“Waltzing Nitida”

by ESP on October 4, 2013 · 8 comments


I can only assume from this image that the Patch witches are up to their

old post-Halloween shenanigans once again?



Lots of odd things have been “happening” around the Patch of late…


tiny squirrels have been falling out of my pecan trees,


no they really have, it was like M. Night Shyamalan’s


 it was amazing that they even survived the fall from the top of this pecan tree, but they did.


We put them in a box then strapped the box precariously to the tree overnight.


Apparently this is quite a common occurrence, the mother, on smelling her offspring, will come down and carry the babies back up to the nest…at least in theory.


Naturally this did not work for us.

On retrieving the box first thing the next morning she was devastated that one of the babies had died in the night.

We ended up taking this one to the wildlife rescue center.


Cotinus nitida

These metallic green June beetles

Cotinus nitida (Linnaeus)

(nitida = Latin for shiny, handsome)


have been present in large numbers this year, so many in fact that my kids have been catching them in nets as they buzzed and bumbled noisily through the air.


“Look dad, that one is giving the other one a piggy back!”

“Oh , err…it sure is, look at that!”

Cotinus nitida

My wife, as a child, used to tie thread around the legs of these beetles and “fly them” …well, at least until the encumbered limb would fall off!


The larvae of these June beetles are considered pests when they cause damage to lawns or turf grasses…like I care.

Moving Along:


A sure sign that Halloween is right around the corner is the ripening of the Pyracantha berries, although mildly poisonous to humans if ingested,


these miniature pumpkins are a real treat for the birds. This mocking bird feasts on them every afternoon.


Satsumas are ripening, (unfortunately only 4 this year)


plumosa ferns are blooming,


and the dragonflies are starting to get very tame, sensing that their time on this planet is drawing as short as the days.

This agave / mist flower has been their favorite perching point this year.




I was recently asked to redesign this really skinny back garden.

The homeowners had already had the landscape, pergola and patio installed but they were not happy with the landscape design.


The narrow space was challenging and the banding effect of the grass, brick edging and planting bed did nothing to help alleviate the claustrophobia of the space, it all had to go…(along with a bunch of plants that had already died).


Little did I know that these small bricks had, lurking under the ground, enough concrete under them to construct, well, something very large and made entirely of concrete…seriously?


Out came the yaupons that had not ventured much further than the pot they came in and in went some replacement sweet olives for fragrance.

The turf was next on the list to go.


It felt bigger already.


Then some over-sized Oklahoma flagstone was introduced to create a natural visual extension to the existing patio.

I used the contours of the flagstone to define the planting bed – no need for another edging medium.

I even had enough room to create a new small bed on the right side (not quite finished in this picture) – room for two more salvia.


No more watering here to make the grass grow only to then mow it back down again etc, rant, rant.

Stay Tuned for:

“One Man’s Treasure”


All material © 2013 for eastsidepatch. Unauthorized
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by late (and extremely unpleasant)
14th century planet Earth techniques.


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1 Diana/SharingNaturesGarden October 5, 2013 at 6:43 am

Wow – those insect photos are amazing, as always. And I love what you did with the narrow back yard – it made a huge difference. Sometimes those really small spaces can demonstrate the most dramatic changes.

Thanks Diana.
This back garden took a lot of thinking about, the design renderings really helped to get all parties comfortable with the change. I was pleased how it came out and the space really does “feel” bigger.

2 TexasDeb October 5, 2013 at 7:41 am

You were good to rescue the squirrel. Essentially they are just rats with bushy tails but it reinforces an important point you are already making to your little patchers about reverence for life. Good on ya.

I am smitten with the agave/mist plant duo. Love the look and am now keeping an eye out around these parts for the possibility of some sincerest flattery (you know – copying what you did!). Also happy to hear you took out that lawn strip for your customers though wish you’d given yaupons or beauty berries or some other native a trial. I was late to the “natives!” party but now I’m here I suppose I’m a little strident? It happens. Enjoy the cooler weather!

Rats with tails they are indeed TD, but surprisingly cute as babies…I found myself rooting for the little chaps.

Happy you like the agave / mist plant combination, it looks even better when the mist plant is in full bloom around it…a few weeks from now.

I gave a lot of thought to what to replace those dead youpons with and decided that the habit and fragrance of the sweet olives would be great additions. I have one sweet olive in the Patch and when it sporadically blooms (all through the summer) the smell is amazing. For that small back garden and patio the smell will be amazing. I am all for utilizing natives but this was the right plant for the space for punch.

Loving these cooler temps, happy gardening.

3 Cheryl October 5, 2013 at 7:43 am

I nearly stepped on a dead baby squirrel yesterday..I let out a rather loud bleat, then fetched a shovel and gave the poor thing a decent burial. It was younger than “your’s”. The shiny green beetles are so pretty! Do they stay that pretty after they die? (I’m thinking necklace…. gross?) Love what you did to that narrow yard!
It really does look bigger than before.

Hi Cheryl.

Bad design on the squirrel front…they need to construct safer nests for their offspring apparently. I blame their tardiness on their insatiable quest to hide and find nuts…they simply do not have the time or inclination to construct anything more robust (hoarder syndrome).

The green June beetles do stay colorful after they die…the metallic green picture is actually a dead one I found on my steps. Don’t mention dead beetle necklaces, I know someone around here that would jump on that challenge in a heartbeat.

Glad you liked the design makeover.

4 Jens & Suzie October 5, 2013 at 2:50 pm

We love our new yard. As you know, it wasn’t an easy decision for us to rip out the grass and do a complete overhaul of a landscape project barely 3 months old. The flat-stone pathways are a great alternative. We look forward for all the plantings to mature in a couple of years. Our neighbors have stopped by to compliment your work on our front yard. The moss-boulders work so much better than the commercial white borders which were there to begin with. Many thanks again!

Hi Jens, Suzie.
Happy you like the final result, and yes, it was unfortunate to have a landscape redo after such little elapsed time. Saying that, we caught the Asiatic jasmine and ripped it all out just in the nick of time, it was starting to take root and spread…that would have been a continuing nightmare from a maintenance standpoint, you did the right thing.

Happy your neighbors like the new look of the front. P.

5 Linda Lehmusvirta October 5, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Oh, I’m so sorry about the baby squirrels, but admire your rescue mission. Last year we had a near-dead baby raccoon camping out on our porch. With instructions from WR, we got him and he lived under their care!
Wow, I’ve never seen those green june bugs over here. So keep them! Though they are as pretty as that car.

LOVE you skinny backyard makeover! Just love it.

Hi Linda.

We had loads of these Green June beetles a few years back then nothing for a couple of years. It was fun to have them back, especially for the netting kids.

Thanks on the skinny install front.

6 Katina October 7, 2013 at 9:09 am

Yeah – baby squirrels…my cat likes them…a bit too much, if you catch my drift. Glad you rescued the one though.

Love the skinny yard make over, too.

Yes, it was bad enough that one had popped its clogs in the cardboard box, my daughter would have been even more devastated if both of them were pushing up the daisies.
Thanks on the make over.

7 Pam/Digging October 10, 2013 at 11:43 pm

And here I’d always thought those white grubs to be the larvae of the brown “June” bugs that fly like drunks — in April. You mentioned that they cause problems with lawn grass. My lawn is nearly gone, but I find an alarming number of grubs whenever I dig in my planting beds. I always toss them in the driveway for the mockingbirds to eat. But I wonder — do they eat the roots of other types of plants as well? Wondering if I should do a beneficial nematode spray next spring. Any thoughts?

Hi Pam.
I think the larvae of both these beetles look pretty much the same, as far as I can tell. These chaps will chomp on plant roots as well as turf. I see quite a few when I dig also but I have not noticed any plant damage to date…fingers crossed. It is the snout beetle that really bothers me, it has been a couple of years now since their last nasal agave attack.

8 Cheryl October 13, 2013 at 2:54 pm

well Gee, if I were in your neighborhood, making necklaces our of green beetles would be the first thing to do…………

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