“Under the Knife”

by ESP on October 23, 2014


Oh yes, we have been quite busy of late.

Meet Cactus Man Jr II, an intellectual currently working on his doctoral thesis “Humans Obsession with Opuntia Paddle Personification.”

The slots/wounds at the side of his head will heal over (and secure) the glasses over time…at least that is the goal.


Cactus Man Jr II’s grandfather wasn’t quite so lucky when he fell under my knife a few years back.


As you can see, I was significantly less ‘invasive’ with my surgical procedures this time around so I have high hopes for a full recovery.


We each claimed a paddle and got creative,


or somewhat disturbing.


Mist flowers are one of my favorite insect attractors this time of year. They work really well along side steely blue basketgrass and artemesia Silver King, but any artemesia will do.

Just add a splash of Esperanza, a hint of rosemary and stir slowly over a number of years.


I have been performing enough yucca and sotol haircuts recently that my forearms resemble pin cushions.


joe-dirt11I can live with this mullet-look for a while but then the control freak in me kicks-in and I reach for the Fiskars.


Ahh, it can breathe again.

I even had some pine-cone cactus growing at the base of the plant that I had forgotten about.

This sotol at a clients house was a monster, it must have had 10+ years of old growth at the base, some of it buried.


It took me about an hour to work around it, trimming its spiny locks. I was spiked, bitten by fire-ants, clawed at and by the time I was finished both of my ears were bleeding.


Next time I will were some protection. I think a couple of these with an iced turban should look significantly ridiculous.


Here is a before shot of the front area:


And after clean-up:


A fresh layer of Tejas black gravel was put down in the front of the house and a planter planted with…


a bonsai Juniper tree.

I think I will have to get one of these twisted trees myself.


Two additional steel planters were planted up with spineless sotol

Dasylirion longissimum


…if any plant can take the heat, this one can.


At another clients house I was called out to perform a postmortem on an agave that had recently gone into decline.

Here is the agave a few months ago:


and now:


There were some tell-tale signs; holes in the leaves, unearthly odor, it was a mess. A gentle tug released the heart of the plant confirming it was once again the work of the notorious agave villain:

Dum dum duummm…

Mr Snout-Nose…AKA: “The Evil Weevil”


venom copy

Known to his inner circle as:

Scyphophorus acupunctatus



This time the sneaky villain had managed to clone himself.

This poor agave was full of his duplicates and a disturbing amount of the weevil’s grubs that were now furiously devouring the inside of the agave, causing it to turn to mush and collapse on itself.

It wasn’t a pretty site,

and it wasn’t a pretty smell.

IMG_1125 copy

This beetle is deadly for agaves.

I have lost many a fine specimen plant to the trunked-tyrant myself, particularly Agave Americana which, as I understand it, tastes like freshly baked pecan pie and cream to Mr Weevil. 

If infected I take out the dying plant and cover the entire area with diatomaceous earth. I avoid planting in the same hole.

As for other plants that may be effected or at risk, I put a thick circle of diatomaceous earth around the base of the plants and replenish regularly.


Oh, and when I find a dead weevil or one journeying in the open looking for a host agave to decimate, I turn into Vlad the Impaler. I leave tiny clumps of them on ceremonial skewers to deter others…and I like insects.



“No Bear, it is not a waste!”

On a brighter note after retching a few times getting the rotted limbs of the agave into the bed of my truck, I did take some time to snap a few pictures of the landscape that I installed last spring.


Lots of linear lines, patchy turf and odd stepping-stone flagstones needed to be taken out.

There were some nice corten steel planters to work with though.


Here is the visual I generated for the space to communicate a more organic and naturalistic aesthetic:




Linheimer Muhly grasses filling in well,


along with the gulf coast muhly.

No more grass to water and cut here.


Snapshots in the Patch:



Celosia is setting seed.


Mexican firebush threatens to ignite some crusty old inland sea oats.


Miscanthus grasses glow gold this time of the year,


and Salvia Leucantha just keeps on going…yes the Vitex is still there!


Stay Tuned For:

“The Claret Jug”



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


“Beans, Boots & Mullein”

by ESP on September 28, 2014


I usually go through work boots as fast as cowboys-of-old would have gone through beans and mullein.


No idea where that analogy came from.



Most disintegrate within a year but these Timberlands just keep on going like stinky protective slippers.

This is year three and I must say, apart from some disapproving downward glances from the flamboyant mustache brigade in my local Quickie Pickie they are holding up ‘relatively’ well.


With the leather long-worn from the toe (exposing bone), the boots pair remarkably well with a disheveled iced turban on a hot work day.

I refer to them as having ‘character’…you know…soul

(oh dear).

Smoking-GunBut the best thing about these old boots is the fine particles of decomposed granite that now waft out of the prow when feet are inserted.


‘Smokin’ hot boots’!

Staying with bowls and beans for a moment:


The recent rains have grown a dense mat of these “birds nest fungi”,

Cyathus striatus



The nest acts as a splash cup…when raindrops hit the nest, the eggs are splashed out at a distance. If they land on a suitable medium they will grow into new fruiting bodies. These fungi usually grow on wood and mulch and are common in the fall months, (very hard to spot though).


I did notice some subtle differences in the eggs.


Okay, perhaps the reptile guarding this gold was a little more…


Moving humbly Along:


Pyracantha berries are ripening up for Halloween.


“Yes but let me see you get a candle in there.”

Here is a silvery pairing that works really well:


Whales tongue agave and thunder cloud sage,

Leucophyllum candidum



Inland sea oats are now wearing their fall coats.



These decorated plants transform so much throughout the year you can guess the month by looking at them.


panning back a little:


 Mexican firebush,

Hamelia patens


also starts to bloom this time of the year. This plant dies to the ground in the winter but quickly gets to 5ft by fall.


Whatever you do do not fall asleep…


…on my garden bench.



This evergreen wisteria would envelop you overnight…there is a reason we no longer sit on this garden feature.



Some great Japanese Aralia on Trinity.


First blooms from duranta ‘sapphire showers’ (Picotee Sky Flower)


Bambusa multiplex ‘Fernleaf’ (one of my favorite Clumpers along with alphonse karr).

Stay Tuned For:

“Under the Knife


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



“Wail of a Weekend”

by ESP September 13, 2014
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This week we hop north with the Silver Thistle Pipe Band to compete in the Capital District Scottish Games in Albany. See what rum does to an opuntia and witness some mites sucking the life out of rosemary.

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“Pain In The Neck”

by ESP August 17, 2014
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This week I get up-close to some damselfly parts.
A peek under one of my stock tanks causes me to break into yet another non-adjudicated Highland Fling.

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“Oh Drupes!”

by ESP July 29, 2014
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Snakes, drupes, you name it, I will be running at you with any dead critters I happen to come across in the Patch.

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“A Change of Scenery”

by ESP July 10, 2014
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This week we pack up the car and venture to Gulf Shores, Alabama and New Orleans. I make a heron friend and we check-in to a hotel that is not a Best Western!

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“The Normandy Phase”

by ESP June 20, 2014
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This week get to witness what the ‘Normandy phase’ of an installation looks like on a front garden in South Austin. I take a quick trip down memory lane and highlight a couple of plants that have waged war on me.

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“Oh Frass!”

by ESP May 26, 2014
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This week I discover a new word and use it way too much. Best put your food down to read this latest splattering from the Patch.

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“Uncle Wiggily wants his Ovaltine”

by ESP May 18, 2014
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Munching and hoarding insects, wizard wands and buried treasure this week in the ESPatch.

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