To Make A Gardener Anxious

I always try to show the Priory off at it’s best.

By posting photos of it looking (hopefully) alluring and interesting and

beautiful.   It seems impolite somehow to do otherwise.  It is, I think, a very special place and I started blogging, partly, in order to share it’s charms with others.  Of course, by framing views of the gardens in a certain way

A self sown Nicotiana sylvestris - September 2011

it is easy to cut out the dandelion or dock, the fading flower and withered stem.

Hamamelis –  August 2011
And concentrate on the pretty stuff.   The easy on the eye stuff.  But that isn’t true to life is it?  And it is a deception I’ve become increasingly aware of and a wrong I will now start righting.  There is plenty (such bountiful plenty) of things wrong with the gardens at the Priory, that it seems dishonest not to write about and photograph them.  So to start off what I initially thought would be an occasional series (but now realise will appear often and run and run), here’s the first post on things that make me sad, annoyed, anxious or just a little depressed at the Priory.

The East Pond - August 2011

No, not the ducks.  I really like having mallard at the Priory (and this is a fine re-enactment of a battle-cruiser squadron at the Battle of Jutland, May 1916.  Though number four is looking to be court martialed).  No it isn’t the ducks, it’s the duckweed.
The East Pond – August 2008
When I started work at the Priory the ponds were clear of it.  Now, whether it’s been carried in on the breast of a splash-landing duck or surreptitiously introduced by my gardening arch-enemy, it smothers both ponds.

The west pond - August 2011. Looking verdant and very duckweedy

I can’t imagine that the ponds have never had duckweed on them before.  After all, the east pond has been here for hundreds of years – the west pond is modern.  Maybe it comes and goes like the tides.  Maybe the nutrient levels in the water determines whether it flourishes or not – I suspect so.
Perhaps it’ll disappear and once again I’ll see the sky when I look down into the water.  I can’t believe that will happen but perhaps it will.
August 2011
Maybe I ought to just concentrate on the pretty stuff after all.  And just pretend that the not so pleasing things in life aren’t happening.  Easy to do.  After all – you would never know.  Would you?  But I would … and, to be honest, there is such a rich vein to be tapped of all that is wrong at the Priory, that I can’t possibly ignore it any longer.  Besides, often it’s the things that haven’t turned out right or that have died or that have simply perplexed that are the most interesting.  So yes, this is a series that will run and run and run.

16 thoughts on “To Make A Gardener Anxious

  1. Hi Helen, I guess that showing photos of all the pretty things in a garden is what new bloggers do, then? (Or some new bloggers at least. Me included). Maybe we're all just more interested in the travails and failures of life, eh? Why didn't I realize that sooner?

    I'm a little surprised that duckweed alone made you turn your pond into a bog garden. Not that the latter isn't a good thing but it's just that I don't think I mind the duckweed THAT much. Margaret (the neighbouring farmer) has blanket-weed in her ponds – now THAT would depress me. The water levels in the ponds is a worry at the mo (what with the lack of rain) and I'm going to do a post about them. There's exciting!



  2. I started off only showing nice views etc but it does get a bit boring in the end and I much prefer the warts and all approach.
    My pond succumbed to duck weed to such an extent that I have now emptied it and am turning it into a bog garden. I do think nutrients have an impact and maybe there being less rain to put oxygen into the water hasnt helped this year


  3. Hey Janet, really pleased that my misfortune has greatly heartened you!! We did have a little go at netting but the sheer scale of the ponds defeated us (the owner & I) – especially given how quickly the stuff grows.

    Hi James, I could have written your words. One of the ponds is seriously low on water and is turning to dry land – soon I won't need waders to reach the island. I hesitate to beg for days and days of heavy rain but it would be rather nice to have the ponds at full capacity again. (Then I'll simply moan about the amount of rain. Obviously). Welcome by the way.



  4. I get anxious every time I look at my little pond, knowing I should put on waders, climb in, and start cutting out the dead growth and hauling out blanket weed. I try to ignore it as I pass. Week after week I think about not dealing with it. I try to justify it by saying it's all part of the process of life and death. I'm just watching, in slow motion, a pond turn into dry land. It will only take a few decades of mess. Thanks for bringing these little secrets of failure to light.


  5. I always find it really helpful to see what goes wrong in other people's gardens, so thank you. In this case, I was greatly heartened to see the duckweed, because mine has an infestation this year and I found it so disheartening that I have given up trying to scoop it all out. Besides, I kept netting baby frogs at the same time…


  6. Hi Papaver, certainly my camera is pulled towards the good-looking stuff. Anything you want to know re Jutland – just let me know.

    Faisal, hmm don't know why I hadn't appreciated that before. I think I just baulked at some of the failures in the gardens, after all who wants to advertise failure. Well, it turns out – maybe me!

    Hi Petra, I have a huge library of Priory photos now and it is such a useful resource for seeing what worked, what didn't and just as an aide memoire of what beds and borders looked like at various months of the year. It would be so disastrous to lose it (I suddenly realised this and have now made a back up!).

    Hi Karen – lots more warts coming your way. You lucky thing. I liked the dragonfly image too!

    HI Elaine, you're right though I can think of a couple of bloggers, which has nudged me to do the same.

    Far, far older Jane than you could ever realise. At the moment I'm in a bit of a blind panic at how much I've got to do, but it is a fine place to work.

    Cheese and duckweed sandwiches don't particularly grab me, Stacy. Mainly I dislike the 'weed due to aesthetics though it swamps the water lilies too. Desert ducks? I can't help but feel sorry for them….

    The 'weed can be photogenic, Sara but I prefer open reflective water. The wind will clear most of the weed off the east pond temporarily but it creeps back, I just find it a little, er deadening and flat, I guess.

    Thanks, Boys. I do tend to see the faults like they're lit up with floodlights and have to admit that when visitors say nice things about the gardens, I tend to think, 'are you sure? But what about that and this and over there? Are you blind?'

    I need to be more like that, Janet and not blurting out provisos and qualifications and excuses when complimented. Sorry to hear of your loss ….



  7. I used to spend too much time dwelling on all the things that were “wrong” in our garden and folk would get chapter and verse. I'm much more laid back now… seeing your stunning photo of the hamamelis reminds me that ours died…


  8. Beautiful photos David, the priory is gorgeous, well done!

    It's easy enough for the gardener and/or garden owner to be distracted by the 'faults' of one's own garden because you are aware of it, even if visitors do not notice it at all. And more likely than not visitors see pure beauty instead 🙂


  9. Hi Dave, Thanks for being brave, I think it's really helpful to see the “warts” as well as the beautiful images that you share with us. Even your duckweed is still very photogenic, and doesn't appear to be perturbing the ducks too much either.


  10. Oh, what a beautiful place, even with the duckweed. We're all so happy to enjoy the Priory's wonders with you, you know, that commiserating with you on its troubles is only fair. Ponds not being our forte out here, I'm not up on my duckweed. Is it problematic mostly for aesthetic reasons, or does it have other bad habits? (I see from Wikipedia that it has more protein than soybeans. Just in case you get hungry.)

    Our ducks are more likely to reenact the siege of the Alamo. (The waiting part, where they just sit there.)


  11. Blimey! You're older than I thought you were. Your memory of the re-enactment of a battle-cruiser squadron at the Battle of Jutland, May 1916 is amazing for an ol'-timer!
    Great 'snaps', oh to work at the Priory…sigh :0)


  12. Beautiful photograhs! You certainly know how to use that camera. I often think that by taking pictures of the garden, is probably one of the few ways gardeners actually enjoy their gardens. The only time when you can actually stand back and LOOK at it for its beauty, as opposed to seeking out potential weeds….!!


  13. Hi Dave. I haven't felt deprived of the truth here because what you relate is always hands-on. For me, it's more interesting to see the challenges and get an idea of context, than be dished up a series of promotional images, not that I don't want to see them, especially in a beautiful garden such as The Priory.
    I like that you're interested in being real, rather than in being too image-conscious.


  14. Brilliant photos – and I think we all concentrate on the good bits of gardens – because it makes us happy.

    I now feel more informed about the battle of Jutland – though a little worried about Duck 4 – he certainly won't grow up to do synchronised swimming 🙂


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