“Little Monsters”

by ESP on November 6, 2011 · 11 comments

Halloween was met once again in the Patch with a lot of enthusiasm, though it did require some last minute costume design decisions:

Was it to be Harry Potter this year?

Or perhaps a dandy pirate?

I even had an interview with a vampire on the actual night:

But the scariest thing that happened to me on Halloween happened during daylight hours while I was removing a big circular carpet of this dense groundcover.

Now everyone who is a regular reader to the Patch knows of my (ahem) “deep-rooted” hatred of Bermuda grass, but the removal of this Asian Jasmine

Trachelospermum asiaticum

offers up a myriad of spine-tingling horrors that makes Bermuda grass removal seem suddenly quite “tame”.

If left to its own devices this plant will cover very large areas in its quest to slowly but surely take over an unsuspecting property, the local neighborhood and eventually the world.

I read somewhere that you can even use a glyphosate product, half strength, over the top of it to control weeds and it will still be okay – though don’t hold me to this.

It will circumnavigate low walls and structures to crawl into adjacent areas to further spread it’s aggressive green wings.

It also has to be one of the most horrible plants to remove from a landscape, think roaches…roaches…and many more unmentionables, all lying-in-wait to run up your legs, get into your gloves and generally make you extremely paranoid. Think grown men dropping shovels and performing ridiculous sideways dances while frantically beating their legs with flailing arms.

(Note to self: Never ever wear those shorts with the ripped hem and the hanging-down bit of fabric whilst removing this groundcover again)

Oh yes, I had multiple phantom leg roaches, then a real one just had to run over my shoulder…brrr (involuntary sideways jaw movements followed by left knee elevation etc…etc).

I have developed a technique that aids the removal of this plant…digging it out does not work, pulling on it is futile, but slicing and rolling it back on itself like a carpet works quite well. It is by no means perfect or remotely pleasant, but it works better than anything else. This particular carpet removal had a couple of “what is that?” moments, first we uncovered a bunch of rib bones, yes rib bones, then this emerged from the dark undergrowth:

This was just a little too realistic at first glance.

The foot was followed by:

a furry toy masquerading as dead animal. The next time I have a large amount of this groundcover to remove?

I will be better prepared.

Halloween week would not be complete without some spiders, now would it?

And I naturally encountered quite a few lurking under the jasmine, and under rocks.

Lets get started with the plastic-looking woodlouse hunter,

Species Dysdera crocata

The “two-tone” look, with the abdomen much lighter than the cephalothorax, is really quite striking… (pushes up thick glasses on nose bridge, emits a tiny snort).

Woodlouse hunters are often seen in the autumn in basements and other cool areas of homes; presumably they are looking for winter shelter. These spiders have very large fangs which they use to pierce the armored bodies of woodlice and beetles.

Next on my shovel is a Wolf Spider –

Schizocosa avida

Wolf spiders are members of the family Lycosidae, from the Greek word “lycosa” meaning “wolf” as their method of hunting is to run down their prey. They are robust and agile hunters that rely on good eyesight, well, having eight of them arranged in three rows helps.

And last but not least, what I believe to be a velvety Black House Spider,

Badumna insignis

Okay, okay…I get the hint!

Moving On:

Mist flowers are the stars this week in the Patch, from the blues…

…to the fragrant, they are putting on a fine show right now and attracting a multitude of insects.

It is also the time of Celosia,

pampas grass,

and the Austin Celtic Festival:

A fallen warrior trying to impress a nonchalant maiden.

“My name IS William Wallace, now, go get me some Cotton Candy”!

I also want to shout out a big thanks to all my Austin blogging friends who showed up for the “Patch A GoGo” happy hour.

Finally, I would like to share a design that I have recently executed for the Mary Lee Foundation on South Lamar in Austin:


I worked with a local architect Jiří Hájek from HÁJEK & Associates, Inc. and Steven Zack, the coordinator for the project from the foundation to develop a wish-list of design criteria for the space. The goal for the garden was to create an interesting, organic space that offers a variety of destination points with multiple ways to get to them. Seating and social gathering places are intrinsic to the final design. The scheme incorporates “character-areas” each offering a range of different visual and tactile experiences and stimuli.

Stay Tuned for:

“The Wheels of Change”


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 katina November 6, 2011 at 2:56 pm

1) Thanks for having us.

2) I am about to start an Asiatic jasmine removal process as well. The previous owners had done some landscaping in order to sell the house and that landscaping included placing 11 small plants throughout the front and back yard (and that’s not including the giant plant under the tree in the back).

3) tell me about the roaches in the jasmine. At one point during the summer and I went outside at night and heard a bunch of rustling, I went inside and grabbed a flash light (figuring the rustling was coming from lizards). I came back out and saw the largest roach convention I’ve ever seen. Still gives me the knee jerks just thinking about it.

Hi Katina.

You are very welcome.

Good luck on your jasmine removal, it is not a pretty or by any means an easy job. I have removed a lot of it in my last couple of installs and I can personally vouch for its stubbornness. Roaches appear to love this groundcover, especially when it is mature and extremely dense…another good reason not to have any of it if you ask me. By the time we finished up, and their habitat now reduced to a few square feet, the now small area was full of the unmentionables.

Roach Dance

It is at this point that things become most “troublesome” and most of the dancing and slapping oneself occurs – when the roaches make a last ditch attempt at survival and make a speedy blind run for it.

I wish I could bring better news :-)


2 Gail November 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm

You were able to totally capture the fallen warrior – and that last picture is priceless (the face painting “after”). Bet he didn’t need to be rocked to sleep after his day at the fest.

Hi Gail.
He looked totally deranged at the dimming of the day, and yes it did not take him long to enter the Kingdom of Nod.

Even Kumo crashed early that night.

3 Diana November 6, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Nice ghouls and the patch is a perfect setting when you shoot it in that stylized way of yours!

Hi Diana.
The ghouls were a little less extreme looking than last year. Last year I think we came very close to getting arrested as a Texas devil-worshiping cult. Here we are trying to mix with the “normal” sub-division people:


4 Toni - Signature Gardens November 6, 2011 at 9:41 pm

I absolutely share your Asian Jasmine loathing!!!! It sends shivers down my spine whenever I see it. Sounds like you may have had something else running down your spine! I get the heebie-jeebies just thinking about those scurrying roaches and spiders. I was driving down the road the other day and happened to look up at my visor and there was a spider dangling above my head. So I swatted it trying not to run off the road, not knowing where it landed in my truck. A WEEK later, I picked up my drawing pad from the passenger seat, and lo and behold, there was that same crazy spider. (Insert similar conniption fit while driving!) That photo of your halfling’s face painting is just the cutest!!! And your celosia is the coolest. Great design on the project, too! Do I see the dreaded Bermuda in the “before” pics? Yeesh!

Hi Toni.

Oh yes…nasty stuff and it is everywhere! I do not want to think about that shoulder roach. I was walking over to speak to the driver of a delivery truck when the “event” took place, he saw the whole thing unfortunately, and I am sure told his friends down at the stone yard. Very funny to hear your stalking spider story, years ago I had a similar repeated encounter with a large bumblebee that whipped into my cab as I was doing 65. It emerged a while later from that little crack between the seats right next to my leg, oh yes that caused quite the scene.

He loved his “Wolverine” face painting, so much so that he got exactly the same one the following day at the same festival.

Celosia is one of my favorite plants in the Patch, I am a little short on it this year due to the drought. Needless to say it will be a very diligent seed gathering this year with my halflings.

Thanks on the design front Toni, it was quite a challenging space to break up but a lot of fun, and actually it wasn’t Bermuda grass (for a change)…not sure what it was.


5 Gardenista November 7, 2011 at 7:57 am

I know I am spitting into the wind with this, but here goes nothin’! (I’ve never been considered especially bright).)

This is Central Texas. Cockroaches will be around in numbers, Asian jasmine or no Asian jasmine. A few years ago we moved our compost pile further away from the house and with that roach house invasions went down by at least two thirds. And, if you want to see a lot of dancing and slapping around, try rolling a 20 year old 18 inch thick layer of fig ivy off a two story house. Roaches, spiders, there had even been rats nesting in one thick area. I have to go wash my hands just thinking about it.

Maybe this means we are doing something wrong, but I can trigger the same sort of insect cavalcade working in any well established plant clump around here. I’ve had small parades start up while cutting back monkey grass clumps, or pulling loquat saplings out of leaf litter… I try to consider the variety of spiders and roaches and beetles as indicative of a healthy ecosystem. I also try to consider this mostly from the safety of indoors with an adult beverage in hand…..

Hi TD.

Cockroaches are certainly already around but like compost bins, dense ground cover like this jasmine creates a perfect protected environment for them to multiply, and that can never be a good thing in my book. I am used to seeing them here and there but take out a good chunk of jasmine and their numbers can verge on the alarming :-) Needless to say, I would never plant this up close to any house. On a personal note, I am also not keen on how it looks…a little corporate for my liking. Yes ivy is another great place to harbor roaches and your fig ivy experience sounds, well, unpleasant…One second TD…I need a Listerine rinse.

I am a huge fan of the entire world of insects and critters…can you tell? But I do draw the line at roaches, my ecosystem can exist just fine with them staying well away from my house, down at the bottom of my garden, in my brush pile and compost bins, there they can live full and happy roachy lives. I am the same with any rats or mice that decide to take up residency in the house, if you come in, you die. One did quite recently in an unreachable part of a wall…I will not go into details for fear of me immediately needing an adult beverage or five.


6 Linda/patchowrk November 7, 2011 at 11:44 am

I do loathe Asian jasmine. We had it everywhere at our old house. It looked so benign in those tiny pots, when we planted it. We never got it out. Just moved away.

Hi Linda.

Yes, I am no fan of it myself, obviously! And once it is established it is really hard to eliminate, as I have found out the hard way.


7 Sandy November 8, 2011 at 9:03 am

Your Asian jasmine story had me reliving our experience of removing a giant patch last year when we moved to a new house. We found bones, a “brain” (head from a Greek-style statue that now overlooks our pond), and a hand reaching up out of the ground that now makes an appearance every Halloween. Have to admit that none of that compares to the “dead animal” you found… :) After the bones, that would’ve given me pause (and shivers). Rolling is definitely the only way to get the nasty stuff out, and even that takes lots of sweat and some bad language (if the kids aren’t around!). Especially after we found a web of some kind of vine that spreads underground & is nearly impossible to kill or remove completely. Ugh. Still working on that!

Hi Sandy.

Sorry to take you back there…go to a happy place…find your happy place :-)

It appears that random objects somehow seem to find their way into and under the nasty carpet, or perhaps the jasmine just grows over them ‘overnight’ and consumes them. I have to admit that the dirty foot got to me more than the furry animal, it really did look like a freshly buried limb. It IS hard and jarring work removing this stuff, and don’t even bother trying to get any of it into those paper lawn bags…it scurries out of the side of the bag faster then you can punch it in! If you are successful at getting a wad of it into the bag, and feeling very pleased with yourself. I guarantee that about halfway down, it will rip open the bag and escape from the side.

Why You Little!

8 Daphne November 8, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Leave it to you to find the manky old, “dead” furry plush toy hiding in the underbrush every time. And…enjoyed the go go!

I know!…And the foot!

9 Bob Pool November 10, 2011 at 11:44 pm

I saw the first picture of jasmine and said what’s the problem here. I scrolled down and seen the next one and thought “Oh my gawd, he’s screwed”. You will charge more on the next “jasmine job” I bet.

The plan for the yard is just stunning Philip. They should be very pleased. Your rendition of the finished product is equally stunning though.

You really didn’t go out in public dressed like that did you? Have you no shame man?

Hi Bob.

I want to thank you for our new metal wheel that I featured at the end of my last post…Love it. It will naturally find its own place in the Patch over time, though I kind of like it where it fell up against that container.

You are totally correct on the jasmine-front, and yes, I have a totally new appreciation for what it takes to take-out a large amount of this groundcover…tough and nasty work! In fact, I may just get a bizarre reputation for dressing in my devil outfit whenever I have to remove more of the stuff?

Glad you liked the design for the community garden, I was happy how it turned out…hopefully it will be implemented.

I have zero shame.


10 Les November 11, 2011 at 8:22 pm

I am sorry you do not like the Asiatic jasmine, we are fond of it here, but not overly so. I have two variegated varieties in my garden, Ogon Niskiki and Ang Yo. Ogon has fantastic coloration with oranges, yellow and green, but tends to be stringy, sproradic and not a good groundcover. Ang Yo’s colors are more sedate, but it is a good ground cover. You should call the roaches palmetto bugs like they do in the Carolinas, it sounds less icky.

Hi Les.

Yes, I am not a fan of Asiatic jasmine at all, can you tell?

I agree, the term “palmetto bugs” does mascaraed the a fore-mentioned- “unmentionables” a little better, I will try to be a little more “diplomatic” if I post about this roach-harboring plant in the future :-)

Who am I kidding!


11 Pam/Digging November 25, 2011 at 12:08 am

Although I’m with Les and feel there’s a place in the world for Asian jasmine — yes, corporate parks and neatly edged beds, for example (not my personal preference, but I think it works in some situations) — I did have it removed from my own front island bed. I wonder if they rolled it out? My interesting discovery was about 15 golf balls and a few decrepit dog toys under all that jasmine — I wonder if someone used to chip balls into it from the driveway? Like Gardenista, I confess to finding roaches on a regular basis in all my planting beds, none of which contain ivy or jasmine, but no doubt I’d see more in jasmine. Ugh, roaches.

Hey, I love your design for the community center! Lots of nice strolling paths and places to sit and enjoy the garden, it looks like. I hope it gets implemented. If Stephen has anything to do with it, it will. He has already worked wonders in getting to this point.

Hi Pam.

How funny…there were some golf balls in the jasmine that I dug out too! Perhaps all the golf balls that mysteriously disappear on golf courses are instantly teleported (powers unknown) into the nearest available patch of Asian jasmine? The main problem with this plant is its propensity to spread and engulf entire neighborhoods, hence in corporate settings, brick walls and sidewalks are employed to stop it in its path. Let it loose without such safeguards and one dark and damp night you may just find it creeping into your home…brrr :-) Ugh roaches indeed.

Happy you like the design for the community center. The design images got a great response at the presentation to the board, so yes, fingers crossed that they get a green-light for installation.

Thanks Pam.


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