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"Head above Water"


This photo was presumably taken in the 1940’s-1950’s
of a woman underwater in the Weeki Wachee Spring, FL. 

I heard the old, old men say,
'Everything alters,
And one by one we drop away.'
They had hands like claws, and their knees
Were twisted like the old thorn-trees
By the waters.
I heard the old, old men say,
'All that's beautiful drifts away
Like the waters.'

The Old Men Admiring Themselves In The Water
William Butler Yeats

We have witnessed a lot of beautiful things drifting away this year, but in Austin,
the waters are not so much drifting as they are evaporating away. Look at these
recent pictures of Lake Travis at the Lakeway City Park.

Photo's courtesy of:
Sam Chapman,
It looks more like some Mayan ruins than the lake...shocking!
Click for a clearer look.

This rosemary just seems to get bigger,
the hotter and dryer the weather gets. The only
sign that it is also thirsty is a slight tinge of
yellow to the green, but it doesn't like to complain.

I wish I could say the same for this poor Primrose Jasmine,        
Jasminum mesnyi
It is hanging onto life by it's leaf-tips.  I must say though, it does have
an interesting aesthetic all of its own in this crispy state, like a firework
or a water-fountain in a water-purification plant?

This Giant Timber bamboo culm is ripping                              "You mean like this?" 
it's own shirt off in an attempt to cool down.

The odd twisting culms continue to writhe and twist upward from
the underworld, they are growing at a staggering rate
at the moment.

The intensity of the August "Day Star" has even been too much for
this aptly named Ghost Plant.
Graptopetalum paraguayense,

It looks like something has singed
the top of it with a
blow-torch...oh wait, it has.
One badly stressed out succulent!

Houston, we have touch down...

Stabilizer clamps engaged.

"Look into my eyes, into my eyes, the eyes, the eyes,
eyes, not around the eyes, don't look around the
eyes, look into my're under".

The eyes of this Skimmer dragonfly mimick the
gords hanging under my "purple martin" nest box. I put
quotations around purple martin because it is invariably
full of irritating nesting sparrows...I have told the Nabooboo tribe
to hunt these birds with their blow darts, but even that has not
seemed to make a dent on their numbers. I also suspect that the
tribe have been pre-occupied of late, hunting down some escaped 
Whip Scorpions, Thanks for that Bob at Draco Gardens.

My blunder with the martins this year was that I opened the
doors to the inn as soon as I saw the first birds flying around
the neighborhood...

BIG mistake!

The overtly aggressive sparrows immediately
gate-crashed the nest-box, and held a massive party
in honor of my complete ignorance. 

"why you little"

Next year I will wait until a scout actually
lands on the nest-box, and stays on it for
a while before I open the doors.  
This is a male Flame Skimmer dragonfly,
situated on my Spruce Cone Cholla,
or aptly named Pine Cone Cactus... 

...Tephrocactus articulatus.
Like a multi-eyed monster from mythical Greece, (it is actually
a native to western Argentina). It is one of the stranger looking cacti 
that resides in the patch. It also, it seems, has an intrinsic design flaw,
it is easily broken. Segments of T. articulatus easily separate from the main cactus,
the good news is they readily root, mmm, perhaps it is not a design flaw afterall!
This plant requires no supplemental water, a definite plus right now.

You can see how the sections are extremely fragile due to
a rather obvious "off-setting".  There are five species in the
genus Tephrocactus, sometimes classified under the
Opuntia genus. All varieties of this species are frost hardy...
I love this plant, just don't bump into it, if you want it to reach
any height.

Talking of bumps:
One of my goldfish is about to pop.
She is so pregnant and distended that even
her scales are sticking out!!!
It is rather disturbing looking.

Staying with the pond for a moment...

This puddle of death was to spell the end for these gulf-toad tadpoles,
a couple had already died in this quickly evaporating hot tub.

Also darting around on the lilies are lots of these:

Long Legged Fly
A great beneficial fly in the garden and a prolific insect predator.
These little flies are the Jason Bournes of the fly world.

"Oh, I see how it is ESP!"
"Just because I am not shiny and jewel-like, like he is, I am no
longer an ESP reference?".

Rest easy Seth, you will be published again before you have
chance to vomit.

Long-legged flies are members of the Order Diptera (true flies) and
the family Dolichopodidae, a very large and diverse group. In general,
flies in this family are very small, characterized by 2 long wings
and long slender legs
. The bodies are beautifully colored with green,
blue, metallic gold or silver,
flying jewelry!

The best thing about these little jewels is that they love to devour
copious amounts of spider mites. Both larvae and adults are
predaceous on many other insects and small arthropods,
including mites
, thrips, psocids, aphids, and other insects larvae.
These flies hardly ever stay still, flitting around on my lily pads,
looking for the next meal - at least this is my excuse
for my bad photography, and I am sticking with it.

Moving on...

Aloe variegata, also known as Tiger Aloe and
Partridge-breasted Aloe, is a species of aloe indigenous to South Africa. 
Looking like a futuristic tower block, the plant's leaf margins, have a wide,
ornamental white line that looks like it has been painted on. 
Spotting on leaves is often in horizontal bands in a 'tiger-stripe' pattern,
the white spots look like windows and go great set against the back-drop of
my texas holey rocks. This was one of the plants that I purchased from the
50% off sale at "The Great Outdoors" I managed to get four divisions from
this plant, straight out of the pot.

I am finally ready for yet another delivery of decomposed granite to finish
off this section of pathway. It is all leveled and devoid of life and weeds, the
sun has been good for frying anything that once lived in here. A few inches
of granite on top of this should hold most weed germination back pretty well.
At one time I was considering planting this area up with Tech Turf. Marketed
under the corporate name Turffalo, and perhaps I still may, later down the line.
The decomposed granite will, in the meantime benefit the soil and smother
any lurking weeds that may germinate when (and should it ever) rain again.

The latest craze in the patch...

...state-of-the-art transportation, scooted, (and pushed), at the highest possible velocity
around my circular succulent bed...It amazes me so much hilarity can be born from
such a basic endeavor. I am not undermining the activity though, oh no,  
it means I can garden and weed in peace, AND they wear
themselves out!

"You just don't get it, old man!...You need to wake up and smell the lemon basil."

All the scooting and pushing came to an abrupt halt when my
youngest stopped dead in his tracks, he started pointing into
this nearby patch of grass...his excitement told me he was onto
something major. I always have my camera in my pocket and
went in closer to investigate the now twitching ornamental grass.
I was surprised to see a baby possum, and judging from it's
expression, (I have the same one), I think he must have just
woken up, a little too early it seems.

And finally:
100% pup-survival rate from my agave spike from last year... like this 
is any surprise!
They are finally starting to look like small versions
of their mother.

A couple more dragons to finish...
A pre-historic insect on a pre-historic horse-tail reed.
Very similar forms.

The sun is setting in the patch but
be sure to tune in for next weeks new Discovery show...

"Deadliest Patch"

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 Images of the Week:

Soekershof, Botanical Gardens, S.Africa.
A true mermaids garden!

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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'.

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"The Cat's Cradle"

Cradled under the safety of my variegated ginger, this cat is
extremely nervous of me and everything that moves in the ESP,
and for good reason. It does not belong to anyone but gets
food from everyone judging from the size of it.
I regularly see it at night, hunting in the Patch,
augmenting his diet. 

My now deceased cat was extremely territorial until she got
too old to really care, this cat was her living nemesis.

She once jumped from under this Douglas Fir 
onto the back of this cat and "rode" it all
the way down the right side of my
property fence-line. It was one of the funniest
animated things. 

What made it even funnier was the way my cat
was having to move "in the saddle", all jerky,
and un-natural, her head being thrown
around with every panicked stride
from her newly acquired furry "Steed".
She hung-on like a feline rodeo rider 
for a good five seconds.

Beauty and the Beast:

Bougainvillea Glabra is sometimes referred to
as "paper flower" because the bracts are thin and papery. I love the rice-paper
quality of these bracts, they look so fragile, yet they last for ages, on and off the plant. 
Bougainvillea is such a cheerful plant, it always reminds me of good times in Mexico,
where it grows in all colors, and is everywhere!

I used to have one of these growing over my front porch,
that is until I scraped my knuckle bone with one of it's hooked
thorns pruning it. It was painful for months. The thorns are
tipped with a black, waxy substance that I don't think helped... 
oh no, never again, it had to go, but it wasn't going without a fight.
Bougainvillea is one tough character to extract.

I am lucky in that my neighbor has a fine specimen
climbing up the front of his house, we see it everyday
through our kitchen window, it blooms continuously.
I love seeing it, I just don't want to deal with it.

My pampas grasses are starting to have that waterfall cascading look to them.
This seems to happen just before the blooms start to shoot up. I get lacerated
on a daily basis trying to turn on and off that faucet (visible in the right picture).
I have developed a sort of hunched over, backside out, shuffling technique to
limit the leg and arm thrashing this plant administers.

A small member of the Nabooboo tribe,
hiding in the grasses, recently shot a
dart in my arse thinking I was 
performing an act of tribal aggression 
with my rather unorthodox
"maneuvers" in and around this pampas.

Talking of unorthodox behavior, this massive giant timber culm is the
first one I have ever had that apparently struggles with the simple
concept of growing upward. The shrimp plant it is emerging from is
also doing well under the shade of a couple of large pecan trees and
a drip feed from a buried soaker hose.

The culm lurking underneath my mortared brick edging continues to
push north.. "Mind the gap" It has already loosened two bricks,
we will see if it has the strength to "break on through
to the other side".

"That was just bad man".

The Hoja Santa in the same bed is also bucking the Texas drought
pretty well. The foxtail ferns performing in the amphitheater   
Asparagus densiflorus 
are only just hanging in there, somewhat yellowed.

The Mexican bush sage,
yucca and bulbine never even break a sweat.

This trailing lantana needs but an occasional beverage,
this little bed gets a daily roasting.

Anything that was not drought tolerant has long since shriveled and vanished,
I have even lost a dwarf miscanthus this year, outrageous!
Apart from staring out of windows, watering and pulling the occasional
weeds (it is almost too hot for them also). I have tried to spend as little time as
possible outdoors, but today, everyone in the Patch began to show
distinct "cabin fever" symptoms. It was time to brave the elements,
and go OUTSIDE!

Cabin fever hits the patch!

We ventured to "The Great Outdoors" for a smoothie and a snoop
around the plants. I was not even considering purchasing anything,
but then one of the assistants had to say the four words I did not
want to hear..."Everything fifty percent off".
I trudged straight back to the entrance to pick up a cart.

Armed with our drinks we headed straight
over to the agaves via a short
stop at the bamboo section where I picked
up a weeping bamboo for $ does not
get any better than that!

Back in the Patch, and now thoroughly resigned to
spending quite a few hours in the blazing heat. I loaded up
a massive drinking vessel of iced water,
put an iced turban on my head and ventured timidly
out into the rays of the day-star to empty my compost bin.
The new plants will need all the help they can get after all! 
This anole was having a field-day munching on all the
bugs and roaches, he was shortly joined by two of
his friends. I decided to leave them alone to gorge
themselves in the fresh compost for a while. . .
I had a cauldron to get going.

I emptied my compost bin juice catcher to obtain a few pints of the good stuff.
I then added some sea-weed emulsion to this and diluted the "real ale" with
some water...a lethal growing brew.
One of the ESP witches looked on inquisitively at a distance.

I figured if any plants can make it, these can.
They all got a seriously good start with the compost and
stinky tonic water...more on these new additions later.

Other observations this week...
I know I promised not to post any more images of these,
but I lied.

This Sedum nussbaumerianum
continues to grow, albeit extremely slowly.
I really like this succulent and it's unusual mustard coloring,
great illuminated with a setting sun.

As are these purple fountain grasses
Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum'

Just one more!

And finally...

Crusty cone-flowers and burgundy cannas.

Stay Tuned For:
"The Ace of Spades"

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:

TM Garden Design

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(no subject)

Here is my entry for
August’s "Down on your Knees"
Picture This Photo Contest at

                              Cattail Sparklers.Typha latifolia
These fluffy, white seeds were once used for stuffing blankets,
pillows and toys. Native Americans would put them inside
moccasins and around cradles, for additional warmth,
but don't talk to me about additional warmth
right now! 

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"The Wind that Shakes the Barley"

Okay perhaps the wind is not so much shaking the barley as it is shaking these
inland sea oats, (I have no barley after all). These swaying sea oats really give the
sense that fall is only just around the corner, even though I know we
traditionally have our hottest month to still endure. I can but imagine. 
Still, watching these seeds dance in the wind makes me feel
that there is light at the end of a particularly parched Texas summer tunnel.

Even this This 'skimmer' Dragon, Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia),
(only the second I have ever seen in my garden), seems to be adorning a fine fall suit, with brass buttons. 
I caught this one sunning itself in my mexican bush sage.

I took these with the flash on, which really seems to bring out the iridescence on the wings,
although the true wing coloration is lost. (Without flash, right image).

"Honey, I've shrunk the Agave americana variegata"!

Today I decided to do some thinning. The above image was a mighty
fine example of a containered Agave americana variegata.
Over the years this plant has shrunk, partly due to neglect
and more certainly to self suffocation.
Too many pups, not enough container!
Like a good parent this plant has sacrificed itself for the development
and well-being of it's offspring. The plant was in decline.

Here it is before I thinned it out, and here it is in a much calmer
state afterward, ready to climb once again, to new,
uncluttered agave heights.

The best thing about an agave container thinning?

Is the pups...any long term readers will know I have a hard time not planting all of them.
Oh, and I will make room for these, come Hell or high water,
the latter of which is as unlikely... as a really unlikely thing
here in central Texas.
Have you seen the current conditions of the Pedernales river, err I mean trickle?
This is one of the only plants that I would even consider planting at this brutal tme of year. 

"El Niño"  "El Niño"  "El Niño"  "El Niño"  "El Niño"

But until the water gods return...
The chores for Miss Ingalls will continue!

This Jurassic anole was intensely eyeing the sprinkler hose and it's watery emissions.

The rogue culm is now officially out of control.
It dosn't seem to know which way to go!
After an alarming diversion to the right,
it is now straightening up and heading
skyward once again.

I cracked open a mountain laurel seed pod today,
and found the seeds had turned was time.

"Let the poisonous necklace
stringing commence".

After an excursion to to a local bead store for some hardware, 
then onto home depot to buy an extremely small drill-bit,
the ESP was ready to do some amateur stringing,
with a strong emphasis on amateur.

My tools were not the fine tuned implements of a jewelry maker,
oh no, not by any means. They resembled exactly what I already
had strewn about my garden shed...a large drill and a vice. The
tiny drill-bit only just fitted into the damaged jaws of my old drill,
but, by chance, I had lucked out.
The size of the drill was exactly the diameter of the leather band
I had bought to string the beads on...It would seem, from the outside,
that I knew what I was doing.

I stamped on the first seed-pod, extracted the beans and placed
one into the small vice. The drill screamed into action and the first
hole was in place. This whole process was so exciting for my little
helper who had initiated the whole activity.
"Are the beans ready yet?" (Repeat 26 times, without a breath).
Beading is something she loves to do and she is very adept at it
after countless jewelry projects over at her Grandma's house.
I drilled, and with nimble fingers she strung and picked the seed-pods.

Things were taking shape. Small iridescent beads were used as spacers in-between the seeds...

and the ESP witches looked on intently.

Mountain Laurel Bean Necklaces, also known as Burn Beans
and Mescal Beans, come from the tree
Sophora secundiflora.
Early botanists who named it were honoring the Sophia,
Gnostic goddess of truth and wisdom. Supposedly the very
toxic seeds were brewed into a hallucinogenic, vision seeking 
concoction by the Apaches, but nobody really knows what the
recipe was, how lethal it may have been, or if this is why
botanists named the plant for Sophia.
Native Americans strung these beans into necklaces.

One thing is for sure, these little red m&m's are extremely dangerous,
even one can be fatal if ingested.

I kept a very close eye on my
youngest hobbit during this process,
and made sure every "bean" ahem,
was accounted for.

And the finished product...

Her suggestion was to tie it in the middle!

Moving forth...

Can you guess where this forest of spines is from?
The ridged unicorn spines look like amber.

Barrel cactus are heavily armed, in some species, one or more central spines are curved like a fishhook, accounting for the common name Fishhook Barrel Cactus. Small yellow flowers appear around the crown of this plant only after many years...I can't wait.
Native Americans used to boil the young flowers in water to eat like cabbage. They also used the cactus as a cooking pot by cutting off the top, rather like a pumpkin. The pulp was scooped out then hot stones and food placed in the center, quite effective, and a lot cheaper than a Williams Sonoma pan!

Many people mistakenly believe that the common
sight of a tipped over barrel cactus is due to the
cactus falling over from water weight. Actually,
barrel cacti fall over because they grow towards
the sun, just like any other plant. Unlike other plants,
however, the barrel cactus usually grows towards
the south (to prevent sunburn), hence the
name "compass cactus."

The spines on the plant were also
used in native indian tattooing techniques.

Finally a couple of insects...

Leaf-footed Bugs are so named for the expanded, flag-like process on the third pair of legs. Leaf-footed bugs habitually stink if attacked or disturbed. This one was photographed at arms length on my Spruce Cone Cholla, or aptly named Pine Cone Cactus,
Tephrocactus articulatus.
Thank you for this addition Helen and David...I love it, and it has grown
at least a couple of inches since you have left!

(My fingers are crossed that it will make it through the winter).

Night-time butterfly on a horsetail reed.

Stay Tuned For:
"Orga and Mecca"

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:

I had to post this after my "all things topiary" rant.
Keep pruning guys, only another twenty-five eggs to go!
I am such a topiary cynic.

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"Staring through Windows"

"M m must have water"!

The frosting on this window, at least viewed through
squinted eyes with a healthy imagination, offers the
fragile illusion that if you ventured outside, you would
a) survive and
b) be met with an icy blast of inclement weather.

Not to me though, I know exactly what life is like "OUT THERE"
and I refuse to go there anymore. The heat is only barely
tolerable inside the long-leaf pine log cabin,
that we call our house, and that is with the AC cranking
at full velocity!

Windows are for watching, little areas of transparency to
look through and let your mind wander, a place to day-dream
of frosty mornings, and not think about our umpteenth day
of hundred degree heat.

The vultures are circling around the ESP.

I often push an eye (if the glass isn't too hot) against this little magnifying glass.
It is like peering through a badly prescribed monocle.
I cannot really see what is going on in the garden through this spy-glass 
but it does look like you are witnessing the world
through the mechanical eye of a Darlek!

That alone keeps me coming back for another peek.
(I have given up ever seeing rain through it after all).

My garden may look sort of green through the looking glass,
but a closer inspection, and a life threatening venture
outside reveals...

the stark condition of my side bed.
This strip of land had a foot of mulch on it at the
start of the year to regulate the soil temperature.

For squawking out loud, even the Grackles are gasping out for air.
This dark lord always lies in waiting for me to fill up the birdbaths
that evaporate in approximately 6.5 minutes, the birds have to be fast.
The squirrels are so desperate right now that they 
practically jump on my back,
canteens at the ready.

"Hey cut it out ESP...not funny"

I will try to make this the last time I will moan
about the heat, at least for this year.
I am beginning to bore my feather spitting self! 
I am off to cool off in my redneck pool!

Well perhaps one more little moan...
I had my fist pool leak / duct-tape incident this last week.
Well, It just wouldn't be summer unless I was having a
heat related, near-death experience hunting for a tiny tear
in the plastic fabric of a rather large and
cumbersome object. I always seem to be
involved in these types of futile activities every
year during the hottest part of a Texas afternoon!

Remember this relaxing activity I performed about this time last year?
I was almost devoured alive, even before the heat-stroke got me.

De ja vous.

Looking out of the back window.
The large post oak really helps to regulate the temperatures for at least half
of my property, and it does help to slow evaporation in my pond down.

These cast iron plants, or Iron Plant, Barroom Plant,
Aspidistra elatior
do not look like they have such a tough demeanor
at the moment, post oak or no post oak shade protection.

These plants have a bit of a reputation around town:
But right now they are looking considerably more...

I have seen patches of this hard-case dropping all
around my neighborhood, completely erased to a
grilled heap of crispy bacon on the ground.

Aspidistra is Greek, meaning "small round shield",
(The name actually describes the stigma of the plant).

Looking out of the front window.
All these drought show-offs (a lot of rosemary) have
fared really well, with the minimum of water 
through these troubled times.

Naturally it is still too cold for my opuntia!
I continue to keep hacking away at the base of this monster, to
get more of a vertical "tree-like" growth habit.
I still have a long way to go before I get to the
size and form of the specimen Germi found:

This succulent is faring the temperatures so well,
it is even developing pups... 
Bryophyllum daigremontianum.
(Mother of Thousands) "Alligator"
I thought it worthy of a few more shots, just for it's valor, in the face of hardship.

"Aye that it does, was it's valor
 against the English by any chance?"
Don't start William.

Little lines of small molars are painfully waiting to fall out of it's gum-line,
ready to grow their own roots.

This plant originates from southwestern Madagascar, and it is prolific!
The mother of thousands is considered viviparous. This means it
grows plantlets along the leaf's edges. When each plantlet can survive
on its own, it then falls off the main leaf to grow.

Look at how much "Bill and Ben, the holey rock
have grown!
It looks like they may have adopted some new children of their own.

This canna lily is still looking as hot as the weather in my front bed.

It has got huge this year due to the trickle water-feed I have
been administering to a bog cyprus I transplanted earlier
in the year. It looked like the cyprus was going to survive
its upheaval, then I made the fatal mistake of moving the
"dripping" to the stock tank that contains my golden bamboo.
Within two days the poor thing looked like this, once again!

The light brown areas are where the new growth used to be.
I have the drip feed back on it...but I am not holding my breath.

Moving On...
The highly toxic seeds in these mountain laurel seed pods
are almost ready to be cracked open and strung into fine,
albeit deadly, necklaces and bracelets.
I have it on the highest authority that the ESP witches have
condoned this activity, and want to offer "suggestions" as to
the specific individuals that should receive one for Christmas.
I am a little concerned.

What crazy gnarled hands and fingers these seed pods have.

I never cease to be amazed at the speed of growth from the culms on this Giant Timber
Bamboo. The monster culm, right, has for some reason developed an urge to head right...
who is going to argue!
On its current trajectory, it is expected to miss my neighbors roof by about three feet.
I cannot believe that it is already approaching six feet in height.

A couple more culms from the same clump, these are aiming
toward my house!

The relatively new succulent and cactus "middle bed" continues to thrive,
it is filling in quite nicely with only a few major casualties. Here it is in the
dappled shade of the post oak, late afternoon.

And ooohh for the cooling power of green!

An indoor grasshopper disrupted a couple nights of TV and had
us all ducking for cover on our lazy-boys. It was so fast you could
not see it.
I was just happy that it was a grasshopper!

Baby anoles are all over the place right now. This one was tiny.

I recently found a whole buch of these:
Okay I exaggerate, but they do look like impact craters nonetheless,
and there were lots of them.
As I got in close with my phone to take the picture, 
I thought about that really bad movie "Tremors."

There was movement when I approached, in the very bottom
of one of the craters.
Brrrr (left knee twitch).
What is going on here?
Is this the work of some type of crater ant?
Spiders perhaps?

And I know it is not the Clangers!

Stay Tuned For:
"The Wind That Shakes the Barley"

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:

Rooftop Design: Christopher Bradley Hole.

"Harry Potting Mix".

"Muad' Dib"!

Sorry, I meant "Mud Dauber"! 
(Trypoxylon politum)
"dirt dauber," "dirt dobber," "dirt diver", or "mud wasp" .

The organ-pipe mud dauber, as the name implies,
builds nests in the shape of a cylindrical tube
resembling an organ pipe or pan flute.
This nest I captured was orientated horizontally, but most
pipes are arranged vertically and look just like organ pipes.

(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia).
Organ pipe mud daubers are an exceedingly
docile species of wasp, and quite colorful too.

They also play amazing peruvian music
on their pan flutes.

What amazing mud architects and builders these 
Frank Lloyd Wasps (ahem) are. I caught a couple
more "show homes" hiding under the
eaves of this house. More on this house later.

Check out this muddy palace,
a damsel would most definitely be in distress locked up in here.

Can you see the "Thestral" looking down on
you in ESP's previous mud dauber nest image Harry?

Mud Daubers have a much darker side to their existence...
as a special risk to aircraft operations. They are prone to nest in the
small openings and tubes that compose critical aircraft systems. 
(Yes, one more thing to worry about, careering along in a metal tube at
forty thousand feet).
I Quote: "Their presence in these systems can disable or impair
the function of the airspeed indicator, the altimeter, and/or the
vertical speed indicator "
... Well nobody tells you that at check-in!
(I thought I would wait until you landed Tom!)

It is thought that mud dauber wasps were ultimately responsible
for the crash of Birgenair Flight 301,
which sadly killed 189 passengers and crew.

One disadvantage to making nests is that most
of the nest-maker’s offspring are concentrated
in one place, making them highly vulnerable to predation.
Once a predator finds a nest, it can plunder it cell by cell.
A variety of parasitic wasps, ranging from extremely tiny
chalcidoid wasps to larger, bright green chrysidid wasps
attack mud-dauber nests.
They pirate provisions and offspring as
food for their own offspring.

Adults of both sexes frequently drink flower nectar,
but they stock their nests with spiders, yes spiders, which serve
as food for the mud-daubers’ offspring.
Like Culinary connoisseurs, they prefer particular kinds of spiders,
and particular sizes of spiders for their larders. Brrrr.
Instead of stocking a nest cell with one or two large spiders,
mud-daubers cram as many as two dozen small
spiders into a nest cell.
What creative little creatures.

Talking of wasps, (and bees) 
drinking nectar...

they have recently been going crazy over the blooms on this coral vine...
 Antigonon leptopus.
Watch out for this vine though, it is quite the sprawler, it is now considered a
Category II invasive species by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council. This one has been
popping up on my neighbors fence-line for years. I usually allow a few vines to creep over my
evergreen wisteria (Milletia reticulata). I have a love/hate relationship with this plant, but
when one blooms like this one, I always think I should allow more to "invade".

You can see the actual flowers are tiny but the sepals
are larger and provide the brilliant colors that range
from white to rose-pink to deep coral flowered varieties.

Another "colorful" collision took place about three feet above my head.
A loud "thwack" followed by some extremely poor navigation and
uncustomary bad flying skills, had me ducking for cover in my Inland Sea Oats.

It must be really hard to fly with eight wings, all pushing in
multiple directions. It is a wonder how they manage to
maneuver to solid ground at all. 
Do they decide who he is going to take the lead?
These two love-birds finally crash-landed on top of this canna lily,


Want to see some really amazing dragonfly photography! ...
Be sure to click on the first image...a stunning emergence sequence.

I thought at this point I would share some local  neighborhood horror with you...

The next scene comes with a warning from the
"Don't ever do things like this"  brigade.

A tragic sequence of events led to this sad scene around the corner from my house.
This is a strip of land that borders a parking lot and the sidewalk,
and this is what regretfully happened:
First of all the soil was turned over, then some poor plants were planted.
The dormant bermuda seeds lurking in the soil were quickly
activated and naturally assimilated the newly turned soil...they felt good... and grew.
A work crew was then brought in to "rip" out the now emerging bermuda, but as we know...

"Shhhh, you will learn to embrace Bermuda Grass, Locutus of Borg".
Resistance is futile.
An "optimistic" layer of mulch was placed on top of
the "topically" removed bermuda. Naturally it looked good for about a week.
A couple of weeks later the Borg seeds had emerged and grown above the
mulch, once again engulfing the planting scheme.
A complete disaster.

The only thing to be done here is to rip it all out and start from scratch.
Mulch WILL not stop bermuda grass...EVER!

There is nothing worse than a bed gone awry. Concrete with a couple of
large "Whole Foods" planters would have been a better solution here,
and a lot less expensive.

Hell strips are always an issue though. Even if they are done right with weed
barrier and the ever popular decomposed granite xeriscaping. By the third
year seeds will have blown in, and weeds will have germinated. What to do?
What to do?

Other things baking in
the ESP this past week...

The Inland Sea oats have quickly gone into their Autumn coloration,
or are they just pan seared?

But does this vine care?

Due to our extremely mild winter last year, this red passion flower 
vine did not die back to the ground as it usually does. It now
threatens to engulf my entire front porch, it is going totally berserk!
This is how it looks after multiple prunings starting in the early
spring, and I have not watered it once,
hence the middle section declining.

On the subject of is our resident hobbit walking
out into the "Shire" after arriving home from pre-school.

I wonder what has caught his attention? 
I can tell you this, it is not the gazing ball ...
Completely transfixed...
"m..m..must get to the water stream".

This foxtail fern  Asparagus densiflorus
has started to bloom this week. There seems to be a lot of on-line
confusion about the name of this plant, as the foxtail fern is very
similar to Asparagus Fern only its growth habit is very dense,
and it creates "green tails".

Foxtail fern is actually not a fern at all, it does not have spores
like a fern but actual seeds. It is a member of the Asparagus
genus, as in the vegetable.

These small white flowers will be followed by bright red berries. 

And here is my Asparagus Fern or Emerald Fern or Emerald Feather (top)
sprawling over an old cedar carcass.  (Also not a true fern).
Asparagus setaceus / Asparagus plumosus
I used to have this plant climbing up two large bamboo poles drilled,
with wooden dowels pushed into the holes to support the fern as it climbed.
Here they are, some years ago, before I ripped them down:

Wow have things changed somewhat since this picture was taken.

An extremely prolific succulent!
Almost every plantlet from this bryophyllum plant,
no matter the soil conditions, germinates.

Potato Vine...really interesting brown leaf margin - looks like a defining pencil line.

I finally got round to measuring the mammoth giant timber culm ...
four inches diameter for anyone remotely interested.

This area seems to be naturally turning into a rounded shrub area - interesting,
because I have an aesthetic problem with almost anything topiary.
I cannot even tolerate commercially pruned boxwoods!
The only rationale I can think of as to how this scene has come to be,
is that the cherry barbados (left) needs to be pruned tight to stop it
interfering with the pathway. The Texas sage shrub (in front of the canna lily) 
simply looks bad if left to its own devices - all gangly and such, and the copper
canyon daisy (right) will sprawl out naturally for its fall "show-off" period...
or I am just in topiary denial? 
Notice I did not mention the rosemary shrubs.

Stay Tuned For:
"Staring through Windows"
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 Images of the Week:

Designed by Lizzie Taylor and Dawn Isaac            RHS Silver Gilt medal winners at Chelsea 2005
from England, this HG Wells looking garden
would be perfect


The Spice Must Flow!
Remember a couple of posts back when I
was wishing I had earthworms the size
of those found on Arrakis, for aeration purposes?
Well as it turns out our planet Earth also has some fairly
good sized squirmy specimens.
The giant Palouse earthworm 
Driloleirus americanus
meaning lily-like worm (when handled it gives off a scent similar to
that of the lily flower). This worm was in the news this week. 
Researchers are now scouring the Palouse region (NW US)
with their "thumpers" in hopes of finding more of these giant earthworms.

                                                                                                  "I could eat this many"
Andrew, these are an endangered species for crying out loud!

Giant Palouse worms were considered extinct                     
until a Idaho graduate student Yaniria Sanchez-de
Leon in 2005 stuck a shovel into the ground to collect
a soil sample and found the worm. Little is known
about the giant Palouse earthworm, in fact this
worm has been found only four times
in the past 110 years.

The worm is believed to grow up to 1 m (3 ft) in length. 
The worm is albino in appearance and it's native habitat
consists of the bunch grass prairies of the
Palouse region. The fertile soil consists of
deposits of volcanic ash and rich layers of
organic matter, thought to sustain the worm
during dry seasons. While I was researching this worm,
I found an even bigger earth worm that lives down under, well naturally:

The giant Gippsland earthworm,
Megascolides australis
This slimy friend can get to a length of 2-3 meters (up to 10 feet) and is about 2 centimetres (around 3/4 inch) thick...a monster.
Enough worm talk.

What has been happening in the convection oven I call the ESP this week?

Well I did find a cave of sorts by my pond. I am not sure who, or what made this shelter, but it was made well. It even has its very own pathway leading into it. I have to assume it is the Nananaboo's up to their shenanigans again, perhaps it is a hunting lodge, perhaps a cooling cave to escape the midday sun?
I did peer into it with a flashlight just to see if there was the remains of food, or perhaps a small moose head adorning one of the walls. Talking of holes in the ground...

an armadillo perhaps? I did hear this week the heat is driving them into the city.

"It is the eyes that blind a man Grasshopper".

Master Po: Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.
Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?
Caine: No.
Po: Do you hear the grasshopper that is at your feet?
Caine: Old man, how is it that you hear these things?
Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?

"I am getting really tired of the bloggisphere adopting these irritating "Kung Fu"  
metaphors, I am not even a grasshopper!"
Yes it looks like a grasshopper, it acts like a grasshopper, it sounds like a pasta, but in fact it is a great green bush-cricket Tettigonia viridi...

...and it is a master of camouflage.
Tettigoniids may be distinguished from grasshoppers by the length of their antenna,  which may exceed their own body length, while grasshoppers' antennae are always relatively short and thickened. This one always had one of its antenna pointing at me at all times, in a creepy, roachy kind of way. (Slight tremble felt in left knee quickly followed by a parching of the mouth?).

Here is the same cricket on one of my burgundy cannas. Look at the length of the limbs!

The Culms are on the rise:

Oh, and how fast they rise! I am just happy this is a clumper as
my entire yard would be engulfed in bamboo in no time. This is
the first year that my giant timber bamboo has produced culms
with this diameter.

Pretty twisted image I know, I thought the baby would give a
sense of scale, instead it just made the scene look rather eerie,
in a "chucky" sort of way.

He still hasn't got over his infatuation with this newly watered, drippy container.
Even though this thyme is practically fried, I still like to water it just to watch his reaction.
Wow, I really need to weed under here!

This soft leaf Yucca, Yucca recurvifolia 
is laughing in the face of the continuing Central Texas heat wave...

as are my Saw Palmettos Serenoa repens
I have had mine about three years, (they take forever to grow).
Saw palmetto is a fan palm, eventually they will get up to 3-6 feet but that seems like
it will take an eternity if the current speed of growth is anything to go by (but the best
things come to those that wait). Palmettos are hearty plants, and extremely long lived
(I know I should not have said this because of the blogging killing curse). There are
some palms in the Florida area that possibly 500-700 years old.

"You feeling a bit apathetic today Charlie? 
You should give this try this".
A tonic to the Mayans.

Saw palmetto is used in several forms of traditional medicine.
The palm contains monolaurin, a lipid found in only mothers'
milk and saw palmetto.

The petiole on the palm is armed with fine, sharp teeth or spines,
hence the "saw" in its common name.

Campsis radicans Flava Trumpet Vine
is blooming right now. The common name for this plant is cow-itch vine and refers to the plant's ability to produce a skin irritant. Watch were you plant this one, it needs a lot of space. I have mine in partial shade, in an area where it can spread to its trumpets delight. It would bloom more aggressively in full sun. Humming birds love it.

Other strange observations this week...

A Spider?

I was doing a spot of weeding in my cactus bed when my attention fell on this.
I immediately panicked and arched backward to get away from it. I felt totally humbled,
when on closer observation, it turned out to be an old pomegranate flower that had
fallen off the tree and caught a hold of this Agave needle.

I looked around, as I habitually do, to see if anyone had witnessed my fit,
(like there would be someone else lurking in my garden,
waiting for this type of thing to happen)?

A Ghost?

I found this new patch of ghost plant haunting the dark, deep down at the
base of this pride of barbados. It is always exciting when something just appears.

And a story book Largus bug nymph

Finally, a few images from a visit to the Mueller development.
He was straight on this slide, though I think he may have personally
underestimated the ultimate velocity, -  he flew down this structure.

Click on the second image, he is
completely out of control.

I caught this Band-winged Dragonlet
Erythrodiplax umbrata
in some marginal plants on one of the many ponds at the complex.
The marginal plantings are really impressive, lots of variety.
Here is one plant that caught my eye:

Pickerel rush blue  Pontederia cordata

And lots of very, very, tame fish.

Stay Tuned For:
"Harry Potting Mix"

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 Images of the Week:

Given that most urban cores are already densely built, 
this designer proposes an auxiliary series of gardening
structures to be attached to existing structures in downtown areas.

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.