What to do with narrow strip in garden where nothing will grow?

The narrow strip, between path and fence, is directly beneath a long row of Norway Maples. No way I can afford to have 20+ NMs removed. The photo was taken a couple of years ago, shortly after I planted hostas along fence line. Plants don’t die but just languish, even with watering.

Any thoughts on how to redo this area, including stone path, to make it easier on the eye? The approximate width between fence and garden edge is 5 feet. Length of path is approximately 50 feet. Suppose I could pea-gravel the entire area, which would cost a fortune and require a lot of digging in order to lay down weed barrier, and look pretty blah. Only other thing I can think of is to dig a fairly deep trench, line with plastic in order to retain moisture, and replant hostas.

Path near front of photo connects to lawn. Path at far end connects to pebble pathway that leads to rest of garden.

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