“Just Leaf it Alone”

by ESP on January 8, 2012 · 14 comments

Some rather exuberant New Years firework antics succeeded in igniting the same sago palm as last year, (somewhat of a tradition at this point).

This year, the pyrotechnics also successfully singed a few of my ornamental grasses:

Our “Grand Finale” firework that was placed ceremoniously and somewhat precariously on top of a bucket on top of a trashcan provided quite the spectacle. I was intending to take some pictures of it but the firework simultaneously ignited four of my Mexican feather grasses and had us grabbing buckets from my “everything but the kitchen sink” water collection “system” to extinguish the fires before they reached the Barbados cherry and butterfly iris.

I will keep an eye on these blackened grasses, they may respond well to the singeing.

An exciting week this week in the Patch…

…yes folks, snort, I am proud to announce 

that we have finally moved onto the “medium-fine” silicon carbide abrasive rock tumbling phase,

though not before she had another sneak-peek at the now shiny rocks.

Next week the polishing process begins,

I am already having difficulty sleeping in anticipation.

Moving more honestly on:

Now here is a strange thing:

I have been trying to figure out what these pine-cone cacti reminded me of for a long time.

Tephrocatus articulatus var. diadematus


This week if finally dawned on me, and it was very obscure.

It was the poor maintenance robot in the film AI that was destroyed in the Flesh Fair!…Phew, now I can sleep soundly once again,

Or can I?

As you may know, I have been trying to protect my soft leaf yuccas from the horrors of the

“evil weevil”

by administering copious amounts of diatomaceous earth sprinkled around the base of the plants, it appears to be working.

Unfortunately my yuccas have now developed another issue,

and it isn’t pretty. Several fungi, including Cercospora, Cylindrosporium, and Coniothyrium may cause leaf spotting like this in yuccas but thankfully they do not cause the widespread death of leaves.

I am sure this one contracted the yucca equivalent of the “Phage”  in the summer months when it received some overhead watering…remove affected leaves and discard.

This week has had me and my (in-house) pajama crew cleaning up insane amounts of leaves.

We gathered them up in buckets, transferred them to trashcans and piled them up wherever we could find space. I hate picking up leaves.

One personal pet peeve is cleaning out the hearts of the sagos,

this activity ranks on my irritation scale at a steady 9.5

It is really nice to have my pathways clear once again though.


King Tut papyrus is still holding up well in one of my stock-tanks,

not bad form for January.

Rosemary is also doing a great winter job,

feeding the honey bees,

with it’s tiny flowers.

Sweet peas are on the boil,

and pink shrimps are ready for the barbie,

and my artemesia is once again looking healthy.

Driving around the Mueller area the other day, I saw this:

I initially thought these were dwarf conifers. When I realized it was in fact gray santolina or lavender cotton, I swung my steed around and snapped these shots.

Santolina chamaecyparissus

It reminds me of Scottish “heather” in a mass-planting like this. I will try and get some shots of it in bloom next summer…if I remember.

Photograph: Linda Engstrom

And to finish I am happy to report that Kumo is making a speedy recovery after his stomach surgery.

He is now stumbling and walking into things wearing his

collar of shame. 

Talking of dwarf conifers…

Inspirational image of the week:

Photograph from Foxhollow Garden, Dorset, England.

Stay Tuned for:

“Igniting the Cattails”


All material © 2012 for eastsidepatch. Unauthorized
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by late (and extremely unpleasant)
14th century planet Earth techniques.



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1 Toni - Signature Gardens January 8, 2012 at 10:52 pm

I NEED a rock polisher!! I can’t wait to see the finished product, too :-) How fun for the kids — and you (secretly). Nice tidy-up job in the Patch!! Feels like a new garden, doesn’t it :-) That looks like a wicked job on the sago for sure. Does a leaf blower help? A friend of mind suggested taking excess leaves, putting them in a large garbage can, and then taking a weed eater and sticking it into the leaves and chop them up. I got to thinking, though, you probably don’t even own a weed eater, do you? I just thought it was a clever way of reducing the leaves to mulch or compost. Well, you’re a better man than me (which is easy, since I’m not a man at all), for putting up with the yucca ailments. You must really like them. Too many eeeww factors for me. So glad to hear Kumo is on the mend. Our dog used to have to wear those collars from time to time, and when she’d try to drink out of the toilet (I know, speaking of eeeww factor), she’d go clunk, clunk against the edge and couldn’t quite get to the water. It was hilarious to watch her try, though. She used to eat all kinds of strange things, too — like a Bounce fabric sheet once, and an athletic sock (a white one with colored stripes). She had a cast iron stomach — well, for a while, until she died of stomach cancer. Poor thing. Loved that dog. They grow on you.

2 cheryl January 8, 2012 at 11:33 pm

I want a rock tumbler too!
Can’t believe that I HAD to run a sprinkler in a couple of places today but our last rain, which wasn’t much, fell on Thanksgiving and a few shrubs are looking worse than wan and pasty. I’m afraid we are catching your drought. We also recently had a few weeks of freezing temps which has not made “pretty” a usable adjective.
When does poor Kumo get to be collar-less? Hasn’t it been a couple of weeks?
That is a very yucky yucca leaf.

3 ESP January 9, 2012 at 12:19 am

Hi Toni.

You do need a rock polisher!

As much as I try to justify to myself that the rock-tumbler was a Christmas present for my children, I have come to the horrific understanding that the purchase was actually an act of pure, unadulterated selfishness. I have now become way more intrigued with the shining and grinding process than my halflings (who have almost given up that the rocks will ever be ready at this point)…I am now even rationionalising a tumbler upgrade :-)…I need to stop, immediately!

I just avoid weed eaters and leaf blowers, they both annoy me to the core with their noise and other pollutions, If I was a politician they would be the first thing I would ban. A lot of people do use the leaf shredder / trashcan technique you described to break down stubborn live oak leaves that, unless shredded take years to break down.

I admit I am a big fan of soft leaf yuccas, it is a really great and tough plant for central Texas and I have quite a few, they are generally disease and problem free…mostly.

Kumo is doing well thank you, and he is running around the Patch once again like a maniac. It was a bit of a scare for the kids and his hospitalization has aided our parental “have you picked all of your crap off the floor” cause significantly.


4 cheryl January 9, 2012 at 8:08 am

I use an electric weed-whacker and leaf blower. The weed-whacker saves my back, is quick, allows me to get into places a mower couldn’t go and is relatively quiet. (we’re talking about a 2.5 acre chunk of property here and a “woman of a certain age”) I don’t use the leaf blower as much nor am I able to use the whacker on the entire property. I don’t like the noise of the gas powered ones either. Actually, the electric weed-whacker is quieter and less polluting than a gas lawn mower. If only the deer would eat the weeds and leave the shrubs and succulents alone!
Glad to hear that Kumo is back to being a maniac. LOL

The rock tumbling is fun, though it does require a significant amount of patience and the incessant constant low rumble has been known to drive some people clinically insane. I have my tumbler inside a cooler outside to try to dampen the din and have so far managed to mentally tune it out when I am on my back deck.

Sorry to hear you are in a dry spell as well, we got lucky last night as a front blew through and is giving us a bit more well-needed rain today.

I hear you on the whacker / blower front, I have never tried the electric versions…what sort of battery-life do they offer when in use? I am curious.

Kumo is doing a lot better thanks, he is chewing on the highest density plastic bone next to me as I type…can that dog chew!


5 Gardenista January 9, 2012 at 8:43 am

I do hope you will keep all of us updated about the shiny and getting shinier rocks. When I was quite small our back fence neighbor was an amateur lapidarist and he would invite me over to see when he was unloading his polisher (he’d rigged a rather large version from washing machine parts). It was never anything short of magical.

We had a large area planted in both grey and green santolina for a time. It did really well right up until the year it didn’t. After that I lost my taste for it apparently. Do you do that? Go through plant favorite phases only to abandon the old stuff for a newer crush? I try to stick with natives now and that limits the selection some, but it seems I can be very fickle some years…

6 ESP January 9, 2012 at 11:18 am

Hi TD.

You know me, of course I will keep you updated as the stones progress…snort, this process is going to make the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” seem like a fast-paced action movie. I cannot begin to imagine how many rumbling decibels you neighbor’s washing machine tumbler put out! It must have been quite the sight when emptied…polished rocks the size of soccer balls.

What do you think caused the santolina to die? Too much rain that particular year?

Yes I definitely go through phases, grasses, citrus, conifers…right now apparently I am onto a marginal plant phase :-)


7 cheryl January 9, 2012 at 3:55 pm

I haven’t tried the battery ones. I just drag 200′ of electrical cord behind me.. lalala lalala llala

8 ESP January 9, 2012 at 4:30 pm

I had a battery powered hedge trimmer once..charging it overnight would get me 30 seconds worth of effective use. It was completely ridiculous and made me look ridiculous as I would move in fast motion to get a small area trimmed. Needless to say it was ‘retired’ from active service by my sledge hammer.

9 Les January 9, 2012 at 6:56 pm

Our collar of shame was referred to as the satellite dish, and you could always tell where the dog was by hearing her bump through the house as she moved around. We do however have a rug of shame.

10 ESP January 9, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Hi Les…thank goodness we don’t have to wear them.

11 Marilyn Kircus January 10, 2012 at 12:58 pm

How bout a shop vac to remove leaves from sago palms. Or would that move your irritation scale to a 10?

12 ESP January 10, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Hi Marilyn.

I have had a turbulent history with shop-vacs.
Here was a particularly nasty vac-encounter that happened to me back in 2008, it scarred me for life:



13 Chris Giaraffa January 11, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Bob has some nice green Santolina at the last design a go-go. Had it right there in the hell strip and it was looking mighty fine!

Hi Chris.
Green…Gray…Grey…Love this plant!

14 Pam/Digging January 12, 2012 at 12:08 am

Please send over the pajama crew in March when the live oaks start dropping their shiny, unrakeable leaves. Won’t be long! Currently, however, we are leaf-free over here. The Patch is looking good, as always.

Will-do Pam.

They do have an unusual stipulation of the most disgusting candy as a payment policy, and “the pajama crew” do tend to get easily distracted, oh and if you have an aversion to snot being pushed north onto the forehead in a prolonged upward sweeping motion, perhaps this is not the maintenance crew you are looking for.

Let me know if you require their repulsive services in March, and I will get you on the calender :-)


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