“Head above Water”


This photo was presumably taken in the 1940’s-1950’s
of a woman underwater in the Weeki Wachee Spring, FL. 

I heard the old, old men say,
‘Everything alters,
And one by one we drop away.’
They had hands like claws, and their knees
Were twisted like the old thorn-trees
By the waters.
I heard the old, old men say,
‘All that’s beautiful drifts away
Like the waters.’

The Old Men Admiring Themselves In The Water
William Butler Yeats

We have witnessed a lot of beautiful things drifting away this year, but in Austin,
the waters are not so much drifting as they are evaporating away. Look at these
recent pictures of Lake Travis at the Lakeway City Park.


Photo’s courtesy of:
Sam Chapman,

It looks more like some Mayan ruins than the lake…shocking!
Click for a clearer look.

This rosemary just seems to get bigger,
the hotter and dryer the weather gets. The only
sign that it is also thirsty is a slight tinge of
yellow to the green, but it doesn’t like to complain.

I wish I could say the same for this poor Primrose Jasmine,        
Jasminum mesnyi
It is hanging onto life by it’s leaf-tips.  I must say though, it does have
an interesting aesthetic all of its own in this crispy state, like a firework
or a water-fountain in a water-purification plant?

This Giant Timber bamboo culm is ripping it’s own shirt off in an attempt to cool down.

The odd twisting culms continue to writhe and twist upward from
the underworld, they are growing at a staggering rate
at the moment.

The intensity of the August “Day Star” has even been too much for
this aptly named Ghost Plant.
Graptopetalum paraguayense,

It looks like something has singed
the top of it with a
blow-torch…oh wait, it has.
One badly stressed out succulent!

Houston, we have touch down…

Stabilizer clamps engaged.

“Look into my eyes, into my eyes, the eyes, the eyes,
eyes, not around the eyes, don’t look around the
eyes, look into my eyes…you’re under”.

The eyes of this Skimmer dragonfly mimick the
gords hanging under my “purple martin” nest box. I put
quotations around purple martin because it is invariably
full of irritating nesting sparrows…I have told the Nabooboo tribe
to hunt these birds with their blow darts, but even that has not
seemed to make a dent on their numbers. I also suspect that the
tribe have been pre-occupied of late, hunting down some escaped 
Whip Scorpions, Thanks for that Bob at Draco Gardens.

My blunder with the martins this year was that I opened the
doors to the inn as soon as I saw the first birds flying around
the neighborhood…

BIG mistake!

The overtly aggressive sparrows immediately
gate-crashed the nest-box, and held a massive party
in honor of my complete ignorance. 

“why you little”

Next year I will wait until a scout actually
lands on the nest-box, and stays on it for
a while before I open the doors.  
This is a male Flame Skimmer dragonfly,
situated on my Spruce Cone Cholla,
or aptly named Pine Cone Cactus… 

…Tephrocactus articulatus.
Like a multi-eyed monster from mythical Greece, (it is actually
a native to western Argentina). It is one of the stranger looking cacti 
that resides in the patch. It also, it seems, has an intrinsic design flaw,
it is easily broken. Segments of T. articulatus easily separate from the main cactus,
the good news is they readily root, mmm, perhaps it is not a design flaw afterall!
This plant requires no supplemental water, a definite plus right now.

You can see how the sections are extremely fragile due to
a rather obvious “off-setting”.  There are five species in the
genus Tephrocactus, sometimes classified under the
Opuntia genus. All varieties of this species are frost hardy…
I love this plant, just don’t bump into it, if you want it to reach
any height.

Talking of bumps:

One of my goldfish is about to pop.
She is so pregnant and distended that even
her scales are sticking out!!!
It is rather disturbing looking.

Staying with the pond for a moment…

This puddle of death was to spell the end for these gulf-toad tadpoles,
a couple had already died in this quickly evaporating hot tub.

Also darting around on the lilies are lots of these:

Long Legged Fly
A great beneficial fly in the garden and a prolific insect predator.
These little flies are the Jason Bournes of the fly world.

“Oh, I see how it is ESP!”
“Just because I am not shiny and jewel-like, like he is, I am no
longer an ESP reference?”.

Rest easy Seth, you will be published again before you have
chance to vomit.

Long-legged flies are members of the Order Diptera (true flies) and
the family Dolichopodidae, a very large and diverse group. In general,
flies in this family are very small, characterized by 2 long wings
and long slender legs
. The bodies are beautifully colored with green,
blue, metallic gold or silver,
flying jewelry!

The best thing about these little jewels is that they love to devour
copious amounts of spider mites. Both larvae and adults are
predaceous on many other insects and small arthropods,
including mites
, thrips, psocids, aphids, and other insects larvae.
These flies hardly ever stay still, flitting around on my lily pads,
looking for the next meal – at least this is my excuse
for my bad photography, and I am sticking with it.

Moving on…

Aloe variegata, also known as Tiger Aloe and
Partridge-breasted Aloe, is a species of aloe indigenous to South Africa. 
Looking like a futuristic tower block, the plant’s leaf margins, have a wide,
ornamental white line that looks like it has been painted on. 
Spotting on leaves is often in horizontal bands in a ‘tiger-stripe’ pattern,
the white spots look like windows and go great set against the back-drop of
my texas holey rocks. This was one of the plants that I purchased from the
50% off sale at “The Great Outdoors” I managed to get four divisions from
this plant, straight out of the pot.

I am finally ready for yet another delivery of decomposed granite to finish
off this section of pathway. It is all leveled and devoid of life and weeds, the
sun has been good for frying anything that once lived in here. A few inches
of granite on top of this should hold most weed germination back pretty well.
At one time I was considering planting this area up with Tech Turf. Marketed
under the corporate name Turffalo, and perhaps I still may, later down the line.
The decomposed granite will, in the meantime benefit the soil and smother
any lurking weeds that may germinate when (and should it ever) rain again.

The latest craze in the patch…

…state-of-the-art transportation, scooted, (and pushed), at the highest possible velocity
around my circular succulent bed…It amazes me so much hilarity can be born from
such a basic endeavor. I am not undermining the activity though, oh no,  
it means I can garden and weed in peace, AND they wear
themselves out!

“You just don’t get it, old man!…You need to wake up and smell the lemon basil.”

All the scooting and pushing came to an abrupt halt when my
youngest stopped dead in his tracks, he started pointing into
this nearby patch of grass…his excitement told me he was onto
something major. I always have my camera in my pocket and
went in closer to investigate the now twitching ornamental grass.
I was surprised to see a baby possum, and judging from it’s
expression, (I have the same one), I think he must have just
woken up, a little too early it seems.

And finally:
100% pup-survival rate from my agave spike from last year… like this 
is any surprise!
They are finally starting to look like small versions
of their mother.

A couple more dragons to finish…
A pre-historic insect on a pre-historic horse-tail reed.
Very similar forms.

The sun is setting in the patch but
be sure to tune in for next weeks new Discovery show…

Deadliest Patch”

All material © 2009 for east_side_patch. Unauthorized 
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by  late  (and extremely unpleasant)
14th century planet Earth techniques.

Inspirational Images of the Week:

Soekershof, Botanical Gardens, S.Africa.

A true mermaids garden!


~ by eastsidepatch on August 13, 2009.

13 Responses to ““Head above Water””

  1. Welcome to WordPress, ESP!
    I love WordPress – it is so intuitive … and I am a computer-spaz, so I very much appreciate anything that makes my blogging habit easier.

    Okay – I must, must MUST get my hands on that Tephrocactus articulatus. Not only is it strangely beautiful, how can I pass up a plant that announces itself as articulate? Eloquence is important in a garden!

    When will it rain? I feel so badly for you Texan gardeners – at least we Californian gardeners don’t expect rain from late March – December. If we happen to get an accidental sprinkle, or even fog, we get very happy and celebrate an end to the drought. It must be miserable to be used to the nourishing summer rains, and not get them. But I must say, The Patch still looks wonderful. A testament to your thoughtful design!
    I found a baby possum in my garden a month ago! It was SO cute … but then I saw its mother and re-thought that cute thing. ICK!
    So may I ask an Agave-pup related question? How long did it take for the pups to fall from the mother-spike? And one has to wait until they fall, right? I tried prying a couple off and all I got was a handful of broken leaves and a heavy heart … I want all of my pups to LIVE! I am already collecting little terracotta pots, like yours. I can’t wait to pot them up!
    That Inspirational image is a DOOZY! You are right – a mermaid’s garden. If the woman in your first pic had a head and a tail, I could imagine her languidly floating amidst the beauty!
    Wonderful, as always!

    • Hi Ivette.
      Right there with you on the intuitive WordPress front. It is so much easier to do everything! The canvas is a littler smaller but I can put up with that.

      I love the articulatus, with it’s odd forms – I have nothing like this in my cacti bed, so it makes for a good contrast plant, like the barrels.

      I know people who are moving away from Austin after this brutal summer, it has just been too much for a lot of people and their gardens. I think a lot of people just gave up, with the cost, and general unpleasantness of being outside, watering etc. We have now been placed under a stricter watering code to make bad matters worse. This is what happens when an area simply runs out of water. Oh and do not get me started on the multitudes of expanses of sprinkler fed St Augustine grass lawns in our area!

      To answer your agave question, it took ages, longer that I could bring myself to wait. I planted most of mine when the pups got “loose” on the stalk…you can sort of tell – little roots had already started forming. In the end, before I made the rather large agave “instrument” I was so knee-deep in agave pups I used a machete to hack the remainder off the stalk. I noticed only the other day, there are a few tiny plants emerging right against the side of the house where I did the execution! They will have their revenge, that I am sure.

      I cannot take credit for the mermaid analogy, my daughter saw this image and said that “it looks like a mermaid’s garden” and she has yet to go under water, clever clogs!


  2. Hi, Philip. I saw in your comment to Bob that you’re in the process of moving to WordPress. Yippee! I can comment and leave a link so much easier over here. But it’s not all about me. ;-) The blog looks great over here. I look forward to more posts, as always.

    Say, did you ever identify your agave of a million pups? I saw your reply to Jenny that it prefers shade…

    • Hi Pam – Great to be here!
      I am so happy with the new format…and wordpress is so much more intuitive than live journal. I am especially likeing the spell-checking system – you do not even want to know how LJ executes this! I don’t know why I did not make the jump ages ago! Duh!
      I am under the belief that the agave is the same one in the Debra Lee Baldwin book “Designing with Succulents” but I could be wrong. Anyhow, I have been rearing my pups under the shade of my neighbors Post Oak, and they are doing great. Their mother on the other hand was out in the full sun, so I believe they have a wide range of growing conditions. Perhaps the smaller the agave the more protection it initially needs?


  3. BTW, where is the link to your new feed, Philip?

    • Hi Pam.
      This is all a bit new to me – Did I manage to do the link to my new feed correctly?
      I put a button up in the top right.

  4. I’m lost Philip. I left a comment on this post but on the other carrier. I had asked a couple of questions and now checking to see what you may have said, but it’s gone. Now I can’t remember what the questions were. [You know they were important]

    I do like the new page but the type isn’t big enough. Just kidding. Bob

  5. Hi Bob.
    I answered your comment back on the live journal blog but here is what I replied…Oh and great you are here! (Moving blogs is a royal pain in the ….)
    Anyway, here is my reply…

    Hi Bob.
    Every time I pulled up your site and post about the whipping scorpions, if my kids came walking behind me while I was on my laptop the image would be met with a resounding Eeeewww! Too funny. They also find the Bart and Homer Simpson images hilarious.

    You may most definitely grab some pups, and I am sure I will have a few hundred left!

    I was really happy with this set of dragonfly pictures, and thank you. The Long Legged fly was tough to even get, due to the flies constant twitchy movement. If you have high blood pressure, this fly would not be a good subject to try and shoot.

    The pregnant goldfish has disappeared. I have a lot of lilies at one side of my pond, and over the years the mud and organic matter has built up significantly…and I let it. There is now a mud-flat-mound (covered in lilies) that lies a few inches below the water level…I bet that is where she went!
    I will have to have a deep cleaning of this pond over the next couple of years, I keep putting it off. Perhaps I will be calling on you, most definitely your wife into the subtleties of your fish catching techniques!

    Good to hear from you Bob.
    Oh, I am in the process of moving the ESP over to Word-press…would love to know what you think of it:

  6. Me again, Philip. Yes, I found the feed button, and thank you!

    • Phew! I am glad I got that right at least.
      Now to the font size adjustment – ironically this was really easy in LJ!
      PS. Your thirsty bee images are really funny. I hope to have time to comment in more detail again soon!
      So much tweaking in here to do!!!!
      Thanks for getting back to me on this Pam, I can rest peacefully again.

  7. Do you need me to take a bunch of agave pups to work to get rid of them? I’m sure there have to be at least a handful of people who would take them…They’re kinda like how I am with Bob–he offers me a plant and I’m too glad to get free stuff to say no. And then I get them home and go “hunh…now what will I do with this?” But he always says that the point of the whole thing is that he doesn’t have to deal with the plant anymore.

  8. Hi Katina.
    I am planning to use these agaves in future landscaping projects. I also have some plans for a mass planting in the patch, when they grow a little larger. Thanks for the offer though. If I have surplus I will be sure to contact you in the near-future.

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