The Priory boat (HMS Despondent) quietly mouldering on the East Pond.
The tulips started off valiantly enough; poor, naive, unsuspecting innocents. They couldn’t have imagined their cruel, bitter fate. (How could they? They’re tulips).
In a rare sunny moment, I took a photo or two but not many; after all there were bound to be more …
… balmy, sunny days on which to capture them on chip.
I looked forward to the show of Apeldoorn and Queen of Night that we enjoyed last year:
Perfectly in harmony with the cherry blossom and with nicely mown lawns, these photos were taken on 18th April 2011.
But 2012 wasn’t to be so kind.
Frost, wind and steady, seemingly ceaseless rain …
… took their toll …
… and now most of what is left is simply mush with little chance of storing strength for 2013.
The happiest, healthiest tulip is one of just two that were in the gardens in July 2008. Strimmed to the brink by the previous grass-cutting crew, it startled me when it suddenly flowered in 2010. I wonder whether there were originally dozens of them planted in amongst the daffodils but that the majority weren’t as tenacious as this fellow. It hadn’t occurred to me to plant tulips into turf but I may just try it.
Conditions have been difficult this year, so very difficult. I know I’ve wittered on and on about the amount of rain we’ve had (sorry) but I’ve never known the Priory to be so tediously WET in spring. Wet, wet, wet. All my plans, all general maintenance – heck, even general gardening have ground to a halt.
The new borders alongside the path are still empty. I plan to have a temporary planting of Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ here – though at the moment papyrus or mangrove might be better suited.
I did begin planting up the new tropical border; though that seems a cruel, daft name for a collection of tender plants moping and shivering and sulking in cold, wet clay. Tropical, schmopical.
Viburnum roseum sits in the paddy field that is the west lawn – mowing is obviously out of the question and has been for several weeks.
Puddle planting; Rosa rugosa, soon to be smothered by uncut grass.
Good thing I put in raised vegetable beds, eh?
And I do worry about my young beech-hedging plants. Beech shouldn’t be paddling in water; it should be stately and majestic high on the South Down, the roots airy and dry on chalk. By rights it shouldn’t grow in heavy sodden clay at all, but stubbornly, with clenched beech-teeth, it clings on with admirable determination.
Here, where the overflow from the ponds runs out to the river, the beech is often submerged for days on end. And it might just get worse.
The river is worryingly high …
… and if it continues to rise, the bridge will perform its secondary (unwanted) dam function.
Two or three feet higher (which the bridge-dam would easily provide) and, as you can see, the banks will be breached and the meadow and gardens will flood. In May. Quite ridiculous, positively alarming, absolutely annoying and categorically inconvenient. I really, really, really, really, really, really want it to stop raining now.
Early April was so hot and so sunny that I screened the south-side of the greenhouse with netting.
The nine automatic wall and roof vents cool it a little but it still gets terrifically hot in there. Of course, as soon as I finished stapling the netting into place, the sun slid behind …
… dark cloud, temperatures dived and we had weeks of rain. And rain. And then … some rain.
But if the sun does ever peek out again, I shall be prepared. It had grown too stifling in the greenhouse for me to sit and drink tea. And that will never do.
In previous years, I have lost plants to late frosts (to which the Priory is prone) and so I am probably overly cautious in moving tender stuff outside. The greenhouse is heated by a fan heater (the size of a small jet engine) and the cosseted plants within are blissfully unaware of the wet, cold horror outside.
The auriculas have been blooming since March; as has …
… the lovely scented Pelargonium ‘Royal Oak.’
Last year I potted up a Pachyphytum oviferum leaf. It doesn’t look much does it? But it has doubled in size (and not just shrivelled up and died which some do) and it will eventually grow into …
… the weirdly beautiful, powder (or bloom) coated sugar-almond plant … or moonstones … or, as Jim calls it, the hemorrhoid plant. How uncouth.
The lithops are stirring and beginning to gape as …
… though this one’s new growth is itself splitting, to reveal yet another new set of leaves. Curious.
An interloper has found a home in one of the pots of sarracenia but I haven’t the heart to remove it; I love ferns.
Other sarracenias are flowering …
… but unlike the nondescript green flowers of last year, these …
… are a deep claret. I have no idea why.
Most of the dahlias I potted recently are poking forth. I find starting them off in pots gives them an advantage over the slugs – for when they are eventually planted outside.
After a recent visit to Architectural Plants (on yet another rainy day), there are new tenants in the greenhouse. For the tropical border, I’ve bought a plant I’ve long hankered after – Tetrapanax papyrifer ‘Rex.’ This architectural, hardy exotic should reach 3-4 metres in height with leaves a metre across. Goodness.
I also bought Arundo donax or Spanish reed – another 3 – 4 metre hardy big boy and …
… this not-at-all-hardy canna lily, Canna coccinea; relatively petite at about one and a half metres tall (though I’ve heard that it might struggle to get that high).
Now I need it to stop raining and for it to warm up outside. I’ve got loads to do; the grass is still growing but the ground is too sodden to mow; I’ve got planting to do but the soil is gloop; I’ve got plants to harden off but the wind would rip them to tatters. There has been so much rain that …
… water from the surrounding fields is still pouring into the grounds, filling …
… the ponds to full capacity. Thankfully, the emergency channel we dug three years ago …
… is carrying excess water out to the river – and away from the front door of the house. Phew. Thank goodness the South of England is officially in a state of drought. Otherwise who knows how wet it might be.
Now that the ponds are once more filled to the brim and the south wind has swept them clear of duckweed, I can enjoy their clarity and their visual depth.
I know I’ve posted some photos of them recently but I do find them captivating.
Hope you do too.
The main ditch, which connects the two ponds, is also full.
Lovely; I like it full. It generally remains so for the winter, affording the gardens a moat-like feature which is handy for deterring invaders and marauders.
and forced it into the pond’s north-eastern tip.
I’m pleased that it is now an overgrown and ungardened corner once again.