. Let’s see what happens.

Event News and Other Weirdness

Several bits of ephemera before a busy week of site updates, because if you thought this was a busy year, wait until 2023. Speaking of this year, due to significant interest in upcoming gallery events thanks to Good Morning Texas, the planned last Triffid Ranch Porch Sale of 2022 has been bumped forward a bit, with the absolute last one for this year running on Sunday, November 6 from 10 am to 3 pm. This will be the absolute last, final, full-stop, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die chance to view or purchase Venus flytraps or North American pitcher plants, because when they go back into dormancy starting in mid-November, that’s it until next April. Bestir thyselves on Sunday or miss out.

Also, now that the official announcement is out, it’s time to get the word out about the 2023 Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows. The Oddities & Curiosities Expos are undergoing through a bit of a change next year, with additional shows in new cities (the only reason why I’m not schlepping plants to Houston next year is that the Houston show is literally the weekend before the Dallas one), and existing ones either getting an additional day or much larger venues. The Austin O&C show on June 17 still runs at the Palmer Event Center, but the Dallas Expo on March 25 moved from the old Fair Park location to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in downtown Dallas. For those outside of Dallas, this means a much larger venue, considerably more parking, hotel space for out-of-towners within walking distance, and multiple Dallas Area Rapid Transit train routes passing by, or in the case of the Red Line, passing directly under the Center. Between these and Texas Frightmare Weekend, it’s going to be a lively new year.

The Aftermath: Crow’s Alley Dallas Flea Market 2022

The truism “If you don’t like Texas weather, wait five minutes” should come with an addendum: “You have four minutes to do EVERYTHING.” October weather makes things worse: Dallasites know in particular that when the weather shifts, it does so catastrophically, so a vague prediction of rain or thunderstorms leads everyone to rush out while the opportunity exists, or batten down and rush back outside once the debris stops falling. For those living in areas where everyone salivates over knowing exactly when a school-closing snowstorm hits, you understand the situation better than you know.

Hiding inside in anticipation, though, means missing out on some of the clearest skies you’ll ever see, which made the Crow’s Alley Flea Market gathering at Outfit Brewing such a relaxing experience. After the repeated near-tornadoes of September, getting out under clear and crisp evening skies for a plant show was worth the effort. The Crow’s Alley crew was both cheery and helpful, and working with them again is an option for next year. Outfit Brewing is a singularly cheery place, even for an involuntary non-drinker like me, and setting up in the interior courtyard was an honor. Once the weather allows more outdoor shows in spring, coming back to show off blooming carnivores is definitely in the cards.

Sadly, the window of outdoor event-friendly weather is closing, with the last outdoor Triffid Ranch show of 2022 running at the Dallas Arboretum from October 28 through 30 (and with the current weather forecast threatening inundation, thankfully the Friday show will be inside), but the plan for 2023 is to hit the ground running in April. With skies like these, it’s worth it.

The Aftermath: Dallas Vampire Court Angel Stakes 2022

In the last nearly 15 years of Triffid Ranch shows and events, I’ve been honored to show off plants at a lot of singularly interesting venues and locales. The Angel Stakes charity benefit held by the Vampire Court of Dallas definitely qualified: a charity casino and raffle? At the Haltom Theater in Haltom City? On a Sunday, in the middle of a Texas heat wave? Why, don’t mind if I do!

Firstly, high kudos to the Vampire Court: they managed to pull off their first non-Dallas event with no noticeable hiccups from the outside, and with a lot of very happy patrons. More kudos to the Haltom Theater: it’s a very well-done live music venue (with a bar & grille on the side) that could very easily become a regular venue for oddball events like this that don’t really fit into Fort Worth. Most of all, kudos to everyone who came out, because between meeting a slew of folks new to the Dallas/Fort Worth area and getting back in touch with some much-missed old friends, getting home at 2 am on a Sunday was completely worth the trip.

As for further adventures with the Vampire Court? That’s completely up to them: we’ve already talked about bringing plants to other events hosted by the Court, and now it’s a matter of confirming dates and times. One thing is certain, though: this is just the beginning.

The Aftermath: Aquashella Dallas 2022 – 7

And that’s how Aquashella Dallas 2022 ended. Two days of unrelentingly enthusiastic attendees, asking excellent questions, and eventually we had to pack it all in and go home. It’s always bittersweet when a show this good ends, and the only hope is to try it all over again next year and do it even better.

As always, I would like to thank the staff of Aquashella Dallas for a wonderful experience all the way around (the only issue all weekend, the outdoor temperature, was completely out of their control), and also many thanks need to be extended to the attendees and general visitors. You’re the people for whom i do this, and all of you made attending next year’s shows a certainty. Thank you again.

Fin.

The Aftermath: Aquashella Dallas 2022 – 6

One of the many perks available at Aquashella Dallas this year involved glasses. Specifically, every attendee received a pair of Fritz UV Coral Reef Viewing Glasses included with admission. According to attendees visiting the various live coral dealers throughout the show, these glasses filtered out blue light coming from the LED lights used everywhere, making the corals appear even more fluorescent than usual. Unfortunately, vendors didn’t qualify for glasses, but my gallery neighbor, who came out to view the show with friends, gave me his pair, and I’m waiting for a good cloudy day to see if these glasses offer unorthodox views of various carnivores, particularly Sarracenia pitcher plants.

This led to questions, and musing, and a possible course of action if what I seek actually exists. If it doesn’t exist, or if it’s not possible, you’ll never know, but if it does, expect a much more interactive display at next year’s show.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Aquashella Dallas 2022 – 5

(This space left blank, Just go to Aquashella Dallas next year, and get your tickets as soon as they’re available. Judging by the crowd here in 2022, the lines for same-day ticket sales are going to be long and very, very sweaty. Buy them in advance, so you have more time to check out the live coral displays.)

(Really. Just make plans for next year, or go to Chicago in October. You won’t regret it.)

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Aquashella Dallas 2022 – 4

A little sidenote about Triffid Ranch shows and events is that everything gets measured in “vans.” The stackable tubs used for moving plants and other show gear are a godsend for transport, and a standard U-Haul van packed to the gills has room for up to 16 tubs and still have room for shelving, tables, lights and battery (thank Arioch for LED lighting, because my current setup can run lights for two days without recharging), essential non-plant accessories (tablecloths, extension cords, ID tags, and cleaning supplies, among others), and hauling carts. (I always carry two: one big pneumatic-tired cart for hauling the heavy stuff, and a foldable cart for moving items in spaces where the big cart can’t fit.) If the show is local, there’s always the option of rushing back after unloading and unpacking to get more, venue and staff willing, but if the show is outside of Dallas, what I can jam into the van is all I’ll have. Larger trucks are an option, but finding a rental truck that also has air conditioning in the cargo area (a necessity in Texas in the summer, unless I’m driving solely at night and unpack first thing in the morning) also has to be balanced with potential sales versus the cost of fuel. It’s a tricky deal, which is part of the reason why Triffid Ranch booths at outside shows tend to be filled with lots of beginner plants as opposed to ones only of interest to specialists and collectors.

While there’s an advantage to being close enough to home that it’s possible to reload the van, that also has to be balanced. It’s really easy to have an excellent show on Saturday, completely fill another van for Sunday, and find yourself having to wrangle multiple trips to take everything back if Sunday’s show is a dud. Alternately, you can find yourself making so many sales on Saturday that not having enough surplus means you’re staring out over empty tables all Sunday, as most events and venues frown very hard on breaking down early. As I said, it’s a balance.

That said, I had high hopes for Aquashella Dallas, and attendees and staff outshone my best expectations. The only issue for attending other Aquashella shows is that based on this one, and the multiple return trips to the gallery to get more plants, I’m going to need a bigger truck.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Aquashella Dallas 2022 – 3

Newcomers to Dallas have every reason to be wary when a local asks “So…what brings you to Dallas?”, but it’s almost always for a legitimate and benevolent reason. Dallas was and is built off waves of people moving here from elsewhere (I myself came here on the big Oil Boom wave in the late 1970s/early 1980s), and there’s always a reason. Nobody just decides to pick up a dart, throw it at a map, and decide “Hey, I’m moving to Dallas today!” Whether it’s for family or career or school or because they fell in love with the place after seeing a rerun of the PBS adaptation of Ursula LeGuin’s The Lathe of Heaven, there’s always a story, and I for one love hearing those stories. It’s even better when those stories involve something that someone living here for four decades didn’t know about, and suddenly you have a serious conversation.

Suffice to say, Aquashella Dallas is FULL of stories. The absolute best part comes from casual tourists who have never been to North Texas in their lives: discovering that a particular event caused people from all over the planet to come to Dallas, in the middle of one of the worst heat waves in Texas history, means we must be doing something right, and we have to work harder to keep doing so.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Aquashella Dallas 2022 – 2

It’s been a very, very long time since I had the opportunity to go to a big aquarium show (early 1986, to be exact), and one of the things I’d forgotten was how dedicated aquatic people are to hitting as many shows as they can. It’s one thing for regular attendees of an annual show to plan life events around that one big show, and many people look at touring shows and plan several dates, either ones within their vicinity or ones where they’re already planning to visit family and friends. However, the folks at Aquashella have only one counterpart that compares, and that’s the music festival fan. I’ve done a lot of shows in the last nearly 15 years, and this was the first time both attendees and fellow vendors were actually disappointed when they asked “Are you going to be at the next show?” and I had to decline.

In retrospect, though, it makes a lot of sense. It’s not just that aquarium people have as wide a range of specialties as music festival folks, as well as the enthusiasm to travel the country and the world to keep up with their passions. It’s that every aquarium show really will have a range of touring displays and local vendors that make you risk missing out if you don’t hit as many as possible. The other half of the fun, also, is the sense of community among aquarists: tetra people and discus people may look quizzically at gar or axolotl people, but nobody’s putting down the other’s loves. If anything, from my booth alone, I caught several conversations about specific fish species that went from “we’ll have to agree to disagree” to “I’m going to have to try that just on your recommendation.” That’s the sort of enthusiasm that more hobbies and genres need.

All said, it’s too late for me to make the road trip with plants to Chicago for the next Aquashella show…this year. Next year, though, I may have to skip the Orlando show solely because of the date (late February shows mean not having Sarracenia, flytraps, or other temperate carnivores still locked into dormancy), but it’s high time to bring the Triffid Ranch to other cities outside of Texas, and I should have plenty of vacation time on the Day Job to let me do that.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Aquashella Dallas 2022 – 1

From the register side of the table, one of the more intriguing aspects about Aquashella Dallas was the brand and community awareness aspect. With the overwhelming number of vendors at other Triffid Ranch shows, from Texas Frightmare Weekend to the Oddities & Curiosities Expos, they’re also selling, and there’s always a dynamic of turning to the side to see how everyone else is doing. Many of the Aquashella booth crews, including my immediate neighbors from Tetra, were there to get the crowd excited about upcoming products and releases. As such, that meant having very experienced booth crews coming by to ask exactly why the Triffid Ranch displays were set the way they were, and offering suggestions on improvements when the only answer I had was “That’s a really good question.” They also had lots of insights into an entire slew of shows with which I had absolutely no experience, so talking shop about show attendance and potential new events was both illuminating and very, very relaxing.

The best part of discussions with neighbors, besides their surprise that I was familiar with Tampa thanks to the Convergence goth convention in 2008, was talk about the other Aquashella shows in Orlando and Chicago. The original pre-COVID plan for expanding the Triffid Ranch’s range included finally attending shows outside of Texas, and when all of your neighbors ask “Are you going to Chicago?” because they honestly think the Chicago attendees would love carnivorous plants, well, you pay attention. I’ll burn all of those bridges at the end of the year.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Aquashella Dallas 2022 – Introduction

It all started in the Before Times, when a representative from Aquashella, one of the biggest aquarium shows in the country, stopped by the Triffid Ranch booth at the NARBC Arlington show in February 2020 and asked “Would you be interested in showing your plants at the Aquashella Dallas show?” The answer was typically understated (quote: “If you nail a duck’s foot to the floor, does he waddle in circles?”), and plans for later in 2020 made quite quickly. Well, anybody not knowing why the 2020 show didn’t happen was obviously in a coma until last week, and we should all be very envious of their situation. Last year, the Aquashella crew tried again, and the finalized date coincided with my best friend’s wedding, and priorities are priorities. The third time, though, was the charm, as Aquashella moved from Dallas’s Fair Park to Dallas Market Hall in 2021, and it was definitely worth the wait.

For those unfamiliar with the show, Aquashella specializes in aquatic wonders, both in freshwater and in saltwater, and the overwhelming majority of my fellow vendors focused on fish, tanks, and decorations, as well as coral, live plants, and tank augmentations. A few were devoted to axolotls and other aquatic amphibians, and a few spread out to reptiles, but most focused on fish and fish accessories. Nobody was expecting to see carnivorous plants, much less see them up close, and even the record heat of that weekend didn’t dissuade Dallasites from coming out to ogle the pitcher plants and sundews. Two days and thousands of people, and the crowds didn’t let up until about 90 minutes after the show was supposed to be finished. It was WONDERFUL.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – Finale

Every show away from the gallery brings up the eternal question about the volume of plants being hauled out: “Too little or too much?” Last year’s Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo pushed that to the limit, with nearly everything being hauled off, so the plan this year was to bring out as much as was humanly possible. With previous years’ interference gone, the plan was to pack the van as tightly as possible with as many plants as possible, short of strapping goldfish bowls to the roof. (Considering the heat that weekend and the perpetual traffic jam that is the city of Waco, the halfway point between Dallas and Austin, that might not have gone over well.) Seemingly impossibly, the crowds at the Expo were even larger than last year’s: most shows start to peter out about an hour before closing, but many vendors, myself included, were still making sales a half-hour after the official close of the show, and a lot of us went back home with nearly-empty cars, vans, and trucks. Many of us are loath to admit that we were almost glad that the Expos are only one-day shows: if the Austin Expo ran for two days, I’d have needed a 15-foot truck to hold everything.

And that finishes it up. Many, many thanks are extended to the crew at Oddities & Curiosities Expo for managing to pull this off at so many locations every year, more thanks are extended to neighboring vendors who had to listen to me extol the features of carnivorous plants for eight hours (all of my neighbors were an absolute hoot, by the way), and the most thanks to the people who figured that Austin summer heat was no reason to stay home that weekend. Thank you all again, and now I have to make plans to exceed everyone’s expectations for 2023.

Fin.

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 7

As of the beginning of May, the Triffid Ranch has been appearing at shows and events for 14 years, starting with the much-missed CAPE events run by Zeus Comics in Dallas on Free Comic Book Day. (Technically, they started even earlier, when the famed artist Lea Seidman hired me to be her booth bimbo at CAPE shows and I’d drag along plants to show what I’d been doing since I quit writing.) In that time, EVERYTHING has changed, especially in the world of shows catering to the strange and esoteric. The focus has changed from “this is the only place you’ll find this odd stuff” to “the audience needs a good reason to come out in person instead of buying online,” and some shows get this. Others don’t, which is why so many comics and memorabilia shows are now overloaded with essential oil and other MLM dealers, and others are needing to crowdsource to get operations money because they can’t guarantee enough of a turnout to pay the bills. (Mark my words: a lot of old-school literary science fiction conventions will be dead before the middle of the decade because they’re still waiting for 1985 to roll back around and make them relevant again. As it stands, they’re doing next to nothing to attract new audiences and their existing audience is dying of old age: I’m 55, and when I’m one of the youngest people at a convention, either as an attendee or a vendor, it isn’t a good sign.)
I’m very glad to say that the Oddities & Curiosities Expo gets this, and continues to be very careful about the variety of vendors it allows every year. I’m very honored to be one of those who makes the cut every year, and I do my utmost to raise the stakes on plant selection and variety each time so as to return the sentiment. I’m also glad of the audience, because they give extra inducement to push the limits every time. Thank you all.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 6

For most people attending shows and events in summer, especially a Texas summer, precious few are making plans for next year. For those of us vending, though, the vast majority are watching for announcements of registration for tables and booths with the intensity of a starving python and about half the table manners. For those whose livelihood depends upon moving across the country following events, it’s all about the logistics of which show and when, particularly when three big and popular shows run on the same weekend and chopping oneself into thirds simply isn’t an option. For those of us with day jobs to augment the hustle, the priority switches to “How many vacation days do I have next year, what is the absolute furthest I can drive after a show and still go to work on Monday, and how badly will the boss freak out if I have vehicle trouble and can’t get back for two or three days?” (Don’t laugh. I’ve seen it happen.)

Even though the emphasis today is on events held at the gallery instead of traveling shows, the Triffid Ranch is already making plans, starting with the 2023 Oddities & Curiosities Expo schedule. Now, we won’t get that until Halloween, and there’s no guarantee that the Triffid Ranch can or will get into any of the planned shows: I acknowledge that I’m up against some absolutely incredible artists and dealers. One thing is for certain, though: Dallas and Austin are going remain on the event schedule because of their popularity, and 2023 just might be the year that the Triffid Ranch leaves the state. If this means Little Rock, New Orleans, and Oklahoma City, well, that depends upon the time of the year. (I would have loved to have been a vendor at the New Orleans Expo, if only because of the number of much-missed friends in Nola, but this year’s show was at the beginning of the year, and that just wouldn’t have been possible for multiple reasons.) As everyone learns more, the details will be shared. I promise.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 5

One of the regular questions that comes up at Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows is “Do you have anything that’s native?” Well, that’s an interesting question, in more ways than one. Now, if the question applies to Texas in general, we have quite a few, from the famed sundews of the Bastrop pines to the Sarracenia of the Big Thicket in far east Texas. (I had been told for years that only one species, Sarracenia rubra, was native to Texas, and then Dylan Sheng of Plano Carnivorous Plants shared photos of big stands of Sarracenia alata in East Texas. Because Sarracenia habitat is notorious for poaching, and many carnivore bogs are now threatened both by poaching and habitat destruction, Dylan didn’t share the location and I’m the last person to press the issue.) As far as Dallas and Austin are concerned, though, there are no known carnivores in either area, so anyone insisting upon native plants is out of luck.

Note that I said “known carnivores,” however. The reality is that new carnivores are discovered all of the time in the most unlikely places, with about five new species described per year and a new genus every two to five. This doesn’t include previously known plants later confirmed carnivorous (Triantha occidentais in Oregon is a great example, as is the carnivorous passionflower Passiflora foetida), or known carnivores found in new places, such as the Venus flytrap colony found near Pensacola, Florida. This is why I emphasize the “known” part and encourage younger carnivore enthusiasts to keep exploring, because the odds are good of someone discovering a previously unknown carnivore hiding in plain sight.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 4

One of the regular questions asked at Oddities & Curiosities Expo shows is “Where do you get all of the great pots you have?” Well, that’s a funny story. They literally come from all over: garage sales, gifts from friends and cohorts (I was given a large number of odd pots by my late mother-in-law, and I’m hanging onto one especially wonderful pot from her for a very special plant), on the side of the road after someone moved out of a house or apartment, repurposed items never really intended to be plant containers…there’s no telling. All that matters is that they’re distinctive, and that they can hold potting mix and water.

The last part is the hardest. Most houseplants prefer well-drained soil, but carnivores prefer boggy conditions, and that means that the drainage hole has to go. Most container and urban gardening books have extensive instructions on how to drill holes in the bottoms of containers so they can be reused as flower pots, but ask “But what if I want to seal up a previously established hole?”, crickets. Let’s just say that the extensively reorganized backstock of pots for upcoming shows has a shelf dedicated to upcoming carnivore conversions, and epoxy putty is an old and dear companion.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Austin Oddities & Curiosities Expo 2022 – 3

People previously unfamiliar with the touring Oddities & Curiosities Expo tend to ask me “So what else is at the Expos besides carnivorous plants?” I can give generic assessments on the amount of interesting things, ranging from antique taxidermy to pottery to candles, available at each show, but I can’t give particulars half of the time because I’m lucky to see the outside of the booth the whole day. By way of example, I didn’t know Dead Dave Designs was at the Austin Expo until I read about it on Instagram the next day. This is in no way a complaint about the intensity of the crowds, but the advantage I had in the Triffid Ranch booth being next to the restrooms in the event center hall was that I actually saw a few fellow vendors, such as Demetria of The Curiositeer, as they were using the facilities before leaving that evening. The crowds weren’t impassable, but they were consistent, and most of us vendors were still taking care of customers a half-hour after the show was officially closed.

Even better, with some shows, you see a lot of returning customers after a few years, but the Expos are always a mix of long-timers, old friends (literally, in some cases: I was able to talk with a friend from the beginning of my writing days in the late 1980s whom I hadn’t seen in 30 years), and a whole lot of new people who wanted to see what the big deal was about. I can only imagine the number of lifetime friendships started there over chance encounters over a hippopotamus skull, as well as the number of kids in a decade who learn “Your father and I met RIGHT HERE, in front of a moose head.”