I really thought I was going to finish tidying the messy corner just inside the gate today. It has never been a very good corner. It sits on top of part of what used to be the drive to the integral garage and a sort of stony track between the edge of the previous owners' lawn and the apple orchard. Then we used the space to dump some builder's sand, and there was some left over, so the soil is even more thin and miserable than in most of the rest of the top of the garden. The Systems Administrator did not want me to plant any long term trees or shrubs in the gap, in case we ever needed to get a digger or other heavy machinery round to the back of the house. I compromised with sea buckthorn, thinking that if we ever did need to get anything down the old track (we haven't so far) it wouldn't break my heart to coppice the sea buckthorn and it would probably regenerate afterwards.
One of the sea buckthorn has just died, for no particular reason I can discover, and another has tipped over in the prevailing wind which may not be a good sign. I thought the clue would be in the name and something called sea buckthorn would be able to cope with sand and the full blast of the south westerly gales. Meanwhile brambles keep growing in from the other side of the rabbit fence. Just in case the corner was not horticulturally challenging enough it is heavily shaded at ground level, since the old track slopes to fully two feet below the level of the drive to the front garden, so is largely in the shadow of the bank up to the drive as well as the sea buckthorn and the invading brambles.
I have chopped out all the brambles and most of the dead sea buckthorn branches, and dug out most of the brambles that had taken root on this side of the rabbit fence with a pick axe. I have scooped up buckets and buckets of dead leaves, twigs, grass stems and goose grass, pulled up more buckets of wild ivy stems that were setting out across the ground, and grubbed out the self seeded clumps of weed grasses. I have extracted the dead remains of a rather weedy cotoneaster that seeds itself in that part of the garden, one of the only plants left to us by the previous owners, together with several young plants of it that were encroaching out into the bed. The only useful plants at ground level are a self seeding euphorbia and I tried to leave those intact. There used to be some common foxgloves, but they died after flowering and have not left many seedlings.
The rabbit fence used to be hidden by some rather smart willow and hazel hurdles, but they have rotted away. I'm still musing on whether to get a roll of some cheaper brushwood cladding, or if that would simply draw attention to the area. And I need to think of a ground cover plant that will grow in shade and almost pure sand and is not too expensive, since it is quite a large corner when you come to express it in square metres and then think of a number of plants per square metre where the number is more than one. Evergreen would be nice. Ivy will not do because it climbs into everything else and strangles it.
There is a tamarisk, which I thought would be happy there, based on memories of family holidays in Cornwall where they used to grow practically on the beach. It is not happy. Maybe by the time you got to the tamarisks from the beach the sand had stopped. Maybe I should try a columnar juniper to replace the dead sea buckthorn. They take drought pretty well. It would be nice to screen the view of the neighbour's field and the lettuce farm a little more, since the former currently houses a small but brilliant white portable football goal and a large black container that they said they were going to clad and turn into a summerhouse. They have not got round to cladding it yet, and in the meantime it coordinates with the two more distant containers in the field behind the packing shed on the lettuce farm. I don't know what it is about farms that they always collect debris around the farm buildings.
I really thought when I began this morning that I'd finish the corner today. That I could tick it off the list of Things To Do and order a couple of bags of gravel to be delivered to the newly de-brambled space at the edge of the drive. Why is it that jobs always take longer than you expect?