“Tickling Leopards”

by ESP on February 18, 2011 · 11 comments

I tickled this giant leopard moth

Ecpantheria scribonia

caterpillar into submission today with a feather, it screamed a tiny scream and thrashed it’s multiple legs,

before it submissively rolled into it’s customary protective posture, predominately displaying it’s brightly colored bands. Woolly bear or fuzzy bear caterpillars are often found in the fall and winter in Texas after they have left their food-plants in search of a dark and sheltered spot where they can hibernate as larvae for the winter, usually under a deep layer of leaves. When spring kicks in, these caterpillars will become active, feeding then fashioning cocoons out of silk and body hairs…

And what fine creatures these huge cocoons turn into…

The Great Leopard Moth.

Hypercompe scribonia

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

The ESPatch has been very quiet of late, like it has had the wind knocked out of it with the recent harsh weather and is in a period of shock, denial and I hope complete recovery. Very few creatures are seen roaming the plains and I have witnessed distinct signs that the Naboo are once again heavily into their cannibalistic tendencies. Worst of all, the Botox lady has lost half her bottom lip to frost bite, she is totally devastated as you can imagine.

Remember this frozen scene?

These are my tropical Madame Ganna Walska water lilies, submersed under a rather thick layer of ice, not their preferred habitat of choice.

Oh yes, they came out the thaw looking a little shocked to say the least. While I pulled on the worst hit slushy pads, I happened to dislodge one of these sci-fi abominations…

“Number one, we need to try and establish communications…see what it wants, determine what its needs are”!

These very odd stems are affectionately known as, and casually referred to in the Patch nonchalantly as brains, as in…“Look dad, there is a brain!” “Oh yes, well spotted! 2 points for…” These reproductive lily pods rank up there as some of the strangest phenomena to grace the interior of the Patch pond, very primordial, and they never fail to induce a conniption when one unexpectedly decides to roll over the back of my hand. I cannot tell you how many times I have slapped and tore at my own hands when one accidentally alights on it.

Unwell, agaves.

Also looking very primordial right now are the remains of my agave americana.  The recent freezes really took a toll on these once magnificent plants. All of the foliage has been decimated but the singular vertical spike dictates that the plant’s core still is alive and kicking.  I trimmed back all of the soggy foliage to allow the plants to focus their energy on new foliage replenishment…these singular tusks, dotted all around the Patch look very odd, to say the least.

This one prematurely aged in the freezes.

At least the americana are doing better than my octopuses.

“Shaken, and most certainly stirred”.

No need for the gun here Roger! Out of all of the pups that I painstakingly planted from: http://www.eastsidepatch.com/2008/07/backyard-ocd/, very few have made it due to the last two years of harsh winter freezes.

I come across them dotted here and there, oozing onto the granite like beached mythical creatures.

Just when I thought that my Mexican lime tree could not get any brighter:

There is still some green in the branches so I am hoping I will not have to cut it back to the base like I did last year.

Even my satsuma is showing some strain this year, unheard of.

My Buddha’s Belly Bamboo also looks bad right now but it will quickly green-up come the spring’s warming temperatures.

On a brighter note…

all my small sedums breezed through the freeze with ease,

and the rising bluebonnets offer a visual reminder that color is once again around the corner. (Thanks Jenny).

And I am ready for spring.  My trusty steeds have been having quite the workout of late implementing this design scheme:

The front has been simply re-structured to match the new back aesthetic…

And the back has had a bit of a nip and a tuck…

…the back beds are now fully prepped and ready for planting. The circular feature is the future home of an Arizona ‘blue ice’ cypress, what else!  The two curved kidney beds will incorporate prostrate rosemary, a weaving line of bush sages and dotted dwarf miscanthus.

Last and most certainly not least:

Happy 6th Miss P. xxx

Stay Tuned for:

Mad Birds and Englishmen”

All material © 2011 for eastsidepatch. Unauthorized
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by late  (and extremely unpleasant)
14th century planet Earth techniques.

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1 jenny February 19, 2011 at 6:02 am

I may have a sleepless night with that first image in my memory. Too close for comfort, but what a magnificent moth. The east part of town looks as though it was hit pretty hard this time. There are so many losses here too. It’s a pity about those agaves. The ones you gave me died the first time we had a good freeze over here. They just didn’t look that hardy to me with their soft leaves. Let’s just hope that we don’t have another freeze when new growth is starting on just about everything. The big question is- will those amaranth seeds have survived.
Wonderful job on the landscaping project. Looking forward to seeing the beds planted.

Hi Jenny.

Yes, I agree that first image is just a little disturbing, I love those leopard moths with their amazing blue coloration. Considering how many caterpillars I come across, it is a wonder how few of the actual moths I actually come across.

The east side was hit pretty hard, lots of damage, the Patch suffered more this year then the last big freeze…all the usual culprits took serious beatings. The octopus agaves need to mature a little, then they are surprisingly hardy, I had the large one that bloomed for years.

Nothing kills the amaranth, I can now see rows of it coming up where I planted it last fall…so tiny right now. It reminds me of the person on the garden tour who did not believe Bob that a huge celosia in my front garden was grown from a single seed, earlier in the year :-)

Thanks on the project front, it is taking shape…looking forward to getting the plants in the ground.

2 Diana February 19, 2011 at 7:20 am

Your leopard moth is fabulous. It’s amazing how all those creatures survive these unseasonably cold temperatures. That “thing” from your pond would make me squeal, too. Ewww. My agaves look like yours. I had much more damage this year than last. The warm weather is enticing me out, but I just don’t want to look at all that dead stuff. I’m hoping this is the end of it and we can get about the business of cleaning up and replacing.

Hi Diana.

Those leopard moths are stunning creatures, though I doubt if there are many moths around at this time of the year. I am finding a lot of their hibernating caterpillars at the moment…yes I am still cleaning up leaves!

The pond “brains” are so funny, Pam is after a division of my madame ganna walska lily this spring, I would give her one of these fine creatures if I could be sure it was actually a walska and not the hardy variety of lily that also grows in my pond?

Yes sad on the agave front, but most will pull through, I am right there with you…roll on the spring…then it will be hold off the summer, before you know it, an iced turban will be in the freezer :-)


3 mss @ Zanthan Gardens February 19, 2011 at 7:58 am

The damage to the agaves all over town is shocking. The variegated Americanas seem worst hit but, walking around the hood, I’ve seen damage on all types and all sizes.

It really is…I have been doing a lot of diving recently and I see sad agaves and cacti everywhere, I am so happy that my opuntia remained vertical. The Americanas seem to be just a little less hardy than most, but I think they will bounce back fast…they had better.

4 Les February 19, 2011 at 8:22 am

In total, not you prettiest collection of images, except for that moth and the creature in the last photo. Hopefully your lime and agaves will recover.

5 ESP February 19, 2011 at 10:50 am

Agreed Les.
The creature in the last photo has gone through the most incredible metamorphosis in the last six years. Fingers crossed for the lime.

6 Bob Pool February 19, 2011 at 11:04 pm

OK, tell me now, is the picture of the new project back yard real or is it one of your computer generations? Your getting so damn good at it I really am not sure. If it is real then you did a fine, fine job. It just looks so exactly perfect.

The look on your daughter’s face in the right picture shows she is already developing her womanly guiles. The look just stole my heart.

7 ESP February 20, 2011 at 9:01 am

Haha, very funny Bob…no computer skulduggery going on here, just plain old sweat and tears (especially when that metal edging would fly up and whack me across the side of my face). It made my very happy to read your comment and that the garden was looking like the computer rendering I did of it, I would have some issues if it came out totally different :-) I am really looking forward to planting it up.

Womanly guiles indeed…she loves getting her face painted, it totally relaxes her, this is her “stop bugging me and go away with your camera immediately” expression.

8 Annie in Austin February 20, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Condolences on the freeze-losses, ESP – and congratulations to the butterfly-child on reaching her Christopher Robin birthday. More congratulations on seeing the project turn out so well.

The agaves & aloes around Austin are shocking! I had only a couple of pups left alive after the Jan 2010 kill-off and Feb 2011 got the pups, including one from you. The Hesperaloe looks OK so there is a little spikiness left in the landscape!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

9 ESP February 20, 2011 at 10:58 pm

Hi Annie.

I am wearing my after-freeze black suit and accompanying tie as I write, listening to Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 Movement 2 :-)

Thanks and thanks, I look forward to seeing this design develop (and to hopefully maintain it) over the next few years to maturity.

All I can say is sotols and yuccas! They are the best for hardy spikiness and just breeze through anything the weather throws at them!

I definitely need to get a Hesperaloe addition in the Patch this year then, thanks Annie.


10 Pam/Digging February 21, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Sad, sad agaves all over town, as MSS said. I have a rhinocerous tusk myself and hope that it will transform into a beautiful agave again.

Your design is looking great — can’t wait to see it planted out with that ‘Blue Ice’ cypress in pride of place.

11 ESP February 21, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Hi Pam.

Yes very sad indeed! The rhino’s trunks will fall out to usual form very quickly…all that energy and no foliage will work wonders :-)

Thanks on the design front Pam, and yes, planting is scheduled to go in this week. It will take three or five years to mature (as you know), but I do look forward to planting this scheme up after so much prep-work has gone in. The “Blue Ice” will look great back there.


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