“The Emperor’s New Tools”

Oh yes, it was time to replenish my pruning tools with some sharp fresh blood, in this case a couple of pairs of brand spanking new Felco secateurs, courtesy of Hill Country Gardens. I even splashed out on a new pair of gloves!  I go through gloves faster then the snout weevil goes through my agaves and generally buy a new pair at the start of each install (they usually only last about that long) we will see how these hold up. Oh yes the pruners…the smell of new forged steel and fresh oil.

I was hunched over my new UPS delivery in my living room, inhaling deeply and rotating the new blades like Gollum would his ring. I whispered under my breath…“my preciouses”, and flicked the unlock mechanism, my wife caught me in the act and asked what on earth I was doing?

I love new tools almost as much as new electronic devices (which have an even better aroma), a loud nostril inhale always follows the automatic door opening when I enter Best Buy.

I wasted no time trying out my new implements, the first heirloom tomato of the year seemed like fair game. While my head was buried deep inside my tomato plants I had the distinct impression that I was being watched.

“No-one would have believed in the early years of the twenty-first century, that our world was being watched by intelligences greater than our own. That as men busied themselves about their various concerns, they observed and studied.

With infinite complacency men went to and fro about the globe, confident of their empire over this world.

Yet, across the gulf of space, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic regarded our planet with envious eyes. And slowly, and surely drew their plans against us”.

Ceriagrion aeruginosum


Wake Up!

They are also known as Big Red Damselflies, and although they are bright red, they are also very hard to spot. Damselflies are predators, they will eat nearly any other insect and are especially adept at picking aphids off plants, they are our garden friends…in stark contrast to this chap:

who showed up in my last remaining pampas grass this week,

knifes, forks and jaws at the ready.

The bee mimicking hoverflies are once again protecting their most prized bounty, this Barbados cherry.

They get so annoyed and aggressive when I am around this plant, but I know they are the con-men of the insect world, the charlatans, always threatening to sting but having no stingers to deliver the punch. This particular one is a carpenter bee as it turns out… (thanks for the post post positive ID meredee).


Evergreen wisteria,

Millettia reticulata

is forming blooms, and lots of them. This is one of my favorite vines so naturally I have three of them in different places all over the Patch. Give it plenty of room though, it will get quite large and very heavy, though it is not invasive…highly recommended.

Here is the vine looming over two trellises that my bench is anchored to.

Echinacea and Madame Ganna Walska water lilies are also entering their prime this week.

I decided this stand of Mexican weeping bamboo needed some additional recognition for attaining such a substantial diameter. This semi-circular pattern of three different brick sizes worked out a treat, laid directly into decomposed granite. I had no idea what I was going to do when I started this, but the final free-form result works to draw attention to this specimen plant.

My helper did a great job of handing me the bricks from the wheelbarrow, this made a huge difference, not having to do a hundred squats back and forth. The sabal major on the right will require another rainbow arc (which will ultimately join this one) as it matures.

And to finish…some Patch oddities this week:

Can you spot the green lynx spider?

Fall Aster, in May?

A stunted hollyhock, this has to be smallest ever.

The magenta blood vessels on these chard leaves were amazing, these shots came from Sheryl Williams’ vegetable garden who was recently featured on the Inside Austin Gardens Tour

Here is her blog:


Mount Bonnell, ESP Design Install…part two:

Front of house / Patio

The fenced in courtyard has a magnificent Mediterranean fan palm growing in it, one of the largest I have seen…so you can grow them in Austin!  The before image (left) was a rather random affair, lots of mediums doing visual battle with each other, and seemingly haphazard plantings of ornamental grasses in a bed of turfallo grass that was weak and full of weeds.  The visualization on the right adds a bit of punch to the scene. I decided to replace the grass with Tejas black shingle to deepen the contrast and to reference the color of the wrought iron work on the enclosed patio. The focal point at this stage was a proposed bubble fountain that later became a planter. I went for a stand of soft leaf yucca to contrast the grasses that remained.

Here is the final result:  The planter is populated by a baby Agave parryi huachucensis and is surrounded by accenting grey flagstone.

The white limestone rocks inside the enclosed patio area I also replaced with the Tejas black shingle to add further visual continuity through the scene to the house.

And some shots of the new Hell-strip:








Stay Tuned for:

“Close Encounter”

All material © 2011 for eastsidepatch. Unauthorized
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by late (and extremely unpleasant)
14th century planet Earth techniques.


  • Diana May 16, 2011, 4:19 pm

    Wow. I want new pruners. I was just feeling inept because mine are all rusty and crunchy and don’t exactly cut. Guess that’s the real test for needing new ones, isn’t it? Love that grasshopper photo – we’re the two of you doing the Vulcan Mind Meld? It looked like he really had his eye on you! And, as always, the front courtyard design is lovely – and peaceful.

  • Pam/Digging May 16, 2011, 4:51 pm

    My daughter and I got a kick out of your purple coneflower “red sun rising” photo, as she’d just “helped” me edit some photos, and we’d decided on a rising-sun coneflower cropping ourselves. I’ll have it up in a few days. She advised me to add text to it, a la “Red sun rises. Blood has been spilled this night.” She said, “Philip will get that quote.” Indeed.

  • ESP May 16, 2011, 7:37 pm

    Hi Diana.

    I needed new pruners so bad, I had six or seven pairs strewn around all of which were blunt, or generally rubbish, but the ones that really got to me, (and the reason for my new purchase), was a pair that stuck together every time the blades shut…argh, it drove me nuts.

    I would not want to get my fingers close enough to do a Vulcan Mind Meld on that spiny, hooked legged critter and yes It did keep a close eye on me. I tracked it for quite some time using some ancient Naboo techniques, it finally landed in the pampas where, exhausted, I got these shots in. The design of these creatures really is quite amazing up close.

    Thanks on the courtyard design.


  • Robin May 16, 2011, 7:50 pm

    ESP, I have pruner envy! I also have a question for you. My Evergreen Wisteria Vine is 4 years old. It gets about 5 hours of sun in the summer. It is still one strand of anemic looking leaves and has never bloomed. What gives, oh Wisteria Wizard?

  • ESP May 16, 2011, 9:49 pm

    Hi Pam.

    Legolas / Lord of the Rings I trust? Your daughter appears to know my psyche only too well.

    I look forward to seeing your cone flower shot and I was very happy to read that your Madame Ganna Walska has started to set some fragrant blooms. I had a good giggle at the twitter thread as my great uncle was the person responsible for convincing Mrs Walska (and her current husband at the time) to name the water lily after herself! What? He was, and he really did!


  • ESP May 16, 2011, 10:04 pm

    Purple robed, mothball smelling wizard to Robin…(well aren’t they all)? :

    Five hours of sun should be enough to get this vine producing, at the very least growing heartily. What is your soil like, does it have enough depth south to grow before hitting anything unmentionable like limestone? Every one of these vines I have put in the ground on the east side has done very well, they are (like any good vine) slow to get going, but usually by the third or fourth year they take off big time. The second one that I planted against a metal frame has consumed it and is now lifting the frame up from the ground…I will not do that again!

    The purple Wizard.

  • meredee May 16, 2011, 10:12 pm

    Hi ESP –
    Your pictured “bee mimicking hover fly” has no need to mimic – it IS a bee!

    Flies only have one pair of wings, while bees have two pairs (though do have a special structures called hamuli that can hook each forewing and hindwing together to form one surface for more efficient flight). The antennae on a hoverfly would also be quite a bit shorter and have a different shape than the antennae on your specimen.

    I suspect that you have a carpenter bee (_Xylocopa virginica_) guarding your Barbados cherry.

    Great work on the Mt. Bonnell project – I especially like the look of the new hell strip. Are those inland sea oats tucked behind the sotol planter?

  • ESP May 16, 2011, 10:29 pm

    Thanks meredee for the positive insect ID.

    This Barbados cherry is currently full of hover flies, and I stand corrected, this one IS a bee! Thank you very much for this.
    Thanks also on the Mt. Bonnell front, the plant behind the sotol planter is not inland sea oats but a pre-existing grass. (unknown)


  • Heather Azarmehr May 17, 2011, 9:26 am

    I am a friend of Cathy Chadwicks and enjoy your take on Gardening in Austin replete with lots of pop culture references. Congratulations on the new pruners…I always love that new metal smell too. Gonna let you know that the best $2 in town is sharpening at Breeds. I take my nice pruners over there about twice a season….and sharp blades are so fundamental –ya’ know? Thanks for the blog.

  • ESP May 17, 2011, 10:45 am

    Hi Heather.
    These new pruners are superb, I never leave the house without them…camera in one pocket, Felcos in the other. Thanks for the Breed info, I will most certainly do that when these start to get dull.
    Glad you enjoy the Patch.


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