“The Wheels of Change”

by ESP on November 14, 2011 · 6 comments

“I Think I Jinxed Myself” should perhaps be a more fitting title for this particular post!  Little did I know when I titled this post last week that I would a) wake up to a flat tire on my trusty steed b) end up having to buy a “new” tire c) find out a few hours later that the “new” tire also had a hole in it, and d) have to replace the “new” tire with another new “new” tire.

“The Wheels of Change” indeed.

Things are changing finally in Central Texas, nighttime temperatures are now occasionally dipping, something

my opuntia tree seems to be enjoying.

I have been hacking at this one’s lower limbs for quite some time to get it shaped up into a more vertical stature…

…it bares the cauterized war wounds of many an ancient battle with my trusty hook saw.

It does not matter how much you hack at this little asparagus fern, (which, like a lot of others, is not actually a true fern)

Asparagus setaceus / Asparagus plumosus



or Plumosa Fern

it always comes back.

Don’t be fooled by this fern’s delicate disposition, it is as hard as nails and tolerates anything the Texas weather throws at it. You can let it creep around other plants like I now do to offer contrast to broader leaf plants like this burgundy canna lily, (a pairing that works very well together) or you can be a little more ambitious with it as I was some years ago…

I planted two tiny plants against these bamboo poles, a couple of years later they resembled conifers.  The plant will grow in full sun to shade and it will spread, so watch out where you plant it.  It is also toxic and has thorns but other than that I personally like it. It would work really well if left to its own devices to climb over ornamental gates etc.
The onset of all my fragrant mist flowers and my

Barbados cherry blooming has created an eruption of these tiny sryphid flies in the Patch:

Allograpta obliqua

These aphid consuming, beneficial little hover flies are all over the place at the moment,

Also still blooming are the fall asters,


and this shiny little ice plant that receded to almost nothing this summer but is quickly returning from between the rocks.

Moving On:

Remember my flatulent stock tank that burped and threw up on me last March? My halflings affectionately refer to this particular tank as “the poop-pond” due to it having Dillo Dirt in it.

I planted it up with small clumps of horsetail reed and threw in a couple of dwarf papyrus for good measure and said “let the battle begin”.

Eight months later and it has exploded, filling the entire tank. I would say this battle is well under way with perhaps the dwarf papyrus having the slight advantage.

a front make-over:

Large sweeping pathways were created around both sides of this house for functional access and to visually draw attention to, and emphasize the grand entryway of the property.

Lots of Asiatic jasmine ground cover was removed (stay calm, stay calm, deep breaths, (subtle knee murmur)) along with the existing shrubbery that was getting rather long in the tooth.

In its place came a weed suppressed base of grey Tejas black gravel and a fresh new planting scheme, heavy on the prostate rosemary to cascade over the elevated retainer wall, the intent being something like this:

A mass-planting of bamboo muhly softens the edges of the walkway and more burgundy cannas are used in sunken stock tanks next to the entryway to pick up on the house trim color.

Stay Tuned for:

“Poking around the Pokeweed”


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 renee (@reneesroots) November 15, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Your opuntia tree is grand. And the papyrus/horse tail tango is fun and full of energy. I’m thinking of repurposing one of my water tanks into a big planter — your tank projects provide splendid inspiration.

Hi Renee.

I was glad that my opuntia made it through last years freezes, I know a lot didn’t. I have started another tree in the back…my goal is to raise the cactus man’s paddle (complete with his glass monocle) so we can look at each other eye-to-eye, it is the least I can do, considering what he has been through:


Yes the stock-tanks, they are great fun to experiment with.


2 Daphne November 16, 2011 at 10:37 am

Reading your posts always re-motivate me to get out there and get something started. Let’s just hope the weather doesn’t reverse my momentum yet again (it’s too stinkin’ hot out there!)

Hi Daphne.
Well I am happy they get you motivated!
It was hot today, should be a lot cooler tomorrow with that northern cold-front breezing through…it had better be.

3 Roberta November 16, 2011 at 10:47 am

I’ve created a new URL for The Poet In You. If you are one to keep your links updated, here is the new address:

Thank you!

Hi Roberta.
I will add the update…and good luck with with the new URL :-)

4 Gardenista November 16, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Jeepers – I haven’t managed to even get a stock tank yet- much less switch it over from pond to planter. I am so behind the garden times here.

I am however pruning my pomegranate bushes up into more tree like form, and will take a long look at my larger opuntia clumps to see if I have any tree-form wanna bes. Always fun to play with form once you’ve got a climate adaptive plant in place. Thanks as always for the inspiration.

Hi TD.

No stock tanks! Deb you are so ready for one or ten. My current count is eight! Beware once you start messing with planting combinations they get very addictive…”crack-tanks” as I now refer to them :-)

I also prune up pomegranate, Texas sage, yucca, pittosporum and whatever else I can get my pruners on, especially vitex.

It is fun to play with form, though try telling the cactus man that!


5 Desert Dweller / David C. November 17, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Hope the chilly air (coming from here) gets you going. That *very* southern home’s entry will really look great as the plantings fill in! Interesting how your concept’s rendering changed during installation, adding the limestone edging, and now no pots? – the edging and the DG now really pop the front entry, as do the conical shrubs.

William Wallace would be proud to see his modern rendition appear so often in your posts!

Hi David.

I am sure it will. I hate our hot summers, then as soon as it gets really cold I hate that too! Always such extremities in Texas…but you know all about that.

It is a very southern looking home, and yes I am very excited how it developed. The plan mutated due to some large roots…lots of them! I still managed to squeeze in three stock tanks into this view though. The limestone edging was a legacy feature that I continued and mirrored, it is not a medium that I typically use, but it worked well in this more formal scenario.

The conical shrubs are Arizona cypress, they will look very grand in a few years time flanking and softening the edges of that fine entryway.

William does seem to stick his nose into my writing on a regular basis these days…I will have to have a word with him and it will not be “FREEDOM”.


6 Casa Mariposa November 18, 2011 at 9:24 pm

I feel like I’m on another planet when I visit your blog! The Optunia is a tree?? WOW! It’s rather Seussical. The plants in the stock tank look like firecrackers. Very cool! What is Dillo Dirt and what on Earth is the photo of in your first response??

I hope that is a good thing :-)

The opuntia is very Seussical and when pruned up like this one and they do resemble “trees”…well sort of.

The dwarf papyrus do look like firecrackers and Dillo Dirt is made from yard trimmings collected curbside across Austin (as well as some treated sewage sludge), it is combined and then composted to make the dirt.

The first response image is “The Cactus Man” in partial decay. It was a horrible experiment I conducted some time ago on a poor opuntia paddle – click on the link above the image to read some more.

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