Advice I’m Giving Myself

After a month-long break from blogging, I’m back writing and thinking about my garden goals for 2020. And I’m giving myself some stern advice.

Don’t try to do too much!

Was I crazy to set myself six big goals for 2020? Clearly the answer is yes. Already I can see that completing two of those goals is next to impossible. I know I won’t be fencing in the Lower Garden and I doubt I will do much to extend Timelines, the trail that explores questions about memory, identity and our relationship to the land.

I have been working on three other goals, though, the Sundial, the China Terrace and the design for a garden near the newly-rebuilt hotel foundation wall. While winter is here, I’m doing all I can to prepare so that once the snow  melts and the ground dries up enough, I’ll be ready to begin installation.

I’ve ordered a laser-cut steel band to replace the black plastic tubing that encircles the Sundial, the part of Timelines called In Transit/En Route.


This is the Sundial Clearing. The shadow of a dead pine tree marks the hours of the day.
The black plastic tubing was an inexpensive way to define the perimeter of the Sundial where the shadow of a dead pine tree marked the hours of the day.













I’ve talked to Rock of Ages, our local granite quarry, about finding a suitably shaped hunk of rock to replace the dead pine tree that served as the gnomon until high winds toppled it last fall. This is the sort of rock I’m looking for.


I found this photo on-line and failed to note where it came from. My apologies to the source.
I found this photo on-line and failed to note where it came from. My apologies to the source.


I’m not trying to reproduce Stonehenge or any other neolithic stone circle, but I do want to install an upright stone, not one that has been cut but one that has split naturally. A jagged rock has its own beauty and its unevenly edged shadow hitting regularly shaped painted posts will underline contrasts that illustrate ideas about time itself: immobility and movement as well as solidity and immateriality.

Completing work on the China Terrace was another goal.  To renovate the dining room table I needed replacements for the plates which had become so broken by freezing and thawing that their shape was almost unrecognizable. I considered using different plates but I resisted — the ones there now are those we used when our children were growing up and I really wanted to keep the connection between the past and the present. I found four plates with the same pattern quite quickly but needed eight. And as of this week, I found them!

Now I have to replace the glasses or goblets. They were quite beautiful when new …


We added these glasses to the dining room table in 2008. The table looks quite raw here compared to its appearance in 2017.
We added these glasses to the dining room table in 2008.


but now, the  stems have broken and the glasses can’t even stand up. The ones pictured above lasted twelve years so I may duplicate them or I may design something else, either with a different shape or using a different material.


This photo from 2017 shows how the glasses are aging. They are in much worse shape now, three years later.
This photo from 2017 shows how both the glasses and the table itself have aged.


A third goal was to decide where and what to plant near the  foundation wall of Glen Villa Inn, the old resort hotel that once stood on our property. Thanks to my friend, the landscape architect Myke Hodgins who heads up HETA in Montreal, I now have a ground plan and a concept for the area.  Best of all, the concept gave me a name: the North South garden. (More on that in posts to come.)


The wall is partly buried in snow now but by the end of March I should be able to take the next step on-site.
The wall is partly buried in snow now but by the end of March I should be able to take the next step on-site.


A name for this new area in the garden is a start, but designing the garden and choosing the plants will take time and effort. Combining this project with the others I’ve embarked on makes me wonder again if I’m trying to do too much. It’s easy to tell myself not to. The question remains:  can I follow my own advice?







  • Lisa Wagner

    The updates for the Sundial sound wonderful (and quite doable). And how great to find the additional replacement places for the China Terrace, too, and I like the way the original goblets looked, but doing something different seems doable, too.

    I definitely like your reminder of not trying to do too much, and with the size of your landscape, it is easy to think about! I’d think depending on the amount of help you have, getting the structure established for the foundation wall garden would be doable, too, and an interesting project, too, to decide on what evokes the spirit of that place.

    Such wonderful projects to contemplate. Are you planning to have your garden open again as a benefit this summer?

    I’m facilitating a workshop in mid-March around tapping into the creative side of gardening (based on Fran Sorin’s book) and something I just read (that she wrote) reminded me that encouraging folks to pay attention to what they “deeply desire” in their garden —opening to possibility, is something not to forget to mention. It’s such a fundamental part of rewarding garden-making.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about your upcoming projects.

    • siteandinsight

      I found the replacement plates in France! The cost of mailing was larger than the plates themselves but together they were still very reasonable so I bit the bullet and ordered them, despite guilt about the transportation.

      I doubt we will open the garden this year, Lisa, with so many projects on the go. People don’t want to see works in progress, they want to see the finished thing. So 2021 is more likely.

      You caught my attention with your workshop about tapping into the creative side of gardening. I may have to order that book! and btw, I’m impressed by your painting of the house. Using that calendar image as a starting point, you made something distinctly your own. Bravo!

  • I’m always in awe of your ambition and productivity! Sounds like your plans will be keeping you busy this year, Pat – but is there any change you’d take a weekend’s break to come to the bloggers Fling in Madison, WI in June? Sometimes a break can be refreshing! Just saying.

    • siteandinsight

      I’d love to come to another Fling and I am thinking about Madison but getting there is hard from Montreal. And leaving home in June is even tougher!

  • Jason

    Always good to have extra goals, that way you’re more likely assured that you’ll complete one or two, in case the big ones are too much of a challenge.

    • siteandinsight

      You’re always the optimist, Jason, or at least, always giving positive advice. I know I’ll finish one or two for sure. And I know I’ll keep trying to finish them all.

  • Yves Dodier

    Bonjour Mme Webster, je suis un fan de votre blog depuis ma visite de votre superbe propriété l’été dernier. J’aime beaucoup vous lire, vous êtes inspirante! J’ai trouvé la source de la photo des roches que vous chercher avec le beau coucher de soleil, il s’agit du cercle mégalithique au centre du site de Calanais en Écosse (