Rain Stops Play

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 …

Apeldoorn

… balmy, sunny days on which to capture them on chip.

Queen of Night

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.

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44 thoughts on “Rain Stops Play

  1. Dear Mr Anxious…it has come to my attention that some relaxed, not in the least bit stressed or anxious looking chap, has posted a photo of himself in your profile space! He looks decidely chilled…clearly an imposter!

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  2. I can sympathise totally, many parts of the garden here are either boggy or completely submerged; the last couple of days of dry weather have helped ease the water level but there is much to drain away yet. There really isn’t much we can do in weather like this other than hope for the rain to ease up. How’s the river looking now?

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    • Hi Jason, it has been terrible hasn’t it? But the past few sunny days have been a godsend and enabled me to at last get on and tackle the huge backlog. River level is down again for now but more rain due so watch this space. Tsk. Dave

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  3. The shed with a cup of Earl Gray tea sounds good to me. Your tulips looked fantastic last year. “Queen of the Night” is my favourite but they are in pots. I seem to have no luck at all when I plant them in the border. Has the rain stopped yet?

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  4. Gawd blimey! I thought we’d had lots of rain…you’ve sure had it bad. Maybe an Aqauatic bed could be your next venture. Sending a snorkle & wet-suit 🙂

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  5. An incredibly beautiful garden, Dave, whatever the difficulties. I wonder, if things are warming up, if you aren’t right to be planting tropical species. It might be that you’ll be becoming a warmer climate. More Cornwall, less Yorkshire.

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    • That was the thinking, Faisal – that a tropical border would flourish. But then Mother Nature just had to go and remind me who’s boss. It was more Mekong delta than Cornwall or Yorkshire last week! Dave

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  6. So lots of cups of tea in the shed?…………………….On a serious note the garden is looking a little (well yes, very very) sad and i can only imagine how your feeling after all your hard work ………
    Will say a little prayer to send that rain over here instead. Keep your chin up old boy!

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    • Thank you Andrea. Your prayer has been answered. It has stopped raining and we’ve had a few days of lovely sun. It’s almost like well, May out there. Might call on you again though if the clouds start building up, if that’s OK? Dave

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  7. Oh, I’m so sorry about the tulips. I’d been hoping you would do a post on them again this year but didn’t anticipate a sad and drowning post. Sheesh — at least in the days when you were actually concerned about the hosepipe ban you had pleasant sunny days to enjoy and accomplish things in. You’re going to be reduced to alphabetizing the greenhouse seed by seed pretty soon. Hope you get some clearing ASAP. OMG, is everything green over there.

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    • Hi Stacy, it is all very green except for the mud – which isn’t. Alphabetizing the seed packets – now why didn’t I think of that? I shall get on with it during the next shower, thanks for the tip. As for the tulips – yeah, it is sad though who said gardening was easy or predictable? I put them in very early after starting at the Priory and was beginning to think that they were too blocky, planted en masse like that. So perhaps I’ll be forced now to thin them out – especially as herbaceous plants in the long borders are beginning to attain a decent size and need more space. Dave

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  8. Yikes! Shame about the tulips, seeing that they were so stunning last year (and this year, before the deluge).

    But looks like your wish has been granted, it’s stopped raining today and it’s sunny. But for how long though? Forecast to be sunny this weekend at least.

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    • I worked in glorious sunshine on Friday and Saturday and its looking pretty good for today. Finally getting some mowing done and re-asserting myself as Master of the Priory. Hehe – delusional or what? Dave

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  9. Crumbs. I’m very grateful for our hilltop position, at least the torrents of rain that have fallen on and off here only cling stubbornly on the surface clay for a few hours before they give up and head down the hill towards the river. Down there is definitely a soggier story.
    Our tulips seem to have fared rather better than yours – although the pink Barcelona in pots out the front have finally relinquished all their petals now, they did a good job along the way and the stems are still immaculate and tall; the Veronique Sanson were just faded by the weather but proved tenacious at staying both upright and clothed. I suspect we have been rather luckier than you!
    Hope you dry out soon!

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    • Yes, generally I blame hill-top folk. All the water in the Priory runs in from Margaret’s fields while she sits up on the top of the hill in splendid (dry) isolation. Wonder whether I can sue? I think I might dig up the tulips as I can’t imagine them doing much next year. Sigh. But at least there has been no rain now since Thursday ….. Dave

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  10. For years garden magazines and tv gardeners have been going on about planning for droughts and dry summers. I wonder how many people went out and bought lavenders etc only for them to drown in one of the many summer deluges we’ve had since. Our changing climate is certainly testing us gardeners. Our weather seems to get stuck in patterns so we end up with blocks of the same weather. Weeks and weeks of heavy rain or weeks and weeks of no rain at all like last spring. Yesterday was meant to be dry here but it rained all day. It is the hardest sort of weather to plan for. I guess all we can do is hope it will dry up as we move towards June. Hopefully, we’re on holiday for a week in June in Sussex so I’d quite like to leave the wellies behind!!

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    • Hmm, you might just want to pack your wellies – to be on the safe side. ‘Sides, it would be a little odd for Wellywoman to be without, don’t you think? Almost, unseemly. Certainly I’ve been edging toward planting ‘drier’ stuff since I started at the Priory but then I guess it is all about long term weather trends isn’t it? And freaky, wet Aprils and Mays shouldn’t mask that it is getting drier in the SE. Dave

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  11. Jeez, you really have running water there! Very sorry for all those tulips ruined probably forever… were you to dig them up after flowering? How many of them did you planted there?
    Sorry to see your tropical border is still empty (the path is not on level anyway! 🙂 ) And keep an eye on that rugosa, they don’t like soaking…

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    • Hi Alberto, there were originally 200 each of Q of N and Apeldoorn but they have both increased in number over the past three years. I wasn’t going to dig them up – until this year at least, they seemed to be thriving. The path had to dip to follow the lie of the ground – otherwise it would have stood far too high above the lawn. And I shouldn’t worry too much about the rugosa. There is a large, ancient one nearby – it obviously hasn’t minded any flooding over the years. D

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  12. Hello Dave,
    You are starting to sound almost as miserable and curmudgeonly as me. And those poor tulips… But perhaps your duckweed has all been swept away? The only consolation I can offer is that the beech trees here manage to cope with both clay and water on a regular basis (although this year they are refusing to put out any leaves). Tulips in turf? My experience is that they do OK for a year or two, but that they don’t really enjoy the competition from the grass – and sooner or later the mice find them. So I wouldn’t put anything expensive or delicate in – just some tough old singles. Hope the sun shines for you soon.

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    • Miserable and curmudgeonly as you, Mr K? Do you really think so? Gosh, high praise indeed from the Master – thank you! And sadly the east pond is still smothered with duckweed. A new blocking belt of reed mace (and the wind not acting in concert with the currents) means that the ponds haven’t been swept clear this year. Shame. I’ll bow to your experience with tulips – it was an idle whimsy. Three days of sun since writing this post … and counting. The world seems a better place. Dave

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      • I’m glad the world seems a better place to you…..your rain appears to have ended up here. You have reed mace (bullrush)? Deadly stuff that if you let it get a grip. There will be a forthcoming post on the subject, once it is warm enough to enter the water (if ever)

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        • I spoke too soon – rain back with us this afternoon. Still, I got quite a lot of mowing done before it set in. Reed mace/bullrush has always been at the Priory but it was mostly scraped out a couple of years ago by a chap using a digger. I think we’ll need to have that done every three years or so to keep the ditches clear and the worst of the sludge removed. And it does keep the reed mace down too – a job I don’t relish doing by hand! D

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  13. The gardener in England (and Wales and Scotland) has to be tenacious and choose plants that will cope with a variety of conditions. Yes, almost everything will grow in the southern part of the country, may in some years they will suffer and not do so well. I have a more limited choice of plants that will tolerate the possible minus 10° Celsius temperatures of winter and the consistent 35° – 40° Celsius of July and August with no prospect of rain until September and not always then. It will stop raining, just read some posts from March when everyone was begging for the rain. Christina

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    • Absolutely Christina and I suppose I haven’t been at the Priory long enough to experience all that the weather might throw at it. And March seems like another country – they do things differently there! Dave

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  14. As I squelched across my lawn yesterday to view the sticks of green that were once delphiniums and removed the dozens, yes, dozens of snails that are munching their way through the lush greenery I think enough is enough – will the rain please stop now! (I feel a new post coming on)

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  15. I think our plants should come complete with water wings! Thank gooness plants are so resilient, most of them will survive to flower another year, in spite of what nature throws at them, at least all the water butts are full again after the drought in March!

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  16. I am been wondering about extending the bog garden it is so very wet. My tulips havent done too bad considering but we havent had a frost . Saying that still have some daffs flowering which is very strange

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  17. The sun is now shining and it looks like it might continue for a few days, trouble is I’m busy for the next 4. Hope it continues long enough for me to get a few things done that have been delayed by rain. At least it should stop the slugs and snails from devouring everything.

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    • OK Margaret – can’t say it is top of my priorities at the moment but I’ll place some buckets and trugs out on the lawns to collect rainwater. God forbid, I should run out of water! D

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