It wasn’t my garden, of course. I didn’t own it, I didn’t pay for it – at least not with money. And when I left The Priory, my responsibility for the garden ended. I stopped being its gardener in August 2018 but my love for the place didn’t end then, nor my fascination. It’s been a rare day since if I haven’t thought of the house, crouched down in that green valley, tight behind its beech hedge surrounded by striped lawns, trees and fields.
Since I moved to Gloucestershire last summer, I haven’t visited the gardens but I’ve had nuggets of news from time to time. And today I had a message from my friend, Nick. You possibly know of him. He’s featured on the blog several times over the years: helping me with hedge cutting, mowing the meadow or else I’ve watched him at work in the lambing sheds on Margaret’s farm.
This morning he told me how those now responsible for the house have cut down all of the winter flowering jasmines on the east side of the house.
How they have removed the gorgeous Hydrangea petiolaris on the west wall – a plant I’d encouraged, pruned and trained for ten years.
I haven’t heard all of the latest and tragic news from The Priory. I know that one of the fruit trees on the north lawn has been felled but I don’t know yet which one. Possibly one of the two apple trees, my two apple trees.
Obviously, they weren’t ‘my’ apple trees but after pruning them for ten winters, I allowed myself to call them that. In my final post from The Priory, I wrote, “Removing the sprouts and forming a frame of branches over the years has been bloody satisfying. I hope somebody, anybody, will continue to tend these two old dames.” Perhaps my hope for the trees, for the gardens was misplaced.
Have the honeysuckles gone too? The clipped cotoneasters, the roses, the espaliered-by-me pyracanthus? All the other plants up against the house? I daren’t ask. I’ve heard enough for now.* Maybe the plants came down because renovation work is imminent but I doubt it was necessary to be so very heavy-handed.
I didn’t need reminding that all of us are only short-term guardians of the land we own or tend because … well, because it is so obvious. If we’re lucky, we have a garden to work in and then it passes to someone else to do with as they see fit. And yet this brutal reminder has fallen heavy on me. Nick wrote that were I to see what’s happened to the garden since I left, “You would cry, Dave.”
The gardens aren’t mine, they never were but I think he’s right.
* As I reach for the publish button on this post, I get another message from Nick. The honeysuckles are no more.