“Squeezing Lanterns”

I have been scouring the local nurseries of late with an expression that I am convinced must resemble “Mad-Eye Moody”… I have been reading tags, mumbling and grumbling under my breath at the prices while ignoring the side-way glances from nursery staff.  Oh yes, better not get in my way, I was on a mission, hunting down a new vine to cover up my pink jasmine vines that died in our freezes last winter (see previous post about sweeping things under the carpet).

I have found one that is new to me, but already…

“I like it a lot!”

As an added bonus, the color of it’s flowers and funky seeds work perfectly with the color scheme of our house:

That is a post oak on the right.  Post oaks are so difficult to transplant that very few nurseries will even stock them, oh and they hate to be tampered with:  Roy Bedichek: http://www.bedichek.org/roy/ a noted nature writer quotes General Beck, who was in charge of landscaping at UT for years…“The more you trim a post oak, the unhealthier it becomes”.

The vine I settled on is Yellow Butterfly Vine.

Mascagnia macroptera

It is the seed pods that give this plant its name (but it does attract butterflies as well) . During summer, chartreuse ‘wings’ unfold on the seed pods that resemble butterflies.

The papery pods turn from tan to brown as they mature, and along with the contrasting yellow flowers, it offers the illusion of two, no even three different plants!  The pods can also be harvested and planted, which is a good thing as I plan to propagate a few more of these vines against this tall fence over time.  In mild winters, the vine will retain its glossy green foliage, but if we have another cold winter it will die back and re-sprout in spring…no big deal,

as the other great news is that it is a very fast grower and incredibly heat tolerant, being virtually impervious to the baking sun and also reflected heat – great attributes for survival here in Central Texas, interestingly, it also grows in partial shade…I cannot believe I do not see this vine more often!

The plant recently was renamed; it previously was classified as Stigmaphyllon ciliatum, I would love to hear from anyone who has any experience with this.

Staying with the same color palette, a quick update on my ahem, swelling tomatillos…

The paper lanterns just get better looking and more fall-festive as the year draws on.

The husks surrounding the sticky pepper (and it is very sticky) that is developing and growing inside, have gone from bright green to yellow to tan…

…and as the actress said to the Bishop…I squeeze my lanterns daily, just to see how they are progressing, right now there is still a gap between the pepper and the husk, but eventually the pepper will grow to split this protective paper shell.  I could have inserted a few double entendres here, but I managed to keep my Benny Hill demon at bay.

Tomatillo plants are self-incompatible (two or more plants are needed for pollination).

Moving on…

The skeletal structure on the spine of this fatsia japonica caught my attention today, one of my favorite plants (can you tell) for deep shade.

Staying on a sculptural slant I planted out a couple of my pups from my agave that bloomed a couple of years back in my hell-strip early this year: http://www.eastsidepatch.com/2008/06/gardening-in-a-furnace/

And with absolutely no attention from me, they are now starting to take on the same swirling good-looks as their mother…very satisfying to see the next generation take root, grow and prosper.

Live long and prosper my young agaves. This one will look great in maturity, set against the dark backdrop of this large hell-strip sago palm.


The snaking seedpods on this year’s mammoth amaranths are larger than usual for this time of year.  It looks like this year will be a good seed harvest.

In contrast, the tiny jewels are only now just forming on my jewels of opar plants. I am now up to eight new plants from the seeds that I spread all around the Patch last year.

The camouflage on this camera-shy Texas spiny lizard was perfect against the trunk of this evergreen wisteria.

Gaura just starting to put on a fall show…

…and I will not tell you as to why these two unsavory characters were lurking around on our street this week, trust me…you really do not want to know!  Brrr (x10)

Stay Tuned  for:

Raining Beetles

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  • Cheryl September 3, 2010, 1:04 pm

    Love that yellow butterfly vine… is it invasive? (I’ve gotten myself into more than one vine mess here) I have not see that in Sacramento.. but maybe I haven’t been paying attention. Come on.. WHY were there black vultures on your roof? You can tell us..

  • ESP September 3, 2010, 1:22 pm

    Hi Cheryl.

    Me too!
    I believe I read that it gets to about 12-15 feet tall and wide, and so far I have not read anything but good things about it. I do not recall seeing it around Austin, but like you, I just may not have noticed it.

    The duet of death were on a neighbors roof and oh no, it is way too disturbing to recount…toes curl, head shrinks into shoulders, eyes strike a terror pose thinking about it… etc, etc.


  • Cheryl September 3, 2010, 3:24 pm

    I take it that you plant your succulents directly into DG. How deep ..6″? 12″? 1′ ?.. deeper? I want to create a “big” succulent bed but I can’t afford several yards of DG. I will be putting DG over mostly clayish (maybe 3 steps up from hard pan) soil.. it has a bit of composty debris but not a lot. I plan on making a berm.. any hints?

  • ESP September 3, 2010, 6:06 pm

    Hi Cheryl.

    This initially disturbing post pretty much illustrates how I do it.
    Drainage, drainage and more drainage.
    You need to build up a sufficient height of material above that hard pan, this really is where the gravel and granite comes in. If you do not have this “drainage room” under the plants, water will pool up and ultimately rot them. Granite is the cheapest way to achieve this. I would also go in and break up the base soil as much as possible…a pain I know, I use a small pick-axe, this way over time the granite particles will filter down into the soil and improve it as well!
    Hope this helps you.


  • Pam/Digging September 3, 2010, 7:36 pm

    As soon as you said you picked a vine that went with the color of your house, I knew it was going to be butterfly vine. I grew it in my former garden and have it in the sunny side of my new garden as well. It got knocked back by last year’s freeze but has rebounded to scale the fence and will be blooming soon. It’s a wonderfully easy-care vine, and those butterfly seedpods and pinking-shear flowers are very attractive. In fact, one of my photos of it was sold to Monrovia for their online catalog a couple of years ago: http://www.monrovia.com/plant-catalog/plants/1546/butterfly-vine.php You’ll love it, and so will the hobbits.

  • ESP September 3, 2010, 7:50 pm

    Hi Pam.

    How funny that you guessed what it was!
    I have it planted on the south side of my house where I have read it does best, and yes the color is going to look great set against the house color, especially when it matures. Our house should protected it from the winter North winds. Like some oleanders I have planted in the heat of summer, it seems to be taking the baking in it’s stride…love that!
    Have you ever tried propagating it from seed?…apparently it is quite easy, will try later in the fall and let you know what happens. It is a great looking vine, and is it me or is it not that commonly used around Austin?


  • Pam/Digging September 3, 2010, 8:18 pm

    I see it here and there, but not as often as you’d think. A gardener friend of mine told me about it years ago, and I’ve not been without it since. It’s readily available at Barton Springs Nursery and probably other independents.

  • ESP September 3, 2010, 8:42 pm

    Hi Pam.
    Yes, seems like I would see a lot more of it on my travels!
    I got this one from the NG, initially thought (by the looks of it) that it would be an annual…apparently not! So happy to have discovered it.

  • Gail September 3, 2010, 9:27 pm

    I love the butterfly vine…maybe some in our back??

    Enjoyed the video – birthday candles are harder to blow out than one would imagine.

  • ESP September 3, 2010, 9:37 pm

    Hi Gail.
    Yes…you need this one!
    He was so funny blowing out that last candle, how he noticed it.
    Also funny was the “pip pip” dance they performed on the stairs in Powfoot! Ask Ms P about it!

  • Robert September 4, 2010, 1:20 pm

    Hi there. Just wanted to add a bit of info about the butterfly vine. It roots quite easily if allowed to travel along the ground. Mine form a thick ground cover. I tried to grow from seed and was unsuccessful — why bother though when it is so easily rooted. By the way, there is also a lavender colored variety — mascagnia lilacina.

  • ESP September 4, 2010, 2:15 pm

    Thanks for the information Robert…I had no idea there was a lavender variety. Good to know that it roots easily, I have it planted in an area where it has a lot of room to spread it’s legs, so it should be quite happy.

  • Cheryl September 5, 2010, 9:24 pm

    one more question about the butterfly vine.. is it distasteful to deer? I don’t think anybody has it around here. Maybe I’ll order it from Monrovia.

  • ESP September 5, 2010, 9:40 pm

    Hi again Cheryl.

    Distasteful to deer?…I believe it has a chomping chance:
    Hope this helps, and I hope you find some.


  • Les September 7, 2010, 5:05 am

    Your vine choice is yet another plant I am not familiar with. I see from the link that it is hardy to zone 8, I just wonder if it is zone 8, or zone 8.

    Do you have a dress-black turban for the Video Music Awards?

  • ESP September 7, 2010, 9:40 am

    Hi Les.

    This was a new one to me too…we will see how it does this winter, I do have a good feeling about this one though…famous last words.
    Very funny on the dressy turban front and Video Music Awards, I had no idea I was even nominated! I am thinking a sophisticated dress-black, pinstripe turban, perhaps with a centered jewel?


  • Bob Pool September 12, 2010, 6:33 pm

    Hi Phillip, it’s Lyn not Bob. Just wanted to tell you that I loved, loved, loved the music on this video!!! The dance on the stairs is priceless. Just love reading, listening and learning on your blog.

  • ESP September 13, 2010, 10:50 am

    Hi Lyn.

    Good to hear from you…I know Bob hogs that computer over there at Draco! :-)
    Glad you liked the music, the Indian break with the iced turban cracks me up every time I watch it. The dance on the stairs I actually shot last year when we were staying in a holiday cottage in Scotland…they were both so jet-lagged and I got called…”DAD! Come and watch our “Pip Pip Dance,” it is know as that to this day, and they still perform it on occasion.

    So happy you like the Patch.


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