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Garden Bloggers' Design Workshop

Time in a Garden

So this month at:
the workshop topic is the influence of time on our gardens.

I first started this blog almost a year and a half ago, it has taught me
and forced me, in a good way, to learn more details about the plants
and critters that inhabit my habitat, but first and foremost up-keeping
this journal has taught me about the time/space continuum.

"Spock, what IS he talking about".
"Unclear Captain".

It has documented once a week, (almost without fail),  
the growth of my hobbits, and in parallel, the maturing
of my garden, and my knowledge of the beasts, and
characters that reside in it.
The creatures that call it their home...
and there are quite a few...
William Wallace, Compost Burper, Botox Lady, Nabooboo tribe, Cactus man, and finally the ESP witches, not to mention..

The Intergalactic singer, Bill and Ben the holey rock men and last (and now deceased), the Cactus Man, - a veritable east-side-cast of motley patch characters.

Unfortunately the sands
of time have not been kind
to the poor old "Cactus Man":

It was quite disturbing to track his demise through the lens of a camera,
I could feel his pain as he took on a rather horrific persona. I felt bad
knowing that I was was the one responsible for his premature aging. 
His head finally buckled backward toward the Texas sun, 
as he exhaled his final breath, and for no apparent reason,
he screamed in a squeaky cactus voice with a fake Scottish accent...

(I think he must have speaking with William in his final days)!

Note to self
...Next time I will not carve features all the way "through"
the cactus paddle!

Gardens take time, and are a lot of work. 
The patch seemed insurmountable at
times, but to me, starting was the
hardest part. Then came the frustration
at how futile all the work seemed.
Then came the realization at how long 
it was going to take. Then It became
a quest, then a passion, then ultimately 
a complete obsession. Gardens 
teach about time, because they take time.

Some of the following before and after shots
I have posted before, but they seemed quite
apt for this month's theme. They highlight how things
have changed over a three year period here,
in the ESP.

You can see the whole left side of the property was obliterated by the
tunnel of trumpet and wisteria vines (left). I thought the tunnel was
an interesting idea when I started it but when the vines matured, 
they visually shrunk the garden by about a third from the view on my back deck.
It was also quite nasty to walk through, lots of webs and unmentionables just
waiting to fall down your neck, causing the obligatory physical conniption.
I decided to completely overhaul this whole area to widen the view,
it was beginning to feel claustrophobic, and visually cluttered.

Pulling a pathway around the right side of the small circular bed in the foreground
created a lot more "breathing space" and allowed a more natural angle to exit
the steps down off my back deck.
The left picture shows how it looked before my skinny island "middle" bed
gained any definition. Time has really brought some visual quietness into
the patch through the creation of definition and order.

Here is the island middle bed when I first started in September last year:
Quite the construction site, the soil in here was terrible,
compacted and full of trash. Here it is today. This bed
has endured the central Texas drought with very little
additional water. 

Okay, the small Mediterranean
fan palm on the right required a
little bit of the wet stuff 
to get it started.

And here is a before and after of my circular bed.

Other East-Side Occurrences this week...
Cnidoscolus texanus
I was ripping up some weeds around one of my pampas grasses
with some gloves on, when I grabbed a swath of this monster. Even
with covered hands these spines went into the top of one of my
fingers, it felt like I had just had some Novocaine injected into my knuckles!
With other common names like Bull Nettle, Tread-softly, and 
Finger Rot, you can tell that this is a plant that demands respect. 
If any part of the stem is broken, a milky sap appears,
and some people are allergic to this as well
as the "sting” of the hairs.

Zoom in to maximum magnification on this picture to see just how lethal this plant is!

Most parts of this vicious plant are covered with hispid or bristly hairs.
But these are not normal hairs, oh no, not normal at all
-  and they really hurt

Here is how this plant's effective defense mechanism works:
If the foliage or stems are touched, the glass-like hairs break off in
the skin and act like hypodermic needles. The “needles” release
a toxin (and I can vouch for this) which causes an intense burning
sensation. This effect is a type of allergic response known as contact
urticaria, the reaction can last for several days.
I could not clench a fist due to the sensation of
"pressure" in-between my fingers for 24 hours.

Moving On...
A rare shower in Austin was almost enough to almost fill my 
red-neck tank / everything but the kitchen sink, rain water
collection "system."  This paper wasp wasted no time in 
quenching his thirst. 

With the uncustomary moisture, this Mexican Petunia
Ruellia brittoniana responded the next day
with a flurry of blooms. I have this one embedded in a slow draining, 
sunken rubber container to contain it and also because it does like some moisture.
Mexican Petunia audibly "pops" when the seed pods
receive a little water, sending seeds jumping all
around the adjacent area. Watch out, they
germinate readily.
It blooms on and off all summer.

Here is the tub in the foreground when this bed was      Spot the buried petunia tub?
being created, some years back.
We still had a lot of bermuda grass
back then, as you can see.

Same area matured - image taken toward the end of last year.

I now have TWO curving culms on my Giant Timber Bamboo!
Look at the powder on the new growth, it is apparently good
for the skin? I have no idea what is causing this crazy bamboo
snaking habit,
but I like it!

Did you know that bamboo 
was actually the first plant to
re-green after the atomic
blast in Hiroshima in 1945?

And finally...

Amaranth pushing up among the feather grass, getting
prepared for it's spectacular fall bloom. I always allow
select plants to mature from seed, so long as they are
located in the right position, like these that line the
edge of my pathway.

Stay Tuned For:
"Head above Water"

All material © 2009 for east_side_patch. Unauthorized 
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by  late  (and extremely unpleasant)
14th century planet Earth techniques.

Inspirational Image of the Week:

Pierre Haulot and William Boullier have produced
an innovative watch concept where time is viewed
as a 'progress bar'.

The East-Side-Patch Blog has moved!

It is official, the East-Side-Patch has moved on over to Word-Press!
Here is the link to the "New" Patch, please update your feeds.



( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 15th, 2009 10:10 pm (UTC)
Pam/Digging (http://www.penick.net/digging) says:

Your garden is incredible, Philip. You have a real eye for design. I love your before-and-after shots. Alas, now I have Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" going in my head.
Aug. 15th, 2009 11:37 pm (UTC)
Thank you Pam.
I would say I have reclaimed about 70 percent of my garden from the bermuda sea it started off as. I am happy to say there is still a good chunk to tackle, then there will be a bunch of revisions, then some more revisions, then...blah,blah,blah!

Sorry about the "Cyndi syndrome", If it any consolation, I have it too!

Edited at 2009-08-16 12:27 am (UTC)
Aug. 16th, 2009 05:02 pm (UTC)
And I still have it today!
Aug. 15th, 2009 11:05 pm (UTC)
I am impressed with the drastic change in your landscape over time, especially that you documented it. I especially love how the gravel gives everything a sense of definition and leads the eye. Nicely done!
Aug. 15th, 2009 11:48 pm (UTC)
Re: Wow
I really wish I had taken more photos of my garden when I first moved in and started working on it, but alas at that point in time being a garden blogger never even occurred to me, so only a handful were taken. The decomposed granite pathways really did help everything else fall in place, the pathways were the last thing I did, I planted up first (apart from the middle bed), then defined the walkways later.

Edited at 2009-08-16 04:59 pm (UTC)
Aug. 16th, 2009 11:49 pm (UTC)
Did you rub some of the bamboo schmutz on your knuckle where the Finger Rot went through the gloves?
Aug. 17th, 2009 12:05 am (UTC)
Re: Time
I should have done!
I have no idea if the powder would work on a swollen hand, in fact, I found it difficult to find any information about this mysterious substance at all.
Aug. 17th, 2009 03:24 am (UTC)
What a great post and a great concept.What I see in the comparison photos may not be what others see. What I see is you are a true work horse. The amount of labor to do it the first time and then change it so much is astounding. And what a good job you did. Although it could show that as the hobbits have grown you have changed from being more carefree to actually being a bit of a control freak. Now there must be order, so to speak. I tend to be controlling and very orderly with my vegetable gardens but more natural and carefree with the rest of the gardens.

Concerning the Bull Nettle, here is some relief remedies, but only if administered promptly. Tobacco mixed with a little bit of water and rubbed on it is good if you smoke, dip or chew. Urinate on it. No joke, it really works, uhhh, people tell me. Adolph's meat tenderizer mixed with a little water and rubbed on it. All these also work on insect stings. As horrible as this plant is, I've read numerous times that the seeds have the highest concentration of natural antibiotics found in nature and they are supposed to be deliscious. Who would have even tried after getting the whiz stung out of him.

In the picture just to the right of the self dug imitation of the Panama Canal. What yucca or agave is it that has the bright yellow blooms?

As always another great post Philip. I really enjoyed it. Bob
Aug. 17th, 2009 04:37 am (UTC)
Hi Bob.
When I look back at what the ESP looked like in the early days and all of the grunt work that had to be administered to get some semblance of garden from it, it makes me appreciate it even more today. I think I have much more of an intimate connection with the terra firma of the ESP because of all the hacking and slow building of the soil I have had to do over the years to enable plants to grow and thrive. I still know where the poorer areas of soil exist in the patch because I have manually dug into almost all corners of it at some point! I plant plants in different areas armed with this invaluable knowledge. I think you are totally correct in the fact that I have definitely become more of a control freak over the years, striving for more order. This controlism has most certainly helped create a lot less overall work, I welcome that. The more free-form "before" shots of the ESP in this post, ironically, needed a lot more maintenance and weed pulling, something that I knew had to change. I am planning a larger area devoted to vegetables, (that I know little about) in the patch. More on this later.

Interesting on the Bull Nettle front, I will most certainly try some of these remedies the next time I get hit by one. The urination remedy may be a little too difficult, image-wise for me to visually document, and even more difficult to execute whilst trying to get an appropriate blog image of the process? I fear I may lose the handful of readers I have built up! ...sounds a little familiar?

The bright yellow blooms are from some type of Aloe Vera in the "Panama Canal":-)
I ran water pipes and electricity pipes through this canal some years ago, before I filled it back in, and planted it all up.
I still need to install a couple of GFCI boxes at some point, so that I can illuminate the patch at night, my ultimate goal! Well, that and a small hop-in and cool-down pool... Ah I continue to dream.

As always, good to hear from you Bob, glad you enjoyed the post.

Edited at 2009-08-17 01:41 pm (UTC)
Aug. 17th, 2009 04:31 am (UTC)
I am already a fan, already very impressed by your beautiful garden -but seeing these 'before' and 'now' shots make me want to be the President of the East Side Patch Fan Club. Even though I don't know what my duties would be and I'm certain I wouldn't be able to live up to the commitment, I have that desire anyway.
It is amazing to me that the change has taken place over three years - wow! My space/time continuum is very different than yours ... three years here and only miniscule change. A singularity, maybe. Kudos to you and your shoulder, which seems to be perpetually to the grindstone!

In awe,
ps - I very much enjoyed the curtain call you gave your cast of characters ... all must be honored for the part they play in the life of The Patch! Thanks!
Aug. 17th, 2009 05:10 am (UTC)
Hi Ivette!

I was laughing out loud at the curtain call of all the diabolical characters that have come to reside in the patch...I even asked my wife if I had forgotten someone!...Ridiculous! She always proof-reads my posts for questionable content...Garden blogging is a crazy thing, isn't it? I always expect a big white van to draw up to the house every-time I hit the enter key and go live! Bob at Draco Gardens doesn't help with this neither, do you Bob? :-)

The pathway creation (before and after shots) took place over three years, but the later "tub" shot was when I first started scraping my way in the patch...more like six years ago. I always have so many things I want to do in the patch, but the infernal summer always demands my patience...hence..."stir-crazy" in the patch!
Your role as the president of the patch would begin with, your natural authoritative nature to develop the summertime work ethic I know I am capable off, just too hot and lazy to execute!

Always entertaining Ivette.

Edited at 2009-08-17 05:19 am (UTC)
Aug. 17th, 2009 02:13 pm (UTC)
Time in the Garden
I just loved this post. The sci-fi beginning got me hooked right away, and I figured you were done when you got to the time lapse of Mr Cactus, but no. You were just getting started. I really enjoyed seeing how your garden has developed over time, and I see I am not the only person who fosters "volunteers" (your amaranth) when they are in the right place. I do the same with cleomes and celosia. I thought about doing a series of before and after about our whole place, but decided that perhaps this time I would focus on just one area.

Thanks for the tour.
Aug. 18th, 2009 02:24 am (UTC)
Re: Time in the Garden
Hi, and glad you enjoyed the "Time' post.
My entries do tend to ramble on... and on!
I probably should have stopped after the time-lapse cactus man shots, as a show of respect, but I was never that close to him in reality! I did after-all start in on him with a scalpel, like an unqualified plastic surgeon, carving his face...and subsequently killing him, I am a diabolical cactus paddle murderer, I do not sleep at night!

I am right there with you on fostering the strays...perhaps this will save me in the afterlife, after all my serious cactus crimes? I can only hope! I love amaranth, and foster a lot of it every year, it being one of my favorite plants in the patch for fall color.

Thank you for popping in.

Aug. 17th, 2009 09:25 pm (UTC)
How inspiring. I find it too hot to weed, to plant, to photograph, post or do much other than water a few pots close to the house and keep fingers crossed the rest will make it. I have nearly all totally uncontrolled wild seed strewn spaces here so truly appreciate the order you have imposed upon your beds. Maybe someday.....
Aug. 18th, 2009 02:44 am (UTC)
Hi TD.
I have the same sentiments right now, this heat is brutal!
William Wallace reminds me in a really irritating Scottish way, just how hard life was back in his day. He continuously reminds me that the drought and the heat is really nothing compared with having a broad sword crashing down on you, on a dark rainy day in a battle in the highlands. I simply have no rebuttal to this!
I always humor his historical logic though, I pull a weed or two, before I start running for AC cover. I can hear his "ach, ach, aching" of disgust behind me, as I run for some cooling cover...he is not impressed by my wimpy demeanor it seems.

Whatever William.
Aug. 18th, 2009 02:33 am (UTC)
Such an amazing transformation ESP. Why not try heart shape on your next cactus. I hope your fingers don't rot off. I got a sting on my finger yesterday and I think it must have been a paper wasp. I ran straight to the 1% hydrocortisone cream. It really works well especially if you don't smoke, My neighbor told me ammonia but I've tried that and it doesn't work. Lastly wear gloves, ha ha. Impossible. What color is your amaranth. I have some and will leave a couple in. Mine has red and green patches. I think it would have more color if it weren't so darned hot.
Aug. 18th, 2009 03:16 am (UTC)
Hi RR.
If my fingers rot off?
Don't say that!
I should probably start some product development work on a "trowel-like" Borg implant just in case?

Bob at Draco also told me about the more "natural" ammonia that apparently works well for such stings, although this particular "remedy" comes at a risk of arrest for indecent exposure!
"Officer, honestly, I was "going" on my hand to ease the pain of my Bull Nettle sting".
"Sure you were Sonny Jim".
"No you don't understand, Bob at Dra..."

A lot of good my Home Depot gloves did with this chap! I pulled another Bull nettle today, seems like it is their time of year, they must like the dry conditions. I have never seen so many in the patch. I cut this latest one with my pruners and carried it with my pruners all the way to my K2 brush pile...I am not touching this one ever again.

My amaranth is burgundy and green - what other colors does it come in? The more water it gets, the more exaggerated seems the color...imagine that!

Good to hear from you RR.

Edited at 2009-08-18 06:02 pm (UTC)
Aug. 22nd, 2009 09:50 pm (UTC)
Time in a Garden
It's taken me a while to get here, but you know, one can't simply drop by The Patch and expect to get away with a quick skim; each post must be savored and appreciated for the adventure it is, and that requires advance planning on the reader's part. I can't imagine how you have time to put these posts together and still get anything done outside - especially with one hand incapacitated. (Finger Rot? I'm now thinking our PA weeds aren't so bad after all.) I also have to say that a few of your before-and-after comparisons confused me at first: my garden progressions usually go from order to chaos, not the reverse! Thanks so much for sharing your progress for this month's GGW Design Workshop.
-Nan Ondra
Aug. 23rd, 2009 04:21 am (UTC)
Re: Time in a Garden
Hi Nan.

Get away quick from the patch you can not! (Did that sound like Yoda?) I like to think that the ESPosts are a place to visit armed with a cup of wine or a glass of tea... my posts are about to get a little more tricky for me as I make the move from live journal to word press! Yikes! That is, if I still have fingers to type with.
(finger rot)
Your "order to chaos" comment had me laughing, I had to read it a few times to get what YOU were meaning, I was also confused! :-)

Really great what you are doing with your site, the photography competitions are already getting to be a monthly global event!

Regards, ESP.

Edited at 2009-08-23 02:40 pm (UTC)
Aug. 23rd, 2009 01:17 am (UTC)
Time in a Garden
I'm really impressed with your before and after pics. How did you manage to get rid of your bermuda grass (or most of it)? I've had experience with bull nettle before and it is outrageously awful! It looks like a really beautiful place and I'm so glad I saw this post.
Aug. 23rd, 2009 04:41 am (UTC)
Re: Time in a Garden
Glad you liked the before and after shots of the ESP!
How to get rid of bermuda grass? It is not easy...I would say persistance is key my process? I smother it, bake it, round-up it, dig it, then water it to see if any of it is still alive. Then I finally put weed barrier down, then a generous amount of decomposed granite on top. Hope this helps. I have posted this in more detail in some of my earlier posts.
Happy you found me, hope you continue to follow the progress in the patch.
I hate Bull Nettles!

Edited at 2009-08-23 02:39 pm (UTC)
May. 11th, 2010 08:12 am (UTC)
Wonderful garden
I've just come across this post and I would like to say that this is a really nice blog to read! First off, I agree with the people commenting above on how impressive you’re before and after pictures of your garden. You have done an amazing job with it and you should be very proud. Well done!
Second the poor cactus man has suffered! I feel rather sorry for him. He must have lasted a while though! That’s a good idea to bright up your garden too. You do have a beautifully sized garden; I wish I had a garden of a same size. My garden at the moment is very overgrown and a lot on the small size. I’m planning of revamping it in the summer and thank you for sharing the information, I now have ideas and tips to help me along the way.
I’ve also found reading through the comments which people have left above; very helpful, especially regarding nettles which can be a real pain. Thanks again for a great post! Wasp Control

May. 11th, 2010 03:18 pm (UTC)
Re: Wonderful garden
Hi claireswan.

Happy you like the ESPatch and all of it's "inhabitants". I no longer post to this live journal account, but you can catch up with all the latest events transpiring in the Patch by heading over to my self hosted website:


I hope you will hope over there and say Hi! There is quite a lot of new material to read through. I changed so that commenting would be easier and I wanted larger pictures!

Thanks for you nice comments, and I am happy you found some of the information useful for your own gardening endeavors.

See you in the new Patch!

( 23 comments — Leave a comment )



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