I Capsize The Island

Three or four years ago, I planted a little corkscrew willow on a little island in the east pond.  Which isn’t news; I’ve written about it before.

Capsize the Island (2)

May 2015 (with Despondent behind)

The little tree liked its little island-home, flourished and grew quickly – as corkscrew willows (Salix matsudana ‘Tortuosa’) are prone to do anyway.  And it formed a nice feature on a pile of bricks and a bit of earth in the middle of an expanse of clear water.

Capsize the Island (3)

April 2017

And I was pleased.

But then.

A couple of weeks ago, I arrived at The Priory and began my day with a walk about the grounds.  I like to wander about first thing, clean my boots in the dew and check what’s what: has my Gunnera manicata finally become an Amazonian-sized monster? (nope); have deer chewed a favoured shrub or tree? (probably); is the rose-tunnel stunning? (rarely); do the long borders look good? (sometimes); have rabbits broken into the garden? (not for two or three years actually); any mole-hills on the east lawn? (occasionally); do the bird-feeders need filling? (almost always); and I also threw a brief indulgent glance at my graceful and now not-so-little-tree.

Capsize the Island (6)

Please don’t mention the summer duckweed. I don’t like to talk about it

Damn.  The willow had pitched head-first into the water and the island, no longer able to support the tree’s increased weight, had tipped over.  Well, I wasn’t expecting that.

Capsize the Island (8)

When I’ve got a moment, I’ll haul the heavy boat, Despondent, from where she currently lies on the other side of the garden (picture Humphrey Bogart dragging the African Queen), and paddle out on an adventure.  I’ll saw off the willow trunk and hope the tree re-shoots and grows tall once more  and straight.

And if in a few years time the tree dives into the pond again, never mind.  It will be the perfect excuse to launch Despondent and indulge in some more messing about in a boat.

Silver linings.

An End To March

I’m taking a short break from ‘The Anxious Gardener‘ but meanwhile, and after months of winter drear, it seems a shame not to share some images from the last days of March.


Daffodils aren’t around for long but The Priory’s brief show is hearty.  I’m so used to their regular, faithful appearance that I don’t even bother photographing many of them any more.

February Gold

(But I made an exception a month ago for Narcissus ‘February Gold’ – which lived up to its name with about a day to spare).

Daffodils (2)

I’ve written before about the dozen or so varieties I’ve planted since 2008 but many Priory daffs pre-date my arrival and, names unknown, continue to thrive.

spring bank (4)

I have an irresistible urge to show the bank below the greenhouses at this time of year.

spring bank (3)

Other than now-over crocuses and snowdrops, I haven’t added anything to this slope.  But unlike the previous gardener, I don’t strim it; at least not until the autumn.  How he strimmed this splendour is beyond me.

spring bank (2)

I say every year how I love this bank in springtime and especially so as I do nothing to it … other than that one autumnal strim.


The big weeping willows are coming into leaf and another irresistible urge is to lie down beneath them and, fighting to keep my eyes open, clear my head for a few moments to appreciate scale that most gardens can’t accommodate.


A month or so ago, I cut off all the leaves on my bergenias.  You don’t have to but I don’t like the black-splotchy old leaves and prefer to start the season with a clean slate: fresh green leaves, clearly visible flower stalks.  But do as you like – I shan’t judge.

Magnolia stellata (2)

I’ve only ever known one Magnolia stellata intimately.  The Priory’s is a little tree and only reaches my chest.  It has barely grown taller during the nine years of our intimacy.  In the past, its flowers have been browned by frost but this year they are unblemished.

Magnolia stellata (1)

Other than giving it an ericaceous feed (about now), a winter mulch of leaf-mould and keeping its planting square free of weeds, I leave it be.  I’ve never pruned it.

Magnolia stellata

It’s a beauty and when I finally settle into a house for good, with no plans to move, I shall plant one (and hope for lichen too).  And honestly, there aren’t many trees or shrubs I can say that about.

Male pheasant fighting (2)

Male pheasants make an awful racket in March.  It is particularly their loud, short, territorial proclamation that makes me jump and sets my teeth on edge.

Male pheasant fighting (1)

These two were having a protracted battle for the Bird Feeder Territory.   The scatterings from the feeders make this the must-have territory.

Male pheasant fighting (4)

Their sporadic fighting drifted back and forth across the lawn, including a dunk in the pond.

Male pheasant fighting (3)

I don’t know who won the war but I suspect whoever did, will end up the fatter of the two.


Wood anemones are another rich reward for not mowing and not strimming – though you can see where I cut a path to the bridge when mowing starts again.

Canada goose (2)

Every spring, at least one pair of Canada geese arrive to pooh on the lawns and honk repeatedly.  They honk a lot, Canada geese.  And pooh.

Canada goose

Their arrival is as much a spring marker as any number of daffodils and anemones.


By the greenhouse, one of my few auriculars flowered on Friday.  I love auriculars – as perfect a flower as I could wish for.  And I love how they almost stare back at you, demanding your approval.  An approval I give readily.