On the west pond is an island.  It is perhaps ten paces across, with a weeping willow and several alders.  For most of the year, I leave it be;


… a refuge for moorhen, mallard and, very rarely, kingfisher.


But, back in July, I pulled on my (leaky-cold-trickle-down-the-back-of-left-leg) waders and ventured out with the strimmer.


I have to strim it once or twice a year to stop brambles, willow and more alder taking over.

Clearing all the undergrowth …


… also allows space and light for the Acer palmatums I’ve planted: two A. palmatum dissectum …


… and two A. palmatum ‘atropurpureum.’


Whenever I do go over to the island (I ought to give it a name, I suppose), I take a watering can to give the acers a good soak … and a piece of cheddar for any wild-eyed, hairy castaways I might meet.


Job done; you can see the weeping willow (right of centre) and the seven alders.  The latter are now restricting the willow and their time is up – they await the woodman’s axe (or more prosaically, the tree surgeon’s chainsaw).


After strimming, I removed any shed branches and at some point I’ll return and cut back the alder suckers which have grown up from previously felled trees.


On the other side of the garden, in the middle of the east pond, is another island (a grand term for a pile of bricks and a thin scalp of soil).  Someone at sometime, planted Pseudosasa japonica and it has always looked horrible – with dead stems and infested with nettle and rosebay willowherb.  The bamboo struggles because the islet (?) is too wet in winter (sometimes completely submerged) and too dry in summer (when the water level drops right down – further than in the above July photo).  Last year, I planted a corkscrew willow (Salix matsudana “Tortuosa”) out there and I wanted to check on its progress.

The water of the east pond is too deep even for leaky waders …


… and so, with much waving of flags and cheering, it was time to launch the Priory boat – HMS Despondent.


I normally push-off from a flight of steps but a selfish moorhen had built a nest directly below them.


And so I slipped her down a steep bank into the duckweedy, pungent water.


I like this bit; I like messing about in Despondent …


Red damslefly

… low down amongst the insects and breathing in watery decay as my paddle disturbs the surface water and decades of sediment.  Rather like paddling up the Orinoco I imagine (without piranhas).


The water shelves at the island and, using the paddle, I pulled the boat close enough to tie up (very important) and hop out (in my wellies).


A few minutes work with secateurs revealed the young tree, a dogwood and an old, quietly rotting duck nest-box; the repair or replacement of which will be a good winter project.


Hmm, hardly a beautiful sight, eh?  But, please bear with me; this willow is very fast growing and so try to imagine, if you can, what it might look like in a few years’ time.


Ah, you’re struggling to picture that aren’t you?  (Me too, actually).


Well, here’s one I prepared earlier.  Does that help?  This was a similar size when I planted it three or four years ago and though its growing conditions aren’t as challenging as out on the island, I’m hoping that the youngster will do just as well.  In time.

Optimism.  Great isn’t it?

24 thoughts on “Islands

  1. Optimism is essential for any gardener, and a state much easier to attain when you can mess around in a boat too. Leaky waders, on the other hand, must encourage the reverse state…. Love the addition of the acers on the larger Island, already beautiful and promising to become spectacular.


    • Hullo Janet, leaky waders do add an element of trepidation and suspense when venturing out. It just isn’t very pleasurable having my left boot slowly fill with pond water. It can even dampen my optimism – a bit. Dave


  2. Indeed I can perfectly picture that willow grown up in the middle of that islet. What I see a little out of place are those acers, instead. They look a little bit too manicured to pop out amongst tough alders and rough brambles but I have to give you credit and trust for some of your projects I didn’t understand at the moment but appreciated later (like the tropical border for example).
    Anyway I remember a dog or some kind of legendary beast living in exile in some island and I’m sure that the banished beast wasn’t merely the bamboo…


    • Hi Alberto, with no brambles hopefully and the alders soon to be gone the acers should look OK I think. But if they end up looking pants I’ll just move them elsewhere. The beast is still there btw – I certainly wouldn’t go out there after sunset, y’know. D


  3. The larger island must be a lot of work to keep clear. If your alders are anything like ours they want to take over every bit of ground near water. The Japanese maples should be beautiful though once they get some size, and I think a willow is a perfect choice for the small island. They like all the water they can get, as I’m sure you know. The flowers should look nice in the spring.


    • The alders are very invasive, Allen. We had three of four felled a few years back and in retrospect should have had them all removed. The water level in that pond is now very low and the tree surgeon is keen to start work before it refills with autumn rain. D


  4. I love the splashes of fiery red from the acers, and the willow’s weeping greenery on your island. Swallows and Amazons, eat your heart out! What a fun adventure to navigate the waters armed only with secateurs and wellies.
    I think optimism is a prerequisite for gardeners!


  5. Good job there David. An island with acers on it is a great idea. Once they get bigger they’ll give a fab shot of colour in the autumn right at the centre of it. Work is work but going through your photos the tasks all looked so dreamy and idyllic 🙂


  6. The posts where you take off in the Despondent always seem extra-adventurous, Dave, even without the piranhas. Glad it kept you afloat yet again. The Acers are beautiful — that airy texture with the weeping willow is going to be gorgeous. Is the island visible from the house, or is it a pleasant surprise as you round a corner somewhere?


    • Hullo Stacy, Despondent is a doughty old bucket if not particularly elegant. And yep, the main island is visible from the house – with an especially good view from the first floor bedrooms. Dave


  7. Maybe you could call the Island “Hope Island” or “Acer’s Space” and as that sounds like “ace o’ spades” why not something around a deck of cards – just musing – must be a family trait x


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