“The Funeral Pyre”

by ESP on January 30, 2017 · 4 comments




But it looks okay, you may say.

Behind this particularly flattering image of this vitex tree in my front garden lies years of hacking, snipping, swearing and regrowing.

Now don’t get me wrong, I like vitex, it is a great pollinator magnet when in bloom, and I don’t think it should be on the invasive list here in Central Texas, but this one got off to a bad start and then just kept getting badder.



Pruning the branches to stop it grating on the roof of my house for the last decade only encouraged more to grow.

I had had enough.



“You hear that Mr. Vitex Tree?… That is the sound of inevitability… It is the sound of your death… Goodbye, Mr. Vitex Tree…”

Of course we all know what Neo did next.

I was determined this tree was not going to spring back up,


so I built a rather large fire on top of the remaining stump.

Everything was going well until I threw on some old lattice pieces I had lying around. I can only think this was coated in the most flammable liquid know to man. It went up with such an intensity that it singed some nearby loquats and attracted the attention of the local authorities as black plumes smoke bellowed to a ridiculous height.


“Everything okay over there sir?”

“Y,Yes officer…just burning my vitex tree,” – I realized that was too much information as it was being spoken and what was with the guilty shoulder shrug?

zzzz the tree in Poltergeist 11405338_gal

Even in death this tree was causing me anxiety.


After the fire had gone out I put a small tarp down where the root-ball had been, shimmied a dump truck into my front garden and poured 14 yards of decomposed granite over it…

lets see you come back from that!


While I was in this ‘lets just take it out’ mood, I also decided to erase this raised brick bed and the small flagstone that has also annoyed me for about as long as the Vitex.

The brickwork did not match anything, the rosemary was long in the tooth and don’t get me started on the Bermuda grass that has become increasingly pervasive in this bed, growing up through the center of the rosemary. Urgh.


It all had to go, dirt, roots and all.


With the Vitex, berms and brick planter removed everything felt quieter and the space sooo much larger.

I have no definitive plans for this area as yet but I suspect some very large flagstone and some ‘quieter’ planting arrangements are not too far away.


Another project in progress is happening at the back of my property.

Like the front, things needed tamed and reworked but it was the demise of my stock-tank pond that really set things in motion.


I have had this stock-tank for about as long as I have been writing this blog, it has served me well and given my kids a lot of fun growing up.

I knew it was reaching the end of its life as the sludge crept higher and the water got shallower.

How high’s the water, mama?
Two feet less and shrinkin’

I could have cleaned some of the sludge out but some bright-spark thought it would be a good idea to sink a bog cypress tree into the tank all those years ago. It did not take the cypress long before it bust free of its terracotta confines, its roots crawling all the way around the bottom of the tank forming a dense mat.

Think Asiatic jasmine on pond-sludge-steroids. http://www.eastsidepatch.com/2011/11/little-monsters/

A few weeks back I noticed the rust on the inside of the tank was also getting worse, I turned a blind eye.

Then overnight the inevitable happened.


It wasn’t a pretty sight…


…and it stank of dead goldfish – a scent that immediately took me back to: http://www.eastsidepatch.com/2012/04/exploding-goldfish/

All together it was not the sort of focal / destination point or ‘lack of’ water feature you want in your back garden…ever.


The cypress was a beast to get out, 


but out it came.


As did the stock-tank.


Much to the horror of the cactus man who watched with rather too much intensity for my liking as it rolled by him.

He hates change.


I also had to deal with the remnants of this failed waterfall: http://www.eastsidepatch.com/2008/05/i-used-a-sledge-hammer-on-my-water-feature/

that was all concreted in and sitting on top of some nasty thick plastic.

Oh yes it all had to go.


I won’t go into the unmentionables that were lying in wait underneath this plastic, but they were numerous.

{Subtle knee murmur}



The established loquat on top of the mound was dug out and transplanted to the fence line, which is about to get replaced.


Here is the back area purged awaiting a top dressing of granite and a future spring privacy planting.


A relocated and expanded fire pit and grill going into the space.


More on these spaces as they take shape.


Stay Tuned For:

“The Magic Carpet



All material © 2017 for eastsidepatch. Unauthorized
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by late (and extremely unpleasant)
14th century planet Earth techniques.


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1 Pam/Digging January 31, 2017 at 11:37 am

Oh my gawd, I wondered what you’ve been up to, Philip, as we haven’t seen you in a long while at the blogger gatherings. Although I suspect much of this occurred fairly recently? I drove past your house a couple of weeks ago, and I don’t remember anything looking different then… Anyway, once you take the leap on ripping stuff out, isn’t it satisfying? I just lost a front-yard tree over the holidays and then went on to rip out the grass under it, and now I’ve had a whole new area to replant. Yay! Have fun, and have us over for a Go-Go when you’re ready, OK? :)

Between piping, landscaping, setting fire to and ripping things out there are not enough hours in the day. Yes this has been happening in the Patch for the past couple of weeks and we have quite a bit to go (including a remodel of the back of our house…yikes!) that I will document in subsequent posts (with more frequency hopefully) :-) I love clearing areas out that are not working and I agree it is very satisfying to have a new canvas to work on.
Yes, when I get through all of this I would love to host a ‘you know what’ and have everyone over!
Hope to catch up with you soon Pam.

2 Diana January 31, 2017 at 7:23 pm

Wow, that’s a lot of change, but it sounds like you’re excited about it. Sometimes you just have to treat yourself like a client and start with a blank slate! Good luck with all of it –,can’t wait to see what you create.

It is a lot of change Diana.
I have kept key specimen plants and cleared out the riff-raff. I had a lots of volunteer sea oats popping up everywhere and besides, I was ready for a change of aesthetic.

3 Adriana February 4, 2017 at 12:31 pm

Quite the transformation! As a new reader of your blog, I was hoping for an update. I look forward to seeing your new plant selections.

Die Bermuda grass! ;-)

Hi Adriana and welcome to the Patch!
Yes, updates have been far and few apart of late…there will be more! :-)
Those Bermuda grass roots can go down very deep…we will see.

4 Jenny February 10, 2017 at 5:06 pm

Wow! Isn’t it strange how these things sneak up on you and you suddenly find yourselves with monster projects all at the same time. Too bad the RHS thing didn’t pan out but I can quite see why they weren’t interested in Texas. Just think what they are missing. I love the new fire pit area and I know from all your other designs that there will be something splendid in the front. Always love your rock work. Let us know when it is done so we can bug you about a GoGo!

Hi Jenny.
Yes, a pity about the RHS get together…on the upside, we are about to remodel the back of our house so any less stress is welcome :-)
I hope we can have at least a few fires and beer-can chickens on the new pit before things start heating up!
I have a few ideas on what I am going to do with the front – I find it ironic that my own space is one of the more awkward I have encountered dimensionally…typical isn’t it?
Yes a GoGo would be fun down the line.

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