January Ice

We’ve had no snowfall yet at The Priory but we have had plenty of the next best thing: hard frosts under bright, blue skies.

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The drive leading down to the house

On one of those sharp, sunny mornings last week, I grabbed my camera and strolled about the garden.  Here are a handful of images which might show why The Priory is so special to me, even in winter.

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The last time I took you on a tour of The Priory gardens (see – A Garden Tour: The Priory in July’) I started through the incomplete beech arch onto the east lawn.  This time I’ll go through the main arch (above) leading to the front door.

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No I won’t – I’ve changed my mind.  I’ll pass instead under the second of the three arches – minding my step on the murderously slippy brick paving – through to the west lawn .

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It hasn’t rained much recently (for Sussex, for January) and the water level on the west pond is low.  Despite sustained wasp attacks during my autumnal strimming schedule, I eventually completed all the cutting back, including on the island.  But the task was not without mishap.

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One mishap happened as I gingerly crossed to the island through the muddy water.  (The pond was just shallow enough for me to cross without boat nor waders … or so I thought).  Stinky pond water in my Wellington boot is not a favourite thing.  Wet stinky pond socks aren’t either, especially with no spares.

Another mishap was strimming yet another bloody wasp nest.  As I finished strimming the island, I glimpsed a scarily familiar eruption from the base of the island’s weeping willow.   And as usual, and well practised, I immediately dropped all my gear and ran away squealing – if unstung – returning only much later to collect my strimmer and helmet when the wasps were a little less excitable.  (This wasn’t the only wasp nest I upset after my recent waspish post.  A second, on the banks of the other pond, rewarded me with an ankle sting before I even noticed my peril.  After that I gave up strimming completely until we’d had several -5°C nights.  I mean, enough is enough.  Strimming five wasp nests with a six-sting-payback is outrageous bad luck after not hitting one nest in the previous seven years).

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Near the west pond, the long borders are looking surprisingly good.  I say surprisingly because I hadn’t particularly planned them as a winter feature; and because however many photos I admire of tall, stately winter plants, glistening in low sunshine, mine are almost always hammered to a brown, squishy goo by heavy English rain.

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But this year, our dry winter paid an unexpected dividend.

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Ice crystals on Viburnum × bodnantense ‘Dawn’ caught my eye too;

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with more on Verbena bonariensis.  

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The golden stems of Cornus sericeaFlaviramea‘ aren’t diminished by a bit of sparkle either;

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nor are the tops of cold frames.

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Guests were staying in the house over Christmas and New Year but now they’ve gone, leaving The Priory quiet and empty once more.  It is what I am used to and what I like: alone again in a corner of England I know better than anywhere.

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I crossed the rickety oak bridge, glanced over the frozen east pond – with holes made by splashing mallard –

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to arrive on the east lawn and the back of the house clothed in winter jasmine flowers.  I cut the Jasminum nudiflorum to ground level about three years ago – for emergency damp proofing of the walls – but it has grown back and one day will swathe the brick to the first floor windows again.

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As I approached the greenhouses, I noticed a hen pheasant under a conifer, enjoying the almost warm sun and taking a dust bath.  Male pheasants shout out for admiration but the female is a beauty too, if a modest one.  Her dust bathing forms a shallow depression in the soil, one of several such bowls dotted about the gardens.  In the summer pheasants made dust baths in the veg beds, carelessly obliterating row upon row of spring onion and salad seedlings.  How I chortled.

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There are a handful of resident pheasant in the garden, held close by the regular falling of food from the five bird-feeders.  Some are almost tame and show no real fear of me unless I overstep an invisible but surprisingly intimate red line … or I angrily wave my arms at ruined seedlings.

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Beyond the garden lies shotgun Armageddon and the crash of guns is a common, if unwelcome, soundtrack to January.  Stay here pheasant.  Here is good, here is safe.

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Later, when the sun had swung away behind the conifers, casting her bath into shadow, she’d gone; leaving only a basin in the dry earth and a couple of unwanted feathers

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My garden walk completed, I fetched the wheelbarrow to continue unending leaf raking and later, I cut back border plants turned to slimy heaps rather than graceful Piet Oudolf-y elegance.  Not much Sussex rain maybe but I still have an embarrassment of brown, squishy goo.

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Sharing Pictures

Occasionally, someone gets in touch to ask whether they can reproduce one of my photographs.  Most commonly it is to illustrate an article on their website and they want a high definition photo without my ©theanxiousgardener.com watermark and so long as I’m otherwise credited, I’ve always agreed.  Free publicity and all that.  Asking for a copyright tag is usually the only proviso I insist on and isn’t normally a problem.  Except once.  The chatty, friendly editor of a dog magazine mysteriously went quiet and disappeared after I’d twice asked him to first confirm that he would print a copyright acknowledgement.  Oh well, he didn’t get the photo – the rude oaf.

I once gave away a photo for the cover of a new book.  The image was of a calf standing on a manure pile – no, really – but as I no longer have a copy of the finished result, you’ll have to take my word for it.

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Pauperhaugh Bridge

A couple of years ago, a chap wrote asking whether he could have the above picture.  His elderly mother knew Pauperhaugh Bridge, Northumberland as a child and he wanted a hi-res copy to print off as her Christmas present.  I was only too happy to help (welled up actually) and, though he asked about my prices, I sent him a non-watermarked copy free of charge.  Sigh.  I’m never going to make any money at this game, am I?  I have yet to charge for any of my photographs … a decision I might revisit if Nike or Coca Cola come knocking re a global advertising campaign.

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On occasion I’ve found my photos used without consent but if they bear my watermark, I don’t mind.   I particularly liked this WEBSITE which uses the above image from my post ‘Poppies on the Downs‘ as an on-line jig-saw.  On-line jig-saw?  What a curious new world we live in.  They didn’t seek prior permission but as there’s a clear link to The Anxious Gardener and the jig-saw is watermarked, that’s fine by me.  Incidentally, this same photo has been pinned by several people on Pinterest and, cumulatively, has been re-pinned about 20 000 times; making it unquestionably my most shared image (and guiding a steady stream of visitors to my blog).

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A favourite request came from Churches Together in 2014. They were producing a memorial remembrance pack marking the 100th anniversary of the Great War and, having come across the same poppy post, asked whether they too could use one of the images.

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Delighted to be asked, I was proud of the result.

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And finally, a few months ago, I had an enquiry from branding and graphic design company, Fusional.  Commissioned to decorate the outside of a training centre in Seaford, they wanted an image from my post, ‘A Walk from Seaford to Berwick Station’.  Intrigued, I said yes – again in exchange for a mention – and though the result is a little odd, I rather like it.  (But then it is my photo).  You can decide for yourself and see the finished building HERE.

So, no.  I haven’t made much money from my photography.  Actually, I haven’t made any money from my photography.  If that makes you tearful and, in this season of goodwill and giving, you’d like to hand over bundles of crisp twenty pound notes in exchange for any one of my images, please do get in touch.

oooOOOooo

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As this is probably my last post of 2016, I’ll take the opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a happy, peaceful, conciliatory New Year.

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