What a difference: seven years and counting

June 29th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

Last year when a group came to visit Glen Villa, I asked them what I could do to make a future visit more enjoyable. Provide a map, they said. So I have.

A very kind friend has revised the map of Glen Villa produced in 2007 to bring it in line with what is on the ground today. Here is the version from 2007.

This wonderfully hand-drawn map of Glen Villa dates from 2007.

Here is the new one.

This is the 2014 version. Differences are subtle, but substantial.

At first glance the two maps may look the same. But they aren’t. Some of the differences are in the way information is presented: the numbers that refer to different features started at the road in the 2007 map, and now the numbers start from the cascade near the house. The dotted red line that indicates the route through the garden has changed as well.

These changes are cosmetic. The bigger changes that have occurred in the intervening years mean that the map needs to be re-done entirely. But in the meantime, my friend  Françoise was kind enough to change what she could. She has removed The Big Chair since it no longer sits in the Upper Field beside the Skating Pond. She removed the printed reference to the Oak Spiral, although the shape still appears in the drawing in the Lower Field. “Top of the World” has also disappeared. (To be honest, it was never there. When the map was drawn, I had an idea for  a project  that never materialized, and at this point I believe it never will. So the name is gone, if not the memory of the idea.)

The biggest changes are the features added in the last seven years, and these don’t appear on the new map.  The Aqueduct is the biggest addition to the garden proper. Readers who were following this blog last summer will be familiar with the headaches this project caused in the making. I’m delighted to say that is working well now, and provides pleasure every day.

The harsh orange will soften over the next few months.
The juniper on the bank is spreading nicely.

(I won’t show you photos of the final section, the little pond above the boathouse, or at least not yet. I made a BIG mistake when I rushed to finish this work last fall. The modifications are almost finished and will probably become the subject of blog post about haste making waste.)

Other additions are more subtle. The deer fences I designed and installed last summer aren’t shown on the new map, although I wish they were. In terms of vegetation, these fences are significant. Shrub borders that used to look like this…..
Nice autumn colours in this photo, but not much else of interest.
now look like this. What the deer can’t reach finally has a chance to grow.
This is one of two enclosed areas in the Upper Field.
The shrubs need a few years to grow to full size and should look wonderful when they do.
The fences in the Asian Meadow are also working wonders, but in different ways. The material echoes the rusted metal of Bridge Ascending, the large sculpture that stands in the adjacent field, while the shape mimics the zigzag fence that surrounds the picnic area. 
The deer fences add structure to the open meadow.
I installed the fences to protect shrubs from the deer, and they perform that task very nicely. They also corral plants the deer don’t like, such as these allium that poked their heads up in mid-June. 
I plan to add more allium, so that the flower heads will float from inside the fences to the grassy meadow beyond.
I’ll remove the iris I planted inside the fences: by the time they bloomed, the grass hid them completely. 

The biggest changes in the years between the two maps, though, are the art installations I’ve created. The first was Webster’s Column, a tribute to my husband when he retired after 50 years as a journalist. During those years he was a reporter, editor, and, for many years, a columnist. So a column filled with newspapers seemed appropriate.

The column sits on a granite base inscribed with names of places from which he reported.
On the stainless steel are quotations about journalists (rarely favourable) and about journalism in general.

Abenaki Walking and In Transit/En Route are two art installations that respond to a shift in my own interests, from gardening to larger, more conceptual ideas about landscape. Increasingly, I’m exploring how history and the passage of time affect the land and the people who live on it.

Abenaki Walking is a history-based installation that considers the first inhabitants of this area, the Abenaki Indians. It gives an overview of their story from creation…

The Abenaki believe the world was created on the back of a turtle.
The post on the turtle’s back represents chaos, or the time before creation.

through the arrival of European settlers….

This chilly view of the Abenaki ‘Walkers’ shows how their movement across the land was restricted
by fences and barbed wire after European settlers arrived.
The post on the right shows the affect of disease: it is painted with the smallpox bacillus that killed so many.

to the present day.

This part of the installation is called Ghost Walk, since few Abenaki survive today.
I am leaving the bundles to rot gradually.
The lupins are self-seeded.

In Transit/En Route explores ideas about aging and the passage of time. Like Abenaki Walking, this installation covers a lot of ground, both literally and metaphorically. Signs posted along a trail through the forest offer views onto the landscape and ask questions that may be easy to answer but difficult to read.

French and English phrases are run-on, making the questions difficult to decipher.
And that’s the point: to slow you down.
And are the questions really easy to answer? Not for me.

The clearing at the end of the path is a sundial; the shadow of a dead tree marks the hours.

The shadow falls on a post.
Count the red lines to determine what time it was when I took this photo.

Perhaps the most significant indication of my change in direction is this sculpture, Coup de Foudre.

Coup de Foudre, 2013

It was made last year for a client whose house, struck by lightning, burned to the ground. He and his family love this area and come here regularly although they live in California, thousands of kilometres away. They rebuilt their house and commissioned this piece, whose title has a double meaning: coup de foudre means love at first sight, but it also refers to a lightning bolt.

That’s how I feel about Glen Villa, about the art I’m creating and the work I’ve been doing on the land over these last seven years. I feel as if I’ve been struck with lightning, energized, given new chances to do new things. And there’s no question about the results. I am deep in love with every moment of it.

Visiting Gardens

June 22nd, 2014 | 4 Comments »
A group of serious gardeners will be visiting Glen Villa on July 2 and I've been busy getting the garden in shape. This takes time and effort, as every gardener knows, and the results never seem good enough. Particularly in large gardens, there is always too much to do and not enough time to do it. This year that is truer than usual: the late and very wet spring, not to mention extra clean-up from the January ice storm, have put me way behind schedule.Adding to the pressure to have the


Gardening on the Wild Side

June 15th, 2014 | 4 Comments »
When I look at the wildflowers blooming in the fields and woods at Glen Villa, I wonder why I plant a garden at all. How can I hope to compete with this?Buttercups turn the Upper Field to gold.The partially visible metal structure is a sculpture called Bridge Ascending,by Louise Doucet and Satoshi Saito. Simple buttercups now cover the field, splendidly cheerful en masse, and so yellow and shiny that they brighten the dullest day and lift the heaviest spirits.There are many varieties of buttercups. I haven't tried to determinewhich this one is.This past


Following my tree: June

June 8th, 2014 | 15 Comments »
Finally the corkscrew hazel (Corylus avellana 'Red Majestic') has leafed out.The colour and texture of these leaves caught my eye last year.Impulse buying: not a great idea.The rich deep burgundy leaves are the main reason I bought the small tree last year. The leaves and the wonderfully contorted branches.The twisted branches create a confusing outline on the small tree, but in a close-up they are fabulous.As a small tree, the corkscrew hazel looks quite silly, in my opinion. When it's bigger, will it be better? A photo sent by a friend from Newfoundland shows her


Identifying spring wildflowers: why bother?

June 1st, 2014 | 6 Comments »
My last two posts have been about some of the Italian gardens I visited recently while leading a small group of women on a 9-day tour. I still have a lot to write about what I saw, and what I thought of it, but in the Eastern Townships in Quebec, where my garden Glen Villa is located, it is full, glorious spring. Finally.Crabapple trees bloom in the lower field, by the old split rail fence.The daffodils are like icing on the cake of spring.Or rather, it was spring. The season