Two weeks ago I looked back at Glen Villa to see what I accomplished in 2015. Last week I reviewed the gardens I visited during the year. So as we approach the new year, the topic of today’s post is almost inevitable: my garden plans for 2016.
Announcing goals has positive and negative aspects. Seeing something that is clear in your mind become reality can be extremely satisfying, whether the transformation is in the garden or somewhere else, far removed. The prospect is exciting even when the amount of work involved — planning, executing and modifying as needed — is taken into account.
The negative side to announcing goals comes when your plans don’t turn out as you expect. Or they don’t happen at all. Sometimes time runs out, sometimes money, sometimes the vision itself is unrealistic.
But announcing goals, whether publicly or in private, has a way of focusing attention. Deciding from all the many things I want to do which are really important makes me set priorities, something I am generally loathe to do.
So here they are, TEN goals for Glen Villa in 2016.
1. The Cascade: I want to modify the plantings around the cascade so they are more in keeping with the strong lines of the new gabion wall. This means simplifying the number and type of plants I use. It also means improving the drainage and the soil in the beds themselves so that these plants have a better chance of thriving.
We started this work in November. (Is it cheating to set this as a goal when I’ve already started?) We removed the gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides) that was spreading too vigourously, the blue lyme grass (Leymus arenarius) that was supposed to spread but didn’t, and the ligularia (Ligularia dentata ‘ Britt Marie Crawford’) that had sulked for several years. We left in place the spirea that tumbles and sprays like the water in the cascade itself and the staghorn sumac and hemlocks that provide a backdrop for the area. We improved the drainage and repositioned the rocks before adding compost and good topsoil.
What to plant in the spring in that big empty section is the next questions. I tried Physocarpus ‘Summer Wine’ this year and it seemed to like the location, and — surprisingly — it wasn’t bothered by the deer. I liked seeing Persicaria micrcephala ‘Purple Fantasy’ in front of ‘Summer Wine,’, so I’ll probably add more of both. Still, I haven’t made up my mind, so if you have suggestions, let me know.
2. The Egg: This area was among the first I designed at Glen Villa. Some fifteen or more years later, it is in desperate need of a total rethink. I intended to do this in 2014 and in 2015. I’m determined to get to it this time around.
My problem is deciding what to do. Initially The Egg was a tribute to my origins in Virginia and I want to retain that connection. At the same time, I want to transform a generalized reference into a memorial for my mother who was a Virginian through and through, proud of her family and proud of the communities she was a part of.
I started work on this area in early December during the unusual spell of warm weather that extended the gardening season for well over a month. (Another instance of cheating? Or can I just say I jumped the gun?) I haven’t done much yet, only cleaned up the area and levelled the previously sloped ground.
I have a germ of an idea for the memorial that involves a bench and a tree and I hope the idea will become clearer as I ponder and plan. Boxwood, in my mind the quintessential Virginia plant, will definitely remain part of the memorial, as it was of The Egg.
3. The Gravel Garden: This was a new project in 2015. In 2016 I will evaluate the plants I chose, replacing whatever doesn’t make it through the winter. I will add some brown-toned gravel to the grey gravel that is there now to make the area blend more compatibly with the stone walls of the house. I want to define the edge more precisely and I may enlarge the space. Zen-like rocks may find a place here, too.
4. New Pots for the Deck: In 2015 I simplified the plants on the dining room deck, moving from an exuberant mix of colours to a calm row of boxwood. I want to extend this simplification to the deck on the other side of the house, replacing the hodgepodge of pots and plants there now with a cleaner, more modern approach. I envision metal pots, irregularly shaped and angular, of varying heights and widths.
The colour of the pots remains a question. Currently I’m vacillating between grey/black, shiny green or some other colour entirely. Turquoise and mustard to tone in with the Chinese pot and the lions on the adjacent log terrace are possibilities, but I fear those colours would limit the plant choices. On the other hand, if I could find the perfect plants, the colour combination could be amazing.
5. A Fence for The China Terrace: For several years now, the deer have wrecked havoc on the plants I’ve used at the entry to The China Terrace. I need a fence. Over the winter months I will design something that fits with the idea of a Victorian era hotel, that also protects the plants and allows them to grow. A combination of wood and copper would be ideal since I’ve used those materials elsewhere on The China Terrace, on the window frames and staircase.
Since the fence will cross the path that leads into the China Terrace, I need a gate. I’d be delighted to find an interesting one in some junk shop somewhere but more than likely I will have to design one and have it made. Luckily, this is a job that my go-to guys, Jacques and Ken, can do.
6. The Lower Garden: The planting in the beds along the lake needs to be freshened up. Hydrangeas do well here and I want to replace the old ones with newer varieties that will provide earlier and longer bloom. I want to keep the Astilbe ‘Fanal’ and the Aralia ‘Sun King’ I planted last summer and will group them in and around the hydrangeas.
7. The Upper Field: The Upper Field is gorgeous in early summer when buttercups turn the field to gold. Later in the season part of the field turns purple/blue, thanks to the Canadian thistle that seeded itself and continues to spread. I want to encourage fewer thistles and more colour, in mid-summer and later. Since part of the field is quite wet, Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum) should do well. We have lots of it elsewhere on the property so in the spring I’ll transplant as much as I can and let it spread on its own. I’d like to add other umbellifers — possibly wild carrot or cow parsley or yarrow — and something spiky that will seed around as it likes.
8. Art projects: I am working on two art projects. One should be finished in January — I was hoping to have it ready for Christmas but that just didn’t happening — and its colour may affect my choice of colour for the pots on the deck. The second project, inspired by some ruins in the woods, will develop gradually over several years, although the outlines of the project are already in place.
9. The Big Lawn: Transforming the Big Lawn into the Big Meadow will take several years. 2016 will be a year of experimentation. I intend to let the grass grow, to see what appears. Perhaps I’ll edit out some of the more unattractive elements and replace them with native grasses or wildflowers, but I hope editing won’t be necessary since once you start, it’s hard to stop. Going through the transition phase without changing my mind will be difficult. It’s like letting your hair grow out after you stop colouring it — there’s a time when the roots look so bad, you almost give in and colour it again. Changing this area without ploughing and replanting is a major challenge that will require determination and perseverance.
10. Garden Visits: No year would be complete without visiting other gardens, wherever they may be. I want to return to the Reford Gardens in Métis, Québec for my biennial injection of excitement — the result of seeing the work of talented designers from around the world exploring exciting ideas in imaginative ways. I’ll be hosting two garden tours in 2016. In May our small group will visit gardens in the home counties around London; in September I’ll be travelling to Scotland and the north of England, repeating this year’s successful tour with a new group of men and women.
Have you set goals for 2016 or do you decide what you are going to do as the year goes on? If you set goals or make lists — which for me amounts to almost the same thing — are you willing to share them?
Let me share a final goal, that goes out to all of you. May 2016 be a happy and healthy year, full of gardening pleasures!