All posts by Pat Webster

This fountain stands in the wooded area that once formed part of the garden.

My Favourite Gardens: Villa Lante

Yesterday I gave an on-line talk about Glen Villa to a group of well-informed, well-educated women, many of whom attended the same single sex college I attended years ago. (What used to be Randolph-Macon Woman’s College in Lynchburg, Virginia is now the co-ed Randolph College.) In the question period afterwards someone asked if I had a favourite garden. It took me only a moment to respond. Not one, I said, but several.

I named four or five gardens, and today as I think back, I am struck by  how different those gardens are yet how closely they are linked by a single concept. Each tells a story, and each uses history and allusion to ideas outside the garden itself to make the story understandable.  This is something I’m doing at Glen Villa, in the garden and as part of Timelines, the trail through fields and forests that explores ideas about history, memory and our relationship to the land, and this may well explain why I like the gardens as much as I do.

Today I began to re-live my visits to those gardens. In a series of posts, I plan to look more carefully at each of my favourites, starting with the oldest, the Italian garden Villa Lante.

 

This fountain stands in the wooded area that once formed part of the garden.
This fountain of Pegasus surrounded by the nine muses stands near the entry to today’s garden, in a wooded area that once was integral to the garden’s story.

 

Villa Lante was built in the mid 1500s by the famous Italian architect Vignola for an important man, the Cardinal Gambara.  It is a very sophisticated garden that tells a story about the relationship between art and nature, showing how humans were transformed from a ‘primitive’ existence in the Golden Age to the ‘civilized’ society that the Cardinal was part of. And with extraordinary versatility, Vignola tells this story through the use of water.

The garden, located on the side of a hill in the province of Viterbo, is divided into three terraced levels. At the highest of the three, water enters the garden as a destructive, chaotic force. As it moves down the hill, it becomes channeled and controlled, tamed as it were by the power of art.

 

Villa Lante (1 of 8)
The rough tufa wall and the informal vegetation provide a strong contrast to the more refined fountains and formal arrangement of plants that will follow.

 

The power of the Cardinal himself is glorified throughout. As water moves from the top-most to the middle terrace, it passes through a channel edged by scalloped shells, each slightly different.

 

Villa Lante (4 of 8)

 

A giant lobster or crayfish head at top of the chain and over-sized claws at the bottom make a pun on the Cardinal’s name, Gambara, the Italian word for crayfish.

 

The crayfish symbol appears throughout the garden.
The crayfish symbol appears throughout the garden.

 

Water falls from this scalloped chain into the Fountain of the River Gods, two recumbent figures representing the rivers Arno and Tiber. These are the rivers that water the Cardinal’s property, and its abundance in the fountain is a metaphor for the fertility of the land – and for the Cardinal’s generosity as landowner and governor.

 

Villa Lante (3 of 8)
Crayfish claws are visible at the top of the waterfall.

 

Generosity and hospitality are hallmarks of the middle terrace where a long stone rectangle meant to suggest a dining room table continues the symmetrical layout. The table’s central trough is filled with water where wine could be cooled. For the sophisticated visitor of the period, the reference made by this staging would be obvious: Gambara is comparing his garden to that of the Roman writer Pliny the Younger, who floated antipasti in little boats in a polished marble basin.

 

Villa Lante (5 of 8)

 

The lowest terrace is a hymn to civilization where man finds salvation through his intelligence and creativity. Formally arranged as a parterre divided into twelve compartments, this level now centres on the Fountain of the Moors, a magnificent work designed by the sculptor Giambologna.

 

Villa Lante (2 of 8)
The design of the parterre has changed over time but remains formal and symmetrical.

 

The fountain sits on an island; in the pool surrounding it, little boats contain men with ancient guns and trumpets, their accoutrements signalling their roles to protect and celebrate both the prestige of the Cardinal and the triumph of civilization.

 

Villa Lante

 

As water moves from terrace to terrace, the sculptures and fountains and all that surrounds them become more ‘civilized.’ The garden becomes more elegant, more controlled. The balustrades that flank staircases from one terrace to the next widen to give fuller views onto the town – or previously the countryside – below, embracing it symbolically to make it the Cardinal’s own.

 

Villa Lante

 

Plantings support this ‘civilizing’ movement. Informal plantings on the uppermost terrace culminate in the square parterres and clipped fruit trees that originally filled the area around the Fountain of the Moors. Two small buildings, or casinos, that offered a place for the Cardinal to entertain his guests are on this level. Large central buildings were common in most Italian gardens of the period, but unlike more imposing constructions, these two small ones do not dominate or compete with the garden but rather are part of it, unifying and harmonizing with the whole.

 

Villa Lante casino (1 of 1)

 

This masterpiece of Renaissance design is smaller than many of the period, yet despite its size, it cannot be seen in its entirety from any one spot.  I think this makes it easier to grasp the garden’s central message about the shift to civilization as art came to dominate nature.  We may not accept that idea but we can admire the garden that demonstrates the concept so beautifully.

 

Autumn colour is more intense some years than others.

Trees in the Garden

Trees are an invaluable part of a garden, so important that they are sometimes called its bones because they hold the other parts of the garden together. They are slow to grow and consequently are often the first thing planted in a new garden or one undergoing renovation.

Trees do more than hold a garden together, though. They are miracle workers, cleaning the air, providing protection against wind and rain, focusing our view and, in northern regions at least, providing splendid colour in the fall.

 

Autumn colour is more intense some years than others.

 

At Glen Villa, they add privacy to a picnic area, creating a sense of enclosure as well as adding beauty.

 

Crabapple trees in bloom

 

In winter, their black trunks offer a contrast to white ground and snow on their branches makes lines in mid air.

 

untitled (1 of 1)

 

Trees can also shape emotional responses to our surroundings. In France, the road that leads to Chenonceau is lined  with closely-planted trees, and their elegant regularity transforms an ordinary journey into a stately procession.

 

This photo is from a dozen or more years ago. I hope the trees still look as good.
This photo is from a dozen or more years ago. I hope the trees still look as good.

 

In Italy, at the contemporary garden Il Bosco della Ragnaia, trees planted in lines create a different response. Instead of suggesting a stately procession, their lines marching across a field suggest order and discipline.

 

say something

 

At the English garden Stourhead, Henry Hoare and his successors grouped trees to form patterns of light and shade, emulating the paintings he admired.

 

The planting continues, judging by the small willow in the foreground.
The planting continues, judging by the small willow in the foreground.

 

At Petworth in Sussex,  Capability Brown placed single trees and groves to shape the view, sometimes in order to highlight attractive features, sometimes to hide unsightly ones — including whole villages from time to time.

 

A cropped view

 

In addition to being useful and beautiful, trees can also play tricks on our eyes and our sense of perspective.  A small tree planted in the distance looks farther away than it really is; a large tree on top of a hill makes the hill seem higher, and when a small plant is added in the foreground, the effect becomes even greater.

In Scotland, at Broadwoodside, a line of hornbeam trees (Carpinus betulus) seems to stretch out forever. The trees look as if they are evenly spaced but when I was there on a visit and walked along the path between the rows, I discovered that the journey was shorter than I’d thought: the distance between the trees changes as the path extends, and that change of spacing distorts what our eyes see and our brains register.

 

Looking out from the house towards the end of the allée, the spacing looks even.
Looking out from the house towards the end of the allée, the spacing looks even.

 

I could cite many examples from large properties where trees affect our sense of reality but the same principles can be used in much smaller gardens. There may not be a high hill or a sweep of ground long enough for a tree to exaggerate the distance, but plants of different sizes can do the same job.

The boxwood balls below, which I saw in Le Jardin Plume in Normandy, are all the same size. But imagine how your eye would be tricked if they became smaller as they receded. The path would look longer, particularly if the straight hedges and triangular form at the end of the path were shorter too.

Boxwood at Le Jardin Plume in Normandy

 

The bench we placed around the linden tree at Glen Villa provides a sense of scale, but we could distort that impression if we wanted to. The bench is now the right size for adults; if we made it the right height for small children, the tree trunk would look much longer and the tree itself appear more massive.

 

This photo is from Nov 6, 2005. So maybe autumn isn't late this year.
The effect of a lower bench would be greater if the photo was taken from farther away.

 

I played this trick on the eyes as part of Timelines, but there I reversed expectations: the Adirondack chair in the foreground is tiny while the one in the distance would fit a giant.

 

The sign near the chair spells out my intent.

 

Trees often mark boundaries, whether the side of a road or the edge of a stream or the line between one garden and another.  Less literally, they mark a boundary in time, between yesterday, when the tree began to grow, and today, when we see it, and tomorrow, when it is old and dying.

Looking back, I remember the maple tree that used to shade the house, and I see the sculpture that it has become. I think of the three words I chose to laser-cut into one the stainless steel rings: Seed • Shade • Shadow. They sum up the tree’s life story in a tidy fashion and I’m happy with the message they send. But at the same time I realize how inadequate words are when we try to sum up a life. They are never enough.

 

tree rings
I designed this sculpture to honour the life of the tree and named it Tree Rings to indicate how it grew, more in some years than in others.

 

Instead of looking back, I choose to look forward. The sycamore trees I planted in the meadow at Glen Villa a dozen years ago have not yet developed their camouflage bark but I know that one day, they will. And that gives me hope.

Do you have a favourite tree? Is it in your garden or in a park or one you only see in your dreams?

This crumbling stone wall once separated two farm fields at Glen Villa.

Borders, Boundaries and Beds

One year ago, almost to the day, the border between Canada and the U.S. closed. The closing didn’t end all movement back and forth but for all practical purposes, for most of us it put an end to easy crossings.

Today, no one knows when the border will re-open, and wondering about that unknown date set me thinking about borders and boundaries as they relate to gardens and landscapes. What is the difference between a border and a boundary, and what impact, if any, does a verbal distinction make on the ground? Thinking of those two terms brought garden ‘beds’ to mind, creating a trio of words to ponder over.

This is what I’ve concluded. Both borders and boundaries are lines that separate and define. They can be physical divisions — solid fences or border walls, for instance — or they can be less tangible, even invisible like the line on a map, while still marking where one area ends and another begins.  A border can be decorative, as on a tablecloth; a boundary can be metaphoric or moral, a limit on what you will accept in terms of speech or action from another person.  As for beds, must they be places where plants sleep as well as live and grow?

Putting verbal nuances aside, my mind shifted to the delight of all three. How gorgeous it is to look down on agricultural lands from an airplane to see a patchwork of fields, presented in shades of green, earth brown or tawny gold, depending on the season and the crop.

 

I must have taken this photo through a very dirty window. Even so, it shows how many colours a patchwork of fields can contain.
I must have taken this photo through a very dirty window. Even so, it shows how many colours a patchwork of fields can contain.

 

Stone walls are the traditional method of dividing fields in my part of Quebec. They are the result of necessity — in earlier days, stones had to be cleared so a field could be plowed and planted, which meant they had to be moved somewhere. So either they went into walls …

 

This crumbling stone wall once separated two farm fields at Glen Villa.
This crumbling stone wall once separated two farm fields at Glen Villa.

 

… or into rock piles at edges of the fields-to-be.

 

I discovered this stone pile when deciding on the route of Timelines, the trail that explores ideas about history and memory.
I discovered this rock pile when deciding on the route of Timelines, the trail that explores ideas about history and memory.

 

Fences mark both borders and boundaries but the message they carry is different from the message of a stone wall. The poet notes that while a wall separates, it always needs mending, the “frozen-ground-swell under it” making “gaps even two can pass abreast.”  The fence is a stronger barrier, telling the outsider to go away, to stay out, that this is my land, not yours.

 

The fence here is protecting shrubs against the deer. I've used this design in fences at several places in the garden at Glen Villa.
The fence here is telling the deer to go away. It works well, allowing plants to be seen and deer to be excluded. I’ve used the design in fences at several places in the garden at Glen Villa.

 

The Abenaki used to move across a land that had no borders or boundaries, and I’ve shown this at Glen Villa in several scenes. Because the Abenaki believe that human beings were created from the ash tree, I used inverted ash branches to show a group striding across an old farm field.

 

The Abenaki were migratory. While there are no signs that they camped on land that is now called Glen Villa, they did walk across it to go from their summer to winter camps.
The Abenaki were migratory and I used the slope of the land to show the chronology of their history.

 

Lower in the field, the Walkers encounter signs that settlers have arrived. First in time came split rail fences, then barbed wire which I have used to entangle the walking figures.

 

A winter frost makes a beautifully painful scene.
A winter frost makes a painful scene look beautiful.

 

In gardens that are more conventional than mine, more standard things act as boundaries. Hedges of all shapes and sizes are often used to differentiate one part of a garden from another.

 

Hedges define the boundaries of this walkway into one of the nine garden 'rooms' within Scampston Hall's Walled Garden.
Hedges define the boundaries of this walkway into one of the nine garden ‘rooms’ within Scampston Hall’s Walled Garden.

 

See-through fences or gates do the same.

 

Split rail fences remain common sights in Quebec's Eastern Townships. Protecting trees from cattle and other animals is much less common.
Split rail fences remain common sights in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. Using them to protect trees from cattle and other animals is much less common.

 

At the China Terrace, my recreation of the resort hotel that once stood on the Glen Villa site, hotel ‘rooms’ are bordered by blocks made of slate and china shattered when the hotel burned down in 1909.

 

The brick and slate blocks at the China Terrace mark imaginary walls between imaginary rooms.
The brick and slate blocks at the China Terrace mark imaginary walls between imaginary rooms.

 

The small stream at Glen Villa marks a boundary, not between countries as rivers do, but simply between one side of the stream and the other.

 

The stream running through the meadow creates a wavy black line, a strong contrast to the white snow.
The stream running through the meadow creates a wavy black line, a strong contrast to the white snow.

 

Knowledgeable linguists may be able to explain the difference between a flower bed and a border. I can’t do this with any certainty. Generally, though, I think of borders as linear strips of ground filled with shrubs and flowers, like the new North South Arrow at Glen Villa

 

This was how the Arrow looked last fall. I hope to finish planting it this summer.
This was how the Arrow looked last fall. I hope to finish planting it this summer.

 

For me, a bed (aka, a flower bed) can have any shape — it can be round, square, triangular or some shape without a name. I don’t often describe the plantings around the Cascade as a flower bed, but according this definition I suppose they are.

 

Yellow flag iris make a splash at the Cascade.
Yellow flag iris make a splash at the Cascade in early summer.

 

The Roman god Terminus protected the markers that indicated the end point of one thing and, presumably, the beginning of another. Greeks called these markers Herms, after the god Hermes, and over time both the Greek and Roman forms acquired a particular shape, similar to the Term I saw at Rousham, a wonderful historic garden in England.

 

Earlier versions of Terms or Herms showed male genitalia. By the 17th century, the figures had become less revealing.
Earlier versions of Terms or Herms showed male genitalia. By the 17th century, the figures had become less revealing.

 

I’m using the idea of a Term figuratively in a section of Mythos, the extension of  Timelines that considers how mythology shapes our views of the world and how, by re-thinking the stories, we can re-shape the message they send.

 

One of the seven stone figures I've made over the winter. To me they looks scary. Do you react the same way?
This is one of the seven figures I’ve made over the winter to show men turned to stone by Medusa.

 

I’ve used the same shape as traditional Terms to re-tell Medusa’s story, twisting the idea of the border, or end point, to illustrate Medusa’s effect — which was to turn to stone those men who dared to look directly at her.  The end of these stone-like figures is death, the end of life. Which is sometimes what this pandemic feels like.

What do you call the planted areas in your garden? Are they borders or beds? And does it matter?

 

Many people walking the trail ignored the sign pointing to Mythos and continued along the main trail.

The Value of Criticism

Recently an article titled “Gardens Need Criticism” was posted on the garden website Veddw. Written by Veddw’s garden maker Anne Wareham and originally published in Garden Design Journal in 2002, the article prompted me to think about the art of critiquing gardens and the art of receiving critiques.

Last year a well-informed group of landscape architects and designers visited Glen Villa. I invited comments, and at the end of the visit one person quietly made a suggestion about a section of Timelines, the trail I’ve been working on for the last few years.

His comment concerned Mythos. There’s not enough of it, he said. It’s too short. The path doesn’t lead anywhere.

 

Many people walking the trail ignored the sign pointing to Mythos and continued along the main trail.
A sign pointing to Mythos led only a short distance into the woods. Most people walking the trail ignored the sign and continued along the main trail.

 

He was right. A barely visible path led from the main trail into the woods and ended at the small seat you see at the left in the photo below.

 

chapter 6-158

 

I expected walkers to notice that faint path and to follow it to reach the low seat, constructed from corrugated tin with a polished slice of wood on the top. I expected them to sit down and peer into the mirror on the ground in front of them. Slightly tilted, they would see themselves reflected against a backdrop of trees and sky. This, I hoped, would make them think about what it meant to see themselves in this way. At best, it might prompt questions about how we relate to our surroundings, or about vanity, or about self-examination and the search for self-knowledge.

 

Here I see myself photographing my reflection.
Here I see myself photographing my reflection, not to produce an image fit for a glossy magazine but to make myself part of the picture.

 

I based this arrangement on an experience I had when visiting the thought-provoking Italian garden, Il Bosco della Ragnaia. There, in a secluded spot, visitors are invited to look down into a natural depression in the ground, to ask a silent question, and to wait for the oracle to answer. I did as instructed, and received an answer that startled me with its succinct encouragement. At Delphi, some fifty or so years earlier, I did something similar. There the oracle produced a less helpful, typically cryptic response to my question. But the memory of the places and acts remained strong.

When the visitor to Glen Villa suggested that the brief detour I had made wasn’t enough, I knew immediately that he was right. The path didn’t lead anywhere —  physically or intellectually. Mythos was a big idea and I was missing an opportunity to explore it thoroughly.

Over the fall and winter, I began thinking about myths in a more focused way. I thought back to my original motivation for adding the sign itself — which was to offer a choice. People could continue on the main track that led to Orin’s Sugarcamp, where history as we knew and had lived it was memorialized, or they could turn off to experience an alternate way of thinking. If they chose the side path, they would head into a forest that looked and felt ancient, like a place our ancestors might have inhabited, where the beliefs we now label superstitions shaped a different view of the world.

 

Moss, ferns and decaying stumps make up this part of the woods.
Moss, ferns and decaying stumps make up this part of the woods.

 

Since the sign pointing to Mythos came immediately after The Forms, an installation based on the ideas of early Greek philosophers, using Greek mythology as a guide to further explore the idea of Mythos versus Logos seemed an obvious choice. Yet so many of those stories are not female friendly and I did not want to perpetuate the belittling view that demoted Hera, the earth mother, into being merely the spouse of Zeus.

Offering an alternate reading of familiar tales was the project I set myself.  But I knew that I had to build on the familiar — the tale of Medusa turning men to stone, a jealous Athena transforming a young girl who bragged about her weaving into a spider, Narcissus becoming transfixed by his own image.

A spider web fit within the context of the woods so I set out to make one.  Experimenting on a small scale gave me a chance to learn how to make a larger web and to find a good place to put it.

 

A rough sample small enough to carry around helped me choose the right location.
A rough sample small enough to carry around helped me choose the right spot for a big web.

 

A full-sized version is now waiting in the barn. We’ll install it between two trees once the snow has melted.

 

This photo gives an idea of the size of the web. It isn't finished here -- in fact, I was just starting to weave it when I took this photo.
This photo gives an idea of the size of the web. It isn’t finished here — in fact, I was just starting to weave it when I took this photo.

 

Men turned to stone are ready to be placed.

 

One of the seven stone figures I've made over the winter. To me they looks scary. Do you react the same way?
One of the seven stone figures I’ve made over the winter. To me they looks scary. Do they look that way to you?

 

Hera’s column, made from corrugated tin, is ready to be installed on top of a hill. Its elevated position is a testament to Hera’s importance and the letters that will appear at its base spell out a command that is also a play on words and the sounds they make.

 

The column to Hera and to the sounds that nature produces will go roughly where the four-wheel vehicle is.
The column to Hera will be installed roughly where the four-wheel vehicle is.

 

I’ve moved the mirror and column that the visitor criticiqued to a spot near the end of this section of Timelines, shortly before the kilometre-long path rejoins the original trail. At the junction I’ll erect a sign with the word Logos and an arrow pointing towards Orin’s Sugarcamp.

 

This may not be the final location but it is in roughly the right spot.
This may not be the final location for the oracle mirror but I like the implications of ending Mythos with self-examination, however interpreted.

 

Taking the place of the mirror and column at the beginning of Mythos is a rock shaped like an arrowhead pointing upwards. I’m not sure why this feels so appropriate — perhaps it is simply the beauty of the rock itself, and how perfectly it is positioned, at the start of a natural procession of trees that leads into the distance, an unplanted counterpart to the planted rows of crabapple trees that form La Grande Allée.

 

Talk about serendipity! What looks like a base for a sculpture was a rock actually in that exact spot.
Talk about serendipity! What looks like a base for a sculpture was a rock we found in that exact spot.

 

It’s possible that I would have developed Mythos without the helpful critique that the observant visitor made. It’s equally possibly that I wouldn’t. I accepted the criticism in the spirit it was given; I took it to heart because it came from an educated and experienced individual whose judgement I trusted. I thank him. Timelines is better for it.

untitled (12 of 15)

The Past as Prelude

The great English landscape architect Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe got it right. What’s past is past. But while it is over and done with, the past can’t be ignored. Instead, Jellicoe said, we should “ponder on the past not as the past but as a pointer to the future.”

In troubled political times, this sounds like good advice.  It’s equally good advice when applied to the land.

When I began to work on the garden at Glen Villa some twenty years ago, history was the principle that guided me and it continues to be a powerful element, generating ideas and actions. If looking back were my only motivation, though, I doubt I’d be satisfied. Looking forward matters. And the question I’ve been asking myself more and more often in recent days is this:  how has the past shaped the present landscape at Glen Villa — and perhaps more sigificantly —  how do my actions today shape its future?

Several decades ago, my sister-in-law arranged through a  government program to have trees planted on land that once had been farmed. Remnants of that farming history remained then, and still remain today. Most prominent is the foundation of a building, tilting earthwards more and more each year.

 

untitled (14 of 15)

 

I remember only vaguely the barn it was part of. I don’t remember at all the other sign of the farm-that-was, a moss-covered stone wall, now collapsing and overgrown with trees, that once divided two plowed fields.

 

Once I dreamed of exposing the length of this wall and planting sunny spots with lilac bushes. I doubt this will ever happen. but wouldn't it be beautiful?
Once I dreamed of exposing the length of this wall and planting sunny spots with lilac bushes. I doubt this will ever happen. but wouldn’t it be beautiful?

 

Sometime in the 1980s, the fields were harrowed and prepared for trees to be planted. Spruce and pine seedlings were mechanically added in tidy rows in one area, and oaks and a few black walnut trees in another. Over the years the hardwoods have grown tall and thin.

 

hardwoods (1 of 1)
The oaks look like they’ve been iced with snow. Scenes like this are typical of Quebec’s Eastern Townships in the winter.

 

The softwoods have branched out. Now they are a forest, beautifully atmospheric in some lights …

 

Believe it or not, this photo was not taken in winter but in mid summer.
Believe it or not, this photo was not taken in winter but in mid summer.

 

… and simply dark in others, even when shafts of light struggle to break through.

 

untitled (13 of 15)
Branches that scratch and catch on clothes make it difficult to walk through the spruce trees except on the path we cut.

 

Over the years I’ve walked this land hundreds of times, by myself and with others.

 

This photo of my husband and our oldest grandchild was taken 11 years ago. I love looking at it and remembering that particular day.
This photo of my husband and our oldest grandchild was taken 11 years ago. I love remembering that particular day and the people we were then.

 

The trees were planted to be cut and this year, for the first time, we began to do that. We aren’t clear-cutting the area but removing selectively, taking down dead trees along with the largest of the living. Jacques Gosselin and Ken Kelso, the two men who I consider my right and left hands, choose which trees to cut, limbing them up and burning small side branches as they go.

 

Jacques
Once Jacques and Ken remove the side branches, they cut the trunk into the 8 or 12 foot lengths that sawmills are looking for.

 

The fire is a nice source of warmth on cold days …

 

The fire never gets out of control and the surrounding woods are not threatened.
The fire never gets out of control and the surrounding woods are not threatened.

 

… and the smoke it produces streaks the air.

 

Smoke from the fire is transformed by sunbeams.
Smoke lit by the sun transforms darkness into romance.

 

Cutting these trees is not a money-making project. By the time salaries are paid and the cost of equipment and transport to the sawmill are taken into account, we barely break even. But making money isn’t the purpose. Making the forest a more beautiful and more usable space is.

The rows that were planted 30 or 40 years ago are still visible in most areas, and loosening that straitjacket is one of my aims.

 

Another summertime photo that looks like it was taken in winter.
Straight rows are unnatural in a forest.

 

Removing even a few large trees lets in more light which means that smaller trees will grow more quickly. And because the light is uneven, some will grow more quickly than others, beginning the process of letting the woods find their own way forward.

 

More trees have been cut in this section than in most, to allow access for the tractor that pulls the limbed-up trunks to a central collection point.
More trees have been cut in this section than in most but even here, trees will begin to fill in the gaps in a year or two.

 

Jacques and Ken drag the bare tree trunks out of the woods and divide them into piles by length, 8 or 12 feet long. In a week or two the wood will be at the sawmill where it will be sawed into boards.

 

Snow caps the piled up tree trunks.
Snow caps the piled up tree trunks.

 

Seeing the tidy stacks, I ask myself a variation of the question I started with.  What effect do my actions have on the future? Am I making the land more usable by cutting these trees?  Am I making the forest more beautiful? Biologists say that the forest knows how to take care of itself, but this isn’t a natural forest, it is an artificial construct.  So I hope the effects of my actions will be positive. Only time will tell.

 

Chinook Sunrise is from the  Canadian-developed 49th Parallel series of roses.

Goals and Resolutions

In January last year, I laid out six garden goals for the year ahead, never believing I’d be able to achieve them all. I put them on paper nonetheless to give myself something to aim for and, to my surprise, I find that over the last twelve months I completed five of the six. This may be due to Covid-related restrictions that kept me closer to home, or it may be because I was intent on using the time well, but regardless of why, I’m pleased with what I managed to do.

So, what did I accomplish, and what did I leave out?

I finished renovating the dining room table on China Terrace. I replaced the plates and goblets  …

 

The new plates and goblets were put in place in late summer.
The new plates and goblets were put in place in late summer.

 

and added new napkins that I made with help from Lucy Doheny, our very talented local potter.

 

The incised design and imprecise folds make these napkins more casual than the previous ones.
The incised design and imprecise folds make these napkins more casual than the previous ones.

 

In the year ahead, I will work on the iron-frame bed, re-shaping the pillow and re-doing the moss quilt.

 

The original quilt pattern on the bed has disappeared entirely and the moss itself doesn't look great anymore.
The original quilt pattern on the bed has disappeared entirely and the moss itself doesn’t look great anymore.

 

A big project in 2020 was to design and plant the area in front of the foundation wall of the old Glen Villa Inn.  I tried a number of variations and settled finally — thanks to my friend Myke Hodgins, the Montreal landscape architect — on a simple design, a long, straight bed shaped at both ends like an arrow. This design reflects the travel patterns of guests who came from the south to stay at the Inn in the early 20th century and continues to make the historic connections that are so important at Glen Villa visible today. Shown here at the end of September, the North South Arrow is still missing some of the plants I intend to use. Filling the gaps is an obvious ‘to do’ in 2021.

 

The North South Arrow was only partially planted in 2020 but should be finished this year.
The north south orientation provides the greatest exposure for the sun-loving plants I selected.

 

The re-built circular wall in front of the hotel will become the Compass Rose. After a lot of research and with advice from Bob Osborne of Cornhill Nursery in New Brunswick, I chose Chinook Sunrise to fill the currently empty circle.

 

Chinook Sunrise is from the Canadian-developed 49th Parallel series of roses.
Chinook Sunrise is from the Canadian-developed 49th Parallel series of roses.

 

Goal #3 involved the Sundial Clearing that is the destination point for In Transit/En Route, one section of Timelines. The clearing needed serious attention after the dead pine that had served as the gnomen bit the dust in an autumn storm in 2019. In a nice bit of serendipity, a big rock that had to be moved to make way for the North South Arrow turned out to be much larger than it appeared and, when placed upright in the center of the Sundial Clearing, became exactly what was needed to replace the pine.

 

The stone stands in the middle of the clearing and its shadow marks the hour on the painted posts.
The stone stands in the middle of the clearing and its shadow marks the hour on the painted posts.

 

We made a new bench to replace the old one that was rotting and added a steel band, laser cut with the words ‘now maintenant’ to replace the black plastic tubing that previously enclosed the circle.

 

The steel band is rusting nicely.
The steel band is rusting nicely.

 

The fifth project involved extending Timelines to include the big outcropping of rock that was an original inspiration for the trail itself. In another bit of serendipity, we discovered water when we made an exploratory hole beside the rock. Soon we had a pool with mysteriously dark water.

 

The water level rises and falls over the seasons. I have yet to see the frozen version.
The water level rises and falls over the seasons. I have yet to see the frozen version.

 

This pool became part of Continuum, an extension to Timelines that wanders through a field, alongside a stream, into the woods and past the pond, looking at the interconnections between trees, stone and water. In the late fall we arranged rocks on a slope by the pond in the shape of a maple seed, or samara, and over the last month or so, I’ve been drilling rocks in the same pattern, the negative version of the positive outline on the slope.

 

I haven't finished drilling this rock yet but the pattern of a maple seed, or samara, is almost complete.
I haven’t finished drilling this rock yet but the pattern of a maple seed, or samara, is almost complete.

 

I’ve also been working on another extension to Timelines that looks at Greek mythology through feminist eyes. This project is in its early stages but I hope to finish work on this section called Mythos before summer.

Looking back, I can see how much I accomplished. The one goal I didn’t accomplish was fencing in the Lower Garden to keep the deer away. I’ve been thinking about doing this for several years, but finding a design that works in the space isn’t easy.

 

lower garden
With a fence I’d be able to use plants that deer love… and wouldn’t that be nice!

 

Nor did I keep the one resolution I set, to photograph a particular area in the garden once a month, as close as possible to the same day. I started well, with photographs of the Cascade in January and February, but in March, my resolution began to go south, as resolutions are wont to do.

 

This photo shows the Cascade in January 2020. It looks about the same now.
This photo shows the Cascade in January 2020. It looks about the same now.

 

Despite my inability to stick to a resolution, and even more significantly, despite the extraordinary happenings in other parts of the world, the year 2020 was a good one in the garden. I hope 2021 will be even better. In the garden and beyond.

 

A triumphal arch, Roman style, was part of the landscape at Painshill, an early 18th century garden in England.

Ruins and Recoveries

What can we say about 2020? Queen Elizabeth’s Annus Horribilis comes to mind. So does the subject of ruin — personal and business ruin, political ruin and the final ruin, death, which came this year for hundreds of thousands of people, more than we imagined possible when the pandemic began.

But, Janus-like, ruins have a positive as well as a negative face. It may seem contradictory but history and the evidence of my own eyes tell me that to contemplate ruins is to contemplate the future as well as the past.

At Painshill, an early 18th century English garden, the eccentric owner Charles Hamilton constructed a Mausoleum in the form of a ruined Roman triumphal arch. Passing through this ‘arch of death,’  as he called it, contemporary visitors would emerge on the sunny banks of the River Mole, where they would see Hamilton’s newly constructed waterwheel, a revolutionary device that generated electric power and offered a forecast of what the future would bring.

 

A triumphal arch, Roman style, was part of the landscape at Painshill, an early 18th century garden in England.
The Mausoleum has lost the top of its triumphal arch but the side columns remain.

 

In the late 1970s, the American cultural geographer J.B. Jackson wrote a thought-provoking  essay called “The Necessity for Ruins.” He argued that ruins provide the incentive for restoration, and in words with strong religious connotations wrote that “the old order has to die before there can be a born-again landscape.”

 

A ruined building, part of Alcatraz, stands as a reminder of the prison that used to be.
Now a tourist attraction, the island prison Alcatraz fits Jackson’s definition of a born-again landscape. Or at least one that has been re-purposed.

 

Ruins appeal to us like haunted houses do, attracting us almost against our wills. Their empty spaces, once filled with doors or windows, are  magnets for the imagination, and we fill those spaces with our own fantasies, with dreams of what was, or what might have been, or what one day may be.

 

The empty windows in this wall at La Torrecchia in southern Italy offer glimpses onto a countryside that is in the process of change.
The empty windows in this wall at the private garden La Torrecchia in southern Italy offer glimpses onto a verdant countryside in the process of becoming less verdant.

 

Romantic fantasies are part of the appeal. The Italian garden Ninfa, so redolent of the glories of bygone days, mixes the sour air of moldering walls with the powerfully sweet scent of lilacs and roses.

 

The arched bridge at Ninfa is probably the most photographed spot in the whole garden.
Ninfa has been called the most romantic garden in the world. The arched bridge is probably the most photographed spot in the whole garden, and the green tint in the water is part of its appeal.

 

But too much sweetness spoils the broth. To exert their full impact, ruins need a whiff of decay.

 

A temple at Siem Reap in Cambodia casts its spell when approached in silence.
A temple at Siem Reap in Cambodia casts a spell which is particularly strong when approached in silence.

 

As Sir George Sitwell noted in his book, On the Making of Gardens, ruins where the patina of moss and age have been removed lose their appeal. The stillness of old Italian gardens, with their air of “neglect, desolation and solitude,” makes breathing almost too great an effort. We become unmoored, drifting in and out of time.

“Sleep and forgetfulness brood over the garden, and everywhere from sombre alley and moss-grown stair there rises a faint sweet fragrance of decay.”

 

An uneven staircase leads up the hillside at Villa Cetinale.
An overgrown staircase, the Scala Santa, leads up the hillside at the Italian Villa Cetinale to the hermitage at the top.

 

Vegetation that is out of control adds to the appeal of a ruin, its growth suggesting that even in the most inhospitable circumstances, life will assert itself.

 

Rampant growth characterizes almost every ruin in Cambodia. The fig trees threaten to swallow the roof of this temple.
Rampant growth characterizes almost every ruin in Cambodia. The fig trees here threaten to swallow the roof of this temple.

 

The combination of fecund nature and crumbling edifice conforms to the Christian doctrine that makes the death and decay of the individual a necessary prelude to resurrection.  The skull beneath the skin and other allusive momemto mori are often seen in European churches and churchyards. Rarely are they as explicit, though, as the inscription that accompanies the skeleton below.

 

All you that do this place pass bye

Remember death for you must dye.

As you are now even so was I

And as I am so shall you be

Thomas Gooding here do staye

Wayting for God’s judgement daye. 

 

This unusual tombstone is in the cathedral at Norwich, Dngland.
This unforgettable tombstone is in the cathedral at Norwich, England.

 

Where, in the ruins of bodies and buildings, do we find today’s equivalent of Charles Hamilton’s water wheel? Where do we look for a future that promises recovery rather than ruin? Not for me in the contemplation of death or in the re-purposing that transformed Alcatraz from prison to tourist attraction. Not in the romantic dreams that speak to young girls’ hearts or in the political forces that have caused so much unnecessary suffering and pain. Hope seems to lie only in the natural world and its relentless tenacity. It alone seems capable of overcoming the follies we humans perpetrate — and let’s acknowledge it, we committed plenty of those in 2020.

Shelley’s poem Ozymandias speaks to the futility of aspiration. If worldly power can crumble, leaving only trunkless legs and a shattered visage, what is the point? The poppies that sprout from stone walls, the trees that split boulders, the weeds that emerge from cracks in the sidewalk, even the bare and boundless sand that stretches far away: they promise that the world will continue, with us or without.

 

batch 2 (4 of 44)
Poppies are near indestructible flowers, a promise that life goes on, regardless of our stupidities.

 

I take heart from those poppies and from initials carved into tree trunks. Looking at the photo below, you may wonder why Andy felt the need to deface a tree in order to mark his presence. Was he the one who carved the hearts on the branch? Who knows, and who cares? His name, along with those hearts and the scrawls that were difficult to read when I saw them a decade ago, will be indecipherable soon, if they aren’t already.  The tree will grow around them, obliterating the past in favour of its future health.

 

Andy's name will slowly disappear from this tree trunk in West Australia.
Andy’s name will slowly disappear from this tree trunk in West Australia.

 

I ask myself if anything good will come from this ruin of a year. Perhaps we will become kinder to one another. Perhaps more of us will realize that to take care of ourselves, we must also take care of others. Perhaps we won’t. But I hope that we will.

Seen at the botanical garden in Sydney, Australia

Tree Hugging for Tree Huggers

Do you know when the phrase ‘tree hugger’ was coined?

I didn’t, so I looked it up. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the first known use of the term dates from 1965. Other words coined that year: jet lag, mini dress, pop art, teach-in, doo-wop and time traveller.

Reading these words, I felt like a time traveller myself. In part this is because those words are so familiar now but also because the connotations of ‘tree hugger’ have changed so much. In 1965,  tree hugger was a derogatory term. Not so today.

Today’s tree huggers are environmentalists. People who care about the world they are part of.  People willing to act to protect what they love. I happily put myself in that category.

Trees speak to me in the way that flowers speak to many other avid gardeners. Every day for the last month, I’ve posted a photo on Instagram of a tree I’ve seen somewhere in the world. (My Instagram posts can be found at glen_villa_garden.) Each tree had its own personality, its own voice — sometimes, even its own face.

 

Seen at the botanical garden in Sydney, Australia
I saw this face on a tree at the botanical garden in Sydney, Australia.

 

Trees with sculptural qualities appeal to me enormously, particularly when they are silhouetted against the sky …

 

A dead tree is striking against an intensely blue sky. Seen at Tuba Tree Camp in Botswana.
I spotted this dead tree at Tuba Tree Camp in Botswana. It is particularly striking against the intensely blue sky .

 

… or against colourful leaves.

 

Seen at a park in Barcelona, Spain.
I saw this branch twisting towards the sky at the Montreal Botanical Garden.

 

Trees talk to us about many things. About youth and possibilities…

 

This seedling will eventually become a grand horse chestnut tree.
This seedling will eventually become a grand horse chestnut tree. We started it from seed a few years ago.

 

… and about aging with dignity.

 

These ancient olive trees are in a private garden in the south of Italy.
These ancient olive trees are in a private garden in the south of Italy.

 

They show us the beauty of every season, blossoming in spring,

 

These crabapple trees are in my daughter's garden in North Hatley, Quebec.
These crabapple trees are in my daughter’s garden in North Hatley, Quebec.

 

spreading shade in summer,

 

The linden, or basswood, tree at Glen Villa is the perfect image of what a tree can be, as round and shapely as a child's drawing.
The linden, or basswood, tree at Glen Villa is the perfect image of what a tree can be, round and shapely.

 

turning the world into a bag of gumdrops in autumn,

 

Trees at the edge of a field at Glen Villa are typical of autumn glory in Quebec's Eastern Townships.
No licorice gumdrops, please! Trees at the edge of a field at Glen Villa are typical of autumn’s glory in Quebec’s Eastern Townships.

 

and giving snow a place to rest in winter.

 

Snow outlines these old crabapple trees at Glen Villa.
Snow outlines these old crabapple trees at Glen Villa.

 

Trees speak, if we listen closely enough. Sometimes they make us laugh.

 

The semaphore tree at Glen Villa seems to be sending a message to someone, somewhere. Or is it an elderly dancer, still holding onto her pom poms?
The semaphore tree at Glen Villa seems to be sending a message to someone, somewhere. Or is it an elderly cheerleader, still clinging to her pom-poms?

 

Sometimes they share their anger or frustration, or shout out some news.

 

This tree is shouting about something. But what?
This tree is shouting about something. But what? I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore?

 

Sometimes they only stand and stare.

 

Birch eyes stare at passers by in the woods at Glen Villa.
They also serve who only stand and wait. Birch eyes look at passers-by in the woods at Glen Villa with steely eyes.

 

Sometimes they make us wince, to see what we have done to them.

 

These pollarded trees will grow again. But until they do, their stubs seem as painful as fingers amputated at the first joint.
These pollarded trees in a London suburb will grow again. But until they do, their stubs seem as painful as fingers amputated at the joint.

 

Trees make our world a better place.  They play a critical role in the on-going battle against the impacts of climate change. They absorb harmful pollutants, regulate water flows, and support the habitats of migratory plants and animals. Sometimes, they offer examples of determination and persistence, soundlessly urging us to keep on trying.

 

hotel wall (6 of 6)
This birch beside my daughter’s house is gradually splitting the boulder. I’ve watched the crack widen by fractions every year. What amazing strength!

 

Trees arranged in formal patterns become picture postcard views.

 

The curving line of trees at La Foce edges a road that winds up a hill in the distance. It has become an iconic Tuscan scene.
The curving line of trees at the Italian garden La Foce edges a road that winds up a hill in the distance. It has become an iconic Tuscan scene.

 

Standing alone, they become art.

 

tree rings
Tree Rings is my sculpture made to honour the life of an old maple tree. It stands near the house at Glen Villa.

 

Trees share their bounty as sap …

 

Buckets collect sap from maple trees at Glen Villa to be boiled down into maple syrup.
Buckets collect sap from maple trees at Glen Villa to be boiled down into maple syrup.

 

… and as fruit.

 

In late summer, children and grandchildren gathered apples from the many old apple trees at Glen Villa.
In late summer, children and grandchildren gathered apples from the many old apple trees at Glen Villa.

 

They add order when order is called for …

 

A Christmas tree plantation in the Eastern Townships, not far from where we live.
A Christmas tree plantation in the Eastern Townships, not far from where we live.

 

or when order makes the ordinary special.

 

Trees and mounds of grass form a chequerboard at Le Jardin Plume, in France.
Trees and mounds of grass form a chequerboard at Le Jardin Plume, in France.

 

Trees can perform miracles. When planted with intent, they transform a space into something new. Or as the Chilean landscape architect Juan Grimm said,

A natural clearing in a wood is a glade. But a perfectly round clearing the same size, in the same wood, becomes a garden.”

 

“A natural clearing in a wood is a glade. But a perfectly round clearing the same size, in the same wood, becomes a garden.” Chilean landscape architect, Juan Grimm:
This garden in the woods is at the Scottish garden Broadwoodside, one of my favourite gardens anywhere.

 

Recently I read a post on Dirt, the blog of the American Society of Landscape Architects about Marina Abramović, the performance artist . Her advice? Go out and hug a tree. Hug it tightly for at least 15 minutes. Tell the tree your troubles, pour out your anger, your frustration, your woe. The tree will absorb your negative emotions and you will feel rejuvenated.

Who knows, she may be right. Anyone who has gone for a walk in the woods and come back feeling relaxed and ready to face life again will agree that simply being in nature brings positive benefits. Forest bathing, a practice that began in Japan in the 1980s, has verified the therapeutic effects and is being used more and more widely.

For novice tree huggers, Abramović suggests that you  “… choose a tree that you like… Pick the tree because of [w]hatever triggers your affection… Don’t immediately hug the tree. Just feel the energy … not touching it but just holding your hands a little bit above.  And then complain your heart into it.  .. you feel rejuvenated. You feel happy after that.”

I don’t often complain to trees but I do hug them, actually and metaphorically. I thank them, every day, all year long. In turn, they reward me in more ways than I can count.

Your tree for the season may be real or artificial. It may be big or small, decorated or left in its natural glory. Or you may not have a tree at all.

 

Christmas tree (1 of 1)
Our Christmas tree is decorated with an odd assortment of hand-made ornaments or those given us over the years.

 

No matter. The trees are there, outside your window, in the park nearby or outside the city where forests survive. Thank them, one and all. Maybe even give one a hug. If Abramović is right, you’ll feel happier. Maybe the tree will, too. And who doesn’t want a little happiness these days?

untitled (7 of 7)

Continuum, Continued

Over the last few weeks, while the weather was remarkably kind, I’ve continued to work on an extension to Timelines, the trail that explores ideas about memory, history and our relationship to the land. I wrote about the initial work on Continuum in my last blog post, almost a month ago.  Since then, lots has happened.

We added a wonderful tree trunk bench alongside the stream, right next to the old lid from a sap bucket that was used, who knows how many years ago, when maple syrup was being made at Orin’s Sugarcamp. (There are multiple posts about this installation, another part of Timelines. You can read about it here and here.

 

untitled (7 of 7)

 

I gathered remnants of that maple syrup-making operation found along the trail and arranged them in a haphazard way next to the newly-chipped path.

 

maple cans (1 of 1)

 

At the top of a rise in the open field, we erected Tree Square, a new, very simple sculpture that shows the squared-off heart of a tree trunk, surrounded by the side pieces that were removed.

 

The raw wood will turn grey over the winter, allowing it to blend in even while standing out.
The raw wood will turn grey over the winter, allowing it to blend in even while standing out.

 

We removed brush that was hiding some of the ancient trees along the wooded part of the trail, like these two Elders, one living, one dead.

 

untitled (4 of 7)

 

Simply trimming back the brush revealed more treasures, like this gorgeous stump and the ancient tree behind it.

 

untitled (5 of 7)

 

The trail now leads past an area where trees have been cut, leaving stumps as their only testament.

 

The area looks bleak, perhaps, but the stumps as well as the young trees that will be planted are all part of a process.
The area looks bleak now, but the stumps as well as the young trees that will be planted illustrate different times in an evolving process.

 

Rocks outlining the shape of maple seeds, or keys, or samaras, are now in place on the slope above the pool we dug this summer.

 

I need to tweak the shape but the idea is there.
I need to tweak the shape of one of the samaras but the idea is there.

 

I still need to drill the rocks that will sit at the bottom of the slope, near the water where a stick is now. Doing that is work for the winter months, when it is too cold and snow too deep to work outdoors.

On another front, the napkins I made for the newly-set dining room table on the China Terrace were fired by our local potter, Lucy Doheny. She showed me what to do (I wrote about that here) and then left me to it — and I’m thrilled with the results.

 

napkins (1 of 1)

 

I’m also working on a second extension to Timelines, to the area called Mythos  … but sharing that story will have to wait for another day!

 

 

This is how the rock looked in 2013, before I started on the trail extension.

Continuum

“There is often a huge difference between an idea and its realization. Ideas must be put to the test. That’s why we make things, otherwise they would be no more than ideas.”

Andy Goldsworthy’s words ring true for me. I have more ideas than I can realize, certainly more than I can act on in my lifetime.  Folders splitting at the seams contain scribbled thoughts and doodles, pages torn from magazines, projects detailed but never executed.

So when I begin to translate an idea into the reality that Goldsworthy speaks of, there is genuine satisfaction. There’s a sense of excitement, of momentum, of fear. Will my idea translate well? Will I be able to realize it fully?

Timelines, the trail at Glen Villa that explores ideas about history, memory and our relationship to the land, started with a desire to create a path that led past interesting formations on the land, natural highlights that I had noticed over the years.  One of those highlights was an outcropping of rock in the woods. It spoke to me of age and the passage of time, and I began to call it Rock of Ages.  But that name had too many religious connections and connotations and it inspired nothing except a song in my head.

 

 

This is how the rock looked in 2013, before I started on the trail extension.
This is how the rock looked in 2013, long before I started on Timelines or the current the extension to the trail.

 

Earlier this summer, in an attempt to expose more of the rock, we dug down near its base. Much to my surprise and delight, water appeared. And as we enlarged the hole, the water kept rising.

Water joined with rock to become essential elements in what I now knew would be an extension to Timelines. I knew the route. It would begin in an open field and enter a section of  woods where ancient maple trees, gnarled and broken, nonetheless still stood tall. These were Elders who had weathered every force thrown at them.

 

trees (1 of 2)

 

They had survived and grown wiser with age. Or if not wiser, at least more resigned to dealing with hardship.

 

The sadness in this face is impossible to miss.
The sadness in this tree’s face almost makes me weep. It reminds me of some Biblical figure, a sculpture by an artist who also had suffered. Michelangelo perhaps?

 

I knew the trail would come out along a former farming road, lined with more ancient trees, to reach the climax, the rock outcropping and the newly dug pool.

 

Even very old maple trees produce sap for maple syrup! We don't tap these trees often but we did in 2000 when this photo was taken.
Even very old maple trees produce sap for maple syrup! We don’t tap these trees often but we did in 2017 when this photo was taken.

 

I knew where I wanted this new part of Timelines to go, but I had no concept that tied the pieces together in a way that satisfied me. Until finally, about a month ago, I did.

It happened, as it often does for me, when I found a name for the extension. Continuum. The name changed a cluster of ideas into a clear vision. I knew what I was trying to say and how I would say it.

Work began about two weeks ago and is going forward quickly.  Last week we cut brush to create a path into the woods.

 

untitled (2 of 6)

 

The path will skirt a stream which is impossibly beautiful at this time of year.

 

I took this photo to remind myself to remove that one small tree. Without it, the view will be even better.
I took this photo to remind myself to remove that one small tree. Without it, the view will be even better.

 

My photos don’t begin to do justice to the site, and whether the water that is now tumbling over the tiny waterfalls will persist in drier seasons is hard to know. But even without it, the contrasts will be striking, ancient trees pointing a path for tiny saplings, immoveable boulders standing beside the smaller stones pushed into place by spring run-offs.

Last week Jacques Gosselin, one of two men who make all my work possible, built the wooden construction I designed that will identify this part of Timelines. It’s a nine-part cube where the letters that spell CONTINUUM will appear, arranged in one way on one side, in a different way on each of the others.

 

Letters will be burnt into each 8" square block, on all four sides and the top.
Letters will be burnt into each 8″ square block, on all four sides and the top.

 

I pulled out boulders from an old rock pile and, with help from my friend John Hay, sketched out the design I will drill into them over the winter.

 

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That design is based on the samaras, or keys, that contain the seeds of maple trees.

 

This is simply a random arrangement of maple keys, or samaras, that will form the basis of the design to be incised in the boulders.
This is simply a random arrangement of maple keys, or samaras. Their winged form is the starting point of the design I’ll incise in the boulders.

 

Come spring, we’ll set the boulders near the rock outcropping which was the starting point for the trail.  It looks very different now than it used to. And like the stream, the water level will rise and fall, as the seasons dictate.

 

untitled (6 of 6)

 

That change in the water level is fitting, as satisfying as the project itself. Together with the samaras and the ancient trees, it reflects the natural forces that the word Continuum describes.

This project should be finished by next summer when, once again, we will open the garden to the public. I hope to see you then!