I Turn My Back For Five Minutes

We’ve been on a city-break to Antwerp.  Thought I’d better scrub up a bit first, so I had my monthly bath a couple of weeks early, scoured (most of) the ingrained grime from my hands and scraped (most of) the soil from under my fingernails.  I even had a haircut, a shave (radical, I know), changed out of my gardening trousers, stood them up by the washing machine and pulled on some new clothes.  Barely recognised myself.

Antwerp was sunny and warm and friendly; we sat at pavement cafés, sipping coffee and one or two (!?) cold beers and people-watched.  The only stress?  To see how much we could possibly get through at a fabulous €20 a head, eat-as-much-as-you-like Japanese restaurant.  (I suspect they’ll review their pricing policy after we waddled out, whimpering in gluttonous pain).

On returning home though I had a worrying text from Nick* (who helps me on some of the jobs at the Priory, such as mowing the meadow and cutting the hedges).   He wrote that a tree had come down during the stormy weather last weekend (which had missed Belgium completely).  But he didn’t say which tree it was, only that it had done so with several people about; my heart sank at the thought of one of the big ash or alder having ker-plunked into the east pond; or (no, please, no) one of the signature oaks, keeled over; shattered and splintered across the lawns.

Thankfully it was a Robinia pseudoacacia which, of all the trees, I was most ready to sacrifice (except for some of the conifers which, if tottering in high winds, I might have given an obliging nudge).  The Robinia had had sparse leaf and even sparser flower during my time; it always looked a little gaunt and a little sickly standing above the car park.  Though it never occurred to me that it was in danger of toppling over.

Amazingly Nick (who took the above two photos), Margaret (the farmer), Jo (the cleaner) and Reg (of the mighty digger) had all just arrived, parked and gone into the house.  When Nick came back out shortly afterwards, the tree was down – having narrowly missed Jo’s car.  Could have been a lot worse – if the robinia had come down a few minutes earlier it probably would have bonked someone on the head.

The beech hedge was surprisingly OK; a little crumpled and the beech arch a little dented.  And Nick earned himself a gold star by sawing and tidying up.

Otherwise the storm left the gardens fairly untouched; though some of my foxgloves (planted in a stretch of young beech) have taken a bow.  How gracious.

*Nick (his real name) is ‘Tim’ in some earlier posts.  This anonymity lark can get so confusing.

30 thoughts on “I Turn My Back For Five Minutes

  1. I’ve never known such a windy, should I say stormy, summer. We’ve just come back from a week near Rye and got little sleep at all on Thursday night as the wind howled around the cottage. Such relief no one was around when the tree fell and good it was a specimen you weren’t so keen on anyway – that’s not how it normally works in the garden.


  2. Robinia’s are a bit of a weed tree really so good it’s down, good it didn’t do any damage to people or property, you got off pretty light didn’t you? We were away this weekend too, in Prague another great city break and lots of beer there too. Christina A beer must be the order of the day for Nick/Tim too!


  3. Yay! It’s good to have you back. You must have dazzled them all in Antwerp with your amazing cleanliness. “Wat een hygiënische man.” That’s what Google Translate has to say about it, at any rate. Glad the tree fell after the party had gone inside and that no one was hurt — whew. If only someone had told you before hand that robinias are supposed to be tied to the outbuildings!


    • For a moment I thought that was an Old English curse, Stacy (knowing how fluent you are). But you are right – that is precisely what Flem after Flem said to me as I wandered about – gleaming. Bit repetitive after a while, actually. And yes! Now everyone tells me how tottery robinias are. Tsk. D


  4. Welcome back David! Sounds like you had a fantastic little break in Antwerp. It’s a gorgeous little city, I liken it to a miniature Brussels but much cleaner and less crowded. Hope you had some of their yummy waffles too, I always eat loads of that whenever we visit any Belgian city.

    Glad to hear that the Priory only sustained minor damage from the stormy weather, and that the Robinia toppling over was the worst of it. Must have been a relief indeed when you finally got to see which tree fell over after hearing the news beforehand. I can somehow attest to Robinias being prone to toppling over, our only has toppled three times until we had tied it back to an outbuilding. It did well for a couple of years tied like that but this year it seems to have had lots of die back for some unknown reason. C’est la vie!


    • Hi Boys, no waffles but plenty of frites with mayo! It is a grand city and we were very taken with it; we had a lovely apartment in the old city with big, sunny windows overlooking a small square. And getting there was a doddle on the train.
      After reading your comment yesterday – I was looking at the other robinia at the Priory. The BIG one. Next to the greenhouse. Rather worried now! D


  5. I love my robinia! I call it a purple robe locust. I think I would be more devastated if mine blew down in a rain/windstorm. The trunks are fragile and I think mine has borers, but I won’t use anything systemic on it, so I’ll have to enjoy while I can. I hope you had a fun trip. 🙂


  6. Oh my, that’s impressive, weird, shocking, striking, really I would never ever have imagined… You had your monthly bath anticipated?! And see what you made happen?
    Well, fortunately that robinia wasn’t really a big deal (considering all the other beautiful trees you have at the Priory), but please tell me that THAT wasn’t your usual parking place…

    (and as much as Elaine I am a bit curious about what makes Antwerp a dreamy holiday place too… not only their sushi I hope…)


  7. Glad you enjoyed your break – is Antwerp famous for anything other than being Antwerp? Obviously the Robinia fell down on purpose to make you feel guilty for abandoning us to go and enjoy yourself.


    • Lonely Planet listed Antwerp in their top 10 cities of 2009! And as it is so very easy to get to by Eurostar we thought we’d take a look. Glad we did – it is a lovely medieval city with tons to see and do. Plus we had a night in Brussels too. Dave


  8. Heavens, that was lucky that nobody was underneath it! Amazing that the hedge still looks so good and lucky you, having colleagues to cut it all up for you!


  9. Silly me…I misread. Thought tree had ‘missed Belgium completely’ ….that would have been one hell of a tall tree! Maybe I’ve been hit with a tree on the head and not realised (would explain a lot!). Glad you had a good break…now back to work man….you have carbs’ to burn off! 🙂


  10. I have read somewhere that Robinias have a tendency to be a little top heavy and prone to toppling over. My parents seem to plant them whereever they live, I think they like the colour of the leaves.
    Seems the work colleagues were very lucky & even better it was all sorted when you got home


    • Didn’t know that robinia’s are prone to toppling, Helen – until now. There are a few more dotted about (they self seed very easily) and the biggest is worryingly close to the greenhouse. Gulp.


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