“Under the Knife”

by ESP on October 23, 2014 · 7 comments


Oh yes, we have been quite busy of late.

Meet Cactus Man Jr II, an intellectual currently working on his doctoral thesis “Humans Obsession with Opuntia Paddle Personification.”

The slots/wounds at the side of his head will heal over (and secure) the glasses over time…at least that is the goal.


Cactus Man Jr II’s grandfather wasn’t quite so lucky when he fell under my knife a few years back.


As you can see, I was significantly less ‘invasive’ with my surgical procedures this time around so I have high hopes for a full recovery.


We each claimed a paddle and got creative,


or somewhat disturbing.


Mist flowers are one of my favorite insect attractors this time of year. They work really well along side steely blue basketgrass and artemesia Silver King, but any artemesia will do.

Just add a splash of Esperanza, a hint of rosemary and stir slowly over a number of years.


I have been performing enough yucca and sotol haircuts recently that my forearms resemble pin cushions.


joe-dirt11I can live with this mullet-look for a while but then the control freak in me kicks-in and I reach for the Fiskars.


Ahh, it can breathe again.

I even had some pine-cone cactus growing at the base of the plant that I had forgotten about.

This sotol at a clients house was a monster, it must have had 10+ years of old growth at the base, some of it buried.


It took me about an hour to work around it, trimming its spiny locks. I was spiked, bitten by fire-ants, clawed at and by the time I was finished both of my ears were bleeding.


Next time I will were some protection. I think a couple of these with an iced turban should look significantly ridiculous.


Here is a before shot of the front area:


And after clean-up:


A fresh layer of Tejas black gravel was put down in the front of the house and a planter planted with…


a bonsai Juniper tree.

I think I will have to get one of these twisted trees myself.


Two additional steel planters were planted up with spineless sotol

Dasylirion longissimum


…if any plant can take the heat, this one can.


At another clients house I was called out to perform a postmortem on an agave that had recently gone into decline.

Here is the agave a few months ago:


and now:


There were some tell-tale signs; holes in the leaves, unearthly odor, it was a mess. A gentle tug released the heart of the plant confirming it was once again the work of the notorious agave villain:

Dum dum duummm…

Mr Snout-Nose…AKA: “The Evil Weevil”


venom copy

Known to his inner circle as:

Scyphophorus acupunctatus



This time the sneaky villain had managed to clone himself.

This poor agave was full of his duplicates and a disturbing amount of the weevil’s grubs that were now furiously devouring the inside of the agave, causing it to turn to mush and collapse on itself.

It wasn’t a pretty site,

and it wasn’t a pretty smell.

IMG_1125 copy

This beetle is deadly for agaves.

I have lost many a fine specimen plant to the trunked-tyrant myself, particularly Agave Americana which, as I understand it, tastes like freshly baked pecan pie and cream to Mr Weevil. 

If infected I take out the dying plant and cover the entire area with diatomaceous earth. I avoid planting in the same hole.

As for other plants that may be effected or at risk, I put a thick circle of diatomaceous earth around the base of the plants and replenish regularly.


Oh, and when I find a dead weevil or one journeying in the open looking for a host agave to decimate, I turn into Vlad the Impaler. I leave tiny clumps of them on ceremonial skewers to deter others…and I like insects.



“No Bear, it is not a waste!”

On a brighter note after retching a few times getting the rotted limbs of the agave into the bed of my truck, I did take some time to snap a few pictures of the landscape that I installed last spring.


Lots of linear lines, patchy turf and odd stepping-stone flagstones needed to be taken out.

There were some nice corten steel planters to work with though.


Here is the visual I generated for the space to communicate a more organic and naturalistic aesthetic:




Linheimer Muhly grasses filling in well,


along with the gulf coast muhly.

No more grass to water and cut here.


Snapshots in the Patch:



Celosia is setting seed.


Mexican firebush threatens to ignite some crusty old inland sea oats.


Miscanthus grasses glow gold this time of the year,


and Salvia Leucantha just keeps on going…yes the Vitex is still there!


Stay Tuned For:

“Shelling Out”


All material © 2014 for eastsidepatch. Unauthorized
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by late (and extremely unpleasant)
14th century planet Earth techniques.

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1 Pam/Digging October 26, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Ugh, the weevils are so disgusting. What a shame to see another beautiful agave killed by this pest. Your redesign shown at the end is very nice, Philip! But now you’ve put mullet imagery in my head with regard to the natural shagginess of softleaf yucca and rounded sotol, which I prefer over the pruned up, crowned-crane look: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/79/Grues_couronn%C3%A9es_140806.jpg. :-) Hey, your Opuntia face looks like John Lennon. Intentional?

2 ESP October 26, 2014 at 2:20 pm

Hmm, perhaps I should go ahead and generate really bad renditions of the rest of the Band members in the opuntia, I could call them the weevils? crash-crash-cymbal.
I also prefer the rounded look on sotols Pam, I prune them up just to clean up the understory, they always ’round-out’ again in no time at all it seems.
Yucca just looks ‘unkept’ to me if left in a perpetual mullet state :-)

3 Lori October 26, 2014 at 2:25 pm

Ugh, those damn weevils. I’ve seriously had nightmares about them. Where did you end up finding that bonsai juniper?

4 Lori October 26, 2014 at 2:26 pm

P.S. Love those huge flagstones. I can’t imagine what a PITA they were to level, but it looks fantastic!

5 ESP October 26, 2014 at 2:43 pm

Hi Lori.
The bonsai was from the Great Outdoors.
While working this install I was moving a large piece flagstone, stepped in a plant hole, lost my balance, fell backward with dolly and came to rest on my back with a large slab of oversized Oklahoma two inches from my face and a badly bruised forearm. These slabs can flip you so fast, PITA they are indeed – but they look great. Leveling is usually not a big issue due to the weight and size.
Stupid weevils.

6 TexasDeb October 27, 2014 at 7:49 am

I’d left my mullet plant alone out front – it just seemed way too stabby to approach and I like the more rounded look, but now, well, MAYBE I’m going to give it just a little trim around the ears (and hope mine survive..). Maybe. It is a lot safer to type about it than try it.

Say – if you ever need any agave pups I’m your gal. I’ve got them in all sizes and will trade for…well…. let’s talk?

(and hey! I recognize one of those houses – I drive by it all the time. Next time I’m going to turn down that street and really check the house out. Go team Leveridge!).

7 ESP November 4, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Good luck with your mullet plant TD, pruning should not hurt them as much as it does for the pruner…cutting a mullet is always a painful experience, I guess.

No…no more agaves, thanks though :-)

How funny you recognized one of the installations.

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