Monthly Archives: April 2014

Cat Monday, Guest Edition

Linda

While assisting with the care of my friend Madelyn’s cats, one and only one didn’t have issues with photos. Linda here is an absolute rarity: a calico that isn’t completely mad. Sweet, loving, and very comfortable with her place in the universe…at one point, she very nearly needed a new home due to various complications, and I came VERY close to giving her that. I’d never take her away from Madelyn now, so I settle for visiting whenever I can.

Have a Great Weekend

Incoming Shows and Future Press

Texas Frightmare Weekend 2013 booth
Things may have gone quiet on the blog for a while, but that isn’t for lack of trying. Between a new Day Job and lots of weather insanity, April has been one of my busiest months yet, and it’s only getting more intense. So much for taking a hiatus, much less a vacation.

New Triffid Ranch banner by Larry Carey

The fun all started back in March at All-Con 2014, when Taffeta Darling of Fangirls: Dames of the Round Table stopped by the Triffid Ranch booth to say hello, and asked “Would you be interested in an interview on Deep Ellum on Air?” I gave my usual standoffish response (“If you nail a duck’s foot down, does he waddle in circles?”), and Taffeta contacted me last weekend about this coming Sunday’s show. This may be once again breaking a promise I’ve made to myself for years about not scheduling anything the weekend before a big show, but as a fan of Taffeta’s costuming work for years, I’d be an idiot to pass it up. April 27, from 3 to 4 p.m CST, and I’ve sworn over and over that I won’t drop the F-bomb on the air more than, oh, thirty or forty times.

This, of course, is just preamble for the big show. The last Triffid Ranch show of the year, and the last show until May 2015. Texas Frightmare Weekend is less than two weeks from now as I write this, and the plan is to make that last show one that everyone will remember. Admittedly, I’ve tried doing that with every Frightmare show for the last five years, but between a whole slew of new plants and a Sarracenia pool that’s exploding with fresh blooms and fresh traps, come out to see everyone off for the hiatus.

(Incidentally, there’s a little extra involving Frightmare that, sadly, I won’t be able to attend, as much as I wish. Back in the mid-1980s, I was a regular at a local midnight showing of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead with an audience participation crowd that made a typical showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show look sick. The Dawn showings stopped in 1986, and I spent years trying to convince local theaters to give it one last revival. Finally, the Alamo Drafthouse Richardson runs a show, with George Romero in attendance, and it’s the evening before the beginning of Frightmare. Don’t let me stop you from attending, though, and if you see Kelly, the lovely and talented head of publicity at Alamo Drafthouse Richardson, please thank her for me.)

So that’s the plan. Come out to say hello at Frightmare, or just listen to me glibber and meep online. Either way, time to get back to work.

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Cat Monday

Cadigan

Cat Monday, Guest Edition

Alfred

In order to shake things up a bit, it’s time for a few guest appearances. A few weeks ago, the Czarina and I were asked by the lovely Madelyn (creator of the famed Triffid Ranch logo) to check on her cats while she was out of town. If I thought that my cats were memorable, well, her cats disabused me of that notion.

Starting off, we can start with Alfred, Madelyn’s newest addition. Ten kilos of incredibly dynamic, impossibly hyperactive part-Siamese, with a voice to match his energy levels, and out about three dozen attempted photos of him, I only managed to capture one or two that weren’t blurred messes. I suspect that it may be possible to photograph Fred properly, with the sort of camera rig used to photograph dynamite as it’s exploding, but I’m not expecting miracles.

Have a Great Weekend

And now a public service announcement from one of my childhood role models. (And yes, I inadvertently scared the hell out of him, too, along with most of my other childhood heroes. Twenty years ago this month, in fact.)

Blooms in the greenhouse

Utricularia blooms

The last really bad bout of winter weather came through last night, and areas south and west of Dallas took frost damage. Out here at the Triffid Ranch, though, we got cold, but not cold enough to cause longterm damage. Good thing, too, because this winter has gone on far too long. Sure, the calendar says “spring”, but try telling that to the dingbats ordering the cold fronts.

Anyway, one of the better aspects of our current weather fluctuations is that everything that can bloom is doing so, all at once. This makes such ephemeral and unnecessary activities as breathing a little more jolly, as Dallas air once again hits “too thick to breathe, too thin to plow” in consistency and flavor. Oh, but the view.

Utricularia blooms

One of the surprises that really isn’t too surprising is watching the current explosion of terrestrial bladderworts in the greenhouse. One of those subsurprises was discovering that a pot of Utricularia lividia I thought was dead from last December’s Icepocalypse survived and now threatens to take over. In addition, one pot of sundews had barely visible sprigs of another bladderwort I haven’t identified yet, adding a bit of yellow to go with the white, purple, and red all around. The hummingbirds certainly aren’t complaining: several ruby-throats and rufous hummingbirds found access through the front door when things were warmer, and now I can joke that to go with all of my other problems, I have a greenhouse infested with dinosaurs.

Drosera binata blooms

Others are a bit slower. None of the Venus flytraps have done more than produce bloom spikes, but the forkleaf sundews (Drosera binata) are going mad. With a bit of luck, most of the sundews that survived the winter will follow up with similar displays, and the flytraps should follow within a few more days

Stylidium debile blooms

And should it be a surprise that no matter how rough the weather, the frail triggerplants (Stylidium debile) just keep growing and growing? The weather encouraged them, too, with one of the strongest displays I’ve seen since the big snowstorm of 2010. With the new triggerplant species getting established in the greenhouse as well, I can only imagine what the greenhouse will look like this time next year. Here’s just hoping that we don’t have to suffer quite so much to get there.

Sarracenia in Bloom…Kinda

Sarracenia buds

We all thought that by this time in April, winter would be dead. I’ve lived in Texas for nearly 35 years, and the last serious bout of freezing weather to hit this late happened the spring before I moved here. Most years, we could be assured that the last freeze was done before St. Patrick’s Day, and that April would be nothing but balmy mornings and rainy weekends. This has been a rather unorthodox winter.

Sarracenia buds

I wasn’t the only one affected by this, being struck with a bout of flu after last March’s All-Con that took a solid month to fend off. Several winters in the last decade were so mellow that both Sarracenia pitcher plants and Venus flytraps didn’t get enough of a winter dormancy to keep them from blooming once and then dying. This year? All are only now starting to bud, and as of this evening, only two Sarracenia flava had opened their blooms. It’s not just the Sarracenia, either: most of our native trees and bushes are so far behind that they also only started blooming within the last two weeks. At the rate we’re going, we’ll need snowblowers to clear off the drifts of pollen in the streets.

Sarracenia buds

And are we done? Of course not. Three days after taking these photos, the temperature took a dive once again. The middle of April, and we’re looking at one last two-day run of freezing, and the Sarracenia are too far along to cover without damaging the bloom buds. Of course we’re getting one last freeze, only three weeks until the next big show. Of course.

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Cat Monday

Cadigan

Have a Great Weekend

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Cat Monday

Cadigan

Have a Great Weekend

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Introducing Tempusetsiti gilliami

The slogan for the company should say it all: “Odd Plants and Oddities For Odd People”. Most of the time, it’s able to follow through. Every once in a great while, though, it exceeds the expectations of even the oddest people to come through the door. It gives everyone involved with the Texas Triffid Ranch great pleasure in announcing that it will be the one and only nursery on the planet Earth, and probably any other planet, to carry seeds and juvenile plants of the incredibly rare tree known as the Pink Bunkadoo, Tempusetsiti gilliami.

Long a highly coveted tree, the Pink Bunkadoo is a monotypical species, belonging to the order Strepitusiciae, which also includes such rare flora as the Varga plant and the Whomping Willow. While casual observers can’t get over its exceptional height (rumored to exceed 600 feet [182.88 meters] in mature specimens), its main attraction in the horticultural trade comes from its bright red foliage. Growing in a wide variety of conditions, from arctic to tropical, the Pink Bunkadoo is easily coppiced, trained into espaliers, and trimmed into hedges, and its only shortcoming is its odor, commonly described as “a stench that could burn the nose hairs out of a dead nun.”

More details are forthcoming, such as the Pink Bunkadoo’s ability to draw out and process radioactive isotopes from contaminated soil or its equally fragrant fruit making a nutritious sandwich spread, but first a moment of tribute. After an absence of twelve years, we need to recognize the efforts of one Edgar Harris, formerly the sports editor for Science Fiction Age magazine, for getting viable seeds and photos of the mature plants. If not for his outstanding efforts at hunting down and collecting specimens, the Pink Bunkadoo would remain nothing more than a legend.

Pink Bunkadoo

When Harris first got in touch, all he had was a photograph from the Pink Bunkadoo’s native habitat in the plateau of Maple-White Land, located on the border of Venezuela and Brazil. After consulting experts on its authenticity, we wired him the money to gather samples, which just arrived. The Pink Bunkadoo produces large fleshy seed pods with many of the same attributes as ginkgoes and durian fruit, so transporting one back to the US was impossible without access to cargo helicopters. However, he was able to snag viable seeds, from which we plan to offer our first trees.

Pink Bunkadoo seed

As can be told, the actual seed is both huge and very heavily hulled, requiring extensive scarification to allow germination. A currently prevailing theory is that the ancestors of the Pink Bunkadoo produced those fruits to attract large dinosaurs to swallow the seeds, thus passing them only after being thoroughly tumbled in the beasts’ gizzards. Other experts suggest that the hulls were protection against forest fires and the occasional volcanic eruption, and the seeds only seem to pip after being dropped from fast-moving vehicles onto busy highways. This alone, along with the weight of the seed, preclude any hope of offering fresh seeds to garden centers. Sorry, friends, but the only hope here is in getting leaf or branch material for sterile tissue propagation.

Another fascinating trait of the Pink Bunkadoo is the deep scoring of the outer seed hull, often resembling writing. We were assured by Harris that not only is this common, but the markings are different between seeds in the same fruit. Others seemed to read “POST NO BILLS,” “PROPERTY OF KANKAKEE POLICE,” and “EVER GET THE FEELING YOU’VE BEEN CHEATED?” The only absolute was the difference in color between viable and nonviable seed, as demonstrated with the first documented germination.

Germinating Pink Bunkadoo seed

In this photo, you can see the seed coat cracking under the stress of germination, and Harris attests that the tap root will start to sprout any day now. The actual sprouting, though, requires specialized conditions, including red silk pillows, a mister loaded with chocolate sauce, and the rich melodies of Barry White. Or so he says.

Pink Bunkadoo seed closeup

As can be expected, this is extremely exciting, and we ask potential retailers and customers to hold off until we can present the final trees for sale, probably on 2/30/2015. Until then, keep checking back for further developments, and thank you, as always, for your support.