“A Patch-Work Orange”

Ghost House


I DWELL in a lonely house I know
That vanished many a summer ago,
And left no trace but the cellar walls,
And a cellar in which the daylight falls,
And the purple-stemmed wild raspberries grow.

spooky-woods-1024x768O’er ruined fences the grape-vines shield
The woods come back to the mowing field;
The orchard tree has grown one copse
Of new wood and old where the woodpecker chops;
The footpath down to the well is healed.

304424385_56bb8d18d8_bImage taken from jipol’s Flickr photostream under the creative commons attribution-non-commercial-no derivative 2.0 licence

I dwell with a strangely aching heart
In that vanished abode there far apart
On that disused and forgotten road
That has no dust-bath now for the toad.
Night comes; the black bats tumble and dart;


The whippoorwill is coming to shout
And hush and cluck and flutter about:
I hear him begin far enough away
Full many a time to say his say
Before he arrives to say it out.

It is under the small, dim, summer star.
I know not who these mute folk are
Who share the unlit place with me–
Those stones out under the low-limbed tree
Doubtless bear names that the mosses mar.

GhostThey are tireless folk, but slow and sad,
Though two, close-keeping, are lass and lad,–
With none among them that ever sings,
And yet, in view of how many things, As sweet companions as might be had.


poem by: Robert Frost


Whatever happens… Don’t fall asleep!

DSC00166 freddy-krueger-20081028051003631-000From Robert Frost to Robert Englund. This potato vine caught my attention when Freddie’s hand suddenly appeared behind  it.





I must have nodded-off picking up old blackened pecan nuts, it is an irritating habit of mine!


Halloween is upon us once more, and the ESP witches are in full-cry, swooping and circling around my post oak, cackling their ferocious words into the night. I observed them huddled around the grave of the Cactus Man, and they were mumbling something.  I crept in closer to hear what they were saying.  Hiding behind my Mexican lime tree, I heard them whisper the blood-curdling words “ressurectum Opuntium”, this got my undivided attention. After the witches had done their obligatory cackles and finger waggling they flew off into the night. I ran to the Cactus Man’s tombstone and with my flashlight, shined light on his grave. I peered in closely and reached in to straighten his tombstone, (it was the least I could do)…then, like a rather predictable horror movie, I noticed a slight indiscernible movement, a subtle movement of top-soil.  I peered in closer… To my horror,  a small wizened paddle started to inch it’s way through the granite soil, a paddle followed by…

RIP Cactus Man

…The rest of his emaciated body.





What manner of curse could do this?  The Cactus Man had been exhumed from his spiky grave, unfortunately he still had his old, disturbing grimace, he had returned from the dead!  He was a zombie cactus.


I (like in all bad movies) predictably dropped my flashlight in panic,  ran into my house and bolted shut all the doors and windows, then I remembered the hole in the house that the Chevy Tahoe had created…


Was this hole big enough for a zombie cactus paddle to squeeze itself through?

DEXTER (Season 3)

I was convinced the Cactus Man had come back up from his granity-grave to reap his revenge on me with his OWN set of cactus knives, tiny files, and a general array of small gardening implements of torture.


The next morning I returned to the grave and found the Cactus Man and one of his cousins that was also a victim of my general genocide.  It seems the curse was only a temporary resurrection, lucky for me.  This was an innocent cacti family that died as a result of my mad experimental horticultural “carvings”. Something I will never attempt again.


Robert Ripley’s Believe it or Not

While all this drama played out, the nearby Botox lady was freaking out…screaming out for me to “Get ze shrunken coconut heads avay” from her, in her loud Austrian accent, trust me, you do not want to be in the local vicinity of her lips when she shouts like this. (Say it don’t spray it!)
I re-dug the grave and laid them to rest again, side-by-side, and gently positioned their intrinsic root structures under each of their cacti-chins, like fake beards.. I think they would have wanted it that way.


RIP old friend…ridiculous.

Moving forward…

SculptureWhile I was clambering around on top of one of my artemisia hills I made the fatal mistake of getting just a little too close to one of my large Pampas grasses. The grass reached out with a ghostly strand and (unbeknownst to me) encircled part of my arm. As I pulled my arm out of the artemisia the grass latched on.  The result…

Pampas cut

A rather poor, under exposed photograph of my arm laceration, or had I just fallen asleep again?

Whatever happens… Don’t fall asleep!

Bat-face Cuphea

What Halloween post would be complete without the gargoyled face of a bat-faced cuphea, which as if on cue is blooming right now.  Is he sticking his tongue out?

My Mexican bush sage is certainly pulling in the crowds at the moment…

Swallowtail Butterly

along with motion…

Swallowtail Butterly

and color.

Swallowtail Butterly

While my fragrant mist flowers are looking hauntingly Gothic, attracting equally Gothic black and white bees.

Fragrant Mist Flower

Click on the Image to get to see this bee up-close.

There are about 242 species of Megachile bees or leaf cutting bees in North America.  They belong to a larger group that includes also other leaf cutting as well as mason bees; these are all very good pollinators with very interesting habits.


These fuzzy bees are solitary creatures, meaning that each mother takes care of her own brood- a few form small colonies, but they are not truly social, they merely share the entrance to their nests. They nest in a variety of cavities in rotten wood or hollow stems. There are even some that nest underground.

Fragrant Mist Flower

Most bees carry pollen in baskets on their legs. However, Megachile is different; the underside of the female’s abdomen is particularly furry and is used for this purpose.  They are so animated with their “Bugs Life” antenna, and mono-chromatic coloration. This is the first one I have ever caught in the patch. I hope I see more.

I have three mist flower plants, planted side by side and when they break into bloom, like they have this week, the insects go completely bananas…lots of moths, flies, hoverflies, bees and a whole bunch of these…

Fragrant Mist Flower

Ailanthus Webworm Moth

Atteva punctella

These buggy UT fans were all over this plant.  The caterpillar of this chap eats the leaves of the dreaded Tree of Heaven (interestingly named)  Ailanthus altissima, or Chinese sumac.

These moths keep their wings rolled up tightly against their bodies, unlike other moths with wings outspread. Its native habitat is South and Central America where they build communal webs in native trees.

One final visitor that I was really happy to see, arrived in large numbers to dine on these “fragrant” mist flowers…

Brown American Snout

brown “American Snout” butterflies,

Libytheana carinent

The Clangers

“The Clangers” … I grew up on this stuff!

And quite the fine snout it has indeed. These brown nosers have been migrating across Texas in biblical proportions recently attracting media attention.

Brown American Snout

Apparently the breeding conditions have been perfect for them this year. Snout butterflies have prominent elongated mouth-parts (labial palpi) which give the appearance of the petiole (stem) of a dead leaf.  They like to hang up-side-down under leaves to further enhance the illusion.


I am happy a few of them made it into the Patch.

A few more observations this week…

Pinecone Cactus and SatsumaIce-plant, pine-cone cactus and a ripening satsuma. The Barbados cherry on the left is also forming a ton of berries at the moment.

As is this:


The aptly named “Jewels of  Opar“… a chemistry model in the sky.


It is truly living up to it’s name.  Great fall color.


I was not the only one to think so.  Before I had a chance to run down (in cinematic slow-motion) the patch’s pathways shouting …”Noooooo”,  a bunch of these attractive tiny berries had been cut down by a set of plastic secateurs.


The same secateurs that have caused numerous “No! They’re Mine” arguments and multiple finger-nipping escapades,  that I have now come to hate the mere sight of their plastic, bright yellow presence… I have to learn more tolerance!


And finally…

papyrus tank

Guess what has accumulated in here after all our recent rains?  This papyrus is under the illusion that it really is growing on the banks of the Nile.

Ornamental Pepper

Light a pepper candle for the dead.


Happy Halloween from the ESP.

Bye-bye, have a nice day

“See you later tonight in your garden dreams, I will show you how I do MY pruning”.





Whatever happens… Don’t fall asleep!

This should help…


Stay Tuned for:


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

  • The Garden Ms. S October 30, 2009, 8:53 pm

    Great halloween post! Love the Frost poem and the snout butterfly. I have never seen one before but I think a children’s book illustrator should put one in a story – too cute!

    Happy Halloween!

  • ESP October 30, 2009, 9:11 pm

    Hi Ms.S
    Thanks, what about those long snouts! This was my first encounter with the brown-nosers as well and I agree, they are very cute. I was so happy when they breezed into the patch today. They moved from my mist flower to my amaranth as the sun shifted, and I agree they would make great content for a children’s book, though I do not think “Brown Nosers” would make for an appropriate title…or would it?


  • Bob Pool October 30, 2009, 9:16 pm

    Great story and great pictures. The bee is really neat. I have never seen one like it before. If we ever meet, remind me to tell you the story that Malcomb Beck told me about Snout nosed butterflies. You will really like it.

    Your kids are lucky to have a Daddy with a vivid imagination. I bet Halloween is a hoot around your house.

    Oh, and, go to must have list, type Jewels of Opar. Found at, ESP.

    • ESP October 30, 2009, 10:28 pm

      Hi Bob and thanks.
      It was great to find a new bee! My Megachile count is now up to three.
      If we ever meet? Bob you can pop into the patch anytime you are in our neck of the woods in East-Austin, you are most welcome. I would love to hear your Malcomb Beck story over a pint or five of our finest compost-tea, I mean ale. He is a soil and composting Guru.

      The Jewels of Opar are a fall winner…not sure about it’s self-seeding properties as yet, although Texas Deb has told me it does self-seed readily! Glad you heard about it at the patch.

      Cheers Bob.

  • TexasDeb October 31, 2009, 8:30 am

    I am so pleased to see such a good shot of the Jewels of Opar. Most of mine are kind of lost where they are. I so appreciate their almost fluorescent green colored leaves in contrast to those bright pops of color for the berries/flowers. And that snout butterfly shot! I had one of those in my patch last week but couldn’t get a good angle and didn’t want to disturb it. I was out of the loop mass migration news wise – didn’t realize my straggler was one of a multitude hereabouts but that is typical for me. Last to hear…. : ) Your close up shots just keep getting better ESP. Maybe you’ll give a photo clinic while you’re on CTG?

    • ESP October 31, 2009, 9:07 am

      Hi TD.
      The Jewels are looking, well, very jewel-like right now, what a great Halloween plant! This plant has not stopped impressing me over the last year, even the drought and scorching conditions didn’t even phase it!

      The Brown-Nosers came in good numbers, I have been hoping to see some. They are actually quite tolerant of the camera lens, way too busy supping from my stinky mist flowers. In southern Texas over into Northern Mexico the snouts have been causing all sorts of havoc to travelers. Apparently when they hit a vehicle they squish, (imagine that), spreading a yellow like “butter” over the window-screen that is really hard to get rid off. Billions of them! That is a lot of snouts!

      Thanks Deb.

  • Gail October 31, 2009, 1:14 pm

    Perfect holiday post! I agree with Ms. S. A book for children must be in your near future!

    • ESP October 31, 2009, 1:41 pm

      Thanks JJ.

      Those brown-nosers would make the perfect subject for a children’s book I agree!
      I think the Botox Lady, The Naboo, William Wallace, The Cactus Man and the ESP witches may have to have cameo appearances in the book somewhere! After all, their exclusion could get me sprayed, shot with poison darts, broadsworded by William (well I am English), haunted or turned into gulf-coast toad.
      It could end up being a rather long story!


  • Germi November 3, 2009, 6:07 pm

    OMG – ESP!!!
    Being so wrapped up in my own Halloween / Samhain / Day of the Dead activities, I had little time to do my garden visits! How could I NOT have stopped by the patch on the 31st day of my FAVORITE month? Forgive me, fellow former Goth, forgive me …
    What an amazingly beautiful and emotional opening to a tour de force post! I am in agreement with all – you need to write a book about a Haunted Garden! But I see something a tad bit more adult … a little more HP Lovecraft meets Tim Burton. You certainly have your cast of characters lined up, and I think the Haunted Garden genre is one that has YET to be explored! It will be a SMASH, I know it!
    The image of the artemisia clad cherub made me gasp! And then the beautiful BEES!!! I HAVE to have that as my desktop image for November! SO AMAZING – I had no idea there was a species of bee that departs from the New Wave vibe of yellow and black to the elegant refinement of black and white! Just lovely!
    I covet the Pine Cone Cactus.
    And the Jewels of Opar … sigh! How can anyone not fall in love with a plant that unusual, beautiful, and poetically named? Another must have!
    I know Halloween in The Patch must have pushed you to the edge, what with the witches zombifying the Cactus Man and all. I adore a witch, but they live in the gray world, and sometimes they do horrible things just for fun. Thank goodness the Cactus Man de-zombified before he could crawl into your truck-hole and wreak havoc. But we must expect and accept the spooky at this time of year, and The Patch did Halloween PROUD!!!
    Guess what? I’m on Shirley Bovshow’s GardenWorldReport this week – http://www.livestream.com/gardenworldreport/beta … its about a 5 minute show, and I’m near the end. I am eager to see the show that was filmed in The Patch! I’m sure it’s going to kill! (I mean that in a good way, of course)
    Long-winded Ivette!

    • ESP November 3, 2009, 11:09 pm

      Hi germi.

      I just saw you segment…very cool, and you were great in it! Your enthusiasm for Agaves was infectious, an infection that I totally share. The disease becomes particularly debilitating when a large Agave spike is ultimately raised, as I am sure you know….Daddy? Shhh!, DADDY? SHHHH!!, (Annoyed)…”Can’t you see I am in the middle of planting a further two hundred pups” syndrome. I thought I needed help back then. Then there is the all-night Limbo parties, fire, tequila induced, generally tropically fueled, agave shenanigans! (Ahh! How I miss those crazy nights) – These spiny plants are just plain trouble.

      Yes, a ghostly garden book…the characters in the patch are a little bizarre after all , I agree. I can see it now…The Botox Lady will become a time/space portal, albeit a rather wet salivary one. Should you answer her three (rather sprayed questions) correctly, you will enter into a new reality (via her botoxed lips)…a reality of a miniaturized life in the Patch. Once you enter, there is no escape…or is there? Perhaps only with the help of the Naboo tribe? And obtaining help from them is never an easy thing-the mouth clicks and clacks themselves can take decades to learn.

      Happy you liked the image of the leaf cutting bee, I was so happy to capture this new addition to the patch. They are the Peter Murphy bees of the bee community. The Jewels of Opar, has been one of my favorite plants this year, and what a great name.

      I am so happy that the Cactus Man did not crawl into the hole the Tahoe left, things could have got real ugly in the Patch. Me running around the house with a chainsaw, trying to out-wit a zombie cactus paddle bent on revenge. That is never a good way to spend an evening.

      Cheers G.


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