All posts by Pat Webster

The wrought-iron will rust eventually but we can scrape and oil it when it does.

Try and Try Again

The old saying is a good one: if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

There’s a meme in the gardening world started by Bonney Lassie at call Tell the Truth Tuesday. Despite my fair share of failures, I’ve never joined in. But La Seigneurie, one of the newest parts of my Quebec garden, fits the meme all too well.

So even if it isn’t Tuesday, here’s the truth.

In early June this year, we seeded a farm field as part of Timelines, the 3 km trail I’ve developed that explores questions about memory, identity and our relationship to the land. We marked the entry to the field with a beautiful wrought iron sign made by local blacksmith Justine Southam, and beneath the sign we added two wrought iron gates whose style felt in keeping with the sign and the history behind it.  As I wrote earlier this summer, the seigneurial system was a key feature of 17th century Quebec under French rule. Long narrow fields ran down to the St. Lawrence River, giving habitants access for easy transportation.

 

The wrought-iron will rust eventually but we can scrape and oil it when it does.
The wrought-iron will rust eventually but we can scrape and oil it when it does.

 

I had a clear picture in my mind of what I wanted to accomplish — narrow strips of land that stood out from each other because of the colour of the flowers and the different colours, heights and textures of the foliage. I chose three crops, canola, flax and barley, and we seeded them in strips of varying widths.

 

This photo was taken on , days after the field was seeded.
This photo was taken on June 11, only 6 days after the field was seeded.

 

Within a few weeks, the canola was beginning to grow, and the flax and barley were not far behind.

 

By week , the strips of canola, barley and flax were beginning to show up.
Two weeks later, the strips of canola, barley and flax were beginning to create the look I was hoping for.

 

But truth be told, the end result is not a success. Individually, flax flowers are quite lovely.

 

At least a bee appreciated the flower.
The flower is much more delicate than I’d expected. The bee seems to appreciate it.

 

The bright green foliage is interesting, too, with a fine texture in a bright citrusy green.

 

The rows are clearly visible here, but not when seen from the side.
The rows are clearly visible here, but they disappear when seen from the side.

 

But flax has no impact en masse.

 

Talk about wimpy!
Talk about wimpy! And this photo makes it look better than it actually did.

 

Canola flowers are individually attractive as well.

Canola is the name used now instead of the old one, rape seed.
Canola is the name used now instead of the old one, rape seed, and it is clear from the blossom that it is a member of the mustard family.

 

They do have an impact en masse, and a powerful one, too.

 

The canola was in full bloom on July .
The canola was in full bloom on July 20, when we opened the garden as a fundraiser for the Massawippi Foundation.

 

People had warned me that the two crops wouldn’t bloom at the same time, and that the barley would only be in its early stages, so I wasn’t really expecting that the field would be solid strips of yellow, blue and tan. But I was expecting something more than what we got.

 

This photo from mid-August shows how the field looks now.
The different strips are visible but they aren’t nearly as striking as I had envisioned.

 

So it’s back to the drawing board in terms of what crops to plant. Over the winter I’ll be considering others — clover is high on my list right now. I’ll also consider whether to use only two kinds of plants instead of three, and whether to seed them in strips of equal width.

I’ll be a little sad if canola doesn’t make the cut because it plays a role in Canadian history.  Canola, aka rape seed, got its name from the Latin word ‘rapum’ which means turnip. In the 1970s Canadian scientists created a variant of rapeseed oil that contained less erucic acid, making it safer for consumption. The word canola is an acronym: Can(ada) o (oil) l (less) a (acid). Or less precisely, Canada oil (Can + ola).

With or without canola, I won’t abandon the concept of representing the seigneurial system. It’s an integral part of Quebec’s French heritage and reflecting that identity on the land is important to me and to the ideas behind Timelines. So in addition to researching possible crops, over the winter I’ll be reading Quebec history. Maybe some idea will surface, in fact or in folktale, that will tell me how to incorporate a stunning feature that so far has not received its full due.

 

The mown path through the field leads straight to this old dead tree, a natural sculptural form.
The mown path through the field leads straight to this witchy old dead tree, a natural sculptural form that I’d like to highlight.

 

Ideas, anyone?

A Fence with a Story

After reading my most recent post about fences, a friend sent me a photo of the fence around the Old Courthouse in St. Louis, Missouri.

 

You don't often see turtles on fences. Or at least not in my part of the world.
You don’t often see turtles on fences. Or at least not in my part of the world.

 

I wondered if Missouri was the turtle state, and if not, what was the story behind the design?

This information from a brochure about the Old Courthouse tells the tale:

‘A turtle design on the reproduction courtyard gates commemorates a turtle that once lived in the courthouse fountain.  Legend claims that custodian James Quigley brought the turtle to the courthouse where it had the distinction of being called “the only thing connected with the building that did not require an appropriation of the taxpayers’ money”.’

Thanks, Sarah! Whether true of not, the story is a good one.

Does anyone else have a good fence story to share? Or a story about a turtle?

I designed this fence made of steel posts and wire cable to be as invisible as possible from a distance and attractive up close.

Fences

Fences come in all shapes and sizes, yet in one way or another they all serve the same purpose: to separate one area from another. At Glen Villa, my garden in Quebec, the oldest fence separates a former farm field from a driveway.

 

It's obvious that this barbed wire fence is old -- the maple tree has grown around it.
It’s obvious from the way the tree has grown around it that this barbed wire fence was put up a long time ago.

 

An equally practical but more decorative fence is the one I designed to protect shrubs from the deer that are such a plague in country gardens. I found the style so effective that I’ve used it in fences in the upper and lower fields, the Asian meadow and the Upper Room.

 

I designed this fence made of steel posts and wire cable to be attractive but as invisible as possible from a distance.
I designed this fence made of steel posts and wire cable to be as invisible as possible from a distance and attractive up close.

 

A totally impractical but decorative fence in the Asian Meadow uses ornamental Chinese tiles inset into a low wooden fence to delineate the edge of the meadow and separate it from a picnic area.

 

Decorative Chinese tiles are set into a simple wooden structure.
This photo shows how important hard landscaping can be in areas where snow comes early and stays late.

 

One of the most attractive deer fences I’ve seen is the one below, spotted in the Bridge Garden on Long Island. The casual arrangement of long sticks is a variation of a Japanese style.

 

This simple structure and imaginative structure is an effective protection against the deer.
This simple and imaginative structure is an effective protection against the deer.

 

Compare it, for example, to this more formal fence at the Morikami Japanese Garden in Florida.

 

Tied bamboo fences are a staple of many Japanese gardens.
Tied bamboo fences are a staple of many Japanese gardens.

 

Some fences are purely practical but even practical fences needn’t be unattractive. I saw the one below at Madoo, the Long Island garden of the late Robert Dash, and while its material is utilitarian, its colour lightens the surroundings and adds interest to the plants at its base.

 

This fence probably screens an unattractive sight at Madoo, Robert Dash's garden on Long Island. It picks up on the strong primary colours used throughout the garden.
The strong green is repeated throughout the garden along with other strong primary colours.

 

Some fences make strong visual statements. At Veddw, the Welsh garden created by Anne Wareham and Charles Hawes, an opening into a farm field needed to be fenced. The ground on one side was much higher than the ground on the other, and the land sloped markedly from end to end. They solved this problem with imagination, and at low cost, by using slats of varying heights.

The uneven slats make a virtue of uneven ground.
The uneven slats make a virtue of uneven ground and create an interesting silhouette.

 

A similarly imaginative fence is at The Grove, the garden of the late David Hicks, where the silhouettes of famous landmarks decorate one side of a very plain fence.

 

A skyline at The Grove.
An over-the-top fence at The Grove features the Parthenon among other buildings. How many can you identify?

For a fence that illustrates the interests of the gardener, one designed by Christine Facer Hoffman, a medical scientist turned garden designer, tops my list. Ms Facer Hoffman’s dog is named Pi and this fence makes his name a reality… it is an endless sequence of numbers listing the decimal points of pi. The fence is also practical, keeping gravel out of the vegetable garden.

 

An aesthetically pleasing fence
The low metal  fence that surrounds the vegetable garden at Througham Court is aesthetically interesting. I wonder, though, if anyone has ever tripped over the raised numbers.

 

It’s easy to install a low-cost utilitarian fence, but how much more interesting it is to design one that suits the situation, the interests and the aesthetics of the garden owner. A wonderfully contemporary fence at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve combines open and closed spaces, a principle that informs many garden designs.  At first glance, the fence is a solid barrier.

 

A mass of flowers soften the appearance of the fence.
A mass of flowers soften the appearance of the fence.

 

But as you walk alongside it, the fence opens to allow flowers to peep through.

I love the combination of materials and colours in this Corten steel fence at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve.
I love the combination of materials and colours in this Corten steel fence at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve.

 

Designing a fence like this takes skill and imagination. Add the wonderfully toned plants and you have a winner.

 

 

 

 

The cmbination of regular and irregularly shapes stones along with the plants that break up the stones makes this path at Malverleys particularly appealing.

Paths with Pizazz

Many garden paths are ordinary, designed simply to get you from one place in the garden to another. Grass paths, the simplest and least costly type of path to make, appear in gardens so routinely that they almost disappear. Occasionally, though, you’ll see a path that stands out.

The grass path below is an example. It is well maintained and nicely curved but what lifts it out of the ordinary is the white line that edges it. That line draws your eye along the curve and makes the path itself impossible to ignore.

A curving parth at Througham Court leads across a field to a gate banners flying in the distance.
A curving path at Througham Court leads across a field to a gate into the garden proper.

 

Paths with plants dotted here and there also draw the eye, whether there are many plants …

 

The cmbination of regular and irregularly shapes stones along with the plants that break up the stones makes this path at Malverleys particularly appealing.
The combination of regular and irregularly shaped stones along with the plants that break up the stones makes this path at Malverleys particularly appealing.

 

or only a few.

Two clumps make a strong statement in this path at Spilsbury Farm, the garden of Tania Compton and
Fewer clumps make a stronger statement in this path at Spilsbury Farm, the garden of Tania and Jamie Compton.

 

At Hatfield House, a broad gravel path is lifted out of the ordinary by the pattern of stones that border it.  At first glance the borders look identical but they are not, any more than the flowers on the left are identical to the grass on the right. The different pattern of stones, left and right, sets up a rhythm that makes the path dynamic and more interesting than if the borders were the same.

Stones line this gravel path at Hatfield House.
Would you have used the same pattern on both sides of this path? Did you notice the difference at first glance?

 

In another part of the garden, another path varies the ‘in and out’ rhythmic theme. This second path is narrow and is bordered by tall hedges that make it feel even narrower. Using grass to break up the stone not only repeats the green of the hedges but also makes the walkway more inviting and less austere. A subtle touch is the contrast between the straight lines of the stones and the hedge and the curved lip of the fountain and the arched hedge above it.

A long corridor becomes more interesting because of the grass in the center.
At first the grass sections appear to be identical but the one in the foreground is larger than the others. I’m sure this was done deliberately to mark the beginning of the path. Although it isn’t clear in the photo, arched hedges appear on all four sides of the fountain where the paths intersect.

 

Perhaps the most unusual and most affecting path I’ve ever walked is the one at the Kennedy Memorial at Runnymede, England, designed by Geoffrey Jellicoe in honour of John Kennedy. A stone path leads through woods left in their natural state to a carved stone at the top of the hill. There, a path with  an irregular edge similar to those above leads across a flat stretch of grass.

Square stone blocks are separated by thin rectangular one, . The central line of
Square stone blocks are separated by thin rectangular one, . The space between the larger blocks creates a straight line that pulls your eye forward. The indentations of grass along the sides suggests the crenellations on a castle wall.

 

This path, so simply designed, is very much in keeping with the tone of the memorial itself. But the path that touched my heart was the one that visitors use as they climb the hill. Jellicoe designed the memorial with John Bunyan’s 17th century allegory Pilgrim’s Progress in mind, intending that people climbing the hill feel as if they are modern day pilgrims.  Each detail of the climb has meaning. There are 50 steps, as there are 50 states. Each of the 60,000 granite stones, or setts, that make up the path is hand-cut, slightly different from every other. Cobblestones that widen or narrow for no apparent reason edge the path and  because the setts were laid directly on the ground, the path ripples like an echo of the uneven surface beneath.

According to Tom Turner, the English landscape architect and garden historian, several lengths of the path were laid in a standard manner. When Jellicoe saw the work he asked the craftsman building the path to imagine that the stones were a crowd attending a football match. The stones were the front of the crowd, surging and falling back, only to surge again. With that in mind, the work began again.

 

The steps are also
Each step on the path is different and each is hand-laid.

 

Paths take you on journeys and you never know exactly where the journey will end. Or when.

Walking Timelines, the 3 km trail at my garden Glen Villa, I sometimes remember the sense of awe I felt at the Kennedy Memorial. I walked that path in May 2016 and described the experience in a blog post you can read here. Remembering how I felt at the time is one reason I continue to find this path the most affecting I’ve ever walked.

Is there a path that stands out for you?

 

 

The tightly laid stone path at Cottesbrooke, a Queen Anne house in Northamptonshire.

Garden Paths

Working on Timelines, the 3 km trail at Glen Villa that opened last weekend, started me thinking about trails and paths more generally, and particularly about the way the size, shape and the material a path is made of affect how we respond.

What a difference there is, for instance, between the effect of a winding path made of wood chips …

 

This photo shows a wood chip path at Holbrooke Gardens, an English garden specializing in informality.
This photo shows a wood chip path at Holbrooke Garden, a naturalistic garden in Devon.

 

… and a straight path that leads to a symmetrical façade.

 

The tightly laid stone path at Cottesbrooke, a Queen Anne house in Northamptonshire.
A tightly laid stone path leads to the Queen Anne façade of Cottesbrooke in Northamptonshire.

 

Scrolling through the thousands of photographs I’ve taken over the years in gardens around the world, I quickly realized that even paths made of the same material — stone, for instance — can create responses that differ considerably. A path made of straight-cut stones tightly laid suggests a higher level of formality than straight-cut stones laid in a more random pattern.

 

The sense of informality is heightened when the path is bordered by loosely planted flower beds.
The sense of informality is heightened when the path is bordered by loosely planted flower beds.

 

When the stones are shaped irregularly and edged with gravel, the effect changes again.

A rough stone path at Haseley Court
The clipped boxwood hedges at Haseley Court act almost like wings on a stage and the shade adds to the sense of mystery that this path suggests..

Paths are practical elements in a garden, minimizing the wear and tear that happens when people regularly follow the same route. While straight-cut stones that separate grass from a border create formality, they also suggest a practical approach to maintenance.

 

A long approach to a temple at P, a Capability Brown garden.
Borders edge grass on this long approach to a sculpture at the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden, Wisley.

 

Most stone paths are continuous but they don’t have to be. The round stepping stones below that direct your feet through this section of the garden at Rodmarton Manor lighten the formal design.

 

Rodmarton Manor
I like the way these round stepping stones combine with the round and square-edged shrubs on either side.

 

Not all paths work well. One I saw in a garden in France made me nervous. Was it safe to walk on the stones? Would they wobble or would I catch a heel in the gaps between the stones?

 

As I recall, a stream trickled over this stone path, making it even more treacherous.
As I recall, a stream trickled down this stone path, making it even more treacherous.

 

A path at England’s Bury Court is mounded to allow water to run off, making it dry quickly. But more interesting to me is the design of the path. It is a straight line that becomes a curve to echo the curve of a hedge nearby and the transition from one to the other doesn’t curve but turns at right angles. I can’t remember seeing something like this in any other garden. Have you?

This path at Bury Court is curved and straight. Notice how it is sloped to allow water to run off.
This path at Bury Court is made of local stone and echoes the stone used in the fence.

 

Stone paths can be expensive but not all are. And expense has little to do with beauty. What could be more gorgeous than this path made of stones set into moss?

 

Stones in the Japanese garden at Les Quatre Vents
Stones in the Japanese garden at Les Quatre Vents in Malbaie, Quebec.

 

Do you use paths in your garden? What material are they made of, and how did you determine the design?

 

The rich sounds of the cello could be heard from the Lower Garden right up to the Upper Field. No question, the music added to the special atmosphere.

Open Garden Day Success

On Saturday July 20, over 300 people visited Glen Villa to view the garden and walk Timelines, the 3km trail that opened for the first time.

The day was exhausting because of the heat and humidity but it was exhilarating to welcome so many people to the garden and to hear how much they enjoyed the experience. Many visitors commented on how well organized we were. For this, I have to thank the 24 volunteers who worked at the registration desk and at various spots around the garden.

Of all the volunteers, I want to send a particular thank you to John Hay. John made the signs that led people through the garden so easily. He worked at the registration desk all day long, coming early to set up and staying late to shut down. Along with Jacques Gosselin and Ken Kelso, his role in the day was essential.

John was already on site at the registration desk when I took this photo at 6:45.
John was already on site at the registration desk when I took this photo at 6:45.

 

Special thanks as well go to Catherine Walker and Gary Ross who volunteered to add music to the occasion. Catherine played the cello in the morning and Gary joined her on cello in the afternoon.

 

The rich sounds of the cello could be heard from the Lower Garden right up to the Upper Field. No question, the music added to the special atmosphere.
The rich sounds of the cello could be heard from the Lower Garden right up to the Upper Field. Many visitors commented on how much the music added to their pleasure.

 

Before the gates opened at 9am, I took a quick ride through Timelines to make sure everything was looking good. I started at In Transit/En Route, where walkers encounter a series of questions.

 

In Transit/En Route leads to a clearing in the woods that we call The Sundial.
This sign, the third of four, asks people to consider where they are in the present moment. The design of the sign is based on the traditional Chinese view of the world as a square held within a circular universe.

 

In the Seigneurie field, planted this year for the first time in long narrow strips to reflect the system of land division used along the St. Lawrence River, the canola was in full bloom and the flax just beginning.

 

This photo taken by a cousin shows deer almost swallowed up in the field.
This photo taken by a cousin later in the day shows deer munching on the canola, looking as if  the canola is swallowing them in turn.

 

Graham Moodie snapped a photo of me in the gaitor. Graham helped in 2016 and 2017 when we opened the garden and returned this year for the third time, one of many volunteers who have done this.  He spent the day walking through the garden, making sure other volunteers and visitors were okay, and on his rounds, he took the photos that follow.

I looked fresh and happy at the beginning of the day.
I looked fresh and happy at the beginning of the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I spent the day on a covered terrace near the house, talking to the  visitors and enjoying their company.

 

Two of the 300+ visitors walk down the steps beside the Cascade.
Two of the 300+ visitors walk down the steps beside the Cascade.

We opened the garden as a fund-raiser for the Massawippi Foundation and on those grounds alone, it was a huge success, raising almost $10,000 to support the Foundation’s over-arching goal: A Green and Prosperous Massawippi Valley.

Thank you to the journalists and garden lovers who spread the news — your publicity was vital to the success of the day.  And what a day it was — unusually hot and humid. But despite the weather, people came. So to each and everyone one of you, visitors and volunteers alike, bravo!

We look to welcoming you again in 2021.

For a wildflower to seed itself all over a field ... how lucky is that!

Wildflowers and Wild Life

Some wildflowers are called weeds… but often those ‘weeds’ have pretty flowers. Consider crown vetch, for instance. Its purple flowers are lovely from a distance and it is useful as a temporary ground cover to prevent erosion. But it’s also a menace, in some cases covering and shading out native plants.  Chickweed, on the other hand, isn’t a problem, although people who yearn for perfect lawns may disagree.

 

It's chickweed but it's actually quite nice.
It’s called chickweed because chickens love to eat it. People can too, and its flowers are quite nice.
 
 

A few years ago I threw out some seeds of a flower I saw growing alongside a road. It is some form of scabious, I think, and has happily seeded itself all around the Skating Pond in the Upper Field.

 

For a wildflower to seed itself all over a field ... how lucky is that!
For a wildflower as pretty as this one to seed itself all over a field … how lucky is that!

 

Some kind of tiny butterfly obviously finds it appealing.

 

Butterfly or moth? What's the difference?
Butterfly or moth? What’s the difference?

 

Also dismissed as a weed is milkweed (Asclepias syriaca). Yes, it spreads easily which can create problems, but take a look at the flowers — aren’t they pretty enough to make up for that?

 

A close up shows the tiny blossoms that make up the single flower.
A close up shows the tiny blossoms that make up the slightly pendulous round umbel. There can be as many as 100 flowers on each.

 

Common milkweed forms large groups by clones, and that is happening in some of the fields at Glen Villa.  I don’t mind, though. The flowers smell good and common milkweed is the host for monarch butterflies as well as being of special value to native, bumble and honey bees.

 

Can someone tell me what's going on here, on the underside of the leaf?
I think the orange and black creature is the milkweed leaf beetle. Not surprising since it seems quite happy on the underside of this leaf. But is it eating something else as well?

 

It’s obviously attractive to all kinds of wild life.

 

Can someone identify this little guy?
Can someone identify this little guy?

 

Native Americans used milkweed as a source of fibres, and during the Second World War children in northern states were encouraged to collect the floss for floatation in life vests.  Who knew?

Even stranger, the floss is now being used as insulation for winter coats! According to Wikipedia, the first milkweed insulated winter coat was produced in 2016 in collaboration with Altitude Sports, a Canadian online retailer, Quartz Co., a Canadian brand producing high-quality winter coats, and Monark™, a Quebec-based company cultivating milkweed fibres.

Just a pretty picture.
Just a pretty picture.

 

The best way to get an up close and personal look at the milkweed growing at Glen Villa is to visit the garden next Saturday, July 20. On that day only, we are opening the garden to the public as a fundraiser for the Massawippi Foundation and Conservation Trust. Tickets are selling fast so buy yours on line today through  the Massawippi Foundation. 

Tickets will be available on site unless all are sold before then.  No dogs and no picnics, please!

 

 

 

I deliberately made the questions difficult to read in order to slow people down.

Words on the Land

A picture is worth a thousand words, or so the old saying goes. But sometimes a word says all that needs to be said. Or perhaps, more than a thousand pictures can convey.

Words label each section of Timelines, the 2.9 km trail that we are opening to the public for the first time on July 20, as a fund-raiser for the Massawippi Foundation. (You can buy your tickets by clicking here.)

Words begin the journey at In Transit/En Route, where signs ask questions

 

I deliberately made the questions difficult to read in order to slow people down.
I deliberately made the questions difficult to read in order to slow people down.

 

 

The trail leads to a clearing in the woods where a walker can sit and contemplate the passage of time.

 

At the Sundail, the shadow of a dead pine tree marks the hours on painted posts.
At the Sundial, the shadow of a dead pine tree marks the hours on painted posts.

 

 

A short distance beyond the Sundial, Timelines enter The Clearing of the Land, a section remembering the impact of the early settlers who came to Quebec’s Eastern Townships.

 

The date 1803 is when the first land grant in this area was awarded to Henry Cull and Ebenezer Hovey.
The date 1803, barely visible here, is when the first land grant in this area was awarded to Henry Cull and Ebenezer Hovey.

 

 

Passing through The Clearing of the Land, Timelines takes a turn at Two Roads.

 

A forked tree in the foreground mirrors the forked sign in the rear.
A forked tree in the foreground mirrors the forks on the painted tree in the rear.

 

 

One path leads farther back into Quebec’s history, towards the entrance to La Seigneurie.

 

This wrought-iron sign was made by the blacksmith Justine Southam. I think she did a great job.
This wrought-iron sign was made by the blacksmith Justine Southam. I think she did a great job.

 

 

The formality of French garden design and the historic importance of the road that leads to old Quebec City are celebrated along La Grande Allée.

 

My friend John Hay hand-painted the street sign. The cast-iron post was a lucky find.
My friend John Hay hand-painted the street sign. The cast-iron post was a lucky find.

 

 

At the end of La Grande Allée, Perspective calls attention to where we are and to where we are going.

 

We all need a bit of this.
We all need a bit of this.

 

 

With a reminder that The Past Looms Large, Timelines now leads us father back, to the roots of western history and culture.

 

A column of corrugated tin suggests the fluting on Greek columns.
A column of corrugated tin suggests the fluting on Greek columns.

 

 

Another classical reference introduces the basic shapes that make up the built universe.

 

Did I mention that my undergraduate degree was in philosophy?
My undergraduate degree was in philosophy. Plato was one of my favourites.

 

 

A sign suspended over the trail announces Orin’s Sugarcamp, where maple syrup once was made.

 

Orin Gardner made maple syrup on this site in the 1950s and 1960s.
Orin Gardner made maple syrup on this site in the 1950s and 1960s.

 

 

Finally, we return to the present, at the Grandchildren Trees.

 

Henry's tree is one of eleven trees planted in honour of our eleven grandchildren.
Henry’s tree is one of eleven trees planted in honour of our eleven grandchildren.

 

 

The words I’ve used along the trail tell only part of the story of Timelines. The land speaks its own version, not through words but through sound and scent, taste, touch and sight. Walking the trail is a total experience and pictures convey only a tiny part of it.

stumpy (2 of 5)

Introducing Mr. Albert Stumpson

For many years a pine tree towered over an old house where a tenant farmer once lived.

 

This photo dates from 2009. The house is now grey with trim that matches the red barn next to it.
You can see the tall pine tree behind the house in this photo from 2009.

 

In search of the sun, it gradually leaned farther and farther away from the house. Until one day, it fell.

 

The screened porch on the farmhouse is the perfect place to sit on a summer's evening.
The screened porch on the farmhouse is the perfect place to sit on a summer’s evening.

 

When the branches were removed, my son-in-law noticed that the tree trunk looked like an alligator. He suggested it would make a good place for grandchildren to play, but only if it was closer to our house. So in April 2018, with a tractor in front and a tractor behind, we moved the tree trunk, very slowly and carefully, to its new home on the bank of Lake Massawippi.

 

It looks a bit like a very large earthworm crawling across the grass.
It’s crawling across the grass, but which end is the head and which is the tail?

 

Last summer when our extended family gathered for a reunion, we held a contest to name the creature. People made some wonderful suggestions (the Logness Monster, Dundee, Tick Tock and Piney Brown stand out in my memory) but for some reason, the final vote never happened. All winter the tree trunk sat there, unnamed, snow covered, neglected. Each time I turned the corner on the drive, my eye went to it, and each time I felt that something was wrong. Not only did the tree trunk lack a name, it lacked a snout.

 

Exhibit 1: the tree trunk before we started shaping it.
Exhibit 1: the tree trunk before we started shaping it. Do you see the little stumpy legs? the eyes?

 

A week or two ago, my friend John Hay and I set out to correct that. Jacques is a handy man with a chain saw. Following the lines John spray-painted, Jacques began to cut.

 

The first cut lines were orange, the second were green.
You can see how rotten the centre of the tree was.  The green spray-painted line marked minor changes to John’s first try at getting the shape right.

 

There was a lot of rotten wood, far more than we were prepared for — a huge section of the centre of the tree was nothing but sawdust — and at one point Jacques actually crawled into the hole to pull out chunks of rotten wood.

 

A long chain saw made for short work.
Here Jacques is making the first cut. A long chain saw made for short work.

 

Pieces of bark fell off along with  big pieces of wood with gorgeous patterns. We saved these for some future use… you never know when a piece of bark will come in handy. The amount of dead wood complicated the job of shaping the snout — it was impossible to make the front and back sides look the same.

 

Finished!
Finished! If you focus on Al’s eyes, he looks truly menacing. Or am I just seeing things?

 

 

We haven’t shaped the tail yet and we may fiddle around a bit more with the snout. But for now, the chain-sawing is done. And I’ve settled on a name…

Meet Mr. Albert Stumpson, or Stumpy Al for short. I’m sure he’d happily shake your hand if he could. Or bite it, perhaps.


 

The Open Garden Day at Glen Villa is fast approaching! Remember that space is limited. Tickets may still be available for purchase on July 20, but I can’t guarantee that. So get your ticket now — better safe than sorry!

To buy your ticket for a morning (9-12:30) or afternoon (12:30-4) visit, follow this link to the website of the Massawippi Foundation. All proceeds go to the Foundation for its work supporting community activities and conserving pristine forest land.

 

open-house-banner

The many petals of this peony capture raindrops.

Favourite Things

Sometimes, pictures of pretty flowers are enough.

I took these photos in a garden in Knowlton, Quebec that I visited last week. It was a grey, rainy day but the gardens were glorious! The flowers in one garden were the stars of the day.

 

The many petals of this peony capture raindrops.
Raindrops on roses are nice. Raindrops on peonies are even better. I’m not sure how to rank whiskers on kittens.

 

Bright copper kettles are no competition for the WOW! of this poppy. Talk about gorgeous!

 

Orange is not the new black, it is a battle between exuberance and fragility.
The colour is exuberant and the petals are fragile. This contradiction is one reason why I love poppies.

 

I can’t promise that you’ll see either of these flowers if you visit Glen villa on July 20, when we open the garden to the public as a fundraiser for the Massawippi Foundation and Conservation Trust.  In fact, I can promise that you won’t, since poppies and peonies will no longer be in bloom. But I think you’ll find floral eye candy of some flavour or other.

 

When you were a child, did you hold a buttercup under your chin to see if you liked butter? I know I did.
When you were a child, did you hold a buttercup under your chin to see if you liked butter? I know I did.

 

Tickets are available through the Massawippi Foundation, at https://massawippi.org/event/open-garden-day-at-glen-villa/

I look forward to seeing you on the 20th.