Tag Archives: Perot Museum

The Aftermath: Social Science “Science Fiction” at the Perot

Texas Triffid Ranch display at the Perot Museum

It’s been four months since the last Social Science presentation at the Perot Museum of Nature & Science, and things ran swimmingly for April 26’s “Science Fiction” event. Temperate carnivores such as Venus flytraps and North American pitcher plants were emerging and blooming, outside temperatures weren’t a threat to the tropical carnivores, and the trip down Central Expressway to downtown Dallas was painfully slow but not impossible. Combine that with large and enthusiastic crowds, and everything was perfect.

Carnivorous plant selection at the Perot Museum

Dallas weather always offers a challenge with raising and displaying carnivorous plants, and this time the challenge was when the last of the big cold snaps came through. Since Sarracenia pitcher plants bloom first and then produce traps, since many prey insects are also their pollinators, it’s always a gamble: spring temperatures are too warm, and flowers are spent by the middle of April. One good cold front dropping things to freezing in March, and the plants won’t have fully grown traps by May. This time, everything worked perfectly, with several species and hybrids with blooms and early traps, allowing everyone to see both at once.

Sarracenia pitcher plant blooms at the Perot Museum

Another change from previous Perot presentations was access to both a video camera and a big flatscreen monitor, which allowed hourly Venus flytrap feedings for large crowds. Every hour, I gathered a volunteer to drop a canned cricket leg into a trap, with everyone watching a closeup of the mechanism and the closing action without being crowded around a single plant. This worked so well that investing in a similar arrangement for other Triffid Ranch events and shows might be an option in the future.

Triffid Ranch banner at the Perot Museum

As for next time? That honestly depends upon the event and the opportunity, but I’m glad to have had this chance. I’d like to thank both the staff and the volunteers at the Perot for their assistance, as well as everyone who attended. Next time should run even more smoothly than ever.

The Aftermath: Perot Museum Social Science “Wild World”

perot02012019_3It’s been three years since the last time the Triffid Ranch was invited to show plants out at the Perot Museum of Nature & Science in downtown Dallas, and making a late evening of the Social Science 21+ museum event was a perfect way to finish off January. Just me, the provosts and staff, and a few thousand interested bystanders…the theme of this month’s Social Science event was “Wild World”, and carnivorous plants were just part of the fun.

perot02012019_2The relative lack of photos from “Wild World” had less to do with photographic aptitude and more to do with the sheer size of the crowd. When the official “everyone is worn out and going home, so you can break down” time was 10:00 and patrons were still asking enthusiastic questions at just short of midnight, it says a lot about the energy at the sold-out event. As it was, getting photos was a bit problematic, especially when people were crowded so thickly around the Triffid Ranch table that we occasionally blocked off access to the elevators. Every guest presenter at an event like this wants to make an impression upon its audience, and with five to ten people listening in on every answered question, the carnivores apparently made quite the impression. The crowd rushed in right at opening, and the only chance to get photos of the table itself was when everyone had cleared out for the night.


Anyway, thanks to the multitudes of energetic and wildly curious attendees, this was a great way to start the 2019 Triffid Ranch show season, and I wish to thank everyone who made it. For those who couldn’t, get your tickets for the April 26 Social Science, “Science Fiction,” before they sell out, too.

No Sleep Til Perot

Perot Museum's glowing frogs

For those attending tonight’s Social Science night at the Perot Museum, see you there. For everyone who can’t, that’s why the gallery is hosting a Groundhog Day open house on February 2. Either way, it’s time to hit the road.

The Aftermath: Halloween 2018 Open House at the Texas Triffid Ranch

The fourth Triffid Ranch Halloween event was, well, unexpected. For those keeping track, every previous open house this year has gone up against weather disasters: rain, hail, tornado sirens, and even a thick fog when torrential rains encountered a hot-enough-to-cook-flesh parking lot. The October 2018 open house? Clear skies, cool temperatures, enthusiastic crowds…everything we could have asked for. Many thanks to everyone who came out, because you’re the reason we do this.

As for the next open house, that’s going to have to wait until December because of a troika of shows in November and the necessary recuperation between them. The Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas will have to be truncated because of several shows in which Tawanda! Jewelry will be involved, but we’re still on for December 15 and 22, as well as being open by appointment for the rest of this month and the next.

And to add to the fun, while an open house probably isn’t in the cards, one in early February definitely is, probably the weekend after a plant show and lecture at the Perot Museum for its Social Science “Wild World” 21+ event on January 25. As always, details will follow.

Past Events and Future Press

imageWell. Two weeks away, and life keeps getting interesting. As can be told from the photo above, the presentation on biofluorescence at the Perot Museum was, well, interesting. The whole venue was well-lit with UV LEDs, which made me feel like I was stuck inside an Eighties-era tanning bed, and the big issue was less with showing the fluorescence and more with blocking out the amount of visible light emitted by the LEDs that washed out said fluorescence. This led to quite a bit of planning for the next such demonstration, including learning that classic E-Z Up tents now come in black, but the event was a learning experience all the way around. Among other things, I could stay underneath both shortwave and longwave UV lights without recreating key scenes from the film Near Dark. Sadly, one of the Heliamphora pitcher plants in the display didn’t have that advantage, but it’s already making a strong recovery. I’ll just name it “Homer”.

In any case, continued blog silence means that things at the gallery keep getting lively, and that includes new signage. The last big ARTwalk event demonstrated that even with the existing signage in the mall showing where the Triffid Ranch gallery is located, people had issues with finding it, so it’s a matter of making signage that can’t be overlooked. This beast started out as a Styrofoam insert for a sound baffle in a movie recording studio, so let’s see what it looks like after about two hours of texturing with a heat gun, repainting to pass for basalt, and lots of detailing, eh?

And then there’s the weekend. Sunday marks a return to the studios of the Fangirls of Dallas, to talk about plants, the space, and just about anything else that comes to mind. Between now and then, though, I have a LOT of painting to do. Updates to follow.


Upcoming Events – January 2016

lecture_12062015_1Okay, so the holidays are over, and the social calendar is pretty much shot until Groundhog’s Day. (Around here, watching Sid Vicious rise from his grave, look down at his shadow, and realize that he has to wait six more weeks until spring is an essential step toward knowing that winter is finally over.) You’re so burned out from holiday shopping that the thought of going near any crowded retail venue gives you hives, you’ve already seen every movie released into the January Sargasso, and even responded to trailers for the new Warcraft movie with enthusiastic bellows of “LEROOOOOOOY JENKINS!” It’s too cold to go swimming and too warm to go skiing, all of the interesting outdoor activities face horrendous weather at any time, and most indoor events require getting off the sofa, peeling the cats off your feet, and dealing with the same rainstorms, fires, floods, tornadoes, Christmas tree bonfires, and occasional Pearl Jam cover bands that keep you away from outdoor activities. When you’ve seen everything even remotely interesting on NetFlix and you’d sooner read a copy of D magazine than turn on terrestrial radio, what to do?

WELL, you have options, even if you didn’t know it. Make time in the calendar now to be in downtown Dallas on January 22. That evening, from 7 to 11 p.m., the Perot Museum of Nature & Science hosts its regular 21-and-up Social Science late-night event, and this month’s subject is “Glow”. It’s a tie-in to the Creatures of Light exhibition, with the advantage of a cash bar, and it’s already full of activities. The one addition will be a demonstration of fluorescence in carnivorous plants with the help of a trusty shortwave UV lamp, as well as presentations of what fluorescent blooms are available. (Considering that my aloes think that spring is already here, this may or may not include blooms that fluoresce so strongly that the glow hurts your eyes.) Tickets are going fast, so get in while you have the chance.

Incidentally, for those who can’t make it to Social Science, a smaller version of the same presentation will be available at the next Midtown ARTwalk on January 16, so come by for a preview. Either way, it beats staying home to watch Seinfeld reruns, eh?

Future events and current developments

Well. September already, and everything is starting to gel. Lots of new developments with the Triffid Ranch, and all of them good. Now if I could invent the 47-hour day or remove the need for sleep, things will be spiffy.

Firstly, some may have noticed the new logo, courtesy of Gallantry Web Design. This whole summer has been nothing but change, and the logo sums it all up. The next plan is to update the rest of this site: things have been quiet here for far too long.

Now to developments. The first of these involves the new Perot Museum of Nature & Science in downtown Dallas, and its First Thursday Late Night events on the first Thursday of every month. This month, the subject is “Botanicals,” which entails a lecture by yours truly in the lower auditorium. Any excuse to get out to the Perot after normal hours is a good one, and you can either come to listen to me yammering away, or come out for the screening of the equally grim and gritty Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Either way, admission to the special events is free with a regular museum admission, so use this as a opportunity to see the rest of the museum without worrying about fighting the traffic while heading home.

Otherwise, the real news is that, after two months, the space at Midtown (formerly Valley View Mall) is nearly ready, with an official opening on September 19 to coincide with September’s ArtWalk. After that, the new space is open every third Saturday, from 6 until 10, and otherwise open by appointment. More details will follow closer to the opening, but one of the big upshots is that this allows the opportunity to produce enclosures and containers too big and bulky to bring out to individual weekend shows, as well as carrying carnivores too esoteric or too specialized for beginning enthusiasts.

This isn’t to say that the shows are stopping, though. Plans for a return to regular show tours fell apart due to several potential shows collapsing, but the following three are absolutes:

  • Funky Finds Holiday Shopping Experience in Fort Worth: It’s been a very long time since the Triffid Ranch last traveled to Fort Worth, and it’s about time to return to the Funky Finds show the weekend of November 7. Expect a lot of new species, a lot of new enclosures, and a general experience unlike anything else you’ve ever seen at a handmade craft show. It’s good to be back.
  • All-Con in Dallas: After skipping out on the 2015 show due to scheduling issues, there’s nothing quite like coming out of winter blues in March 2016 with four days of carnivores at All-Con, now at a much superior and more central location. This show starts right about the time temperate carnivores start emerging from winter dormancy, so it’s just as much about the new blooms as it is about the rest of the plants. In addition, with the new workspace, expect to see a lot of things that simply haven’t been possible to bring out in previous years. John Belushi was right: March 2016 will come in like a lion, and go out like a salt marsh harvest mouse.
  • Texas Frightmare Weekend in Irving: Once again, this is the big one. Texas Frightmare Weekend is the show to which all others in the Dallas area should be judged, and all of the surprises from previous years will be eclipsed by the arrangements and enclosures planned for the May show. Get your tickets now, as they sell out incredibly fast these days, and keep an eye open for special Triffid Ranch promotions only seen at Frightmare.

And as one final extra, the plan is extremely tentative, but 2016 may be the year that the Triffid Ranch escapes Texas, at least for one weekend. The idea is to haul everything the weekend of August 17 to Kansas City, Missouri for MidAmeriCon II, the 74th annual WorldCon. Again, that’s the idea: while Kansas City is about an eight-hour drive from Dallas, we also have the logistics of interstate plant certifications and dealing with KC’s not inconsiderable summer heat. If it works out, though, look for the distinctive logo above in KC, and with luck, this may be the first of many traveling shows outside of Texas. We hope.

Upcoming Endeavours and Future Press

And what a difference a week makes. A week ago Monday, and the Dallas area was just starting to move toward relatively balmy temperatures: I mowed the lawn for the second time this year last Friday, and for those familiar with normal North Texas temperatures and their effect on local herbage, that’s saying quite a bit. Right now, the greenhouse is full of Buddha’s Hand citron and terrestrial bladderwort blooms, and our combination of decent rainfall and high humidity contributed to the sort of explosion in wildflower blooms that we haven’t seen since 2008. Projects keep piling up, seedlings keep exploding (including the new batch of ginkgo seedlings), and all I need to do now is get an immunization to sleep. That’s the only way to get the time to do everything that needs to be done.

Which leads us to the upcoming Triffid Ranch schedule. Not since 2011 has the dance card been quite this full, and thanks to efforts to expand into bladderwort, triggerplant, and Nepenthes pitcher plant species and cultivars previously never offered, it’s only going to get more interesting. (As always, for intrigued or slightly horrified news venues or individuals, here’s the contact 

First things first, last week’s feeding of Sid the Nepenthes bicalcarata at Roll2Play was as much of a success as you’d expect. Even with a full-bore Cthulhu Wars tournament going on, Sid became quite the debutante, especially when everyone involved learned that they wouldn’t need to reach into the pitchers to feed them. The next feeding is on May 7, and additional carnivores will be available for sale, so come out with an appetite.

Next, the dress rehearsal for this year’s shows starts at the Perot Museum of Natural History, with the Discovery Days: Earth event this Saturday, April 11. While last month’s late snowstorm stunted the Sarracenia pitcher plants a bit, this gives a great opportunity to see Sarracenia blooms this late in the season, and that’s more than made up for with the collection of Nepenthes, bladderworts, triggerplants, sundews, and Brocchinia bromeliads being brought out as well. The Museum opens to the general public at 10 in the morning, but activities start for Perot members at 8:30, and everything winds up around 4:00 in the afternoon. For the record, no plants will be available for sale at this event, but that might be negotiated at future gatherings, especially if the good folks at the Perot want another showing for its Social Science evening events. Just keep watching this space.

Next, I just finished a wonderful interview with Kate Copsey of The Master Gardener Hour on America’s Web Radio, and the final interview should play on April 18. Most of the subject matter won’t be a surprise to anyone listening to any of my tirades at previous shows, but it was still a lot of fun, and I’d forgotten how much fun radio interviews could be. Again, anyone seeking an interview should get in space now, because things are about to go a little mad.

Finally, part of the reason why things are going mad? Texas Frightmare Weekend. The vendor layout is up, and this year’s Triffid Ranch booth is in the Made In Texas Room, tables 135 to 137. Between a gigantic selection of plants this year and the new assistant Nikki, this will be unlike anything that any of you have seen at a Frightmare to date. The only way I’m going to top this is by raising real triffids.

(And while you’re at it, get the official Tenth Anniversary pint glass, courtesy of Drink With The Living Dead. Among many other great stories, DWTLD artist Robert Whitus was my roommate for a time back in the 1980s, and I can say with authority that I’ve never been so proud to tell people this. Give Robert lots of business, and buy one of those pint glasses while they last: among other things, this gives you $5 pints of beer at Frightmare all weekend long.)

Finally, for the rest of spring, summer, and fall, it’s time to try something different as far as Triffid Ranch shows are concerned. Available free time for three-day shows faded away to nearly nothing over the last year, so a move from indoor events to local farmer’s markets is a serious option. The Dallas Farmers Market is undergoing a drastic renovation of both venue and purpose, and it’s definitely time to get out there for the first time, as well as other farmers markets throughout the Dallas area. As always, give a yell if you have any suggestions, and look for details here as things work out. Until then, see you at the Perot.

What I Did On My Winter Vacation


And out of the depths of winter comes the promise of spring. After months of cold and chill, Earth progresses in its orbit around the sun, with daffodils and quince blooming in anticipation. Two weeks short of the official vernal equinox, life and weather celebrate the change…with six inches of snow. Welcome to Dallas.

While it might be reasonable to assume that the Triffid Ranch shut down entirely over the last four months, I compare it more to hibernation. The plants were sleeping, the garden dormant, and available shows and events dropping to next to nothing, so the last four months involved a very extensive and thorough cleaning and reorganizing. When your best friend refers to the purges of unneeded books, magazines, fabric, and other items from the house as “Stalinesque”, and when you consider that this is a man who stretches the term “minimalist” until it screams, you get an idea of the effort involved. All of December, all of January, almost all of February: the house is better organized than any time since we moved into it five years ago. Some of the particulars:

  • Okay, so having Colorado as a relative neighboring state leads to lots of Beavis and Butt-Head chuckling about “grow houses” these days, but technology allowed a big expansion. Namely, the whole need for a separate office for computer work died off with CRT monitors and landline phones, so the Czarina and I made a command decision: why waste two perfectly good rooms on our separate offices when we were doing all of our correspondence and show organizing on laptops anyway. The whole of an 11-day holiday vacation went into stripping out both rooms, converting one into work area and dry goods storage, and the other into an interior propagation area for tropical carnivores, orchids, ferns, and other flora that couldn’t handle the temperatures in the greenhouse. Technology also assisted with the propagation racks: LED shop lights may cost a little more than standard fluorescent fixtures, but they work beautifully for sundews, bladderworts, and the one Tahitian vanilla orchid that survived last summer. We’re not quite ready for a full-time retail venue, but it’s getting a lot closer, and the increased production means being able to do more shows in 2015. Best of all, the LEDs mean more light and less heat for less power, and the plan is to move to high-output LED fixtures before the end of the year for more light-hungry plant species.
  • While it’s been quiet out here otherwise in preparation for Texas Frightmare Weekend in May, it’s not that quiet. The Triffid Ranch leaves its hiatus for an appearance at the Discovery Days Earth event at the Perot Museum in downtown Dallas this coming April 11. Considering that we have a bit of a track record for late snow and sleetfall in March over the last half-decade, any last-minute freezes should help keep emerging temperate carnivores chilled so they start blooming in April. If things work well, this means showing off both Sarracenia pitcher plant and triggerplant blooms in time for the event. Details will follow.
  • Speaking of Texas Frightmare Weekend, the year-long hiatus means lots of preparation for the tenth annual Frightmare show, and not just with plants. This year’s Frightmare spread includes new displays, new items, and a lot of larger plant arrangements that were just too big to justify bringing out to previous events. All told, the plans required getting an additional table to hold everything, and we have live video from the house upon getting the news that a second table was available:
  • And after that? If we don’t get completely snowbound, the fun continues. Due to both Day Job schedule conflicts and various issues outside of the scope of this posting, three-day convention events aren’t going to be practical for most of 2015, but that means lots of one-day shows and lectures. Keep an eye open for details on these as well.
  • Some of the conflict on show schedules involves other factors, including several big secret projects over the next nine months. In addition, influenced by Reptiles magazine republishing my 2011 article on carnivores in reptile enclosures, expect not quite a book, but something almost as good, by the end of the year. Either way, I’ll be stuck to the couch, frantically writing away, when I’m not tinkering in the greenhouse.

Oh, and about the beautiful photo from the top of the post? One of the few good things that came from 2013’s Icepocalypse was a deeper understanding of citrus trees, especially my beloved Buddha’s Hand citron. After a decade of attempts to stave off bloom and fruit drop, December 2014 gave up three full-sized and completely ripe Cthulhufruit, and the greenhouse is currently full of blooms for this year’s crop. The trick, which hasn’t shown up in any citrus guide I’ve encountered in the last ten years, is that Buddha’s Hands require much more humidity than most citrus trees. Mexican limes and Meyer lemons thrive in Dallas levels of low humidity in spring and summer, but Cthulhufruit requires humidity that only rarely goes below 60 percent. Once I understood that, well, that promise of homemade Cthulhufruit bars becomes more plausible every winter, and maybe even in time for Cephalopodmas. And so it goes.

Texas Discovery Gardens – 1

Texas Discovery Gardens

As you may have heard from the newsfeeds, Texas had it a bit rough last weekend. Saturday was a wonderful, sunny, and warm day, with no real warning as to what was coming our way. Sunday started out okay, and promptly took a dive into subfreezing temperatures. By about 3 that afternoon, we had sleet, snow, and ice all over everything. This wouldn’t have been so much of an issue if the Czarina weren’t one of the vendors at the North Texas Irish Festival in Dallas’s Fair Park. By 11:30, vendors facing a drive through the storm were evacuating, the Festival organizers were deliberating alternate plans, attendees were arguing about whether or not they should stick around, and anybody else with any sense stayed at home.

Well, not everyone. Even a terrible day at Fair Park is worth a look around, and with the Czarina already situated with more help than the Sunday crowds justified, she shooed me off to go wander. Since both the Texas Discovery Gardens and the Children’s Aquarium at Fair Park were still open, winter storm or not, Sunday was as good a day to wander around as any.

Texas Discovery Gardens

As with the much-missed Dallas Museum of Natural History and the Science Place, now merged and moved across town into the Perot Museum, the Texas Discovery Gardens and the Children’s Aquarium buildings are holdovers from the 1932 World’s Fair and the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition. Considering Fair Park’s status as the sole surviving Art Deco World’s Fair site, both kept the Art Deco theme, even after their extensive renovations during the last decade. This includes the beautiful bas reliefs around the TDG’s main entrance.

Texas Discovery Gardens

Texas Discovery Gardens

As for the inside? Well, you’ll have to keep checking back over the next few days, won’t you?

Earth Day at the Perot: The Aftermath


A full decade after heading out on this odd path, I can finally say that I’ve hit the big time: a Triffid Ranch presentation at the new Perot Museum of Nature and Science last weekend. The Czarina was in Galveston on her own business, so it was just me, the plants, and about 50,000 utterly fascinated kids and adults asking questions. I don’t think I’m exaggerating as to the number, either. I now understand how adults felt when I was a kid, asking questions that they had to scramble to answer, because I think I met most of the Ph.D candidates of the high school class of 2020. Their parents weren’t slacking off, either: when one gentleman came through and related how he’d seen Sarracenia pitcher plants for years while stationed at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, but didn’t know what they were until then, a crowd gathered just to listen to him. Heck, people turned away from the Malawisaurus skeleton in the main lobby to listen to him.

Triffid Ranch display at the Perot

Since this was a lecture event, and not a sale, variety was much more important than volume. This meant displays of (from the left) sticky traps (sundews, butterworts, triggerplants), active traps (Venus flytraps, bladderworts), and passive pitfall traps (Sarracenia and Nepenthes pitcher plants, and a lone Brocchinia bromeliad), while explaining how each and every one worked. Next time, I’m including guides on how these operate, but this worked well enough that even the volunteers there on both days came over to find out more.

Assorted Sarracenia

Assorted Sarracenia

Maybe it’s the new greenhouse, or maybe it’s just the fluctuating weather (we’ve had temperatures dropping well below 50 degrees F (10 degrees C) at least one night per week for the last month, which almost never happens in April in Texas), but the Sarracenia pitcher plants just exploded this year. Huge pitchers, equally gigantic blooms, and lots of color. Either way, I’m not complaining.

Sarracenia purpurea

Sarracenia purpurea, or purple pitcher plant: the provincial flower of Newfoundland and Labrador. I admit that I find it hard not to sing “O Canada” every time I look over one of these, and this one was just the right size for visitors to look inside the pitchers at the insect part debris already caught inside.

Brocchinia reductans

And then there was the real surprise for new attendees: an example of the carnivorous bromeliad Brocchinia reductans of Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana, courtesy of Jacob and Jeff at Sarracenia Northwest. This was an especial surprise for one young woman attending on Sunday: she was a fashion designer from Venezuela here in Dallas visiting family, and she was amazed that such a plant existed, much less existed as close to her home. One of these days, I need to plan a botanical trip to South America, right after I finish trips to Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Antarctica, Newfoundland…

As for the Perot, this simultaneously left me exhausted and hoping for more, so we’ll see if I’m invited back in the future. I’ve already volunteered to lecture at one of the Social Science events for adults, but any excuse to come out there is a good one. After all, the Czarina and I have history there, even if it’s only been open for six months.

Last call: Perot Museum Earth Day Activities

As mentioned repeatedly, show season is in force at the Triffid Ranch, so things may go quiet in the interim. I’m very glad that the Czarina usually attends most of these with me, because otherwise she’d be perfectly justified to assume that she wasn’t really married. Instead, she just had a troll living on the back porch that throws mud and crockery about while mumbling under his breath. She does, but occasionally I come inside to get water and pay bills before going once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.

And so it goes with the Earth Day activities at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in downtown Dallas. Expect lots of giant Sarracenia, other carnivores, and the usual expected stimulation of your sense of wonder. Just buy your tickets now before you head out, because if previous trips to the Perot are any indication, they may be sold out before you get here.

Things To Do In Dallas When You’re Dead

Oh, I had plans for April. Honest. This weekend belonged to setup and covering of a new greenhouse, courtesy of my friend Brindle, specifically to protect the Sarracenia and Nepenthes from the worst of the drying summer wind. I actually had most of that set up last weekend: while everyone else was soaking up the exemplary weather, I was scrambling to tape down greenhouse film on the sides of this monster, only stopping after I’d passed “we’re out of natural light” time and flirted with “If you don’t knock it off with the racket, the neighbors are going to call the cops”. At that point, I looked at the work, figured “Oh, tomorrow is going to be a good day, so I’ll just finish the work in the morning.

Oh, I hadn’t considered the horrendous thunderstorm that barreled through the Dallas area on Sunday morning. Best laid plans and all that. On the bright side, though, we’ve had enough rain in the area over the last week that the Sarracenia are as big as I’ve ever grown them, and the greenhouse can wait until next weekend.

After that, though, the month gets busy. It’s not just show season. It’s now lecture season, and the next few weeks are full of them.

Firstly, longtime readers and customers know about my fondness for the new Perot Museum of Nature & Science located in downtown Dallas. Word apparently leaked back to the folks at the Perot, because I just received an invitation to show plants at its Earth Day festivities on April 20 and 21. Remember how I mentioned those giant Sarracenia? If the weather holds and they aren’t pummeled with hail (and those who remember the tornadoes that hit the area a year ago today shouldn’t be surprised by this news), those pitcher plants will be some of the highlights of my presentations. That’s in addition to the other usual suspects. Right now, the crew at the Perot expects anywhere from 2000 to 5000 people at the Museum on each day, and I speak from experience when I warn about everything being sold out days or even weeks in advance, so buy your tickets NOW.

Numero two-o, after the Perot show, things get even more interesting. Two weekends after the Earth Day show, the Triffid Ranch returns to Texas Frightmare Weekend, located once again at DFW Airport, for its fifth appearance at Frightmare. If weather holds and everything else works out, this should be the biggest Triffid Ranch show yet. Carnivores, succulents, lots and lots of Bhut Jolokia peppers (courtesy of the varieties raised by Dilly’s Chiles of Oregon, which include red, yellow, orange, and chocolate). This will also be the first Triffid Ranch show with an assistant: Marie, an old friend who wants a good excuse to come out and say hello, so please say hello back.

Numero three-o, specific details will follow, but the folks at Hold Fast Tattoo in Dallas have been regular customers, supporters, and friends for years. Recently, staff piercer Kira was hospitalized with seizures, and the Hold Fast crew is organizing a fundraiser to help pay her medical bills. In my case, I’m donating an exclusive carnivorous plant enclosure to the fundraiser’s art auction, and probably a lot of other items besides. Considering how Kira is one of the most interesting people I know in a world chock full of interesting people (she even adopted Stella, the World’s Meanest Box Turtle, from me a while back), it’s the absolute least that I can do.

Interlude: Perot Museum of Natural History – 7


Mammoth skeleton

Hall of Ancient Life overview

Castoroides skeleton

Brittle star slab

Interlude: Perot Museum of Natural History – 6

Quetzacoatlus profille

Quetzacoatlus from below

Interlude: Perot Museum of Natural History – 5

Mosasaur skeleton

Mosasaur skull

Dallassaurus skull

Dallassaurus skeleton

Interlude: Perot Museum of Natural History – 4



Tenontosaurus skull

Troodon skeleton

Troodon skull

Tyrannosaurus and Alamosaurus

Tyrannosaurus closeup

Titanothere skull

Interlude: Perot Museum of Natural History – 3

Hesperornis skull

Hersperornis skeleton


Interlude: Perot Museum of Natural History – 2

Astronomy Hall

Astroonomy Hall

Astronomy Hall

Interlude: Perot Museum of Natural History – 1

Front oof the Perot Museum

Perot Museum, side view

Perot Museum's glowing frogs

Perot Museum frog detail

Perot frog line

A decade later, under the sea turtle

At the time, the end of 2002 wasn’t ending so well. The job that moved me to Tallahassee just ended without warning, with my getting word literally a half-hour after buying the plane tickets to come back to Dallas for Christmas. Considering the condition of the economy at the time, finding something new wasn’t all that great a prospect. That didn’t prevent the Czarina and I from getting married shortly after I got back, at the old Dallas Museum of Natural History.

Married under the Christmas Origami tree

We knew that the future could be a bit rough, but our biggest debate at the time concerned the actual location. The crew at the museum gave us an incredible rate for leasing the upper floor, and all we had to do was decide on exactly where. The museum featured a temporary display of a cast of an Acrocanthosaurus atokensis, a big predatory dinosaur native to the area, as well as permanent mounts of a Columbian mammoth, a large mosasaur collected from the shore of Lake Heath, a giant sea turtle named Protostega, and a Tenontosaurus, at the time the first Texas dinosaur ever on permanent display in a Texas museum. She vetoed saying our vows underneath the Acrocanthosaurus, as she felt that doing so underneath a giant carnivorous reptile might set a bad precedent for the subsequent marriage. We settled on her first choice, and had a quick but thorough ceremony underneath the Protostega. For the next decade, every time we went to Fair Park, we’d drag people out to the Museum, and show them the exact spot.


To this day, I still give her gentle grief about not going for a more, erm, lively representative of our relationship, as the Acrocanthosaurus cast went back to its owner shortly after the wedding. Be that as it may, we wouldn’t change anything else.

Front of the Protostega

As mentioned earlier this year, the old Dallas Museum of Natural History merged with the next-door hands-on science museum The Science Place to become the Museum of Nature & Science, and the old composite museum was evacuated for the new Perot Museum of Nature & Science in downtown Dallas. When the new museum opened this month, we both made plans to spend our tenth anniversary underneath the relocated Protostega.

Top of the Protostega

The Czarina and the Lake Heath mosasaur

The Czarina at the Perot Museum

Ten years later

And there we are, a full decade later. I need a bit less peroxide to even out the white hair than I did then, and she’s lost quite a bit of weight since then, but we’re still together and still happy doing so. The only reason why we haven’t booked our twentieth anniversary festivities at the Perot is because we can’t purchase tickets that far in advance. As soon as we can, though, everyone is invited.


*BEEP* “Thank you for visiting the Triffid Ranch Web site today. Nobody is here to answer your queries, because today I’m taking my lovely wife out for our tenth wedding anniversary. If you are in need of assistance, or if you’re looking for a good excuse to get out of the house, we will be at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science, where you are welcome to join us. If not, just keep an eye on the newsfeeds, because we’ll probably get there one way or another. Now where did I put my bail money?” *BEEP*

“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.

Walking With Dinosaur Gardens

Time is running away, and there’s not that much time left until next weekend’s Reptile and Amphibian Day hosted by the Dallas-Fort Worth Herpetological Society, but there’s time for a subject currently near and dear to my heart. Namely, dinosaur gardens. This is what I get for dreaming last night about building a vivarium arrangement in tribute to the classic Lost Spider Pit scene from King Kong. I may even pull it off this weekend, and if I do, there WILL be photos.

To start, I could refer you to the single greatest tribute to Mesozoic Era flora I have yet to view, the Cretaceous Garden exhibit at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, but that wouldn’t be fair. It’s not fair because ongoing renovations mean you won’t be able to see it again until next year. When it reopens, though, it’ll probably be as glorious as it was when I visited it in 2006.

If you’re open to travel, and you can get out there before the end of the month, Trey Pitsenberger brought up Plantosaurus Rex, the current exhibition at the Conservatory of Flowers in San Francisco. The way my schedule runs right now, I have no chance of getting out there before it closes on October 21, but that shouldn’t stop anybody else.

A bit closer to home, we have permanent exhibitions in Austin, with the Hartman Prehistoric Garden set up to take advantage of dinosaur tracks and indigenous animal fossils. With the heat breaking in Austin, it’s actually safe and sane to go outdoors when the big yellow hurty thing is in the sky, and I speak from experience when I say that now is the time to head out that way. (Twenty years ago, I heartily looked forward to road trips to Austin for the Armadillocon science fiction convention held around this time in October, and I pretty much stopped going when Armadillocon moved to the end of August.) In fact, try to make a road trip of it and head down to the San Antonio Botanic Garden for its Dinosaur Stampede exhibition (PDF) while you’re at it.

Much closer to home this time of the year, the Heard Natural Science Museum in McKinney is hosting its annual Dinosaurs Live! exhibition, complete with a Halloween wander through the dinosaurs on October 20. I generally tell myself not even to consider events the weekend before a big show, but this might be worth hitting just as a break after repottings and trimmings.

The weekend after the Halloween at the Heard event, we have something peripherally related. Namely, the Dallas Palaeontological Society and the Palaeontological Society of Austin host the 30th annual Fossilmania in Glen Rose on the weekend of October 26. Speaking as a longtime attendee, this isn’t just an opportunity to view and purchase fossils, both plant and animal, but it’s an excuse to visit Dinosaur Valley State Park and view the famed Glen Rose dinosaur tracks. Again, because of the lack of crippling heat, wandering around and viewing the scenery, especially alongside the two 1964 World’s Fair dinosaurs at the front of the park, gives a lot of inspiration for palaeo-based gardening.

Finally, no guarantees on this, but the Czarina and I have some personal good news involving upcoming museum events. Namely, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas just announced that it plans to open a month early, on December 1. Seeing as how we married under the Protostega skeleton in the old Dallas Museum of Natural History a decade ago next December, we’ve been contemplating having some sort of event for our tin anniversary at the Museum. Anybody interested in coming out on December 28 to celebrate?