“Curb Your Enthusiasm”

Bland colors and a lawn butting right up to the house, screamed
out for a smoother transition, well at least a transition.
Some scrappy sages haphazardly positioned around the side-walk.
Is this a new “abstract” planting style I have not heard off?
Out they come.

Here is a property I have been working on in South Austin. The property was about to go
on the market and needed a quick front yard “face-lift”, to give it some extra “curb appeal”. 
The budget was limited and the turn around needed to be really fast, basically what can
be done with the minimal of changes, to offer the greatest visual bang for the buck?
My first port of call was a rapid visualization that helped convey the new design intent to
the owner, this was to include a new color scheme for the house, as well as the design
for a front of house, low maintenance bed that I thought would help transition the house
into the rest of the front yard.

For a color scheme, the rust and dark-grey colors on the large cedar tree,
and the white and tan colors of the stone on the house, seemed a natural fit.

A quick sketch to capture the basic plan.

Then some more refined renderings that visualize the new rust and dark-grey color scheme.

Ahh, this brings back a lot of familiar memories.     “These are a few of my favorite things”.
A large mound of decomposed granite and a palette of rocks.
My wheelbarrow on viewing this scene defiantly
deflated it’s only tire.

And the final result. The white boulders reference the stone on the house and afford
a more relaxed look. The decomposed granite picks up tan of the brickwork and the roof.
By encompassing the Cedar tree into the bed, the tree now looks anchored and part
of the house, rather than floating in space.

“What IS he talking about”?

Two containers in the same color palette, planted up with non-spiky sotols for height
and movement.

I knew those agave pups would come in useful for something!
I spaced four of them around the base of the cedar tree.
Perhaps whoever buys the house will see these babies
mature into the towering yellow beanstalk I witnessed last year.

Moving on to the…


Sage and bermuda infestation, my favorite!

This little strip of hell on the same property has really lived up
to it’s reputation. I have spent two days hacking and scraping
at this beast to bring down the grade far enough to allow a
generous portion of decomposed granite to be administered.
Whomever planted these sage bushes just mounded up 
some turf on top of the strip and planted! aarghh! The right
picture shows the shrubs pruned back and the soil level brought
down, ready to receive some weed suppressive material and granite.
While I was nibbling and clawing in here I did have a couple of really
interesting close-encounters I want to share with you:

(Insert some Darth Vader breathing)  what? How would you write it?
schmeerrrrr…Kufff perhaps?

“Dig lightly we must, the force is strong with this beetle’s mandibles”.    
Don’t mess with this Dark Lord, he has a serious attitude problem and some
serious looking pincers. I use one of these beetles as a nut cracker around Christmas time.
This is a Blue-margined Ground Beetle – Pasimachus depressus
and it was big. You can just about see the purple/blue color around the leading edge of the beetle.
It is often mistaken as a stag beetle because of it’s prominent mandibles.

The ground beetle is astonishingly fast, a fact I was painfully aware of with
my lens a couple of centimeters from his prominent jaw-line. The ground
beetle stands high off the ground on sprinters legs, which come in really
useful, as this beetle is a hunting beetle that runs down it’s prey. If the
large mandibles have latched on to one of your digits, most likely this guy
will have also sprayed you with some secretions from his rear-end that
bare no resemblance to the latest fragrance from Calvin Klein…nice!

“Yoda? What is that smell?”                                      ” It is the ground-beetle Luke.”
“The force is strong young Luke.”
“I sense a disturbance in the force.”
“Aw man, Yoda you are strapped to my back!”

My other encounter in the Hell Strip
caused me to involuntarily do a
backward dance reminiscent of
a Scottish jig on the sidewalk as
a recoil mechanism. It would
have looked great in slow motion,
complete with facial grimaces
and a low audible moaning sound.
I had unearthed a Tarantula!

“One step closer ESP and I WILL throw this lump of gravel at you!”Ctenizidae

Here she is in full-on defensive mode in my wheelbarrow. After I had recovered
from my dance I clambered for the camera and was relieved to find she had
survived the shoveling journey unscathed…all limbs present and obviouslyfunctional.

Okay it was a female trap-door spider.

It is called a trap-door spider because when it enters it’s burrow, it pulls the hatch shut behind it.

Trap-Door Spider, is the common name for any of the several large, hairy,
harmless tropical spiders that nest underground. They make long burrows
in the earth, line them with silk, which they spin, and fashion at the entrance
a bevel-edged, hinged, accurately fitting trapdoor often made of alternate
layers of earth and silk. The upper surface of the door may be covered with
earth or gravel, thus disguising the entrance. The nests of trap-door spiders
are generally in groups. The young hatch in the burrows of their mothers and
live there for a few weeks; they then leave the nest and begin small
underground burrows of their own. Trap-door spiders subsist largely
on ants and other insects.

Females never travel far from their burrows, especially if they have an egg-sac.
During this time, the female will capture food and regurgitate it to feed her spiderlings.
Enemies of the trapdoor spider include certain spider wasps, which seek
out the burrows. They sting the owner and wait for it folks…lay their
eggs (usually one per spider) on its body. No,no,no,no,no!
When the egg hatches, the larva devours the spider alive. Brrrrrrr.
Trap-door spiders are often kept in terrariums as pets, their bites
are painful but not highly toxic.
There are over 60 species of trapdoor spiders.

Thank you Jerry over there at http://www.bugsinthenews.com/ for the extremely
quick ID and interesting information about this spider.

Back in the Patch…
Hardy Yellow Ice Plant Delosperma nubigenum
has started to bloom. This one apparently is not as heat tolerant as some of the
other varieties as it comes from colder higher mountains in S.Africa. Has anyone
had any experience with this one? I am wondering if it makes it through a
Texas summer, or simply turns to dust?

Remember my Gasteria, look at how far it has come on in only a week!
I am interested just how “stomach – like” the blooms actually turn out to be.
They are now separating from the cluster and falling down.

This line of sedum in my middle bed that I transplanted and separated out
of one container is spreading out nicely. I must have got twenty new plants
from this division, some of which I transplanted in between some of my
moss boulders. I plan to continue this process until I have it growing between
all my boulders. My next post will be in ten years time when this task will be finished.

Young salvias are blooming right now.

Ballistic bulbines in my front bed.

 Stay Tuned For:
“Bamboo Aliens”
All material © 2009 for east_side_patch. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.


~ by eastsidepatch on March 7, 2009.

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