North Hatley in Bloom

August 25th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

This week I was a judge in the North Hatley in Bloom contest. Organized by the town council, the contest is designed to encourage residents and commercial establishments to beautify the town and ‘up’ curbside appeal.

Judging almost anything presents challenges. With clear rules and categories, the process can be easy. But sometimes judges have personal biases, or different interpretations of rules, or dominant personalities that overwhelm opposing ideas.

Luckily, this was not the case for North Hatley in Bloom. We judges agreed rather easily, because we shared a similar sense of what is appropriate to the context of a small village in a primarily rural setting. There were three categories, residential, commercial and container plantings, and we were asked to choose finalists and winners in each.

North Hatley is often named as one of the most beautiful villages in Quebec. It is small — some 700 year round residents. In the summer, though, the population swells to perhaps twice that number. The summer people, many of whom have been coming here for generations, come primarily from the United States, and their influence shows in the architecture of the summer cottages…

One of the old summer cottages along Lake Massawippi

and the year-round houses.

A house in the village, complete with picket fence

It shows in public and private buildings, including the one that used to be known as the ‘American’ club.

The brown shingles are typical of this area and of the period when the building was constructed —
around 1900.

North Hatley is a village with an old-fashioned air, and residents want it to remain that way. A bandstand sits in the centre of the village, on a small strip of lakeside property. Sunday concerts are a tradition: families and passers-by come to picnic on the grass while the band plays on.

The bandstand in the park was the gift of a local family.

Public buildings maintain this style. Plantings around them are appropriately cottage-style, whether those plantings are found around churches (there are four in the village), the library…

The land for the library was donated by another local family;
the money for the building by a summer family.

business establishments …

Shops on Main Street, North Hatley, Quebec

or around the hotels and B&Bs that house summer and winter visitors.

The village’s finest hotel is Manoir Hovey, a member of the prestigious group, Relais et Chateaux.
The garden is lovely throughout the summer.

Houses are not very different. They range from large and grand to tiny and simple, but most, if not all, are built following traditional designs. Regardless of style or size, all houses were considered and judged, as were the commercial establishments and container plantings, on what we judges could see from the street. The selection of plants and the quality of maintenance were important considerations but the overall effect was what influenced us most.

A beach house, surrounded with flowers
that harmonize with the building.

Very few gardens went beyond the expected. Since we were judging in late August, rudbeckia, phlox and hydrangeas dominated. Occasionally, something more adventurous appeared, like this unusual combination in front of a newly built house …

An unsusual planter sits atop the steps in front of a new house.

or this creeping thyme that drooped languidly over a low stone wall.

New plantings surround an old village house.
Traditionally, walls in this area are made of round field stones. 

Winners have not been announced, so I won’t name any finalists or winners. But if I could name a single winner, it would be the town itself. Boxes on the old railway bridge…

Summer on the lake is blissful.

hanging planters on lamp standards and ‘window’ boxes on the bandstand in the park …

The plantings around the bandstand and elsewhere in the village are very well maintained.

all add to the appeal of the village as a whole. So I send a big bravo! to the town council and the people who make the village the delightful place it is. I also say thank you! for organizing the contest which draws attention to the significant role that horticulture can play in improving the enviroment.

Less is More… more or less.

August 18th, 2014 | 5 Comments »
A few weeks ago I wrote about The Big Rock and my plan to simplify the plantings around it, using a  lesson I learned from touring gardens in Italy. We haven't tackled that project yet. But we have tackled another area, applying the same principles of simplicity and balance to great effect.Beside the drive coming into the house is a large stand of spruce, planted there some 50 years ago. They are tall regal trees that mark a transition from open farm field to forested hillside. Until last week, they were


The Aqueduct, 2014

August 11th, 2014 | 6 Comments »
Last year was the summer of The Aqueduct: a series of mishaps, course corrections, and headaches that resulted in what I believe is a triumph of landscape art and design.This overview of the main portion of The Aqueduct dates from summer 2013.Those of you who were reading Site and Insight last summer may remember the problems we had, catalogued here, here, here, and here. You may remember a passing reference I made earlier this summer about haste making waste, as a hurried decision made last fall proved to be too awful


Following my Tree: August

August 3rd, 2014 | 13 Comments »
Corylus avenllana is the proper name of the tree I am following, corkscrew hazel is its common name, and Harry Lauder's Walking Stick is its nickname.This nickname was what attracted me to the plant many years ago. That and a photo of a full-grown plant.This photo of a full grown contorted hazel is from the on-line site Dave's Garden.I loved the twisted branches and knew it would be an outstanding plant in winter months, with the contorted branches silhouetted against the snow. Plus I was intrigued by the name. Who was