“Holey Bridges”

April 15, 2014 · 2 comments


Feather grasses in their prime.


Majestic little grasses that dance on a whisper of a breeze…


…of course for most of the year they suffer from bad-hair days and debilitating dreadlocks, but for the few weeks they are in their prime, they are so worth it.


Not looking so good back then!

There is something much much worse than bad hair days that can afflict this grass.

Oh yes,

we have all witnessed it…

…too much shade,

(+ a massed / commercial planting…naturally).


I see it all the time, usually at stop-lights as I am thinking about something really nice. My eyes will unconsciously wander as I am thinking about getting a morning:


perhaps even a slice of lemon cake?

MmmMy premature emerging grin immediately mutates into a

feathergrass as the shady scene registers.

Brown matted feather grasses laying flat to the ground.

Did I already say they were flat to the ground…and matted, and brown?

The people who plant these grasses in these understory conditions must be suffering from some form of…



Chrysactinia mexicana


Oh yes they are completely chrysactinia!

Chrysactinia mexicana

This drought-tolerant, evergreen shrub packs a ton of amber punch combined with great aromatic and very green foliage.


I pair it in the Patch with purple heart for striking color contrast, it is one of my favorites.


My post oak has a canopy of fresh green leaves.

It has never looked so good.

I cleared out the cast-iron plants that were smothering the flare of the trunk about 6 months ago and the tree has responded in kind,


perfect for shading our annual botanical gurning competition.


This year’s trophy and cash prize went to this Jerusalem sage flower head.

Moving Along …

We tracked this black swallowtail caterpillar


Papilio polyxenes


from a tiny speck on some fennel to the full-grown and very animated and grumpy looking toxic beast seen here.

A gentle prod reveals the osmeterium, a forked glad that secretes a foul smell.



butterflyCheckered Whites have been appearing in the Patch this week, their eyes blend right in with the artemisia.

More whites courtesy of a soft leaf yucca,


this one has two flower stalks.


The flowers had a bunch of ladybugs on them.


This one was obviously performing some ancient Maori dance.

Staying with the natives,


The treacherous bridge over this holey rock is used by the little folk as a major trade route saving a two-day excursion around the perimeter of the rock.

It is rumored that hideous subterranean creatures live in the dark depths of the cavern.



You just had to go down there…didn’t you ladies!

Talking of horror…


Stay Tuned for:

Mind the Gap


Back_GardenAll material © 2014 for eastsidepatch. Unauthorized
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by late (and extremely unpleasant)
14th century planet Earth techniques

They are over here,


they are over there,

I have never seen so many eight spotted foresters everywhere.


Alypia octomaculata


These colorful moths are often mistaken for butterflies as they visit flowers during the day.


They seem particularly fond of sand cherry flowers, I counted five on the small tree.


There are plenty of flowers in the hell strip at the moment,


don’t get too close to that swash buckling opuntia!



“Shiver me paddles”


Has to be rum.


This pyracantha has so many blooms it looks like it is covered in snow.


I keep meaning to move that bat box to a higher location but there are always anoles living in it.

4599849547_455ef3717a_b copy

“We really should go and visit Bill and Margaret in the bat box sometime dear.”

I took a picture through the round hole to see if I could capture the anoles “at home”…


…it was amazing what they had done to the place.


The pyracantha’s pungent aroma is not everyone’s cup of tea.

Feather grasses are looking well groomed at the moment,


with our recent breezy weather they have been reeling all around the patch.

“Take your panicles by the hand…”


Behind the feather grasses…


…inland sea oats on their fast rise.


I needed this image on St Patrick’s day.

She is still on the hunt for a four leaf clover.

Lucky for her I have plenty of it in some of the most inaccessible places in the patch.


There is a fine stand of it below this mature sotol.


This works brilliantly for me, as in…

“You will find one in there I am sure of it, just keep pulling them out.

When you are done here there is another patch around the base of the barrel cacti you can search.”


“right over….


…there. I bet there are a few four-leafers in there.”


Stay Tuned for:

“Holey Bridges”


All material © 2014 for eastsidepatch. Unauthorized
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by late (and extremely unpleasant)
14th century planet Earth techniques



The logistics, design and installation of this next back garden had me “Running up that Hill” more times then I care to mention.


This garden had very narrow access, just wide enough to fit a wheelbarrow.

Once through the initial entryway an immediate hairpin bend to the left needed to be circumnavigated before embarking on the relative luxury of stretch of straight pathway.


A third of the way way down the home straight are some steps that take you up to a patio on the upper level…the hill.

These steps, and the strategically placed double glass door at the bottom of them (just to add to the overall stress levels) in combination with trying to roll rather large and unwieldy slabs of 2″ thick over-sized Oklahoma flagstone up them, provided ample ‘excitement’ during the installation process.

images (3) 


The concrete pathway on the lower section terminated in a sticky poorly-draining area at the other end of the house. The dirt from the hill had washed down into the trench and was creating pooling when it rained.

Here is the top plateau receiving a good clear-out, grade leveling and excavation:


This top area lacked definition and had no real function or purpose, a no-man’s land.

Time to hit the drawing board…


I wanted to link the top and bottom areas with a pathway that would connect up with the top patio (and the “stressful steps”) providing a walkable loop around the entire space.

These are the renderings that I used to communicate the design intent to the client, and oh yes…is that another hardy red oleander in the plan TD?…You bet there is!

Although this winter has been hard on even the hardy:


It will soon recover though.

Back to the plan:


Sunken flagstone steps would be required to get to the upper plateau which would be planted with drought tolerant and tough plants on either side of the flagstone. Trailing rosemary and lantana were added to take advantage of the front limestone cliff.

Here are the flagstone steps getting hacked and leveled into the existing limestone shelf:



And here is the finished top plateau freshly planted:




The alternating trailing rosemary and basket grasses will eventually fill in up to the flagstone, cover and stabilize the limestone rocks and earth on top of the cliff.

Basket grass (Sacahuista)

Nolina texana


works great on dry limestone slopes like this.

Basket grass is not a true grass, it is actually a member of the agave family. It is evergreen, requires no pruning (unless to remove an old flower spike), it is heat, cold and drought tolerant, resistant to deer, slow growing, low maintenance and best of all it can tolerate almost all soil types.

Oh yes, this plant packs an impressive and versatile xeriscape resume.

Nolina texana

It is happiest in the rocky soils of West and South Texas – its native habitat.

The silver-blue color pairs well with rosemary and opuntia offering a lot of winter structure and color. Be careful not to plant too close to a pathway as the long flat blades can be quite sharp.

This installation took an intensive four days to complete, the intensity clearly evident by the state of my truck by the end of it:



 Back in the Patch:


I am really happy to report that his front pearly whites (both top and bottom) are now in the tiny hands of the fairies and once again I can relax when he approaches me although, I have noticed a substantial increase in wet projectiles as he talks.

Best stay at ‘DEFCON 3′ for the time being.


DEFCON 5: Normal peacetime  / home readiness, general and peaceful couch / movie / gaming / relaxing ESP family time.


DEFCON 4: Normal, increased intelligence and strengthened security measures:

This generally relates to screen-time abuse / Minecraft server / WordPress logins / Password and Username issues, DEFCON 4 has a direct effect on weekly allowance and can sometimes involve internal WIFI connectivity issues, domestic bills, Amazon ordering debates and sparrows populating our purple martin box.

DEFCON 3: Increase in force readiness above normal readiness:

Including intermittent and unintentional saliva evacuation, flies in the house / on food and gross things found in the garden and pond that are subsequently brought into close proximity and presented on our back deck or worse, inside the house…as in: “Dad…Kumo has a….

…Lets move to DEFCON3 people!”

Example of a DEFCON 3 incident:  http://www.eastsidepatch.com/2012/04/exploding-goldfish/


DEFCON 2: Further Increase in force readiness, but less than maximum readiness:

This includes the wiggling of teeth at obscure angles and involves me directly should a major domestic appliance or vehicle suddenly stop functioning. We ALWAYS move directly to DEFCON 2 should the toilet plunger see some action or the compost bins are full and require immediate evacuation.



DEFCON 1: Maximum force readiness:

Obnoxious odor-emanation at close quarters, instantaneous projectile vomiting, high-fevers and stepping into any unmentionables. Rats, roaches and toilet overflows warrant an immediate DEFCON 1 emergency response.

Internally we classify the degree of a DEFCON 1 incident by the height of the reactionary jump:


Moving more sensibly along:


‘Cactus Man Jr’ is now in a somewhat unnerving state of perpetual winking, and


his acne is getting alarmingly worse.

For anyone who does not know this somewhat disturbing story, I killed the original Cactus Man in a horrible, overtly aggressive face-carving incident which, in turn, killed all the other paddles in the adjacent area (his family).


Some time later the paddles started growing again and Cactus Man (Jr) popped up in exactly the same place where the mutilation originally occurred, only this time the paddle had already grown some eyes!


The recent winking transformation is like his way of acknowledging the botanical irony.

John Edward



Yes once again I got bullied, as I do every year around this time, into buying another ice-plant from the nursery.


I tucked it into a secluded spot around this yucca where it was was not in my direct line of sight.


Out of sight – out of mind.



The first Walsker lily pads are showing up in my ponds, these early pads always carry some of the most vivid coloration.

new leaves

This sand cherry does a pretty good job also.

I need some burgundy canna around the base of this shrub.


I will leave you with a couple of performances on Saint Patrick’s Day:



 Stay Tuned for:

Blooming Canthas!


All material © 2014 for eastsidepatch. Unauthorized
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by late (and extremely unpleasant)
14th century planet Earth techniques

February 23, 2014

“The Doll House”

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This week:…dolls, drowning anoles and awkwardly angled teeth…a wide array of topics that have little to nothing in common.

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February 11, 2014

“Taking the Hobbits to Isengarden”

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This week I tackle a pampas grass with my adapted zombie arm guards, enough said.

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January 25, 2014

“Why is the Rum Gone?”

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“Most aesthetically unpleasing plant after a freeze” competition gets underway in the Patch.
I visit a swashbuckling opuntia and Sherlock does a spot of detective work on a Mexican lime tree.

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December 30, 2013

“He’s Checking it twice”

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Christmas and New-Year in the Patch.
Alex Jones pops in briefly with a rant about chemtrails and I tackle yet another squealing instrument.

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December 7, 2013

“Up In Flames”

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The tree goes up, my strobilus catches fire and I play a wee tune on the pipes. Simple as that.

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November 14, 2013

“Deep Breath”

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My latest installation in north Austin is featured this week along with demonic ground covers, an exorcism and some nandina smudge cleansing.

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November 3, 2013

“An English Werewolf in Austin”

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Halloween…rotten pumpkins, agaves and masks that make you sweat in the night!

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October 26, 2013


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This week in the Patch see how a mass planting of bamboo muhly can transform a boring concrete pathway into green water rapids.

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October 13, 2013

“One Man’s Treasure”

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This week inside the Patch we get down and nerdy with a spot of Geocaching. Get up close to a Sceloporus and, if you can stomach it, witness me perform some delicate surgery on my strobilus.

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October 4, 2013

“Waltzing Nitida”

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Lots of strange animal and insect happenings this week in the Patch…thud.
My wife reminisces about her childhood beetle flying escapades and I execute a narrow back garden revamp. Events that should certainly be read with a large Latte in hand.

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September 8, 2013

“Vomit on my Gromit”

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Kumo has a new experience, an Olympic roach gets the better of me and some mighty-fine agave feature this week in the Patch.

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August 29, 2013

“Plants Vs Zombification”

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A dark week of ancient Zuni legends and ritualistic zombification techniques.
I perform a painful exorcism on a malevolent entity…events that shouldn’t be read under candlelight.

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August 14, 2013

“X Marks the Scot”

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This week in the Patch: roach dancing, destruction and my hatred of the common fly. Witness my belly leaning in an uncontrollable fashion across one of my pathways…events that should never be witnessed.

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August 5, 2013

“Design Up-Front”

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Get an insider look into the design process for a new property. I take architectural drawings into three dimensions and visualize a new low-maintenance landscape design scheme this week in the Patch.

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July 28, 2013

“Blast from the Past”

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Nostalgic old family photos and lightning bolts feature this week…I ponder what cowboys did when all the mullein dried up and get you up close to a leopard and rhino!

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July 19, 2013

“Trouble with the old Strobilus”

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Shocking garden events this week will drain the color from your face.
Appendages are shriveled and lost and a yucca is under investigation for falling without just cause.

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July 13, 2013

“Journey to the Highlands”

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Final installment from Scotland: See how we all cope circumnavigating a really large mound of Scottish dung and join us on a train journey to Forres…rather diverse events that should not be missed.

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July 9, 2013

“Dog Daisies and Dandelions”

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This week we cross the Atlantic to the cooler borders of Scotland.
Join me as I perform a treacherous dance in an aircraft toilet and find out exactly what it is that lurks in the middle of some Scottish spit!

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June 6, 2013


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I finally find what I have been looking for in a sago but then struggle to pronounce it. Lots of strange flowers and questionable activities this week in the ESPatch.

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May 24, 2013

“Takes Two to Tango”

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This week learn how to shake your strobilus to maximize fertilization of a sago palm. Enough said.

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