My beloved ocotillo died in the stupid freeze last winter, so this year I had to put our little strings of solar-powered Christmas lights on a Texas sotol instead. That bloom stalk came up a year ago and is now completely spent, so when it comes time to take the lights down we can probably chop it down and pull the lights off that way.
I think the sotol will be happier when the stalk is gone, too. They don't die after they bloom like century plants, but it has been looking noticeably grumpy lately. (I don't think I'm projecting here.)
Here's the ocotillo in better days. I knew that planting one in Austin was a risk, since they're from a warmer, drier climate than ours, but I had to try. Eric and I took our honeymoon in West Texas and they were blooming like crazy that spring. On the last day of our trip I opened the back door to our hotel room and gasped because the back fence was made of ocotillo stalks--they were all blooming and it looked a little like the fence was on fire, and I was like, god damn! So cool. When I got home my friend Katherine and I built a drainage mound to compensate for the heavier rainfall here in Central Texas and plunked one in, and all was well for years until a week of ice and snow and single-digit temperatures did it in.
It never did bloom for me, though; I think it has to go through some serious drought cycles or something to produce flowers. Still, it was a very striking plant. Someday I might plant another one, or I might go all in on the native-and-adapted thing for the front yard instead of hosting a plant that doesn't really want to live here.
All that is a very roundabout way of saying we put up some Christmas lights this afternoon. I also finished the mermaid mosaic this morning--the demo a couple weeks ago was fun and went well, though it was lightly attended--and I'm happy with how it turned out. I have a Christmas commission to do for a friend and then I want to start experimenting, getting a little weird. I'm not even sure what that means yet, exactly, but I think I'm technically adept enough now to start playing around.