There’s one last outdoor project I want to take care of before the long dark nights of winter: this corner of our backyard. Right now I call it the corner of sadness, because look at it.
1. Ugly colorbond garage wall and ugly fencing.
2. Overgrown terrifying tree ivy.
3. A potato patch, of all things, along with plenty of bricks, old pavers, and other rubbish.
4. The mixed border edging stopping short.
5. Overall emptiness.
(Another problem: the garden beds that need to be rebuilt. Some other time, friends.)
I think I can make it look good! There’s a lot that can be done. But I’ve got my work cut out for me.
See, I can’t do anything about the other items on the list before tackling the ivy. Yes, more ivy. Dude, I know. I really want to make this my last post about English ivy. But unfortunately my ivy problems ain’t yet done. Sure, I removed all the ivy from our carport wall, but in this corner the ivy is the wall, and it totally does feel like it’s 700 feet high when you’re in front of it.
Our neighbour told me that there used to be a messy, but magnificent, cherry plum in the corner. By the mid-80s, it was dying off, so the previous owners planted an ivy cutting in order to cover it all. Which, of course, it did with gusto.
It’s a very mature English ivy, this one. Turns out that the long ivy vines are an immature, juvenile version of the plant. When ivy matures, it undergoes a genetic change and thus its behaviour shifts entirely. It stops producing an endless amount of ropy, clingy vines and it takes on a more shrubby appearance. The leaf edges smooth out or go crinkly, rather than having defined lobes. More importantly, ivy begins to flower and fruit.
I didn’t want to get rid of it entirely, because 1) THAT’S A VERY TALL ORDER and 2) it’s pretty useful for screening. The more plantlife blocking out the orange brick next door, the better. But I did want to cut it back, clean up its base and make it feel less oppressive.
Here’s what was hiding under the outer layer of greenery. Leaves, dust, probably an entire colony of huntsmans, and millions of ivy ropes wrapped round and round themselves. And then there was me, thinking: I’ve made a huge mistake.
But you can’t go back, you can only go forward. So I began the laborious task of clipping and pulling off ropes, gradually revealing the long-dead tree trunk that had been consumed by ivy over the years. There were also thirty years’ worth of dead leaves gathered around the base, which filled four large bags. I spent a couple hours working at it here and there over a period of two weeks.
NB: I don’t know if it’s the dust or what, but every time I work with English ivy it irritates my throat and sinuses! I had to wear a dust mask, unless I wanted to spend all night afterwards coughing.
Progress. My cat helper came to check it out.
And here’s what the trunk looks like, all cleaned up. Thick ivy stems climbing up a long-dead trunk. It’s actually kind of neat.
Yeah, that back fence is looking rough. You can see how a thick ivy root (above the post on the left) acts as a support post! Jamie and I are probably just going to cover it in lattice and brushwood screening.
I’m relieved that it looked tree-like in the end. Crazy how it looks like a tree, but the canopy and base are two separate plants. You wouldn’t believe the biomass I cleaned off this thing! There’s over a cubic metre sitting in our carport right now, waiting for a tip run.
Now, the prudent thing to do would be to remove it altogether, ivy and trunk and all. But for the time being, it’s staying like this. The screen is far too useful to chop right away, and I’m happy to not stress over ivy for a little while.
This was one task that I can’t wait to do never again, but I am excited about extending the border and adding more plants. I’ve got a tree fern in a pot, ready to go as I write this. Garden renovation is kind of addicting!