Garden Paths

December 28th, 2017 | 14 Comments »

As the end of the year approaches, I’m thinking about transitions. In  the context of gardens, transitions are often linked to paths. Paths lead you somewhere, either literally or metaphorically. They take you through different landscapes — meadows, forests, open fields — whose settings evoke different moods. They come in all shapes and sizes — grassy and gravel, broad and narrow, straight and curved. One path may lead to a specific place, another to nowhere in particular and yet a third to someplace unknown, a future waiting to be discovered.

Anyone visiting Glen Villa, my garden in Quebec, can walk for hours on the paths we’ve cut. One of the first I made led through the garden and into the woods and fields that surround us. One part of this path ran parallel to the drive, towards what would become the China Terrace.

 

Ragged robin, lupins and buttercups edge the path that leads to the China Terrace, the re-creation of Glen Villa Inn.
Ragged robin, lupins and buttercups edge the grassy path that leads to the China Terrace, the re-creation of the old resort hotel that gave Glen Villa its name.

 

Over the years we’ve cut more paths. One covered with wood chips leads through the fern woods, past memory posts I painted to honour my father and brother-in-law.

 

The memory posts were new when I took this photo. Now, the paint is peeling and the wood beginning to decay, completing a natural cycle.
The memory posts were new when I took this photo. Now, the paint is peeling and the wood beginning to decay, completing a natural cycle.

 

Another path strewn with leaves leads into the woods.

 

Our grandchildren know the paths well and often walk them on their own.
Our grandchildren know the paths well and often walk them on their own.

 

Some paths are lined with flowers.

 

Joe Pye weed grows abundantly in this wet area.
Joe Pye weed grows abundantly in this wet area.

 

Others are lined with trees.

 

This is one of many paths that lead through the woods.
This is one of many paths that lead through the woods.

 

Some are straight…

 

This path used to wiggle. I prefer it straight.
This gravel path used to wiggle. I straightened it to reflect the lines of our house.

 

… others gently curved.

 

This path leads through the Big Meadow beside the house.
This path leads through the Big Meadow beside the house.

 

Some paths are sunny and cheerful…

 

The bundled tree trunks were part of an installation called Ghost Walk.
When I first installed them, the bundled tree trunks made up an installation called Ghost Walk. They have now decayed so much that I will probably remove them this summer.

 

… others darkly mysterious.

 

Despite the appearance, I took this photo in July. I can't explain why, but photos of this area always make the pine needles look as if they are covered in snow.
Despite the appearance, I took this photo in July. I can’t explain why, but photos of this area always make the pine needles look as if they are covered in snow.

 

The newest path is The Avenue, a double line of crabapple trees we planted in November.  It leads straight through the field, to a springtime of bloom.

 

A blue sky day -- and a cold one, too. The temperature was -19C when I took this photo!
A blue sky day — and a cold one, too. The temperature was -19C when I took this photo!

 

Or so I hope.

But I can’t be sure. Because not all paths lead straight ahead. Some take us in circles, returning us to the place we started. Some take us to places we’d rather not see, others to sights that surprise and delight.

 

Where will this path take us, and what are those strange cones in the distance?
Where will this path take us, and what are those strange cones in the distance?

 

The journey is the thing. It can stretch our minds as well as our legs. And surely that is part of the pleasure.

Art in Winter

December 11th, 2017 | 18 Comments »
The shape of the crabapple tree becomes dramatic when outlined with snow.
I woke yesterday to a fine dusting of snow, and during the day more snow fell. Today it outlines the branches of the big oak tree by our boathouse and the old crabapple trees by the drive, emphasizing the contrast between rough bark and soft fluffy white.   [caption id="attachment_5887" align="aligncenter" width="3888"] The shape of the crabapple trees becomes dramatic when outlined with snow.[/caption]   The forecast calls for more snow to come, and as confirmation, the sky is grey. But once the snow stops and the barometer rises, the sky will be a clear, bright blue

Read More...

Malverleys: A Garden of Contrasts

November 27th, 2017 | 17 Comments »
Vivid colours appear in the hot border. Contrasts are more subtle in the cool-toned border but are still  dynamic and inventive.
Winter is almost here in Quebec, which means that not much is going on in the garden at Glen Villa. So instead of moaning about that, I'm remembering one of the gardens I visited in England last May. Malverleys is a large private estate, rarely open to the public, so the small group of gardeners who were on the tour I was hosting was fortunate to be able to visit. We were doubly fortunate to tour the garden in the company of Mat Reese, the head gardener. Anyone who subscribes to Gardens Illustrated, or

Read More...

Planting for Spring

November 14th, 2017 | 11 Comments »
Empty boxes and bags are proof that all the bulbs are now in the ground.
Last week my computer went on the blink and for three whole days, my typing fingers had a rest. The days off-line gave me time to do other things, but instead of using the time wisely, I wandered around feeling bereft. So it was only yesterday, when all was once again well on the computer front, that I ventured outside to plant bulbs. I should have done this weeks ago but the weather had been so fine, almost summer-like, that I kept putting it off. Until the snow fell.   [caption id="attachment_5837" align="aligncenter" width="3888"] Snow

Read More...

The Straight and (not very) Narrow

November 1st, 2017 | 23 Comments »
These crabapple trees in front of my daughter's house are Malus 'Dolgo.'
  When is a straight path not straight enough? When is it too narrow? Last March, I decided to transform an unused farm field into something spectacular by lining the path that ran through it  with crabapple trees. When the ground was barely thawed, I paced out the length to determine how many trees to order.   [caption id="attachment_5771" align="aligncenter" width="5169"] This path was a convenient short cut across a flat farm field.[/caption]   I was taken aback. We needed 100 trees, 50 each side, planted at 18 foot intervals. The number made me

Read More...

The Grandchildren Trees

October 24th, 2017 | 12 Comments »
One grandchild stands next to her tree along with her father.
The year after our first grandchild was born, we planted a maple tree in her honour. A few years later when our second grandchild was born, we did the same. We continued to do this. After each birth, another tree was planted. We planted the trees in a straight row, on the slope of an old farm field where the growing conditions were right -- plenty of sunshine and soil that wasn't too wet or too dry.  When the fifth grandchild was born, there wasn't enough room in the row, so we

Read More...

Giving Thanks

October 9th, 2017 | 15 Comments »
The foliage of this tree (Nyssa sylvatica) is always colourful in autumn but this is the first time I've seen it with two distinct colours.  Can anyone explain why this happens?
  Today is Thanksgiving day in Canada, and there is much to be thankful for. In the garden, colours are bright.   [caption id="attachment_5729" align="aligncenter" width="2820"] Sedum 'Autumn Joy' lives up to its name.[/caption]   Even when the flowers have faded, I'm thankful for work that's been done.  At the Aqueduct the catmint ( Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low') has been cut back, making the bed look more like a monk's shaved head than the overgrown mop of foliage it was only days ago.   [caption id="attachment_5743" align="aligncenter" width="5184"] Those stubs of nepeta between

Read More...

The Big Meadow, 2017

September 25th, 2017 | 8 Comments »
I took this photo near the end of July. The mown path remained green all summer, thanks to the amount of rain we received.
Is it accurate to call The Big Lawn at Glen Villa The Big Meadow? If you use an American definition, the answer is yes.  If you consult an English dictionary, the answer is less clear. Webster's Dictionary defines a meadow as a tract of low or level land producing grass which is mown for hay,  and that definition fits precisely. Allowing the sweep of grass beside our house that was tended for decades to remain untouched produced six large bales of hay last year, the first year we didn't mow regularly.  Those bales were

Read More...

Little Things Mean a Lot

September 18th, 2017 | 12 Comments »
The added height offers a different perspective on the Skating Pond.
Little things mean a lot, in the garden as well as in song. It's the little things that explain why we gardeners are always looking and re-looking. Shall I move this plant, modify this combination, add or subtract? This past week I've been changing some little things at the Skating Pond. After 12 years, a few boards on the boardwalk needed to be replaced. And changing some boards gave me the chance (the excuse?) to change a few more. Quite a few, as it turned out. Because what started as a tweak ended

Read More...

Michiko’s Garden

September 10th, 2017 | 4 Comments »
Striations in the rock suggest ripples in a stream.
Last week I visited a very special garden, where rock outcroppings enhanced with shade-loving plants create an atmosphere of deep serenity.   [caption id="attachment_5589" align="aligncenter" width="1425"] Polystichum, or Christmas fern, is found in shady woodlands throughout Quebec. Note the small patch of tiarella cordifolia, another indigenous plant, at the top of the photo.[/caption]   Developed over the last fifteen years by designer Michiko Gagnon, the garden is at the end of a cul-de-sac in Quebec's Eastern Townships, not far from the U.S. border. It's an idyllic setting, with an old farmhouse that she and

Read More...