What’s With the Weather?

July 26th, 2015 | 6 Comments »


Despite the bright sun that was shining half an hour ago, there’s a cloud bursting now, right outside my window. This cloudburst follows another one last night that knocked out our electricity and blew down three birch trees and a maple.


The trees that the storm blew down were big, but shallowly rooted.
The birch trees brought down the maple tree. All the trees were big but the birch trees were shallowly rooted.


Cloudbursts happen. Rain comes. But these storms are faster and fiercer than anything we are accustomed to here, in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Our rain is normally gentle. (Or persistent. Or non-existent. Or as variable as rain is in most locales.) But rarely do the winds blow and the clouds burst the way they have this summer.

Cloudbursts can cause damage, and not only to trees. The Aqueduct was designed to handle a normal flow of water, with a margin for more. But it can’t handle the amount of water that comes in these sudden storms.


Water exploding from the elevated channel hits the top of the gabion wall rather than falling into the small basin.
Water is supposed to fall down chains into the steel basin. Instead it was exploding from the elevated channel onto the top of the gabion wall, creating a roar and a mess.


The result? A hole in the carpet of sedum that tops the gabion wall.


I could show you a picture of the hole but a picture of the sedum is prettier. i
I could show you a picture of the hole but a picture of the sedum is prettier.


Yes, into every garden a little rain must fall. It’s necessary for the farmers, pleasant for the ducks and far from discouraging to the thistles in the Upper Field.


I'd like to see a bumper crop of something other than thistles, but thistles is what I've got.
I’d like to see a bumper crop of something other than thistles in the Upper Field, but thistles are what is growing best.


Still, rainbows come after the rain. (Can you tell I’m an optimist?)


What's this, a pink lake? Boys throwing sticks into the water? Is this paradise or what?
Who needs a pot of gold when the lake turns pink? Or when boys throw sticks into the water just for the fun of it?


Some storms bring benefits that are quite unexpected. Last fall, a wind storm blew the top off an old maple tree. Luckily the branches missed our house and the garage; even the Chinese pot in the little flower bed escaped unharmed. Instead of removing the trunk, I asked for ideas on what to do with it in a post titled Going and Coming.


The tree trunk is about 15 feet tall. The building behind it is our garage.
The tree trunk is about 15 feet tall and 118 years old. The building behind it is our garage.


You came up with some doozies — one of my favourite ideas was from Charlotte, a writer who suggested sharpening the end of the trunk like a pencil. Others suggested leaving it for insects and birds. But the most inspirational idea came from Liz who suggested cutting a wedge from the trunk to show the growth rings and following that with a ceremonial tree planting. Her suggestion settled it. I decided that a tree as old as the maple could not be removed. Rather it should be honoured, even venerated.

So this week I am beginning a new art installation called Tree Rings. Metal bands 9 feet in diameter will circle the tree, showing on the outside of the trunk the rings that normally are inside. Like these annual growth rings, the bands will vary in width. Some will be constructed of steel that rusts, others will be stainless steel. The stainless rings will be laser cut with dates and phrases that document important events in the life of the tree and what was happening around it, on the Glen Villa site.


One of the steel band is lying on the grass beside the driveway.
One of the steel band is lying on the grass beside the driveway.


I’ve been thinking about this project for some months now and I’m excited that it is finally time to begin. The passage from concept through planning to installation and completion is a challenging one.  There are always more details to iron out than I anticipate, and more than I like to deal with.
Getting the details right means spending time at the drawing board, talking to the metal workers, sitting and looking at the space and the tree within in. That’s the best part, because it means I’m my garden, my piece of paradise.
My grass snake reaching for the apple reminds me that my garden is not paradise. But it comes awfully close.
My grass snake reaching for the apple reminds me that my garden is not paradise. But it comes awfully close.

And whenever I’m there, I’m content. Regardless of the weather.

Before and After: A New Entry for Glen Villa

July 19th, 2015 | 21 Comments »
A month ago, the area at the top of the front steps at Glen Villa looked like this. [caption id="attachment_2534" align="aligncenter" width="1224"] This view shows the driveway and the parking area in front of the house. The house itself is out of the frame to the right.[/caption]   Now it looks like this. [caption id="attachment_2548" align="aligncenter" width="1224"] Stones in gabion baskets create a more interesting wall that better suits the architecture of the house.[/caption]     We built the drystone wall that appears in the 'before' picture a few years after we moved


Evaluating the Skating Pond

July 14th, 2015 | 12 Comments »
The Skating Pond was an accident. I didn't set out to make a pond, for skating or anything else. But that's what happened. The genesis for the project was an old covered bridge that played a part in my husband's boyhood. In 2001 vandals burned it down. Seeing the remains, my husband felt as if he'd lost a piece of his past. So we asked our friends, the sculptors Louise Doucet and Satoshi Saito, to resurrect the twisted pieces of steel that by that time were supporting the bridge. The result is


Following My Tree: July

July 10th, 2015 | 9 Comments »
A fully-grown tree doesn't change that much in a short time, or so you may think. But compare two photos of the linden, or basswood, tree (Tilia americana) that stands in my Quebec garden, Glen Villa. I took the first photo on June 13. [caption id="attachment_2454" align="aligncenter" width="1224"] The linden tree at the end of the Big Lawn looked quite perky on June 13, 2015.[/caption]   I took the second one two days ago, on July 8. [caption id="attachment_2455" align="aligncenter" width="1127"] The linden tree on July 8, 2015 has a sadder air.[/caption]  


Planting in Circles: The Yin/Yang

July 6th, 2015 | 16 Comments »
One of the first projects I tackled after we moved into Glen Villa in the late 1990s was what has become the Yin/Yang. A low, circular stone wall on the Big Lawn was full of overgrown highbush cranberry bushes. (I wish I had a photo to show you, but I don't.) I loved the bushes with their brightly coloured berries. I loved the birds they attracted. But they were too tall. The relationship between the wall and the shrubs was out of whack. Way out. I considered pruning them to lower the