“I Decapitated a Gopher”

by ESP on November 5, 2010

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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