“I Decapitated a Gopher”

by ESP on November 5, 2010 · 15 comments

There has been lots of brightly colored things hovering and flying around the Patch this week,

most gravitated toward my fragrant mist flowers and celosia that are now in full bloom.

This is an adult male hover fly,

Allograpta obliqua (Say)

These tiny flies have a stunning metallic sheen and are expert fliers.  They can hover and even fly backward, an ability possessed by very few insects other than syrphid flies and Gary Numan.

Eyes of the male are holoptic (eyes meet along the dorsal length of its head), those of the female are dichoptic (widely separated). This species may be recognized by the yellow thoracic stripes and abdominal cross-bands, very tribal.  Another unusual visitor to the mist flowers this week was this

common checkered skipper,

Pyrgus communis

which gets its name from the checkerboard pattern on its wings. It has really coppery metallic wings, and vivid black and white stripes which appear both on its antennae and on the fringes along the outside edges of its front wings.

Oh just one more…this one was tucking into a salvia leucantha bloom.

While I was messing around in my mist flowers, concentrating and holding my breath as I do in an attempt to steady the camera lens, I heard a noise right next to me.  I thought it was the Naboo but as my vision adjusted to the deep shadows I saw these two yellow eyes staring back up at me, the eyes were in an upward roll as it yawned…I was just not prepared!

This neighborhood cat scared me to death, I instinctively muttered a few colorful words out loud (as I always do when this sort of thing happens), followed by the obligatory quick glance behind me to see if anyone heard me. I have no idea why I keep doing this, there is never anybody there…ever, why would there be?

I am in the privacy of my own back garden, crawling around in the undergrowth after all…what was I expecting?  To turn around and see a Garden Conservancy-esk crowd in a semi-circle behind me all pulling a shocked expression and shaking their disapproving heads?  Ridiculous. The cat was lurking under the cover of these Mexican petunias that are planted in a buried tub to keep them somewhat at bay.

My celosia are also pulling their weight on the insect attractant front…

One of the many reasons I have so much celosia in the Patch is to attract insects, and this plant pulls in them all…bees, hummers, skippers and many more find the plant totally irresistible, including butterflies like this very regal looking monarch.

My Mike Meyers are getting quite large as the year wears on…

My Meyer lemons are slowly but surely ripening,

and a mouth watering candy apple has fully ripened on my dwarf Barbados cherry, oh yes it is all happening!

My artemis powis castle moat is also flowing quite nicely around my King Tut papyrus and canna stock tank, after our recent bit of rain.

But the best thing of all this week came as a gift for the Frank Lloyd Write Fairy House –

A small present was dropped off for my eldest, she was delighted to open it and discover a fairy, small wheel-barrow and watering can.  She made quick work of finding just the right place for each artifact, propping up the wheelbarrow upside-down like she has seen me do countless times, she immediately filled up the tiny watering can from one of our stock tanks.

Are those real fairies? Thanks Rock Rose, http://wwwrockrose.blogspot.com/ she has been checking on the house every day after school,

every fairy grove needs some maidenhair ferns.

Now onto some real bodily swelling:

I have had a real ‘Carry On’ with my gopher plants this week,

Carry On…

euphorbia rigida

My gopher plants have been needing a good pruning back for quite some time. The euphorbia family name honors Euphorbus, physician to the King of Mauritania, who used the latex sap from the plant for medicinal purposes, rather then as a general flesh irritant.

I went on an impromptu pruning frenzy to decapitate these plants, cutting them back to where I could see new growth appearing at their base…

“Houston we have a problem”.

“Go ahead Buzz”.

“ESP is out there performing the maneuver…without his gloves on!

This plant’s pruning wounds leak a milky sap which can cause skin irritation on contact, I naturally had to find this out the hard way.

The itchy, welting rash lasted two days, then my daughter got it from clambering up the compost pile! An activity that I keep reiterating as a highly dangerous venture.

“I warned ye about that devil sap ESP”!

“Thanks for that old clever-clog, spinster”.

I met this old clever-clog spinster recently behind one of my giant timber bamboos, she is short on words but lives to offer obvious and really annoying after-the-fact advice. She told me in a croaky, party animal voice that she had submitted her INS paperwork to the Naboo, wiped the Botox Ladies dribble from the side of her mouth, and gave the mole touching, posing witches a hessian bucketful of the finest Gulf Coast Toads as a token offering…I suppose this means she is taking up permanent residency in the Patch?  That’s just what I need, another “About the…” page to write that no-one will ever visit or read, right Bob? http://dracogardens.blogspot.com/

Other rather odd observations this week:

A rather unusual artichoke looking growth has formed on my fatsia japonica, is this the start of the flower head?

This caterpillar would be right at home on a coral reef,

…and this old loquat leaf looks like a satellite image of an arid mountain range.

Great tropical colors are still emanating from this canna lily that is almost finished for the year.

Pampas grass plumes catching Autumn breezes,

and a couple of Bobcats, acting very strangely, I hope they have not been at the datura again!

Fall in the Patch…I have many times.

I thought I would finish with a design I have been working up for a client who wanted some color proposals for their recently refurbished home as well as a design of their back yard.  The rear landscaping has to incorporate a large swale that runs the entire width of the property. I created a step down deck to break up the linear edge of the house and introduced a meandering  and naturalized dry creek bed to take care of the swale and make a feature out of it. Naturally I threw in a couple of Alphonse Karr bamboos in there to soften the edges of the scene to hide some utilities…

Here are some before and after images:

Stay Tuned  for:

Cannibal Nectar

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intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by late  (and extremely unpleasant)
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1 Cheryl November 5, 2010 at 8:42 pm

ok, just who’s hand is holding that Meyer lemon? It looks like a grapefruit! My Meyers are starting to turn yellow and they are blooming so the yard smells delightful right now. I had to fence them from the deer, who seem to think blossoms and lemon leaves are yummy. I’m looking forward to The Adventures of Clever-clog Spinster. Pretty sure her elder sister lives in my yard… judging by the many times I’ve heard “Told ya so, told ya so, cackle-cackle” after I’ve done something sorta stupid… She cackles a lot when I can’t find a rake. Or a shovel. Or my pruning shears…

2 ESP November 5, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Hi Cheryl.

That is my hand silly, I have always been teased about my massive feet and tiny hands? I know they are in an amazing supple shape considering all the shoveling I do – I put it down to superior moisturizing products and inherent digit genetics :-)

I am worried, as I always am about a new character moving into the Patch, the delicate balance of the kingdom will be in flux for a while as this new party animal undoubtedly finds her arthritic varicose veined legs. I had no idea she had executed so much up-front wobbly leg work with the other factions inhabiting the Patch. It appears she is very efficient and surprisingly corporate, (what else would a clever-clog Spinster be)?…I will ask her, next time she pops up in my ornamental grasses, if she has a counterpart sister, or perhaps even an evil twin?
Eeek, eek, eek!

ESP :-)

3 David C November 5, 2010 at 9:23 pm

Great post as always, and an even greater 3-D color study of the client’s house. So useful…I am jealous. Gotta get into 3-D…can’t wait another 20 years.

4 ESP November 5, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Hi David.

Thank you for commenting on the 3-D front, these visualizations really do help to communicate a design scheme specific to a clients individual and personal space / design requirements…What you see is what you get!


5 Germi November 5, 2010 at 10:50 pm



G., who had thought (gleefully!) that you had REALLY decapitated a gopher, and was a little sad to know that it was just Euphorbias – and is very sorry that the sap got you. Once I actually licked the sap in front of a client who wouldn’t let me put them in her yard because she thought they were going to poison her 11 year old daughter. I got a stomach ache and decided that she and I weren’t a good fit as client and crazy half-baked garden designer, lest she compel me to smoke a datura flower in front of her, just to be perverse and peevish.

Oh poor G,
I got you all wound up over nothing! Too funny.
That Euphorbia sap is nasty stuff, it must have got on my arms as I carried bundles of the plants to the compost pile. The B Lady has been rumored to dab some of the Devil sap onto her acne when she has a break out? But licking it? G…you have no fear, I can see you now with a bundle of Jimson weed tucked under your bottom lip, communicating wildly some finer points of a design :-)

6 Diana November 6, 2010 at 7:49 am

Wow. Those photos are stunning. Especially those of the flies and butterflies. How on earth did you get those photos? The passalong Celosia that you gave me is spectacular. But tucked away as it is, I haven’t seen butterflies on it. I’ll have to plant myself out there to watch for them. I’m with Cheryl on the Meyer Lemon! That is bigger than my dwarf Satsuma orange. The light through the Inland Sea oats is so ephemeral. And finally, yes, that artichoke-looking thing is the beginning of a bloom on your Fatsia – mine just started blooming this week and I posted some photos of it. I didn’t realize they bloomed as this is only my second year with one. Your post makes me so very sad that I was on my deathbed and had to miss your garden on the tour. It’s amazing.

7 ESP November 6, 2010 at 9:26 am

Hi Diana, thanks on the image front. The insects were way too much in a feeding frenzy to be too concerned of the camera, that is what is nice about this time of year. Happy to hear that your celosia is doing well, I will be busy this weekend gather more seeds and shelling with my little helpers, at least when I am not drinking harp at the Celtic Festival!

I don’t know what happened with my Meyer lemons this year but they have grown huge. It is amazing the little tree can support them at this point, I only have five, but what a spectacular five they are.

Yes the blooms on Fatsia Japonica attract the flies big time for some reason, quite unusual. I will hop over and look at your pictures. I have never noticed the “artichoke” phase before…I will keep an eye on it. I use this plant a lot, I find it a lot more interesting then Cast Iron for deep shade, plus the waxy – tropical foliage.

A pity you were ill on the tour day, but you can drop by anytime you like, just give me enough warning to clean up the leaves and wipe the B Lady’s mouth :-)

Thanks Diana.

8 Cheryl November 7, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Odd.. I was just watching your “Hi def in the line of fire” and the question popped into my head; “Do all merry-go-rounds go counter-clockwise?” so of course I had to google that.. and yes, it seems they do except in the UK. What amazes me the most is that it took 65 years for that question to occur to me! Me! Who LOVES merry-go-rounds.. or anything horsey. sheesh.
Humbly, Cheryl

9 ESP November 7, 2010 at 7:56 pm

Hi Cheryl.
Never thought about that…ever! I wonder why the UK ones go clockwise?
You would have loved the Clydesdale Draft horses that were at the Celtic festival today! Amazing creatures.

10 rebecca sweet November 9, 2010 at 9:40 am

As usual, your photographs are mind-blowing. What a feast for the eyes!! I always enjoy coming to your site and spending a good half hour here just cruising around the isles, taking my time….such a party!

11 ESP November 9, 2010 at 12:11 pm

Hi Rebecca.
Thank you and I hope you had a good cruise…a little better then the Ancient Mariners voyage I trust :-)

12 Bob Pool November 9, 2010 at 11:05 pm

I can see you’ve been in the stalk mode again. The close ups are stunning as usual.

You’re landscape design is stunning as well. The dry creek—just perfect. The clients should love it.

What is with the guy laying in the flower bed in the second to last picture? Did he fall off the ladder or is he just napping?

13 ESP November 9, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Hi Bob.

I fear a small Naboo warrior inadvertently hitched a ride with me that day to visit my client, disorientated I believe he panicked when realizing he was in a new and uncharted territory, darting him with a you know what, filled with you know what!…He did not stand a chance! Over in seconds of me pulling up, no pulse…I covered him in ivy then rung the doorbell :-)

Yes I went on safari in the ESP a couple of days ago, shotgun, canteen and provisions at the ready naturally, I couldn’t help myself, it is a great time of year to camp…glad you liked the macros I was lucky to capture.

Thanks for the design feedback on the dry creek front…I think it will look great when executed.


14 Trout Caviar November 12, 2010 at 9:36 am

Well I thoroughly enjoyed that trip through the patch, but I kept waiting for the fishing report. Beautiful wet fly at the top–a salmon fly? Have you put it to use?

Cheers~ Brett

15 ESP November 12, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Hi Brett.
Long time! Hope all is well on the culinary front…did I read somewhere you are writing a cook book? Or was I dreaming?
I believe it is a salmon fly, it is not one of mine though. I used to tie fishing flies when I lived in Scotland, not quite to this standard, but good enough to catch grayling on them! I used to spend all my money on exotic bird capes and was an avid collector of feathers!
Oh yes, once a nerd….
Thanks for dropping in.


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