“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.


“Temporal Disturbances”

by ESP on August 16, 2016 · 3 comments


Its spooky how fast time flies.

It does not seem like 4 months since my last blog post…how did that happen?!

Spock analysis?

temporal causality

“I believe it to be combination of work commitments, summer vacationing and the fact that we have been stuck in a temporal causality loop since last April ESP.”

“That would explain the sense of déjà vu I keep having whilst visiting and photographing the gulf coast…great work Spock”


Another quick camping trip down to the Texas gulf coast, or was it the same one?

DSC01420 (1)

A hobbit lost in the Shire.


The dunes and grasses made a great backdrop as the sun burnt down behind them.

Texas Gulf Coast

My fire was created by a particularly large bag of charcoal… 


…Texas sized…just light the corners!

Version 2

We were treated to some great sunsets and zero sandstorms this trip – thank goodness.



Pretty much our usual set up minus the life-threatening tarp and aluminum spears.


Further down the beach there was this driftwood beach shack – pretty sure it was inhabited.

If you are into small and alternative living spaces and gardens, be sure to check out some of the documentaries on Kirsten Dirksen’s channel, very entertaining.


Here is an interesting 2 hour intro-documentary film she made featuring individuals with alternative concepts of inhabiting, cultivating and harnessing nature…from Marfa to Austin to LA:



Even though there was just a slight breeze the sandwiches somehow managed to incorporate a rather disturbing amount of sand.

Sinistrofulgur perversum

She really wanted to take home some of these colorful lightning whelks,

Sinistrofulgur perversum


but they were all inhabited with hermit crabs who are apparently very partial to these particular shells, who wouldn’t be?

Sinistrofulgur perversum

Did you know they are the state shell of Texas?



“We have been stuck in a temporal causality loop since last April ESP”

“Okay Spock, I get it!”

Back in Austin:


I have recently been installing a design in the Shoal Creek area and decided to take a quick detour to check in on a corner lot planting I executed a couple of years ago.


The plantings were doing well…pity about the introduction of the bright red curb!

Come on ponyfoot…giddy on up and cover that red ‘thang’!

I Digress.

Back to my latest design and installation in Shoal Creek:

It started with another substantial corner lot with a ton of potential.


The front entrance was screaming out for better structure…the skinny concrete path was first on my ‘that needs to go’ list.


There where a lot of conflicting mediums and contours towards the front door and around the house that obviously needed consolidation to afford a nicer experience moving in/out of the property and around to a future side courtyard.



The biggest challenge of this scheme was this bare side yard (below) which was to be a courtyard.

The client wanted a sense of enclosure in the space without being totally and visually closed off from the street/foot traffic and neighbors.


A sloping grade (in two directions) added to the design challenge and complexity of the area…


a cunning plan was required.

Design and Visualization:

The before pictures are in the bottom right.


My goal in these visuals was to communicate a more naturalistic and widened entryway to the sidewalk…more in scale with the expansive dimensions of the area.

Vertical height (left and right) was to be achieved with three blue ice cypress trees and trunking yucca in the same color palette.


Contrasting grasses and architectural whales tongue agave are peppered and repeated throughout the scheme.


For the side courtyard the introduction of three large steel panels with plasma cut ‘windows’ and integrated planter boxes enclose the space without totally privatizing it. A new house trim color was introduced to reflect the steel work and add some visual punch.


Crude card mock-ups were constructed to determine the size of panels and cut-out dimensions.

The Normandy Phase:


Contouring and tear-out.


Prepping the area.

The existing sprinkler system had to be tweaked and electricity routed for pathway lighting.



Flagstone positioned and


side courtyard is framed up.

Final Design:


Steel panels as viewed from the street. Two sentry Texas red oaks will present future shade at both ends.

You can see the significant drop in grade.

Dwarf miscanthus grasses will fill in the area in front, echoing the rust color of the panels in the fall and winter months.


The two planter boxes house baby, heat-tolerant opuntia (spineless prickly pear cactus).


Two stained cedar benches and a picnic table reflect the new cedar landing platform:


The stained cedar platform covers the existing concrete steps (they are still under there) and offers a larger landing platform on which to enter the side door.

IMG_0017-768x1024 (3)

The opuntia will quickly add architectural height and visually soften the sides of the steel panels.

They are also easy to ‘train’ by snapping off paddles where they are not needed or to keep the plant pruned to a desired height.


Steel already starting to Patina.

A small corner planting bed and a stock tank (naturally) offer some convenient herbs from the side door.


The steel work and burnt pine was fabricated and installed by the talented Andrew Miller (aminc13@gmail.com)


Silvermist flagstone/edging and Tejas black gravel all work together to echo the grey of the house and rust of the steel work.

The entryway from the sidewalk was dramatically widened to eat into the real estate of the turf and be more inviting.

Perimeter planting will blend the edges as it matures.


Some great colors on this flagstone.


Large swooping arcs and widened pathways replace previous right angles:




“Stop it!”


Stay Tuned For:

“The Funeral Pyre


All material © 2016 for eastsidepatch. Unauthorized
intergalactic reproduction strictly prohibited, and
punishable by late (and extremely unpleasant)
14th century planet Earth techniques