It all started with the need to build a path to access the back of the tea house without fighting through the plants that I planned to have next to the veranda! I had already previously dealt with the privet-and-spikey-things hedge down the boundary side of the fruit cage and had produced a very nice path about a metre wide that went ............. exactly nowhere!
At the far end of the fruit cage, where I wanted to come out, was an impenetrable wall of dense holly which - on several of the hottest weekends of last summer, I had to tackle. So, whilst Himself was swanning about up a scaffold tower in his shorts and tee shirt, I was in my thickest jeans and sweatshirt doing battle!
Doesn't look too scary from here does it?!
Try the bird's eye view - any scarier?
No? Still not scary? Bring on the drum roll..............!
and, if I ever managed to make it through that lot, I'd still got to deal with - you've guessed it, yet another pile of stones that I had previously dumped here when I had dug the hole for the pond and which were now in the wrong place - again (and had been there for so long that they had got their own little micro-climate thingy going on!)
and, if that wasn't enough, there was the full length of the 'border' to deal with! The whole strip of land I was about to tackle was about 10 feet wide and 50 feet long - another 'little' project fro me to "get me teeth into"!
Rumour had it that, once upon a time, there was an actual flower border and a path under that lot but at some point early on in the 8 years we've lived here, it had somehow morphed into the Derbyshire equivalent of the forest surrounding Sleeping Beauty's palace and no-one knew what lay beyond the greenery...........
There was only one way to find out! Armed with my trusty tools and a step ladder (- on account of the holly hedge being WAY taller than my measly little 5'2"!) I began to do battle. It was very hot, very sweaty, very hard, very prickly work......... I was attacked by midges and flies on account of the salty sweat pouring off me as I laboured. I knocked years-old dusty birds nests onto me and had to fight off spiders of terrifying proportions - it was a jungle in there and I HATE spiders! What I really needed was a young Indiana Jones to fight his way towards me wielding his trusty machete, grinning his lopsided grin, sweeping me into his manly arms ........ sigh!!!
Ooops, wandered into a little fantasy to keep me on task there!
But treasures worthy of Indi' which had lain hidden for many years gradually began to emerge out of the gloom of the undergrowth - metal dustbins with no lids or bottoms, what a find! He'd have been well impressed! Further on in my quest I found what used to be wooden compost bins - at least, I think that's what they were! I also found a path under the outer edges of the vegetation. It hadn't seen the light of day for some considerable time, but cleaned up really well - and made access SO much easier!!!!
Elderberry trees, self-set flowering cherries by the dozen and great long holly branches by the gazillion! I kid you not! Some of these branches were so thick I had to saw them off as my largest loppers wouldn't go round them! Many of them were about 10-12 feet long and closely interwoven with their neighbours ...... they would have got a prize in a French-skipping competition if they'd been in school! They needed heaving and tugging to get them free - all whilst I was balanced precariously up a wobbly pair of steps with sharp-ish equipment. Oh joy! What fun was mine! Oh Indi' save me from this jungle nightmare!
Eventually, after about 5 weekends of long, hard, hot slog I could see ....... Ta Da! The Far End!
I had beaten the holly but, despite being exhausted by my valiant efforts, I still had to face the flowering cherries and elderberry trees!
However, a knight in shining armour appeared just in the nick of time. Not quite Indi', but I didn't complain too much! Calamity arrived, professing boredom, and offered his gardening services! He was rapidly put to work digging up the flowering cherries and lugging the boxes of stones from where I was clearing them across to where I was creating the path.
The following weekend OJ came up and dismantled the remains of the compost bins, carted the burnable wood to the woodpile at the opposite side of the garden, dug up a few random tree stumps from previous clearing work on the grass, then dug up one elderberry tree and did some serious pruning to the other ........
whilst I carried on dealing with the rock pile, building the path and making a toad house for all the dozens of toads and newts I found hiding in the stones. It's just 7 bricks forming an L shape, but it seems to have done the trick. It's evident that the toad house has been in use over winter, which has made me very happy!
The end result?
I continue the path from the back of the fruit cage using 'weed-stop' suppressant matting, then all the stones I'd unearthed from the stone mountain went on top. The path continues along the full length of the border just in front of the holly so that I can get to the beastly hedge easily - as I'm fully intending to keep on top of this job in future! It splits to come forward to the left of the remains of the elderberry tree for quick access down to the back of the tea house.
I then transplanted 2 rhubarb plants and a redcurrant bush from inside the fruit cage to just outside it - you can see them at the very far right of the photo if you enlarge it.
The rhubarb didn't need the protection of the cage (it's a roughty-toughty northern rhubarb after all!) and was getting very big. The redcurrant was moved to give more space to the 5 blackcurrant bushes and the 3 gooseberry bushes in the cage in the hope of a better crop this year - although, as I also shifted 3 of the blackcurrant bushes to new positions inside the cage, I'm not holding my breath on this one!.
I didn't want to just get rid of a good healthy bush, so I thought the birds might like it!
What am I going to put in the rest of it? I have NO idea ...... but I'm working on it!
I know I want some perennial, evergreen plants for structure, but I'm not sure what yet, so any ideas for planting in a west facing, fairly dry large, empty area will be very gratefully received!