“Painful Extractions”

by ESP on September 25, 2010 · 19 comments

Say Ahhh!  Or Ooo…

The blended rainbow colors forming on this dying giant timber bamboo culm are quite psychedelic at the moment…very Aurora Borealis.  And just why am I staring meditatively at bamboo culms, performing deep breathing exercises?Let me back up a little.

I have had a long and turbulent history with my two eldest barrel cactus.  I had them in pots for the longest time as I prepped a fast draining bed in the Patch.  The exciting day finally came, the bed was ready and so was I.  I carefully extracted them from their pots, wrapped them in a very “ET” fashion in blankets and took full advantage of their exposure to tease out the Bermuda grass that had annoyed me for years.  This grass embeds itself  (as only Bermuda grass has a propensity to do), in the most inaccessible places known to man, in this case, tight in tight against the body of the barrel, behind the geometric spines…it was the perfect impenetrable fortress.

I spent time easing this grass out of the root ball with some rudimentary medical implements, and oohh was it satisfying.  I looked like an unhygienic surgeon (complete with dirty fingernails), hunched over my “temporary operating platform” (my wheelbarrow), occasionally throwing my head back to manically laugh out loud as each individual blade lost its annoying stronghold on the root ball.

After relocating the barrels into their new home I was feeling pretty good, at least I was for a couple of months…then the unimaginable happened. I walked outside one morning to find more blades of Bermuda grass once again growing up from their bases, after all of my surgical diligence!

I had once again failed to eradicate my terminal enemy.

After all of our recent rains of late, I thought I would try one final desperate strategy…pliers! Why had I not thought of this before?  I must say it worked very well with our softened soil, even though with each grass extraction, the back of my hand kept painfully impaling itself on adjacent smaller barrels as the Bermuda grass root would give way, though it was well worth the pain.

I have told you how much I HATE Bermuda grass at some point, right?!

There is only one thing I can think of that is worse, and perhaps more annoying and painful…

Naturally I am referring to the extraction of pampas grass.  This particular pampas has been flogging flesh from my arms for a couple of days now, up to its extraction, and actually for some time after. Yes, that is my wheelbarrow handles poking out from under all of its hair, hair that insisted on wrapping itself around my exposed legs as I tried to push it.  I know I know, I should have worn long pants, but it has been so incredibly humid!  I had to take my chances.

I obtained a few lacerations prior to the extraction trying to get a good shot of this shy grasshopper who proceeded to shuffle round to the other side of the grass every time the lens approached it.

I played his game for some minutes before eventually giving up, all the while feeling the intent stare of…

“I wouldn’t dig around that grass if I were you, oh he’s started digging!”

…this nosy little anole.  Very “human” eyes.

I struggled and punched (with gloves on naturally) the razor wig into submission in a trash can and dragged it out to the curb. With a final strand unknowingly encompassing my arm I walked away.

Inhale slowly through the mouth…hold….and exhale.

Moving On:

After the recent discovery of a rather large hole in the side of my camper, I decided to just take the whole thing off completely. This proved a little more taxing then I initially anticipated, mainly due to the weight.  This could have easily been another Darwin Award, like the hanging of my wind chimes:


but once again I got away without one.

Where she fell is where she lays, vividly reflecting my Celosia plants and my vitex in the front of the Patch, a very odd looking sight.  I do like granite but not enough to bury my entire truck!

The good news is that once again I can get a scoop of the good stuff dropped directly into the back bed…I have missed this!

No sooner the camper was off, I was off to see if my old steed could still haul some of the brown gold.  Some transmission slippage later, I was back in the Patch to touch up some of my pathways that had degraded over time, compounded by the erosion of the recent rains that have been transforming my walkways into small fast-flowing rivers on a regular basis.

And what a difference it made.  What was once dirty looking granite is now looking like a new carpet that has had a Dyson running over it for 24 hours. I had no idea how bad it had looked until I laid out this new top layer.

It even has lines on it like a new rug.

This digger driver took immediate advantage of these new soft piles of granite, it kept him quiet for ages.

The other good thing about not having my camper on…

…you can sit on the tailgate and eat popsicles, oh and haul some serious cedar carcasses, courtesy of my friend Bob over there at Draco: http://dracogardens.blogspot.com/

Thanks so much for these Bob, they fit right in.

I like to use these twisted tree limbs to elevate Mexican gazing balls, which usually tend to get visually lost if just placed on the ground.  They offer a great otherworldly, storybook aesthetic…you cannot beat that.

Within minutes of this ancient looking stump being positioned, this spiny Texas lizard was all over it!

Talking of ancient:

Fossils of this plant have been found on almost every continent on the planet.  Cycads are often referred to as “living fossils”.  And just how have Cycads been so successful?  Well for a start, they are totally lethal!  I had no idea.

The incidence of Sago Palm ingestion by pets has risen by over 200% in the last five years, due to the plants current popularity. Sagos apparently taste like Oreos to cats and dogs, a staggering 50 to 75 percent of cases involving ingestion of Sago Palm result in fatalities. This is remarkable considering how sharp they are, I had two blood spots on my knuckles just taking this shot!  I would have never considered this plant poisonous, it just looks so benign, but all parts of this plant are toxic, particularly the seeds.

Talking of seeds:

I cut back my cone flowers aggressively a couple of months ago, and they have responded with new flowers.

In a similar hue, “whirling Butterflies” or Gaura are putting on their own dancing flower show right now.

As is my Barbados cherry, that was all but dead at the start of this year.

And behind it is…

my pokeweed.  This plant is putting out a second set of berries right now, and to think that I was about to pull this plant out of the ground once again! This plant has been full of surprises since I first noticed it.  Amazing how the stems turn from white to red as they mature.

The regular rains and cooler temperatures have really perked up these small sedums.

Even the gopher plants seem happier then usual.

And artemesia fills in the gaps. I have tried to time this plant so

a) it wouldn’t be too leggy and

b) it wouldn’t be too sparse for the upcoming Garden Conservancy Tour on the 16 Oct.  http://gardenconservancy.org/opendays/events.pl?ID=393&SortBy=&State=

Mark your calendars, and I hope to see you in the Patch.

Stay Tuned  for:

Event Horizon

All material © 2010 for eastsidepatch. Unauthorized
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and punishable by late (and extremely unpleasant) 14th century planet Earth techniques.

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1 Pam/Digging September 25, 2010 at 6:33 pm

Oh, my calendar is marked, ESP. Everything in the Patch is looking marvelous. Now all we need is 72 degree weather with slightly overcast skies (for good pictures) and low humidity. I’m placing my order now.

2 Katina September 25, 2010 at 6:52 pm

After my cat decided to ingest some plant in the neighbor’s yard and had to be taken to the emergency pet hospital with acute kidney failure, I started doing some massive research on poisonous plants. Most plants that harm cats and dogs cause liver failure (like the cyads) but only a handful cause kidney failure (lilies cause kidney failure in cats, but apparently not dogs). I also had read an article about how sago palms are occasionally ground up for flour in some far distant countries. Needless to say there have been countless reports of it killing people. how hard up for carbs are these people?

3 ESP September 25, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Hi Pam.
Right there with you on the fall front…my favorite time of the year in the garden. Only another 232.5 tasks to accomplish in preparation for the tour :-) My biggest concern now is what to do with that fallen camper! Flip it over and create a new planter perhaps, sweep it under the garden carpet with a deep layer of mulch? Something drastic needs to happen…caulk the windows to achieve a rather randomly placed water feature?
Thanks Pam.

4 ESP September 25, 2010 at 7:29 pm

Sorry about your cat, Katina…hope it pulled through okay.
I had no idea that sago was so toxic until researching this post, it just does not look like it would poisonous to me at all…you live and learn!
On a side note:
My neighbors have just started to let their kitten out of their house recently to the squeals of delight from my hobbits. After the “unmentionable” today I was laying out the fantastic cedar carcasses that Bob gave me when I heard a “splosh”. The kitten had been fishing for my goldfish, slipped, and fell into my stock tank, at which point I saw it flailing both its front legs on top of my Madame Ganna Walska water lilies in a desperate attempt to keep its head above water. It made it all the way across my stock tank doing a crazy “kitty paddle,” emerging on the far side as the skinny rabbit that all cats transform into when they are wet. It was so embarrassed, the whole event had me keeled over!
So funny.

5 Jenny September 25, 2010 at 7:53 pm

I really like what you did with the ‘stumps’. Everything’s looking ‘spot on’

6 ESP September 25, 2010 at 8:03 pm

Thanks Jenny.
My hands will be stumps if I have to extract one more pampas or Bermuda grass from a barrel! Had fun today, and I hope you will find some seeds in those butterflies!
Thanks for the lemon grasses!

7 Bob Pool September 25, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Uhhh, excuse me, but I believe Sting did an admirable job in Dune. Thank goodness he didn’t sing though.

I was just saying wow to the grass hopper shot and boom, there was the best shot of an anole I think I have ever seen.

I feel for you on moving the grass clump. I have a huge [and I do mean huge] lantana that just has to go. I am really dreading it.

I sure am glad the stumps worked out. I was worried that they wouldn’t have enough class to fit into the Patch. They really do look right at home.

See you on the 16th. Bob

Hi Bob.

How could anyone forgot that Stella performance?
So ridiculous. Even better in Spanish :-)

That grasshopper was crazy, its antenna were going crazy tasting the air around my hand, trying to figure out what I was and if I was a threat. I was about as close to this monster as I dare to get, at one point a leg came up in a kicking posture…I was out of there.
The anole came out good as I finally managed to get a shot of one against a dark backdrop, usually they are green (or brown) on green, and thanks, glad you liked it.

I love the stumps, they make the ones I already had look tiny…they look great in the Patch! Thanks for taking the time to get these to me.

See you then.


8 Les September 26, 2010 at 5:09 am

I love the stumps too. I am forever bringing driftwood home from the beach, whether I have room for it or not. I will have to consider adding my gazing balls to them. I had to get stainless steel orbs after the dogs knocked over the glass ones one too many times.

Hi Les.

Yes I would imagine you have a good collection of driftwood, I would be an obsessive beachcomber too if I lived near the coast. And yes, driftwood and gazing balls, that would be a great combination.


9 TexasDeb September 26, 2010 at 8:18 am

So much to admire and enjoy here. Adding to the cats/toxicity thread, we discovered recently that Hibiscus plants make cats nauseated and often trigger extensive drooling – though that did not deter the cat from trying to continue its snacking on leaves. Wonder what they taste like to overcome such effects?

The gazing balls on stumps are so right for our area. Extra points for that artistic confluence for sure. Thanks to you (and Bob) for sharing!

Hi TD.
Glad you liked the post.
It is tough on cats and dogs and apparently humans out there in the garden…apparently most of the plants in my garden will either kill you or send you to the dark side of the moon on a four day trip.
The gazing balls rock!
Thanks TD.

10 David C September 26, 2010 at 8:38 am

What a nice read first thing in the AM, back home. Trust me, Austinites (?), as I am on the other side of the fall air that is reaching you, and it is like the finest 5-star dry wine you could sip. You will soon rediscover the joy of being outside in your gardens, watching things awaken! And the passing comment on Sting as related to Bermuda Grass…agreed.

11 ESP September 26, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Hi David.
Great to meet you the other day, I hope you had fun, and yes, most definitely looking forward to some of that fall air.
What Sting comment? :-)
Oh and while I remember, please jog my bad memory on the link you mentioned about the guy who went into caves an observed the root structures of mature oaks?
I think I have this almost right!
A rather vague,

12 Cheryl September 27, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Bermuda grass, Wisteria, Virginia Creeper and Passion vine will take over the earth. At least 3 of the 4 have lovely flowers and /or fall color. Pampas Grass=ICK.
did not know about the toxic effects of the Sago Palm. Guess we ALL have “Danger Gardens”. ;>)
I would love to have some of those cedar carcasses! How cool!
Let us know what you decide to do with your camper shell. Mine has been sitting under the Stellata magnolia for over a year now…
Wish I could get to Austin for the Garden tour. :>( But I know you and Pam will post lots of photos.

13 ESP September 27, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Hi Cheryl.

You have that list right…I just watched one of those “the end is nigh” shows, you know the Mayan calender…2012 apocalyptic prediction nonsense and had the same plant thoughts + paranoid roach incorporation naturally (Brrr).

I have to say I have a soft (but usually bleeding or inflamed) spot for the old pampas grass, so much presence, especially if planted on elevated ground! I am a glutton for punishment apparently, and yes the unassuming sago? Completely toxic? Surely not! I was shocked.

I had a car stop by this evening inquiring about the camper, I told him $50, he said he would be right back after going to the ATM…he never returned, I expect he will come back in the early hours and snag it for free. Oh well, I just hope he does :-)

Sorry you cannot make it to the tour, and I have a notorious history of not taking pictures at my own events.


14 Cheryl September 28, 2010 at 9:48 pm

Well then, VERY good thing Pam (Digging) is going. She will take LOTS of great pictures!
The pampas grass is an obnoxious weed here in California. (like Scotch Broom and Catalpa trees)
We had one when I was a little girl and my mom used to get so mad because the Bantam hens would hide in there for weeks and then come out with a gazillion wild chicks. I think she finally set fire to the clump. (chickens were long gone by then) (Hey Mom! The chickens are backkkkkkkkkkkk… only one is a “Banty” though. the other 4 are laying hens.. no, three are laying hens. the 4th is retired.) the “banty” is a rooster. An antique rooster. Dang, how long do these things live anyway??

15 ESP September 28, 2010 at 10:03 pm

Hi Cheryl.
I hope so!
Yes the pampas are a force to be reckoned with…I am now down to three in my garden, though they are getting old and a little run down. I am prepared for a few more lacerations when the time comes for me to make more room for something a little less maniacal to replace them.
I love Bantum eggs, they are amazing, we also had them when I was a kid in Scotland, the yolks were the darkest orange, you need a few of them, but they were delicious! Have you ever had “Banty” hens? And yes they are quite long lived. We had one “Odd Bod” who got hit over the head (long story) with a rather large rock…it developed a tick shortly after, hence the name. It was so funny, going along all normal, then going into a complete conniption…then normal again, she was a great, though a little bit disturbing talking point :-)

16 Cheryl September 29, 2010 at 6:56 am

Oh yes, have had plenty of Bantum eggs. Bantums are not quite as destructive in the garden as their larger cousins but they insist upon living in the trees, or hiding their nests and showing up with eleventy-seven baby roosters. Since I can’t kill anything other than Black Widows (and then only after apologizing to them), I once really did end up with 14 crowing roosters. My current hens are Barred Rock and um, I forget.. and since they are free range (only to be locked up at night), their yolks are bright in color too.
Poor Odd Bod! That is a bit disturbing but it sounds like the dear thing had a good home.

17 ESP September 29, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Hi Cheryl.

We keep talking about getting some Bantums, and I know the kids would love it, being as pet starved as they are, perhaps it will become a winter project to add a coop onto the side of my shed? As I am five minutes from downtown, to suddenly have eleventy-seven baby roosters show up would most certainly be a really bad thing though! Mmmm, but then there is the fun and the eggs they bring? You can see my dilemma!
Yes indeed poor Odd Bod (Odd Bod was a character in the ridiculous British film “Carry On Screaming”) :-) She ended up living quite a long time too, even with her “issues”.


18 Cat/The Whimsical Gardener October 11, 2010 at 10:54 am

The cedar stumps look wonderful with the gazing balls propped on top of them! It was nice to meet you at Amy’s last month. Wish I could make it to the tour but do look forward to seeing Pam’s pictures. Best of luck to you – the garden looks awesome!

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