Blight, Rain and Flood

This is a rubbish winter.


A winter-ish scene

No snow, no ice, barely a frost,


just rain.  Lots and lots and lots of rain.


Day after day of tedious, repetitive,


flooding rain.  I’m not prone to depression but weeks of non-stop rain is twisting my arm.  “Rain, rain go away, come again another day” is too polite by far for my current mood.  (My own version has three or four expletives added).


Gingerly treading across the lawns causes accusatory damage.  The grass won’t stop growing and you’d hardly believe that, having mowed just before Christmas, it needs cutting again.  But I can’t trundle out the mowers onto this … this … this mush.  What’s wrong with some good old-fashioned

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone

for heaven’s sake?


Is it small comfort that alder, willow and reed mace are happy?  No, not really.


When I arrived at work last Monday, the bridge to the meadow had disappeared.  But where?


Ah, there it is.  It’s too heavy for two to lift but the flood effortlessly carried it 50 feet away.  My partner, Jim, lent a hand in dismantling the beast and we stood, scratching our heads, discussing how to make a replacement.  I’ve never made a bridge – at least, not a proper, grown-up bridge – but will need to do so soon.


The flood swept most of  the duck-weed from the ponds


and dumped it in a thick mat on the west lawn.  Duck weed ends up here most years but not normally in one, single carpet two or three inches deep.  Jim spent a happy few hours raking and barrowing.  He’s a man of simple pleasures.


During last weekend, the river burst its banks for the second time in seven years and left a leaf and debris high water mark on the netted, post and rail fence.  That’s far higher than I’ve ever seen and I felt cheated in not witnessing such a deluge.  Little surprise with water so high that, for the first time since I’ve worked here, a room in the house flooded.  Luckily only one but still, stripping out soaked carpet and furnishings isn’t a fun gardening duty.


After a brief  respite, the downpour resumed and water levels rose once more.  This cycle will continue for weeks, I suspect, unless the rain holds off long enough for the ground to dry out.  In the meantime planting is on hold and mulching is on hold.  I had mulched some beds only for it to wash off.

Box blight (2)

On an equally glum note, the arrival of box blight was particularly upsetting.  I’ve planted yards of box at the Priory and have loved its slow maturing into tight hedges.  This double length is about six years old and, I thought, beginning to look rather smart.

Box blight (1)

Tragic then, to dig up all the plants and wheel them off to the bonfire – along with another infected planting on the other side of the house.  I could weep.  I’ve told myself that other box plants in the garden will be fine – but I’m probably delusional.  I should hate a completely box-less Priory and will scrupulously disinfect shears and box-clippers to lessen the chance of infection.

Did I mention it was a rubbish winter?


As if blight and flood and rain weren’t sad enough, the Priory boat, Despondent, has slipped her moorings, drifted out into the west pond and filled with rainwater.  I need a volunteer to dive in, swim over and haul her to shore.   Anyone?


Thursday last week

As I type, the rain is hammering down again and I wonder what I will do on returning to the Priory tomorrow.  One thing is for certain – I shan’t be mowing.

Happy New Year!

61 thoughts on “Blight, Rain and Flood

  1. I’m not happy about yew replacing the box. If the cows accidentally break into the garden, then it’s curtains for them if they eat the yew. I shall creep by at night and yank it out of the ground! Margaret the farmer


    • Hi M, I love how the cows might ‘accidentally break into the garden’. I know your cows too well and their scheming, garden-raiding, intentions. Perhaps I ought to plant a row of cabbages instead! D


  2. So sorry for your troubles David. It must be soul destroying. Even in my area of (supposedly) the driest part of the UK we have had days of torrential rain and my tiny garden is developing water features! It has been a bizarre winter. I have had Crocus in mid-December and miniature Iris in early January, as well as fresh young growth on things that should only be here in the summer. I do hope that you can save the rest of your Box but I know many designers who won’t even consider it now and are looking for alternatives. In addition to the Blight is the relatively recent arrival of the Box Tree Caterpillar, which can defoliate a hedge in days. Presently it seems to be a problem confined to London and the Home Counties but they may well spread. I hope things start looking up for you soon and you can start to look forward to spring. Good luck.


    • Thanks Rej, yes I’ve got crocus in flower and all manner of things that oughtn’t. My mood isn’t actually as bad as this post suggests but I am frustrated at not being able to reach parts of the garden to do much needed work. Your comment re box and designers is pertinent. I have box in my own garden which is currently fine but I won’t plant any more at the Priory (though I have dozens of small plants grown from cuttings still to use somewhere). D


  3. Sorry to read of your troubles, they are many. I suppose it is little consolation that the house is still standing? Viewing the damage via web, things are pretty out of hand in the UK and so many places around the globe. What the heck is going on? Definitely a rubbish winter!


  4. What a winter you guys are having…So sorry to hear about flooding – and then to lose your bridge…I’d love to volunteer to help rescue ‘Despondent’, but by the time could get there it would be summer : / Then, adding insult to injury, the box blight – especially aggravating when it’s a hedge one has planted and patiently tended to maturity. Just found this, from an article last summer: I’m sure you’ve looked into it, but hope it might be helpful.
    Hope things get drier very soon… Until then, know that your loyal readers feel your pain, and wish for better days ahead : )


    • Hi Jo, thanks for kind words and the link. I did read that article and with what it says and the experience of several people I know, I decided to up root the box and replace with yew asap to get the latter established and under way. It was sad to lose my box hedges but then if gardening were easy it’d be a little unchallenging too. (Though someone’s having a laugh with the number of challenges at the moment). Dave

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, sometimes the difficult path is the very best one in the long run…Yew is so hardy and adaptable to soil and light conditions. Not to mention those adventicious buds – a definite plus. Hope the rains have let up there a little…All best : )

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Hello David, I have used a product developed by the Dutch called Topbuxus, with success on four pieces of box topiary that I thought was starting to develop blight.They all now have healthy new growth.
    This is the link to the Amazon page I bought it from: (link removed at Brian’s request)
    Wishing for a improving new year!


  6. I almost feel guilty “Liking” this post–as if it’s the wrong show of solidarity. You poor man–what dreary, Eeyore-y weather. And to lose a bridge, the Despondent, and a beautiful box hedge (and be put on indoor flood duty) to boot… Wrong. All wrong. Hang in there!


  7. The endless rain is miserable, we have flooded fields too but so far no box blight. It must be utterly soul destroying to see years of hopes and work go the bonfire. Hopefully things can only get better, we have some chilly weather forecast for Bedfordshire, in the best possible way I hope it heads your way too.


    • It has got colder since I posted this and no rain! I’m fairly certain the blight was introduced by a couple of bought in plants as all the others were self-grown. Which is particularly annoying. I’d really like some decent snowfall – it hardly feels a proper winter without one and besides I’d like some snowy scenes to photograh. D


  8. Yikes! What a time you and other gardeners in that area must be having. we’ve had a rainy fall and winter so far (in S. Ontario) but nothing like the flooding and damage you write about. Sorry to hear this. It sounds so discouraging.


    • Thanks Cynthia – we’ve had a couple of days of sun and colder weather so perhaps my outlook for continuing rain is pessimistic. Maybe. It was good to get stuck in at my other garden yesterday and actually catch up a bit. D

      Liked by 1 person

  9. And a Happy New Year to you too ! I’m sorry to see all the flooding over there ! It is an odd Winter but personally I don’t miss the frost and the snow, but we don’t have as much rain as you have in England ofcourse.


  10. Ugh. My thoughts as well, enough already.
    Our forecast is for cold next week here in the NE US, maybe that’s a sign for actual winter to arrive and a bump out of this depressing rut we’re in.


  11. Grim, isn’t it? It’s the same here. Our shed floor is a puddle of water and the allotment a quagmire. But we have friends in Hebden Bridge who’ve had much worse to deal with so I’m trying not to get too demoralised by it. Easier said than done when I nearly did an impressive mud slide trying to pull up some leeks this morning. 😉

    Really sorry to hear about the box blight. I had it on one box ball last year, and so far the others 4 are OK. I’m sure the milder, wetter winters and damp summers are contributing to its spread.

    It’s hard mustering the enthusiasm to think about the garden. Will it ever dry out? But I have done the dahlia order and I need to look at seeds now. And Wellyman says I’m not an optimist!! Hope it stops raining for us all. Lou


    • Hi Lou, I’m sure my blight was on a couple of plants introduced from a local nursery (which I didn’t quarantine, doh!). All the other plants are grown from cuttings. Oh well. My other box are some distance way from the infection, so here’s hoping. Did Wellyman film the mudslide? It could go viral. D


  12. Likewise here in West Sussex. Our garden is on sticky acid clay and is impossible to work in this weather. So frustrating as the mild conditions make it very good gardening weather but everything is so depressingly wet and cold . On the plus side I have mimosa in flower and my long-awaited Daphne Jacqueline Postill perfuming the air!


    • Hi Neighbour, some perfumed consolations then. I was enjoying cyclamen coum the other day but they don’t look quite so jewel-like after being submerged in muddy water! Won’t be long before we’re reeling out the hose-pipes though, eh? D


  13. I am so sorrow to hear that you have been badly flooded. We are experiencing continual rain and grey skies but very mild temperatures; so much the same. At least I noted the little catkins forming on your twisted hazel and I think of the bees visiting them when surely it will be sunny in a few weeks. Amelia


    • Hi Amelia, I still have flowers in the garden as well (not that there should be) so there’s plenty for bees to feed on if they wake early – which at this rate they probably will. D


  14. It is dreadful and I too get depressed with heavy skies; it is what I love about living in Italy, even on cloudy days the sky seems ‘higher’ somehow. As to the blight I know just how you feel having lost all my box to the box moth last year. I redesigned completely, as you know but that may not be an option for you, Summer will come and it will all dry out but in the mean time Happy New Year David.


    • Thanks for the words of encouragement, Christina. One of the blighted box hedges, I can live without and won’t replace but the one above I shall replace with yew. It’ll be nice to do bit of planting once we get a break in the rain. All that talk of big Italian skies is making me itch for a holiday. Dave

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Here I am, having the nightly whinge to my husband about the unusually hot dry conditions we are dealing with in southern Tasmania and after reading your blog tonight, I’ve decided that dragging out the sprinkler every night to water different parts of the garden and keep plants in borders alive (not just lush but alive!) isn’t such a big drama.
    I do hope it dries out for you David. Miserable wet weather is pretty damaging and also not good for personal morale. I would also put up my hand to dive in and drag the boat onto wet land (if I was local and provided there was hot tea and biscuits on after!!). But instead I’ll keep dragging my hose around muttering expletives, getting bitten by mozzies and whining about how much I hate the excessive heat and dry of El Niño January and February.


    • Plenty of hot tea and biscuits but crisis solved, thanks. I managed to use an extendible pruning pole to pull Despondent to shore. Phew. The contrast with your gardening and mine is stark though hours spent watering the pots and tropical border last summer now strikes me as a lovely past-time. Hang on in there. D


  16. Sorry about your box blight and the flooded garden I am lucky living and gardening on a hill the garden hasn’t flooded but it is very wet.
    The rain has stopped for the moment and the sky has lightened, a hint of sunshine it is v cold but no frost yet


  17. It’s truly hideous, isn’t it. So sorry about the box blight. Will you look at alternatives? As for the grass, don’t get me started. Even on our well drained soil I couldn’t get a mowet round. And that’s assuming it stopped raining forong enough for me not to be risking electrocution! At least bridge planning can be done in the dry. Hang in there. It has to change eventually. Doesn’t it?!


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