Tag Archives: california carnivores

Post-Nuclear Family Gift Suggestions 2020 – 1

Many moons back, back when the Triffid Ranch was purely a venue that popped up at local shows and events, this site ran a regular series of recommendations for annual gift-giving, on the idea of spreading the wealth and giving further recommendations to venues that needed wider exposure. Starting the brick-and-mortar gallery, along with day job obligations, cut into opportunities to continue, but the ongoing kidney stone and appendicitis cosplay known as 2020 gives whole new opportunities to pay back old favors, hype up respected friends and cohorts, and generally spread the wealth. It may have been a rough year, but that makes helping out your friends that much more vital.

To start off this series, which will keep going every Thursday through the end of the year, it’s time to start with the regular question brought up at Triffid Ranch shows: “Do you ship?” The reason why you don’t see a handy online store on this site is because of the size, heft, and relative delicacy of the enclosures and containers available for sale, and the inability to guarantee that any of the finished enclosures could survive a trip through any currently available delivery service. Even if any given enclosure could handle hauling, lugging, flying, and disembarking, there’s no guarantee that the plants would. (It’s enough of a white-knuckle ride to drive them around the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex to make deliveries.) I may not be able to ship, but it’s time to look at carnivorous plant dealers who do.

With that in mind, below is a basic list of excellent carnivorous plant dealers with whom I’ve had good encounters in the past, and some of whom for whom I’d take a bullet without hesitation. All are very good about the plants they offer, and for those looking for particularly exotic species should give them all a viewing. These include:

  • California Carnivores: on this side of the Atlantic, it’s hard to talk about the carnivorous plant hobby without bringing up one of the oldest and largest carnivorous plant nurseries in the United States. Owner Peter D’Amato has probably done more to promote carnivores in the US than anybody else in the last 30 years (his book The Savage Garden is still one of the essential texts on carnivorous plant care), and his crew gleefully expand what we know about carnivores as often as they can.
  • Black Jungle Terrrarium Supply: Located on the opposite side of the continent from California Carnivores, Black Jungle already has a justified reputation for its variety and quality of dart frogs, but it also carries a wide selection of carnivores, including an enthusiastic collection of low-elevation and high-elevation Nepenthes pitcher plants.
  • Sarracenia Northwest: Back to the West Coast, Sarracenia Northwest is one of the gems of the Portland area. While its regular open houses aren’t happening under current conditions, its online selection is always full of very healthy plants (one Brocchinia I purchased six years ago is so enthusiastic in producing pups that if it turns out to qualify as a unique cultivar, I’m naming it “Martian Flatcat”), and the newsletter stories of Sue the Sarracenia Pup are worth subscribing all on their own.
  • Pearl River Exotics: One of the reasons to check out Pearl River is for its regular Nepenthes presales, with a great combination of pure species and hybrids.
  • Carnivero: A relatively new carnivorous plant nursery, Carnivero is already a good reason to plan a road trip to Austin once the pandemic is over. In the interim, Carnivero’s online selection is always interesting, and I expect we’ll be seeing a lot of their unique Nepenthes hybrids before too long.
  • Jersey Devil Carnivorous Plants: Lots of people who don’t know any better make jokes about New Jersey, and folks in New Jersey make jokes about the Pine Barrens. The Pine Barrens are a place I’ve wanted to visit ever since this strange trip began, because of its variety of endemic carnivores and orchids, and Jersey Devil pays special attention to the Barrens’ most famous carnivore, the purple pitcher plant Sarracenia purpurea. (Keep an eye open for next spring, because I want to be the first Texas carnivore dealer to carry Jersey Devil specials.)
  • Plano Carnivorous Plants: It’s a common misconception that the Triffid Ranch is the only carnivorous plant dealer in the greater Dallas area. Not only is this not true, but when customers ask about particular plants that I simply don’t have room to carry, I send them to talk to Dylan Sheng at Plano Carnivorous Plants. Dylan is a little more than a third of my age, and I want to be just like him when I finally grow up.

Well, this is a start: in the interim, take advantage of the relatively calm weather this week and get in your plant orders now, before it starts getting cold out. You won’t regret it.

Review: The Savage Garden Revised: Cultivating Carnivorous Plants by Peter D’Amato

(A bit of context. This blog features regular reviews of books, horticultural products, and interesting related items, under this proviso. All items reviewed will be purchased by the reviewer in advance, at full retail price, in order to prevent any conflict of interest. Information about upcoming releases is greatly appreciated, but receipt of advance copies or samples will be announced well in advance and will not influence the final review. The world has enough Jeff Craigs and Maria Salases as it is.)

The Savage Garden Revised

The Savage Garden Revised: Cultivating Carnivorous Plants by Peter D’Amato

ISBN-10: 1607744104
ISBN-13: 9781607744108
Published: Ten Speed Press, 07/02/2013
Pages: 384
Language: English

With the current wealth in new research and archived knowledge on carnivorous plants, it can be hard to remember when that wealth wasn’t easily shared. When I first became hooked on carnivorous plants a decade ago, I did what most people did at the time: instead of hopping online and running a quick Google search on the subject, I sashayed first to the public library and then to available bookstores for more information. The library had children’s books on “The World’s Weirdest Plants”, usually in that horrible combination of sepia monochrome illustrations and one block of Kodachrome color plates in the center that were so popular in the 1960s. At this point, all of the independent bookstores in Dallas were long-dead, and both Borders and Barnes & Noble had a gardening section comprised of two books on local trees and flowers and at least 50 variations on “How To Grow Marijuana In Your Closet”. Not that I particularly had problems with either, but that wasn’t the subject. Online bookselling wasn’t necessarily an option, either, as most searches at the time required knowing the title of the book, and I wasn’t about ready to buy any book on the subject without being able to look through it.

Finally, one day in spring 2003, while killing time before a job interview, I entered a Borders in North Dallas. After a pass through the magazine section to see which publications hadn’t survived the dotcom crash that week, I thought “Hey, let’s see what’s in the gardening section?” and took a quick peek. This time, in between a Better Homes & Gardens volume on citrus and a purely theoretical exercise on growing your own psilocybin mushrooms for fun and profit, I found a title that caught my eye. On the spine was a stunning Sarracenia pitcher plant, and the photos on the inside were even more fascinating. No arguments, no debate: that book came home with me, and it changed my life.

When I’m asked by carnivorous plant neophytes about resources and references, I’ll recommend several. Anything by Barry Rice and Adrian Slack is essential, but the one absolute I had for anybody wanting to work with carnivores was to get, by any means necessary, a copy of Peter D’Amato’s book The Savage Garden. Over the last decade, I’ve haunted used bookstores for spare copies, and I’ve been known to hand them over with a plastic smile and an earnest plea of “Let me tell you about my church.” In return, the lucky recipients of that largesse promptly had their minds blown. A couple even stated, after going through the whole volume, “now I understand why you quit writing.”

I exaggerate not a whit by noting that, particularly for beginners, The Savage Garden was one of the most valuable books on carnivorous plants written in the last two decades. Not only was it an excellent reference book for those seeking to view carnivores in the wild, particularly in the United States and the UK, but Mr. D’Amato’s experience in running California Carnivores, one of the largest carnivorous plant nurseries on the planet, showed on every page. In addition to being informative, the book was humorous, insightful, and thorough. The only thing that slowed it down a bit, honestly, was that it was a product of its time.

If that first edition of The Savage Garden had a problem, it was its publication at the beginnings of the Internet era. When it came out in 1998, it was one of the most authoritative books on the subject, but nobody expected the nova of new research over the last fifteen years. Between new explorations and DNA analysis, the number of carnivorous plant species known to science jumped to over 600 species (double that if you want to count the triggerplants, Stylidium spp, in that list), and the number of hybrids and cultivars jumped in that time as well. Stewart McPherson’s heroic expeditions to catalog and photograph all known species in the wild made the news, as did new research into carnivorous plant function and natural history. I regularly note in lectures that this is the most exciting period in carnivorous plant research since Charles Darwin was still alive, and after some of the recent developments in understanding sundew and Nepenthes pitcher plant physiology, I’m being conservative.

All in all, The Savage Garden desperately needed a revamp. It needed metric conversions for non-American readers. It needed further listings on newly described species now available in cultivation. It needed further options for husbandry, such as the new procedures for keeping Portuguese dewy pines (Drosophyllum lusitanicum) happy and hearty. Oh, and it needed resources on such diverse subjects as carnivorous plant societies and sterile tissue propagation.

Well, guess what?

For the beginners, stop right here and buy this book right now. Don’t worry about whether you have to choose between the book or groceries, and definitely ignore that burning school bus full of paraplegic nuns. They’ll still be there. As I like to tell the Czarina, it’s financial decisions like these that make me glad I have two kidneys but regret I have only one liver. Just shut up and get it now, and when you’ve won the MacArthur Fellowship award for your outstanding research, just rub the scar where your right kidney used to be and remind yourself that it was worth it. I won’t even say anything if you decide that selling spare organs doesn’t necessarily mean yours.

For the long-timers, you have reason to ask “is this worth the cost of a whole new edition, seeing as how the original edition is so thorough?” Well, that depends upon your specialty. The coverage of all of the world’s pitcher plants is effectively doubled in this edition, especially with new Sarracenia hybrids and new Nepenthes species. The section on sundews is even more thorough, especially thanks to all of the tuberous and pygmy sundews now available, and the updated photos of everything are spectacular. Oh, and for bladderwort buffs, get a good look at some of the new terrestrial varieties now available in cultivation.

And yes, I know you assume that this isn’t a perfect volume, and it isn’t. The biggest complaint lies with the seemingly arbitrary listing of species and cultivars within a section, especially concerning butterworts. In an end chapter on potentially carnivorous and protocarnivorous species, the devil’s claws (Proboscidea lutea and louisianica) finally get more respect, as do both known species of Roridula, but there’s not a peep about triggerplants. (That’s only fair, in a way: triggerplants deserve a major volume all on their own.) That’s more than mitigated, though, by some very solid and thorough advice on growing carnivores indoors: I recently started raising Nepenthes and Brocchinia plants under T5 high-output fluorescent lights intended for planted aquaria, with excellent results in both growth and color. Not only has Mr. D’Amato beaten me to the punch on their usefulness, but he’s also noting that recent developments in LED technology will probably make these as obsolete as carbon-arc lights within the next ten years or so.

So here we have it. One of the most influential print references on carnivorous plants, revised for 2013 sensibilities, available in an autographed edition. Fifty years from now, when you’ve dumped sordid habits like heroin and tobacco and writing science fiction in favor of raising carnivores, raise a glass to Peter D’Amato, because for a lot of us, it’s all his fault.

Shoutout: The Savage Garden Revised

The Savage Garden Revised

Ten years ago, I was at a bit of a loose end. I had just moved back to Dallas from Tallahassee, freshly married and freshly unemployed. With plenty of free time between nonproductive job interviews, the only option to stay sane was to stay busy. Returning to writing simply wasn’t an option, and that had taken up a little more than a third of my life at that point. Finding a new life path was rough, but it beat returning to the one I just left.

Shortly after I moved to Tallahassee, I had my first exposure to carnivorous plants in situ, with the indigenous Sarracenia pitcher plants and sundews on the grounds of the Tallahassee Museum. While fascinating, not once did I think of raising my own outside of the Tally area. After all, how would I learn how to keep them alive?

Right after I got back, though, everything changed. An errand to the local Home Depot for poplar boards for bookshelves led to a quick look through the gardening section, and on a shelf was a set of cups full of carnivorous plants. Not just Venus flytraps and not just the few species of Sarracenia I knew from Florida, either. Strange sundews, butterworts, cobra plants, and Asian pitcher plants lay in those cups, and I snapped up an example of every last one. Keeping them hale and healthy couldn’t be that hard, could it?

A week later, as the sample flytrap and cobra plant were fading, I realized that I needed assistance. Back then, that meant making a trip to either a library or a bookstore to find reference material, and in Dallas that meant either of the two big chain bookstores. I was no fan of Borders, but one did reside between me and that Home Depot, so I gave a shot at finding something in its Gardening section that might help. That’s when I found the one book that changed the rest of my life: The Savage Garden by Peter D’Amato. In the intervening years, I’ve built up as complete a carnivorous plant reference library as is possible, and that original copy of The Savage Garden, stained and battered, still holds a place of honor within that library.

It’s no exaggeration when I tell beginners that The Savage Garden is the first book they need to purchase before raising carnivores. To this day, I scour used bookstores for copies to give to friends, and I hand them over with a wild-eyed grin and an exhortation of “Let me tell you about my church.” Is it my fault that many also became carnivorous plant addicts? Maybe, but I did warn them that Ministry’s “Just One Fix” is my gardening theme song.

Part of the reason why I recommend The Savage Garden over any number of others isn’t just because its author is owner and operator of California Carnivores, one of the largest carnivorous plant nurseries on the planet and definitely one of the largest in North America. I recommend it for its accessibility, especially for beginners who can’t tell a cultivar from a colander. (In fact, I first encountered the word “cultivar” among its pages.) As beautifully written and illustrated as they are, Stewart McPherson’s volumes are a little too technical for anyone starting out. Everyone in the field could cover Adrian Slack‘s dinner tab until the end of time and we couldn’t come close to returning the favor he did us by reviving the popularity of carnivorous plants in the 1970s, but his books are just a touch dry. The Savage Garden, though, is the book you need to get the most out of Slack’s, McPherson’s, and in fact everyone else’s volumes on carnivores.

And the next fix is in. A new revised version of The Savage Garden, with 48 additional pages on new species and hybrids unknown when the original was written in 1998, is currently available for preorder. Considering the veritable explosion of information on carnivores available since the original came out, this is going to be an event. Get yours now, because you can’t borrow mine.

EDIT: I’ve already ordered my copy, and now it’s all about waiting. And yes, it WILL be the subject of a review on this site.

“If your friends all bought Christmas presents, would you do it, too?”

It’s that time. For the Triffid Ranch, the move for the rest of the year is toward prepping for winter (warm and very dry, according to the National Weather Service, with a higher likelihood of extremely brutal norther storms) and gearing up for 2013. Aside from plans for a tenth wedding anniversary gathering at the new Perot Museum of Nature & Science at the end of the month, we really don’t have that much planned for the holiday season. Since 1998, my New Year’s Day tradition has been to finish cleaning and clearing the house and yard, and I usually dedicate a week’s vacation on the Day Job to take care of that. Being able to see the floor and walls of my office, along with discovering that the boxes of magazines and papers I’d been dragging around since 1986 hadn’t been compressed into diamond from their own weight, is celebration enough.

This is why, in lieu of hyping Triffid Ranch activities, it’s time to give a high five to all of the friends, cohorts, colleagues, interested bystanders, and beloved thorns in my side that make working in the carnivorous plant trade so much fun. If you’re looking for something different as a gift for friends and/or family, for that special event around the Cephalopodmas tank, you can’t go wrong with any of these folks.

Carnivorous Plant Resources
As mentioned in the past, I’m a firm believer in the old adage “a rising tide lifts all boats,” which is one of the reasons I gleefully refer friends and cohorts to other carnivorous plant breeders and retailers when the need arises. On the West Coast of the US, you have both Sarracenia Northwest outside of Portland, with its open house every weekend for the rest of the holiday shopping season, and California Carnivores in San Sebastapol. On the East Coast, I can’t speak highly enough of Black Jungle Terrarium Supply, especially for those wishing to mix up their carnivores with orchids and arrow poison frogs. It may be a little late to pick up temperate carnivores from these three, but they’re definitely set with tropical plants, and at exceptional prices.

If you’re more interested in natural history and species preservation, you have options, too. The International Carnivorous Plant Society is an organization to which I have been a proud member for nearly eight years, with a one-year membership starting at $35. For those seeking even more action, North American Sarracenia Conservancy always needs volunteers to rescue plants in threatened habitat and move them to preserves, as well as bystanders interested in setting up those preserves in the first place.

In the literary front, I shouldn’t have to introduce you all to Timber Press, one of the two most dangerous book publishers on the planet, but if in case you missed out, give a click. This month, Timber Press is holding a 30 percent off sale on every title it carries, and that features Growing Carnivorous Plants by Dr. Barry Rice. When I conduct lectures on carnivores, Dr. Rice’s book is always at the top of the pile, and with good reason, so go get your own copy and kvell over the photos inside.

And on the subject of books, I’ll warn you away from Redfern Natural History and the tremendous selection of exemplary books on carnivorous plants. I’ll warn you away because your wallet will hate you as your library swears eternal fealty to you for your taste. One of these days, I’m going to sell enough body parts to pay for every volume I don’t already have, and I might even stoop to selling some of my body parts to do so.

Other Retailers of Note

It goes without saying that St. Johns Booksellers is the official bookseller of the Texas Triffid Ranch, and I’ll continue to link to St. Johns resources for as long as its owner will let me. I’ll also say that this bookstore and Sarracenia Northwest are two of the things that would get me to go back to Portland for a visit, and there’s absolutely no reason you can’t order online as well. We can cry about the decline of the independent bookstore or we can do something about it, and I make the stand here with no misgivings.

While not horticulturally related per se, I can’t thank the folks at Keith’s Comics and Roll2Play enough for their help over the years with materials for Triffid Ranch arrangements. Keith Colvin of Keith’s Comics has been a friend for twenty years as of next October, and he and his crack crew of enthusiasts always keep an eye open for items that would look really good alongside a Nepenthes arrangement. Likewise, Tiffany Franzoni of Roll2Play has been a welcome cohort and fellow vendor since the first Triffid Ranch shows back in 2008, and if she doesn’t have the game you need or a way to snag it for you, nobody else could help you, either.

Back to horticulture, Janit Calvo at Two Green Thumbs Miniature Garden Center continues her unceasing efforts to promote miniature gardening, and you really should look at some of the items and guides she has for sale. Time permitting, I have a project lined up that should make her VERY happy, so go give her lots of business in the interim.

Finally, there’s my favorite form of porn, the FarmTek catalog. The Czarina actually smiles when she sees the latest FarmTek catalog all creased and marked up and drooled over, because although she worries about the day that I attach a 300-foot greenhouse to the garage, it’s still better than my writing for science fiction magazines. Both for me and for her.

Charities, Preserves, and Educational Facilities

It just opened to great fanfare, and the Czarina’s family takes it as a very high compliment that I passed up an early admission to the new Perot Museum in downtown Dallas to spend Thanksgiving weekend with them. It’s open this weekend, but I won’t be there. No, that’s reserved for December 28, when the Czarina and I plan to start a new tradition underneath the Protostega skeleton where we married a decade ago. After that, there’s always the after-hours events to keep us all busy, right?

This one I won’t be able to visit right away, but I owe an immeasurable debt to Tallahassee Museum for sending me down this strange road a decade ago. I still hang onto my Zoobilee memorabilia after all these years, and if time and money allow me to head back to the Tally area, I’ll meet you out there.

And then we have folks closer at home that could use support. I have lots of friends who say they support bats, but Bat World Sanctuary follows through, and they’re always conducting presentations and events throughout the US to facilitate bat education.

Upcoming Shows

Okay, so I fibbed slightly about this not having any self-promotion. However, while I’m always glad to see both new and longtime friends at various shows, one of the reasons why I tend to stick to unorthodox venues is that there’s a lot to do for the admission price. It’s all about an entertainment ROI, and all of these are worth making a trip.

ConDFW – February 15-17

All-Con – March 8-10

Texas Frightmare Weekend – May 3-5

FenCon – October 4-6

North American Reptile Breeders Conference February 23-24, August 10-11

And there you have it. If you have suggestions on other venues, retailers, or events I may have missed, please feel free to leave them in the comments. It’s all about the sharing.

Road Trip

Okay, so last week’s Black Jungle Terrarium Supply open house is over, but that doesn’t mean that this summer is bereft of other carnivorous plant nursery events. For instance, many readers may be familiar with the carnivorous plant nursery California Carnivores thanks to Peter D’Amato’s exemplary reference book The Savage Garden, but did you know that California Carnivores is hosting its annual pot-luck party pigfest on July 23?

A little bit earlier, and further up the Pacific coast, we have the early summer open house at Sarracenia Northwest, just east of Portland, Oregon. This open house is scheduled for July 16 and 17, with a second set on September 10 and 11. The crew at Sarracenia Northwest is always good for a great presentation and exemplary plants, so you might as well plan a vacation over that week and hit both events. Just make sure that your 18-foot truck’s axles can handle the weight of the plants you’ll be bringing home.

And in much smaller but equally important events, the Triffid Ranch is getting in on the game as well. I’ll be at the Seagoville Public Library in Seagoville, Texas (just east of Dallas) on June 21 as part of its summer reading program. Considering how badly Texas’s public libraries are being stretched in the current budget cuts, this is purely a pro bono event, and anybody with questions can and should attend. See you then?