A study in black and white, bowed and broken

December 30th, 2013 | 10 Comments »

After several more days of snow, our landscape is a study in black, white, and grey…

Birch trees on the hillside: an arrangement in grey and black,
minus Whistler’s mother.

with the occasional touch of green…

Spruce trees in the lower field

and yellow.

A touch of yellow on a broken ash tree.

So many trees are bowed…

Oak, maple, ash and spruce lean dangerously over the driveway.

or broken.

That stump used to be the bottom of a Schubert cherry tree.

The linden, a perfectly formed Platonic idea of treeness, is spreading dangerously. We will use cables to centre the weight of the branches.

Will it split? Please, no!

Heavy branches on the oak that we pruned so carefully in the summer are now leaning down to the ground, and the lopped off bits at the top are horribly visible.

The oak tree looks sad. So do I.

One of the old maples, planted over a hundred years ago in the days of Glen Villa Inn, has lost another major branch.

This old maple is now more trunk than tree.
Is it time to remove it entirely, letting it end its life with dignity?

The leader on the phellodendron is broken. Perhaps the tree will survive but I doubt she will be shapely.

The berries indicate that this tree is a she tree.
The three males around her are, happily, in good form.

And what about the huge ash tree that threatens to complete its fall and block our driveway? Every time I pass underneath, I hold my breath.

Thanks to the maple on the right, the ash tree has not yet finished falling.
More chain sawing is required.

Still, touches of natural beauty are there, waiting to be seen. This birch catkins, breaking free of the ice, is one.

Icy branches and a birch catkin topped with snow

The sun (on the one day it shone) glinting on the barbed wire that entangles the Abenaki walkers is another.

Abenaki Walking: an art installation by
Patterson Webster

And I can’t forget the apple at the top of the grass snake. It hangs there, summer and winter, red and shiny, waiting to be picked. The perfect symbol of imperfection in a garden.

The grass snake in winter:
a shaggy reptile in need of a haircut.
His eyes and tongue are hidden under the snow.

It’s too soon to know what long-term damage the ice storm will do. Perhaps the linden will recover, the oak tree produce new branches to replace the old. Perhaps. But the forecast isn’t good: freezing rain instead of snow.

And once I said I liked winter!

The dangerous beauty of ice

December 26th, 2013 | 8 Comments »
For the first time since I started writing this blog, a post is late, and by several days. Oh, well, it's the holidays, you may think. But no, for almost a year now, I've managed a timely entry despite holidays, vacations and intense pressures to come away from the computer and enjoy myself. So it's not Christmas that has delayed things, it's the weather. Until yesterday morning, December 25, we had no power. For 72 hours, Glen Villa was dark unless the sun was shining. We had no internet, so no


Extreme gardening

December 17th, 2013 | 7 Comments »
How hard can it be to go from this... On the beach in Perth, West Australia to this? A snowy day at Glen Villa Very hard! But it is even harder to go to this… Montreal on a cold win'ter's day: the view from my apartment window When I left Perth, West Australia, on Friday, December 13,  the temperature was 35C (or 95 fahrenheit) -- and climbing. When, after some 30 hours of travel, I arrived in Montreal it was still Friday, December 13. The temperature was -22C (or about


The Royal Botanical Garden, Sydney Australia

December 9th, 2013 | 26 Comments »
Sydney's Royal Botanical Garden is smack dab in the center of this vibrant and energetic city. Farm Cove, the first farm in Australia, was located on the site, which means its European-influenced history dates back to 1788 when the first fleet of convicts arrived from England. Traces of this convict past are still visible in the Macquarie Culvert, a drain or channel crossing built in 1816 by convicts from handmade sandstone bricks. Now the culvert forms the foundation of a small bridge over a stream that runs through the Gardens. Apparently this is


Another side of Tasmania

December 2nd, 2013 | 4 Comments »
Tasmania has a wild side, where native vegetation flourishes. It also has a cultivated side, full of bits and pieces of a colonial past. Some of those pieces are idyllic, like this riverside scene that could, at a glance, be almost anywhere in England.. A riverside scene at Nant Distillery, where very good whiskies are produced. Others pieces are less salubrious, despite their English look-alike gardenesque appeal. The formal garden at Port Arthur: no convicts allowed The photo above comes from one of Tasmania's grimmest locations, the convict settlement at Port


Tasmania: lots of flora and a fauna

November 24th, 2013 | 6 Comments »
Looking at the photo below, it would be easy to think you were in Canada or somewhere in the mountains in the United States, walking alongside a clear, untroubled lake. For a moment you might wonder at the colour or the patterning on the bark of the fallen tree, but any differences from normal would be easy to overlook.  A typical mountain lake: but where is it? If you walked a short distance beyond the lake, you'd come across vegetation similar to many high altitude areas, where winds sweep the ground clear


Ornamental grasses, Part 3: What not to do (unless you want a good laugh)

November 17th, 2013 | 3 Comments »
My first attempt to use ornamental grasses was in a section of the garden I call the yin yang. An old resort hotel once stood on the property (to my amazement, I find I haven't written about that... must do so soon. ) In front of the hotel was a low circular stone wall. Horse-drawn carriages would drop guests off at the front door of the inn, then proceed around the circle and head back out the drive. The stone circle is on the left. When we moved into Glen


It’s Raining: David Francey at Glen Villa Gardens

November 11th, 2013 | 9 Comments »
This post comes with a link to Rain, a music video filmed at Glen Villa and in and around North Hatley, Quebec where I live. The video features Canadian folk singer-songwriter David Francey. As you will hear from his accent, David was born in Scotland and immigrated to Canada as a boy. For some years he lived just down the road from us, and his wife Beth, a biologist, helped me learn to 'read' the woods that surround us. David won the John Lennon prize and has received multiple Juno Awards.


Ornamental Grasses, Part 2: at the Lake and the Skating Pond

November 5th, 2013 | 12 Comments »
I've been using ornamental grasses for about ten years now, and I've used them in various parts of the garden, including at the aqueduct, which I wrote about last week. One of the first places I put them was on the hill that slopes down to the lake. The plants, ordinary miscanthus sinensis, were a reasonable size when I planted them; now the small clump has grown to cover a large area, as I've divided and spread them out several times. Dividing miscanthus -- a hard day's work. Environmental regulations


Ornamental grasses: Part 1, at the aqueduct

October 27th, 2013 | 4 Comments »
I don't know when ornamental grasses began to gain popularity but I'd say that 20-25 years ago, few gardeners used them regularly. Thanks among others to designers like Piet Oudolf from Holland and James van Sweden and Wolfgang Oehme in the U.S., perennial grasses have become popular staples in many gardens. Their fluidity suits a looser, more naturalistic approach to garden design; in turn this more naturalistic approach reflects a modified view of what gardens are, or can be, and how gardens relate to the landscape around them.I first planted an ornamental