It has a green, scaly heft, a gaping insatiable maw, and tendrils which clutch and burn long after they have been severed from the main body. No, it isn't your latest stormtrooper design, it is the landscaping alongside your front walk. A vigorous growth of predatory foliage is one of the best ways to enhance the value of your lair in any climate, though establishing one is a task to which one needs to commit some serious long-term resources in order to assure success. In most climes gargantuan plant life of the carnivorous sort is not naturally occurring, so you must step in as creator and provide the conditions needed to override the laws of nature. With any luck, you will end up with a result both attractive and bloodthirsty that will become the talk of the regions around you.
- Choose your stock. Whether you begin with grown plants, seeds, cuttings, or plain old nucleic acids, you need to know that you have the very best material to start your collection. If they are cultivated, obtain a pedigree in order to assure genetic vigor. If they are obtained from the wild, make a note of the geographic point of origin in case you need to recruit from that area again. If they are lab-grown, make a record of the nucleic acid sequence and store it on a disk in case you need to use it again.
- Husbandry. Proper cultivation of your garden begins with detailed recordkeeping. Record the seed lot or origin of the stock, the type of soil, the date of planting, the phase of the Moon and major planets, the atmospheric and economic conditions, and the length of time since the last drenching rainfall. Then weekly or daily if possible, observe your plantings to look for signs of thriving which probably indicates insufficient hunger; thin these specimens out. As they grow in size and vigor, release small captive creatures through the plot to teach them hunting skills and to hone the killer instincts. Stay out of the garden at night. By no means add any inorganic fertilizer to the soil or to the watering can. When your charges become too mighty to thin back, you have arrived.
- Training. This is the part which most meat-eating plant growers find addictive. When your plants are of an appropriate age, train them to accept flesh from your hands or that of your designated gardener. In this way they will associate the touch and scent of their caregiver with something desirable and will be less inclined to turn on that person later. Do not, however, continue hand-feeding beyond the point where their innate instincts develop, lest they grow up to be coddled and spoiled, unfit to hunt for themselves. This is when you need to locate a reliable supplier of further training incentives (small insects, pinkie mice, piglets, or slightly sedated children depending on size).
- Give them some fresh air. Once the hothouse flora have grown to a sufficient degree of vigor they can survive in the rough and tumble of the out of doors, you can consider relocating them to the hedgerows surrounding your lair where they can benefit from both the sunshine and the opportunity to snare their own prey. This can be a somewhat delicate operation, even under the best of circumstances, so pay close attention to the natural periods of dormancy and seize your chance when you can.
- Let the games begin. To keep your carnivorous charges in top form, set them up against one another and watch those competitive juices flow. But always under supervision, to make sure that they do not end up shredding each other or tearing root from stem in irreparable ways.
Strokes of genius
- Misting. When establishing your seedlings, use blood and a dusting of bone meal. This can be applied by hand spraying the upper leaves and mouthparts, or aerially if your field is large. Allow at least an hour, perhaps two, before venturing into the area which has been sprayed.
- Pruning. Often times, if you have vigorous specimens planted in proximity to one another, this will take care of itself. But if you have a venerable old codger which has cleared a swath around itself, you may need to perform this task by hand. In that case, the use of edged missile weapons (though not necessarily those of the ranged sort, ordinarily) is likely the more prudent choice as compared to hand-pruning.
- Intelligence. The question comes naturally to any supervillain who wishes to increase the impressiveness of his or her prize carnivorous plant collection: can I make it think? There are multiple avenues to achieve sentience in plants, including genetic manipulation, plant-animal hybridization, insane alien therapies, and artificial noggin implantation, all of which have their adherents and detractors. The key thing to remember in all cases, however, is that it is virtually never advisable to create a flesh-dissolving autonomous creeping topiary with greater processing power than one’s own self, no matter the firepower at one’s disposal.
- Going mobile. If you have a wish to take your prized specimens on the road you will need at least a big pot for transport, or, preferably, a greenhouse on wheels. The chief thing that one must provide, even more than shock absorption, protection from overexposure to the midday sun, atmospheric filtration to eliminate the fumes of travel, or even a means to purify water from sources of unknown purity is, above all, a means by which you can ensure round-the-clock security in potentially hostile settings, both to your flora and yourself. Many dedicated fanciers swear by a convoy arrangement where the armed muscle can be separated from the muscle-eaters for convenience.
Traps for mere fools
- Frequently encountered diseases. In addition to the same sorts of insect and fungal infections that ordinary plants must endure, be sure to watch for blood-borne and food-borne pathogens in your periodic checkup.
- Over-fertilization. The Socratic aphorism that hunger is the best appetizer definitely applies here. A well-fed garden will lack the fighting spirit of one kept lean and mean, particularly if they grow over-accustomed to fresh meat. Over-watering is another frequent error easily avoided with the aid of a soil probe, preferably one with a remote readout.
- Aphids. You can combat these with a spray from the hose or with prolonged irradiation.
Precious and needful
- Long-handled rake.
- Electric prod.
- Motorized remote-control gardener.
- Tears of innocents. Dilute 10:1 with distilled water before application to avoid burning the roots
- Laser machete.
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- Image credit Finale for Little Shop of Horrors by drurydrama
- Image credit venus flytrap by cskk
- Image credit Nepenthes truncata peristome by terrorchid
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