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August 11th, 2009

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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