December …

has been either rain-sodden or bitterly cold down at the Priory.


I much prefer the latter.


The west pond has been frozen but Solo …


… no longer ventures out onto it.  A couple of years ago (when this photo was taken) she ran across the ice (chasing a snowball), broke through and had to be ignominiously rescued.  She wasn’t happy.  So no, Solo doesn’t do ice.


This shallow arm of the east pond has been frozen too.  I love this unkempt area of willow, water and alder.  Grasssnakes live here (though deep underground now), heron visit and moorhen hide amongst the battered reed mace – not very well; they always break cover long before I’m aware of them.

With the ground either wet or frozen I’ve been chopping firewood; cutting back lots of brown, mushy plants; turning compost; tidying outbuildings; sharpening tools; raking leaves and pruning roses and apple trees.


There are nine old apple trees at the Priory but they have all been abused over the years with, for example, limbs removed leaving horizontal cuts which allow water to pool and the trunk to rot.  They’ve fought back with a forest of shoots and it these I mostly remove or prune back each year – as well as any crossing or damaged branches.  I remove canker too with which the poor things are riddled.


Sometimes, I’m so very cold (usually when I’ve forgotten an extra pair of socks) that I just gaze into the house and wish I could go inside and play with the boys.


Thankfully (with a heater and the morning sun) the greenhouse is warm.


Perhaps a little too warm.  My echiums, uprooted from the outside glum, have responded with vigorous new growth.  I do wish they’d stop it for goodness sake – one has almost reached the roof.


Sadly there wasn’t enough room for all of them.  This one stayed put –  RIP.

Rob the Brickie (not his real name) does a lot of work at the Priory during the winter.  I call him Rob the Brickie though brick paving is but one of his many talents.   For instance, he loves digging …


… trenches.  Yep, really.  Ditches for drainage, ditches for power cables or, as above, a ditch for the water pipe up to the greenhouse (June 2011).  Dug, piped and refilled in under two days.  And unlike some of the other ground work at the Priory, Rob’s trenches don’t slump afterwards.


You might remember that cows broke into the gardens a while back (see ‘Cows In The Asparagus’).  Bless them – how I chuckled at their antics.  In their unbridled lust to gain access to a place long-denied them, they knocked down a couple of stretches of post and rail fencing.

The cows are now indoors for the winter …


… but the sheep aren’t.  So Rob is replacing the sixty yard length of old, damaged two-rail fence with a stouter, higher three-rail one.


This is one of two stretches of twenty-year old fence that will be replaced in the next few months.


Oh and I’m about to lose my terrifically useful holding bed.  I use it for heeling in new trees, shrubs or roses and for holding herbaceous ‘stuff’ – until I have space for them in the borders.   Like I say, terrifically useful.  I shall have to build a replacement.  And I’ll also be losing the asparagus bed which is sad but, you see, they both have to go; we’re getting another greenhouse.  It will be the same size and design as the existing one and will sit right behind it.

It’s been ordered and will go up in the next couple of months.  Rob will lay the pavers and build the base wall.  Useful chap to know, Rob.

And then I will have to think long and hard on which greenhouse to drink my tea in.  Tricky.


As I won’t be posting again this month, I’ll take this opportunity to wish you all a Very Merry …


… and a Very Restful Christmas.

40 thoughts on “December …

    • I’ve removed all the old post and rail fencing to the woodcutting shed but I can’t quite bring myself to chop them up. They’re really rather beautiful old, weathered, lichen encrusted things – especially the posts. I want to use them somehow in the garden – I just haven’t figured out how. Dave


  1. Hey Dave. It’s bloody hot here, the mulch all turning into scraps of litter overlaying sand, leaves burning on trees, only the brave venturing out. Tomorrow’s just 105.8 degrees Fahrenheit ( 41 Celsius )…I’ll be staying inside, curtained.
    I hope your Solo’s coping.
    The big freeze must dismay a gardener.
    Is that a Cycad in your greenhouse?
    I wish it wasn’t all so extreme.
    Keep warm, you, and I’ll keep cool.
    Happy NY, Faisal.
    PS Is WordPress better than Blogger?


    • Hey to you, Faisal. 41C? Eeek. A curtained inside is the only logical response. Solo is very old now and rarely comes to the Priory any more – preferring to stay at home to sleep. Yep, a cycad is in the greenhouse – it had lots of new leaves last year but not one this. Sulking no doubt because of our lousy (non 41C summer). Happy Cool New Year to you. Dave

      P.S. Erm. Not sure. Am I glad I switched from Blogger? No, not really. It has caused me all sorts of headaches and a huge amount of extra work. WP certainly has benefits over Blogger but then the reverse is also true. Were I to start a new blog (which I’m considering) I would use WP. But I certainly would never switch platform in mid-blog again.


  2. Somehow my sympathy for your loss of the nursery bed disappeared at he thought of the stress induced by having to determine which of two greenhouses to drink tea in. Until I remembered that I, too, now have two greenhouses, albeit smaller and sans echiums. So I shall have to restrict myself to agreeing that cold and frosty is infinitely more desirable than wet and dreery. Unless you are the echium left out in the cold… Happy 2013!

    PS Would Rob commute to Anglesey, do you think?!


    • Sans echiums is generally a state I hanker after, Janet. I have spent so much time on the things and have they flowered? Have they buffalo.
      And Rob most certainly will not commute to Anglesey, thank you very much. And don’t you ask him. He’s got far too much still to do at the Priory.

      Happy 2013 to you too! Dave


  3. So you have a lot of work going on at the Priory, even at Christmas time! Those apple trees really look much older than 9, they evidently had a tough life! 🙂
    Your dog is wonderful but I have to admit I have a soft spot for the old Solo!


    • Hi Alberto, bit of a misunderstanding I’m afraid. The 9 apple trees are several decades old at least but yes, they’ve certainly been chopped about over the years. Some should really b felled but I can’t bring myself to do that.

      I have quite a soft for Solo too (smelly as she might be). Dave


  4. I think the solution to the tea dilemma is to drink twice as much… For being as susceptible as they are to pests and disease, apples can be amazingly stubborn about surviving.
    Merry Christmas, Dave!
    P.S. What lovely hedges.


  5. A 2 greenhouse man, eh! I’m so glad I’ve just built my first one it would have been torturous to read about your 2 greenhouses and be greenhouseless myself. 😉 Looking forward to seeing photos of it when constructed. I don’t like the cold but I’m not sure I like this strangely mild weather we’ve got at the moment either. It just isn’t at all seasonal and I’ve got plants in my cold frames growing as if it were March. I need them to flower when they should for photos next year so I’m hoping for a cold spell to slow them down. And will it ever stop raining?
    Hope you have a great Christmas, with a chance to put your feet up and relax for a bit and wishing you a drier, warmer and sunnier 2013. WW


    • Hi WW, two greenhouses is perhaps a little er, greedy isn’t it? I personally still don’t have one (hence all my tender plants being ensconced at the Priory) – and do miss pottering about in my own. The wet is driving me to distraction – so much still to do but the lawns are a soggy morass; even walking across them make me wince. Drier, warmer, sunnier? Hear hear. D


  6. An extra greenhouse, I am so jealous.
    My son doesnt do ice either having smashed 3 teeth out on an ice rink a few years back, he visably quakes if he sees an ice rink these days.
    Have a great Christmas and lets hope the new year brings some dry gardening days


  7. What is the new greenhouse for? Or is it just for extra guests for tea??!! Will you be growing a vine or citrus? Have a great Christmas and look forward to hearing more about the garden in the New Year. Christina


    • Not sure yet, Christine. I was asked to get one – so I have. But the ownner is very keen to have more tender stuff so the second greenhouse will certainly give us loads more capacity. I had thought of a vine and perhaps melons? Have a Merry Italian Christmas. Dave


  8. What a dilemma- which greenhouse to choose? I’d go for alternate days;)
    What a lovely garden to be in & to care for. I’d really like a ‘Rob’ to call on, they’re hard to find! ( not that I have a big garden, but there’s always jobs that I can’t do!)
    I hope you have a delightful Christmas, and I’ll look forward to reading your blog in 2013!


  9. Even in winter there is so much to do in the garden and I always have to force myself out although once “at it” I’m fine. I have so much enjoyed your photographs and stories in this post and the others, I hope you have a restful Christmas and a fruitful 2013. Amelia


  10. Like you, I would much rather it was cold, instead we have non stop rain and floods once more! You have certainly been busy and lots more work planned, your greenhouse certainly looks very cosy, would love my tea surrounded by such beautiful plants. Happy Christmas wishes to you and hope that everything in the garden at the Priory is wonderful in 2013!


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