Part 1 of this mini-series introduced the corner border as an expansion project, in which there was a flurry of activity in marking it out, cutting the edge and then a sudden stop as soon as the border was covered over with polythene to kill the grass and weeds underneath.
This part continues a year later. After a whole season’s break and with the central island and Fruit Avenue complete, it was time to move my attention back to the corner border, which was still under the cover of the polythene put down over a year ago. The first decision was what to do with the existing plants in the “border”. This in fact turned out to be easy, the plan was to remove all of them apart from the Camellia, bay and euonymus. There was a viburnum in there that had died, a towering rose that had no support, a mass of daylily that never flowered, two struggling Choisya Ternata that hated the airless, heavy wet soil and among all that, masses of weeds.
Taking all the rubbish out took some time, the daylily roots are thick, the rose roots spread wide and the self-seeded tree roots ran deep. A great deal of time was spent clearing as much out as possible without killing the Camellia in the middle of it all. Meanwhile, we made another bulk-bag soil delivery of two manure, two compost and two top-soil. Once again, half the drive was out of use storing all this material that would have to be gradually carted round to the back.
Reaching for the wheelbarrow, spade and the electric tiller once again, it was time to return to the good old fashioned tilling and turning over of the compacted clay to mix in the compost and manure and give the soil some air, fertility and structure. We started at one end and methodically worked through to the other in strips.
I’m not ashamed to admit it, but there may have been a slight expansion on the expansion just to even out the curving sweep of the border and to restore a sharp edge after a year of neglect. The whole process of mixing, churning, moving, levelling, digging, sweating, swearing continued over the course of two months as we moved in a sweep from one end of the border to the other. As we progressed, we worked through the compost, soil and manure in the front at an alarming rate, it shouldn’t have been a surprise thought, given we ended up with a large pile several feet high. We carried on digging and tilling.
After that, there was more digging and tilling until we reached the lower terrace, at which point, lo-and-behold there was a large pile of rockery stones, kindly donated by the next door neighbour. These were carted across from next door and were sat, ready to create a retaining wall. With these stones, I was able to continue a small wall round the corner and join it up with a new retaining wall made out of large stones that tapered down at the end of the border.
This only used up about half the rockery stones, with the other half I created a stepped bank on the longer side of the border. In all, seven bulk bags of material went into this border and so we used the retaining wall and the bank to raise the level of the whole border.
Here you can see the lower terrace – such as it is – and the small wall curving round to meet up with the new retaining wall as well as the stepped bank on the other side. There’s also a plant to indicate usage and the bamboo helps to imagine how an Amelanchier might look there. The retaining wall is straight, it is the concrete of the lower terrace that has broken and frayed so I’ve filled in the gap with a load of stones (dug up from the tilling) and gravel from the front drive put on top. The rocks themselves sit on compacted soil, we left a strip of untilled earth to sit the stones on as we knew they wouldn’t sink. The top of the border was sculpted with a rake to follow the contours and after no small effort, the border was finally ready to plant, two years after first starting work on it.