Tag Archives: things to do in Fort Worth when you’re dead

The Aftermath: Spooky Science on Tap 2019 at the Fort Worth Museum of Science & History

Remember my mentioning earlier in the year that 2019 was going to be the big year for the Triffid Ranch stretching its legs? Well, an opportunity presented itself at almost the literal last minute, as with the Perot Museum in Dallas, the Fort Worth Museum of Science & History hosts regular after-hours adults-only events, and its Spooky Science on Tap costume event had room for a certain carnivorous plant rancher to show off representative genera all night. Before you knew it, I had a space on the second floor next to a model of Sputnik, and the rest of the night belonged to patrons wanting to know more about the differing pit traps with each pitcher plant genus and explanations on how flytrap traps reopen after capturing prey.

All told, the whole show was a resounding hit, and after quick talks with the FWMSH crew, I’m keeping the calendar open for their events. I’m particularly hopeful for events in mid-April, as the Manchester United Flower Show could always use a larger audience.And the only problem? The FWMSH has featured a life-sized Acrocanthosaurus model out front for decades, just begging for it to participate in the pre-Halloween shenanigans. Why some enterprising museum volunteer didn’t fit it with a speaker playing “This Is Halloween” is beyond me.(And one advantage to firing blind with a phone camera after everyone else went home and I was preparing for the long drive back to Dallas. Even in daylight, most people wouldn’t have noticed the dragonfly sleeping on the model’s nose. Since it was beyond dark that night until the moon rose, it was just one more surprise discovered after I got home.)

State of the Gallery: September 2019

95 days left until the end of calendar year 2019, and the gallery thrives. If you haven’t checked out the Triffid Ranch account on Instagram, you’re missing out on the spectacle that is “Mandatory Simon,” in which my walking brisket of a cat attempts to be as famous as Curious Zelda, but everything else over here can be explained via text. And a lot there is.

To start, October is going to be a very, VERY busy month, and not just because of the vague promise of cooler weather starting around October 5. The celebration of surviving another endless summer starts on October 12, where we offer an alternative to the standard Texas/OU weekend festivities of filling the streets with bodily fluids with the Texas Triffid Ranch Autumn Extravaganza and Open House at the gallery. Not only are the Sarracenia threatening to take over the planet this year (a change of pace, because the Nepenthes had made it THEIR year for a while), but this comes with the debut of several new never-before-seen enclosures and the official debut of others. This will be the last open house until the beginning of the Nightmare Weekends Before Christmas starting December 7, so it’s either here or you’re traveling.

(As an aside to those having attended previous open houses, an apology and a restitution. Discussions have been undertaken with the property management about the church at the other end of the block and its taking up all available parking on weekends for their drunken parties, er, “prayer meetings,” so we now have permission to reserve parking spaces specifically for the gallery during special events such as this. Right now, we can’t reserve more than three spaces, but at least this is a start.)

Actually, I fib, because this won’t be the first Triffid Ranch event in October. The first was just resolved today, with a guest collection of carnivores on display at the Spooky Science On Tap social event at the Fort Worth Museum of Science & History on October 11. As with the Perot Museum in Dallas, any excuse to go to the Fort Worth Museum is a good one, if only for opportunities to pose in front of the life-sized Acrocanthosaurus model in the front of the museum, so make sure to get there early before traffic gets entertaining.

Not like things slow down the next weekend, either. October 19 marks a return to Curious Garden near White Rock Lake in Dallas for an encore of last spring’s carnivorous plant workshop. The last workshop kinda grew from its expected size in a matter of days before the event, and we discovered that the most we could do was two workshops of 20 people at a time. Since reservations in the workshop have to be made with Curious Garden, with no walk-ins accepted, this means you have to get in now if you want to reserve a space. (And yes, we’re planning more workshops. Don’t panic.)

After doing two workshops, it’s time for a rest, right? Oh, that’s adorable. After getting back to the gallery on Saturday, the next Sunday goes to a booth space in the famed Texas Theater in Oak Cliff for the Oak Cliff Movie & Gardeners Party, as a complement to a screening of Little Shop of Horrors on October 20. It’ll be a short show, but a nice change of pace and a good excuse to come out to Oak Cliff. After THAT, though, it’s time for a nap.

In a perfect world, Halloween would fall on a Saturday, so we could throw another open house that day and finish off October the way it was meant to be. The good news is that this perfect world starts next year thanks to our impending February 29 (the day before my birthday on February 30), but we’ll have to make do in 2019. The good side to that the Massacre on Division Street Dark Art Festival in Arlington fills the gap October 26 quite nicely, and the Triffid Ranch will be just one of a plethora of artists for this show. This works out well: we have to do SOMEthing with six months until the next Texas Frightmare Weekend. This is also on the recommendation of a local arts critic whose opinion I take seriously: after the holidays, the number of art shows in Dallas containing a custom enclosure is going to go through the roof.

Finally, I can’t talk about particulars until the official announcement, but if you haven’t been to the Shows, Lectures, and Other Events page in a while, you’ll probably be surprised at the number of outside-of-Dallas shows scheduled for 2020. Going with Nosferatu Festival in Austin and the Houston Horror Film Festival, get ready for several new shows to be revealed on October 31, including the Triffid Ranch’s first show outside of Texas. 2020 will also be the year for a return to the NARBC reptile show in Arlington: that show runs twice a year, so expect a Triffid Ranch booth in September and hope for one in February. Suffice to say, 2020 is also the year to expect an official Triffid Ranch van, because after a decade, it’s finally more practical to buy a van than to keep renting them. And so it begins.

The Aftermath: Spooky Spectacle 2019 – 3

One of the things about big shows like Spooky Spectacle is, no matter how busy vendors may be, we’re already making plans for the next three or four shows during every downtime opportunity. It’s the newbies who sit around at a slow show and sigh loudly: the rest of us are evaluating potential repairs to displays, ordering new inventory, contemplating new signage, and generally making hay. That’s in addition to making contacts and comparing notes about new venues. It’s absolutely amazing how quickly a show like this goes by when you’re already making plans two years in the future.

And so it goes. I honestly have no idea if Spooky Spectacle runs in 2020, and a weekend after the show is too soon to know for sure. Either way, expect a lot more from the Triffid Ranch, including a new open house on October 12 and a return of the carnivorous plant workshops at Curious Garden on October 19. And then things get BUSY.

Fin.

The Aftermath: Spooky Spectacle 2019 – 2

For all of the aggravations with the Will Rogers Memorial Center, one of the joys with last week’s Spooky Spectacle involved an old friend from Tallahassee. Ever since that chance job offer in Tally introduced me to the world of carnivorous plants, the dream was to be able to grow Sarracenia pitcher plants in Dallas that were as robust as those in the Florida panhandle, and the famed white pitcher plant, Sarracenia leucophylla, was a particular challenge. Part of the thrill lay with S. leucophylla being as much of a nightowl as I am: in addition to the secretion of nectar and the UV fluorescence it shares with other species, the distinctive white lace lid and throat of its pitchers also fluoresce under moonlight. Even under a half-moon, the pitchers’ glow makes them stand out among other Sarracenia, but under a full moon, the pitchers are spectacular.

That this is an effective strategy for insectivory is demonstrated by cutting open a dead pitcher and examining the shells and other detritus of its prey. Fully half of the remains in a typical leucophylla pitcher kept outside are of moths, click beetles, and other purely nocturnal insects, and if you go around a stand of leucophylla in the middle of the night with an LED flashlight, you’ll see the cigarette-cherry glow of moth eyes as they fight to drink the nectar on pitcher lids and lids. (That’s not all you’ll see glowing. During the day, many Sarracenia have mantises, ambush bugs, lynx and crab spiders, and even tree frogs and anoles waiting next to or inside pitchers for incoming insect prey. Sarracenia leucophylla, though, also gets wolf spiders and the introduced Mediterranean gecko Hemidactylus turcicus camping out at its pitchers to feed on moths, and the same LED flashlight that reveals moth eyes will also return eyeshine from the wolf spiders as they await their chance.)

Anyway, the first full moon on a Friday the 13th in 19 years was a welcome coincidence the night before Spooky Spectacle, but even more welcome was that the leucophylla in the Triffid Ranch collection simply exploded this September. Sarracenia tend to have two growing seasons in North Texas with a long layover in the worst of the summer heat, with autumn pitchers being much more vibrant in color and size after their summer near-dormancy. The enthusiasm this year’s leucophylla had, though, wasn’t just surprising. It was almost shocking. Apparently others are reporting blowout leucophylla growth all over the Northern Hemisphere, and also with hybrids such as the favorite “Scarlet Belle,” but the only thing better than seeing it was being able to haul in plants to show off. I don’t know exactly what environmental factor is responsible for such growth, but that factor returning next autumn wouldn’t be unwelcome.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Spooky Spectacle 2019 – 1

After a long run of exceptional events in 2019, it was inevitable that a show might not work out as well as others. The crew behind Spooky Spectacle, formerly the Granbury Paranormal Fest, tried their best to put together a great show, and having one that wasn’t outside in last weekend’s heat was very much appreciated. That said, I’m making the formal announcement that after four shows in the venue over the last decade, future shows at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth simply aren’t an option.

(I want to apologize to people who tried to come out and couldn’t find parking, so they had no choice but to turn around and leave. Will Rogers is already lacking in parking for events as it is, but between blocking off vendor parking and forcing vendors to take up potential attendee spaces, a walkathon that took up one entire lot, and remaining parking going to a “Party on the Patio” event at the Kimbell Art Museum during the evening, I’m glad that anybody could show up at all. I won’t get into the rampant incompetence of the company handling the parking in the first place: dealing with contradictory directions from yahoos who got off on the chaos made Saturday morning load-in an absolute joy, and I understand that things only got worse as the day went on. Combine that with “Party on the Patio” drunks driving the wrong way down one-way streets as we left and the main thoroughfare connecting the center to the highway undergoing its perpetual repair and subsequent narrowing to one lane each way, and I was surprised to see only one fistfight between frustrated attendees just wanting to park for the day.)

Anyway, barring the parking situation, the show gave a great opportunity to hang out with Triffid Ranch stalwarts and newcomers, and this is definitely a show I’ll show up for again…so long as it’s not at Will Rogers.

To be continued…

The Aftermath: Funky Finds 2015 – 6

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And that’s about it for now. Unfortunately, next spring’s Funky Finds show runs opposite the long-reserved All-Con show, but don’t let that stop you. As for next fall, that depends completely upon the state of affairs at Midtown, so we may be moving to a new location at that time and we may not. Let’s see what happens, eh?

The Aftermath: Funky Finds 2015 – 5

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The Aftermath: Funky Finds 2015 – 4

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The Aftermath: Funky Finds 2015 – 3

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The Aftermath: Funky Finds 2015 – 1

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Having the new space is fun and all, but any retailer will tell you that 90 percent of the battle is getting the general public to notice that you exist.With that in mind, it was time to return to traveling shows, with a weekend in Fort Worth for the Funky Finds Holiday Shopping Experience in November. Having much more preparation and propagation space meant having both more selection and more plants total, and the beautiful weather meant that the crowds kept coming for the entire weekend. Since it had been three years since the last Triffid Ranch presentation, I didn’t know if anyone remembered the booth from 2012, but that wasn’t a worry.

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As far as the plants were concerned, it was a calculated risk: sometimes the beginning of November is balmy and mild, and sometimes it’s pushing freezing with rain and ice, and Fort Worth usually deflects the worst of the local weather away from Dallas as storms travel east. This wasn’t a concern, other than the quick rainstorm on Saturday morning, and the crowd was the largest I’ve seen at Funky Finds since I first started attending in 2010. (Has it really been that long?)

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The Aftermath: Texas Frightmare Weekend – 6

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At the end of every show, unless it was an absolutely horrible event, the final breakdown is melancholic. After two to three days of conversation and presentation, breaking down means that the party is over. Yeah, you might be completely exhausted, hoarse, and itchy (and this isn’t mentioning actual illness, such as the horrible fever I contracted at the end of All-Con 2014), and only able to see the color red, but there’s always a part of your brain that says “We can keep going, can’t we? Why can’t this show keep going for the rest of the week. This is the part of my brain that I try to kill by shoving pencils up my nose, because it’s awfully seductive.

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No such luck for extending the party this year, but at least there’s next year’s show. April 29 to May 1, and the plan is to work with a larger space and even more new species than this year. Details will follow: considering that booth space for the 2015 show was sold out less than 24 hours, details will have to wait until we know for sure what’s going on. Considering the range of guests and events at this year’s show, the 11th Frightmare vendor space might be sold out within minutes.

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Crashing BRIT

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As brought up before, Texas is full of awe-inspiring surprises, and Fort Worth has more than its fair share. One of the more intriguing, from a horticultural standpoint, is the recently opened Botanical Research Institute of Texas facility on the grounds of the Fort Worth Botanic Garden. Normally, the BRIT is only open during the workweek, but the facility crew pride themselves on opening for special events on the first Saturday of every month, which necessitated a road trip. Not that I needed an excuse to go to Fort Worth on a Saturday morning, but organized events imply that I’m coming back, and the Czarina worries that one of these days, I’m just going to stop where I am, rent out an apartment, and stay there. I keep telling her “You can come by and visit whenever you want,” but that doesn’t seem to work.

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Anyway, the BRIT grounds are an exceptional example of the use of indigenous species for gardening needs, and it’s only started. The outer walls are designed to take advantage of vines and creepers to shade the building during future summers, with cables running from the roof to encourage growth. The main grounds are full of herbs and trees with culinary or medicinal uses, with handy and occasionally thorough identification tags on particularly prime specimens to encourage visitors to look for other examples. At the beginning of September, the latter part of the day is still too hot to stay out there long, but the mornings are cool enough for a monthly farmer’s market out in the front, and the walkways themselves are designed to prompt further exploration. By the middle of October, when we really get into our second growing season, this should be mind-meltingly beautiful.

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It should be noted that Fort Worth is also the home of Texas Christian University, the alma mater of many old and dear friends, and they’re rather proud of the reptilian school mascot. TCU bucks the old joke about how so many graduates of Texas schools resemble their mascots (particularly around SMU), but considering the time I’ve made those aforementioned friends bleed from the eyes with obsessive and overly pedantic discussions, I start to wonder if they’re just picking up horned toad superpowers instead.

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As fun as First Saturdays can be, the main purpose, and the main draw, of BRIT is its extensive botanical sample collection. It’s rather humbling to realize that the rows upon rows of shelving systems, seemingly more suited for a bank or mortgage company’s paper files than anything else, are all full of Texas plant specimens that may have been collected when Texas was still a Spanish territory. Equally humbling is the army of volunteers working through the building on a Saturday to archive and stabilize specimens. One of these days, when I can justify it, I want to go through and view the collections of native state carnivorous plants, if only to confirm a vague suspicion of mine, but that won’t be happening for a while.

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During this visit, the main event was the opening of an exhibition on the BRIT’s sister herbarium, the Makino Botanical Garden (MGB) in Kochi, Japan. The Institute hosted a small but enthusiastic event roster for the opening, including a display from the Fort Worth Bonsai Society, all as highlights for the main exhibition. Considering the relatively cramped space in the main BRIT lobby, I was surprised at the number of attendees for the opening, and realized that when the heat finally breaks, the main courtyard out front will be perfect for events of this sort.

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Now, half of the fun of obscure knowledge is being able to return what one receives. While viewing samples of the absolutely incredible illustrations of Tomitaro Makino, one of the provosts came up and told me that most of the detail came from the artist using a brush with a mous-hair tip for the inks. After getting a closer view, it’s unfathomably hyperfocused work even in the days of PhotoShop, and I don’t think most people could have seen that detail, much less drawn it, 50 years ago. The fact that one artist thought the work was worth that level of precision, though, made me appreciate it that much more.

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That’s where I returned the favor. Seeing this print, I turned to the provost and asked “Did you know you have an illustration of a carnivorous plant here?” She and several other volunteers were understandably shocked and surprised, and that’s when I pointed out “This is about the only major carnivorous plant genus that I’ve never seen, in the wild or otherwise, but it says a lot about its range worldwide at the time.”

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I won’t reproduce a detailed image of this out of respect to both the artist and BRIT, but now I think I need to track down a copy of The Illustrated Flora of Japan, either in Japanese or English. This one lithograph alone made it necessary, and fellow carnivorous plant enthusiasts will understand.

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So…the Kochi Makino exhibition closes on November 30, and the Fort Worth Botanic Garden’s Japanese Garden hosts its Fall Festival the weekend of November 2. It may be time to organize a Triffid Ranch gathering out there, just because. If you get the chance to go out there before then, though, please don’t let me stop you.

Tales From The Fort Worth Botanic Garden Conservatory – 11

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Tales From The Fort Worth Botanic Garden Conservatory – 10

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Tales From The Fort Worth Botanic Garden Conservatory – 8

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Tales From The Fort Worth Botanic Garden Conservatory – 7

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Tales From The Fort Worth Botanic Garden Conservatory – 6

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Tales From The Fort Worth Botanic Garden Conservatory – 5

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Theobroma cacao

Theobroma cacao

One of the many reasons why I love the Fort Worth Botanic Garden: just show me where in the Dallas Arboretum where the Arboretum has a mature cacao tree. For the people who insist upon getting familiar with where their food comes from, come to Fort Worth to see your chocolate on the hoof.

Tales From The Fort Worth Botanic Garden Conservatory – 4

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