All posts by Pat Webster

These hedges were tiny when planted. Very tiny --
 about ankle high. Getting the proportions right must have been a nightmare.

Veddw House Garden

 

I’m in England now, about to start on a ten-day garden tour. With my co-host Julia Guest of Travel Concepts in Vancouver, I will take a small group of women to the southwest of England.  But before hitting the road, let me whet your appetite with a review of an extraordinary garden I visited pre-tour.

Veddw is the garden of Anne Wareham and Charles Hawes. Located in Wales, just across the border from England in an area of outstanding natural beauty, Veddw pays homage to its surroundings in ways that show respect for what came before. And significantly, that respectful attitude, felt throughout the garden, highlights the design talents of its creators.

English gardens that nod to the past are a commonplace but Veddw is no ordinary garden. A bench at the entry to the garden announces the difference, first in its shape and colour and then in the words that appear on the back, names used for the property over several centuries.

 

Veddw, Vedda, Fedw: from 1534 to 1947, the spelling has changed but the sound has remained much the same.
Vedow,, Veadow, Fedw, Vadda, Veddw. From 1569 to 1947, the spelling has changed but the sound remains much the same.

 

At the edge of  a wild garden, headstones give alternate names for people and areas nearby.

 

Barely visible is a wonderfully evocative name: Belchey Bernard. Not sure I'd want him as a neighbour.
Barely visible is a wonderfully evocative name: Bulchey Bernard. And why Hatter’s Patch? Were hats made there by Mr. Bernard?

 

Veddw and its designers do more, though, than show respect for the past. The garden they have created is very much of the present, yet it draws on ideas of time and change that are common to gardens everywhere. Attention to detail is evident throughout… not in the ordinary ‘garden variety’ way where all is neat and tidy, with no weeds apparent, but in the subtlety with which design creates meaning and significance.

Every garden design manual will advise repeating plants, colours and shapes, stressing that repetition holds a garden together, gives it coherence. And I agree. But too often, repetition of the sort advised hits you in the face, as if carbon paper had been pressed over a good idea and then imprinted mindlessly from one area to another.

Not so at Veddw. Here, the garden coheres through a more nuanced approach.  The curve of hedges is repeated in the roofline of what once was a tiny stone house.  The curve of the entry bench is echoed in the curves of a bench by a reflecting pool, but here the curve is modified with a dip that suggests what is about to come.

 

Black water reflects an overcast sky.
Black water reflects an overcast sky. Water features, each different in size and shape, repeatedly bring the sky onto the ground, another subtle repetition.

 

For me, the marvel at Veddw is the Hedge Garden. Designing interlocking hedges that appeal from every direction is a challenge that designer Anne Wareham has met, seemingly with ease. At the entry to the garden, a visitor encounters a genuine Wow! moment. Stretched across the valley below are scalloped-topped hedges set against flat-topped ones. Shades of green repeat and shift, balanced with touches of maroon and rust. Cones in the foreground are echoed by square columns in the distance. And all this energy is anchored by a calm backdrop of trees that promise a garden of a different sort.

 

Intricately interwoven of shapes, with flat and scalloped tops, cones and columns, are made even more intricate with different plants and colours.
Intricately interwoven shapes, with flat and scalloped tops, cones and columns, are made even more intricate with different plants and colours. While they are barely visible in this photo, the yew columns on the far hillside to the left were one of my favourite features.

 

To create a view this satisfying from one angle isn’t easy. To make it equally satisfying from the opposite direction adds another level of difficulty. Wareham has met the challenge and succeeded.

 

A view from the hillside opposite the entry shows a tiny entry into the Pool Garden.
A view from the hillside opposite shows the bench listing Veddw’s various names at the top of the photo. In the foreground you can see a tiny entry into the Pool Garden.

 

In the Pool Garden, the interwoven hedges become a complex play of curves. Do they rise and fall like waves on a distant sea or do they mimic the rising and falling hills that surround Veddw?  No matter. Their reflections in the dark water form an inverted goblet that spills out an invitation to enter the underwater world beyond.

 

These hedges were tiny when planted. Very tiny -- about ankle high. Getting the proportions right must have been a nightmare.
These hedges were tiny when planted. Very tiny — about ankle high. Getting the proportions right must have been a nightmare.

 

A path continues around the reflecting pool to enter the Hedge Garden. Turning a corner, waves appear again, this time in a contrasting colour — the fresh green of boxwood set against the darker tones of yew.

 

The curving waves appear again on a side hedge.
The curving waves appearing on a side hedge draw you into the garden world beyond.

 

The magic of Veddw continues in the adjacent woods …

 

A twisted tree watches over a peaceful fern-filled valley. The bluebells were past their peak but still gave off a hint of blue.
A twisted tree watches over a peaceful fern-filled valley. The bluebells were past their peak but still gave off a hint of blue.

 

… where the ruins of an old farm building, once in the middle of an open field, have become a mysterious shrine.

 

A utilitarian hut changes its character when softened and romanticized with moss. The columns hint at some grander past, now cloaked with mystery.
A utilitarian stone hut changed its character when softened and romanticized with moss. The columns hint at some grander past, now cloaked in mystery.

 

There is much more to Veddw than hedges and romantic woods. There are open sunny borders, a delightful garden stuffed with cardoon and shaped boxwood, a meadow walk and a white Clematis montana so tall it might almost be visible from outer space.

But for me, a highlight was the use of words throughout the garden. (Those of you who read this blog regularly, or who read ThinkinGardens, Anne Wareham’s internationally acclaimed blog, will be familiar with this quirk of mine. You can read A Matter of Words here.)

Hatter’s Patch and Bulchey Bernard are only two of many ways that words are used to link the garden to a wider world. A quotation from Wordsworth’s poem about nearby Tintern Abbey appears on a wooden bench, connecting the garden to the fields around. (“These hedgerows, hardly hedgerows, little lines of sportive wood run wild…”)  T.S. Eliot is quoted on an irregular stone, the words suggesting the progression that occurs when past and present, repeated, are brought together in new ways.

 

New timbers, new buildings, new ideas.
Old stone to new building: a repurposed stone provides a suitable place for a repurposed  quotation from “East Coker,” one of Eliot’s Four Quartets.

 

A small, weathered plaque attached to a tree speaks to what a garden is, or can be. At Veddw, the words articulate what the garden says: past is present, present, past. The future is still becoming.

 

This quotation from .S. Eliot encapsulates a crucial component of the garden at Veddw.
This quotation from Burnt Norton, the first of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, encapsulates a crucial component of the garden at Veddw. And of every garden worth its name.

 

Veddw is open on Sunday afternoons in June and July and from August 2-5. Groups of ten or more are welcome by prior arrangement from May to September.

If you have the chance, go. This is a garden worth the detour.

 

Glen Villa Open House 2017 eng 1200x800

Open Garden Day 2017

I’m happy to announce that once again this year, we are opening the garden at Glen Villa as a fundraiser for the Massawippi Foundation.

Here are the details.

 

Glen Villa Open House 2017 eng 1200x800

 

As you can see, the admission goes directly to our local community foundation, Fondation Massawippi Foundation. The Foundation supports community projects — school playgrounds, a community health centre, meals to shut-ins and seniors and much more. It also supports land conservation through the Massawippi Conservation Trust. In the few short years since the Trust was established, almost 800 acres of ecologically valuable land have been conserved; by the end of this year, the Trust hopes to add an additional 400 acres. Most of the conserved land is undisturbed forest on the hillside above Lake Massawippi, in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. The Foundation is now building trails on this land to make the natural beauty accessible to the general public in an ecologically sensitive way.

 

Wild garlic carpets a section of the forest floor at Glen Villa.
Wild garlic carpets a section of the forest floor at Glen Villa.

 

This is a cause our family enthusiastically supports. I’m on the Board of Directors of the Foundation and my husband is a Trustee of the Conservation Trust. In addition, we have put a servitude, or easement, on a portion of our land, preventing development of any kind in perpetuity. We decided to do this because the land itself deserves protection. It contains sections of old growth forest and is filled with native flora and fauna that could easily be destroyed. Opening our garden to be public gives us a chance to support the work of the Foundation and Trust. And it gives me the pleasure of sharing the garden we’ve created.

In order for visitors to experience the garden at its best, we’ve decided to limit numbers. Unlike last year when visitors simply showed up at the gate, this years we are asking people to reserve for either a morning or afternoon visit. Last year the morning was busier than the afternoon, so if you want to come in the morning, I suggest reserving soon. You can do that here (English) or here (French).

 

A volunteer sets up the registration table at last year's Open Garden Day.
A volunteer sets up the registration table at last year’s Open Garden Day.

 

As long as space is available, we will welcome visitors at the door. Payment is also at the door. Up to the Open Day itself you will be able to confirm if space is available by checking the website of the Massawippi Foundation.

***  Please note: reservations can be made only with the Massawippi Foundation and not with me.

Maps of the property in French and English will be available at the door and bilingual volunteers will be stationed throughout the garden to give directions and answer questions. I will be in and about all day, to chat or discuss issues related to gardens, art for gardens and garden design.

Last year, with very little publicity, we attracted hundreds of people. This year we are publicizing the event more widely, particularly through garden clubs and horticultural societies.  So I do urge you to reserve your spot as soon as you can.

And please, spread the word!

 

 

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The flowers that bloom in the spring, Tra-la

Gilbert and Sullivan got it right when they wrote about spring flowers.

The flowers that bloom in the spring, Tra la,
Breathe promise of merry sunshine —
As we merrily dance and we sing, Tra la,
We welcome the hope that they bring, Tra la,
Of a summer of roses and wine.

Right now, I’m dancing and singing. Because everywhere at Glen Villa, spring flowers are blooming. Daffodils galore brighten the path to the China Terrace ….

 

We planted these daffodils about fifteen years ago. The clumps get bigger every year.
We planted these daffodils about fifteen years ago. The clumps get bigger every year.

 

hugging the base of birch trees.

 

I like to mix colours and varieties in some area and to plant varieties of a single colour in others.
I like to mix colours and varieties in some areas and to plant varieties of a single colour in others.

 

More daffodils sparkle on the berm by the Skating Pond ….

 

We planted 1000 bulbs a year on the berm for four or five years in a row. Deadheading takes time.
We planted 1000 bulbs a year on the berm for four or five years in a row. Deadheading them all takes time.

 

and spring up from the grassy hillside like dots of  butter and cream.

 

Mixing varieties extends the blooming season from mid-April to the end of May, and sometimes beyond.
Mixing varieties extends the blooming season from mid-April to the end of May, and sometimes beyond.

 

In the Lower Garden, magnolia blooms take pride of place. Now blooming are the star magnolias (Magnolia stellata ‘Susan.’) When they begin to fade, the darker-toned Magnolia ‘Leonard Messel’ appears, as welcome as any flower that blooms in the spring.

 

Magnolia stellata grows well in the Lower Garden where it is sheltered from the wind.
Magnolia stellata grows well in the Lower Garden where it is sheltered from the wind.

 

In my photos, the colour of the star magnolia blossoms seems almost unnaturally vivid against a lawn still greening up after winter.

 

The star magnolia blooms stand out against a grassy lawn.

 

In close-up, the pink is softer and gentler.

 

untitled (4 of 20)
Continuing the Gilbert and Sullivan theme, this is no caricature of a face.

 

Joining the magnolias and daffodils throughout the garden are ferns of all sorts. They rise up from the leaf mold like sleepy monks shedding their winter robes.

 

A huddle of hairy heads.
I don’t know why this huddle of hairy heads makes me think of monks, but it does.

 

Whatever the variety —  and growing wild in our woods there are many — the newly emerging ferns always make me smile. They seem like sociable creatures, happy to be part of a group ….

 

I haven't tried to identify the different types of ferns, only to enjoy them.
I haven’t tried to identify the different types of ferns, only to enjoy them.

 

or, like giddy maids at school, to be sharing secrets with special friends.

 

Whatever the topic, ferny heads always seem to nod in agreement.
Whatever the topic, ferny heads nod in agreement.

 

Normally my favourite spring flower, the one I watch and wait for, is the twinleaf (Jeffersonia diphylla) that grows by the kitchen door. I love watching the leaves and buds emerge, opening and shutting as the weather dictates.

 

Jeffersonia hold a special place in my heart. Named after Thomas Jefferson, they remind me of Virginia, where I grew up.
Jeffersonia hold a special place in my heart. Named after Thomas Jefferson, the flowers remind me of Virginia, where I grew up. For southerners, these flowers may be a commonplace. In my climate, they are a rarity.

 

But of all the flowers in bloom this year, the highlight for me are the daffodils that are whipping their way across the grass in the Dragon’s Tail.

 

The Dragon's Tail, 2017 model.
The Dragon’s Tail, 2017 version.

 

For the last fifteen years, the Dragon’s Tail has been blue in the spring when the grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) bloomed and bright fuchsia in August with Astilbe ‘Veronica Klose.’ But lately the muscari hasn’t been doing well. Deer eat the foliage as it emerges, and this weakens the bulbs so gradually they’ve been fading away.  Last fall I dug them up, determined to try something new.

 

Seen from a different angle, the whip of the Dragon's Tail appears more gentle.
Seen from a different angle, the whip of the Dragon’s Tail appears more gentle.

 

A year or two from now I’ll be able to assess whether the change was an improvement. But for now, I’m loving it.


STAYED TUNED FOR AN IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT!

I’ll be posting in a day or two with news about this year’s Open Garden Day. For now, mark it down on your calendar: Saturday, July 29, from 10-4.

Hope to see you on the 29th.

The hardscaping for The Upper Room was completed last summer.

The Upper Room

After months of anticipation, yesterday we installed the glass panels at The Upper Room. The wait was long but it was worth it — I am thrilled with the results.

The Upper Room is a memorial designed to honour my mother and her beliefs. It’s a tribute to family and to the traditions I grew up with in Richmond, Virginia, when classically symmetrical architecture, brick, and boxwood shaped our streetscapes and our view of the world.

From inception, brick and boxwood were essential elements of the design. So was a sense of embrace. I wanted the area to include something that felt like a hug from the out-stretched arms that always welcomed me when I returned.

 

The hardscaping for The Upper Room was completed last summer.
The hardscaping for The Upper Room was completed last summer but I couldn’t go on to the next step until the glass panels were installed.

 

Genealogy was important to my mother so representing family was another key component. I played around with the idea of making a literal family tree but everything I sketched was too complicated and too busy. Yet the idea of a tree stuck. If not a family tree, what about an actual one? But what kind of tree, and would it have the necessary impact, situated as it was in the midst of a forest? I doubted it. So if not a real tree, what about the image of a tree?

Immediately the idea felt right. The tree would be a flowering dogwood. Two groves of stately white dogwood (Cornus florida) grew outside the first house I remember, and dogwood is the Virginia state flower. I asked my friend, the Montreal artist Mary Martha Guy, to draw the tree and her design captured my heart.

 

Mary Martha Guy's design shows the bare outline of the tree, with five over-sized dogwood flowers positioned in a gentle curve.
Mary Martha Guy’s beautifully spare design shows the outline of a dogwood tree, with five over-sized flowers positioned in a gentle curve.

 

Even before the drawing was done, I knew I wanted it to appear on glass — the transparent, translucent and reflective qualities of glass seemed to fit the idea behind the project. It was easy to imagine the outline of a tree etched or sandblasted into glass. But I quickly realized that I wanted to flip that around. Instead of picturing the tree on the glass, I wanted to picture its absence. I wanted the shape of the tree to be clear glass and the remaining space to be sandblasted. Clear glass would allow a view of the real trees in the forest behind, an idea I found appealing, and the empty tree-shaped space representing Virginia and so much more would add an air of poignancy.

Finding someone able to do the work as I wanted it done took time. But Deirdre and Holden Collins at Vitrerie VM and Peter Collins Design in Montreal were the ones. We worked together to find the right hardware. That took time and getting everything in place took more. When we were ready to go, the ground was deep in snow.

Yesterday, though, was perfect — warm and sunny. Work began early as the posts to hold the panels were installed.

 

Posts are anchored in the ground below frost level to prevent shifting over time.
Posts are anchored in the ground below frost level to prevent shifting over time. They form an arc like arms about to give a hug.

 

Each post had to be level and straight and getting this right took an hour or two. Then the first panel was carried down the hill.

 

Watching the panel being carried through the woods over rough, uneven ground was nerve-wracking.
Watching the panel being carried through the woods over rough, uneven ground was nerve-wracking. What if they dropped it?

 

This first panel was the middle of five. Positioning it perfectly was crucial — if it was off-centre, everything that followed would be wrong.

 

Mary Martha, her husband Jean-Eude and I chatted away while the experts did their job. Mentally I was biting my nails the whole time.
Mary Martha, her husband Jean-Eude and I chatted away while the experts did their job. Mentally I was biting my nails the whole time.

 

By lunchtime, three panels were in place and everyone was starting to relax. And to become excited. The drawing was coming to life.

 

Mary Martha is beginning to breathe more easily.
Mary Martha was beginning to smile. Even to laugh.

 

With all five panels in place, the idea I had in my head, that Mary Martha had translated to a drawing and that Didi and Holden had sand-blasted onto glass, was finally there in front of me.

 

Once the trees leaf out, our daughter's house at the top of the hill will be hidden.
How different things will look at different times of day and in different seasons. How different it will look once the trees leaf out. Our daughter’s house at the top of the hill will be hidden then.

 

The impact is more than I had hoped for. The details of Mary Martha’s beautiful drawing have been translated with enormous skill to show overlapping branches that end with a delicacy that reminds me of Chinese ink paintings. The shadow line that Peter Collins suggested adds another level of  nuance.

 

I love how the dead leaves twinkle through the clear glass and how the sand-blasted areas reflect the trees behind.
I love how the dead leaves twinkle through the clear glass, making the empty space look like the trunk of an actual tree, and how the sand-blasted areas show shadowy trees behind the glass and reflect the trees that were behind me when I took the photo.

 

The area is far from finished but the biggest step is over. Today we pulled up the boxwood that were heeled in when we began work on this project in October 2015. We cleaned them up, gave them a preliminary trim and replanted them along the sides of the brick paving. Amazingly, after 18 months of neglect, they still look good — a bit scraggly, perhaps, but I’m confident that time and good growing conditions will remedy that. Or perhaps, as Mary Martha said, their sprawl suits the forest around.

 

Boxwood line the outside edge of the central brick area. Benches like church pews will offer a place to sit and admire the real trees and the sand-blasted one.
Boxwood line the outside edge of the central brick area. Benches like church pews will offer a place to sit and admire the real trees and the sand-blasted one.

 

I won’t use many other plants — The Upper Room is in the midst of a forest that provides its own beauty — but I do plan to use columnar trees that will rise like pillars from the corners of the symmetrical space. I’ll add a low-growing ground cover around the trees, the boxwood and at the base of the dogwood panels — possibly heuchera or heucherella, possibly lamium or vinca, possibly partridge berry (Mitchella repens).

And I’ll design two benches that will provide a place to sit, to replace the ones shown in the photos above. Today I settled on their dimensions and the idea for the design became clear.

Finishing The Upper Room was one of my goals for 2017.  I’m confident now that it will be done. My mother would be pleased — she always finished what she started.

 

The job is done. For now at least.
Mary Martha Guy stands in front of her beautiful drawing on the stunning glass panels made by Vitrerie VM.

 

 

The book is a useful primer on how to use stone in the garden.

The Spirit of Stone: A Book Review

I share something with Jan Johnsen, author of The Spirit of Stone — a respect for stones and the qualities they bring to a landscape.

At Glen Villa, my garden in Quebec, I’ve used stones in paths, steps and walls. I’ve used them more unusually in the gabion walls of The Aqueduct and in the parking area in front of the house.

Gabion walls can be practical and aesthetically pleasing.
Gabion walls can be practical and aesthetically pleasing. A low pool can be attractive to a tiny granddaughter.

 

Two stunning moss-covered rocks in the woods dictated the route of a path that we installed shortly after we acquired the property in 1996. A rock only partly exposed became the centrepiece of a new shrub border when we uncovered more of it. And at the Skating Pond, smooth blue-toned rocks are a highlight, setting a colour palette for the plantings that surround them.

 

Lime green ninebark (Physocarpus Gold Nugget) is a sharp contrast to the smooth blue stone beside The Skating Pond. We had no idea such a gorgeous stone was hiding underground.
Lime green ninebark (Physocarpus Golden Nugget) is a sharp contrast to the smooth blue stone beside The Skating Pond. We had no idea such gorgeously coloured stone was hiding underground.

 

The Spirit of Stone looks at uses like these and more. The subtitle of the book is an accurate description of the contents: 101 Practical & Creative Stonescaping Ideas for Your Garden. I didn’t count the ideas but the book is full of them. In effect it is a primer on the multitude of ways in which stone can be, and has been, used in gardens.

 

The book is a useful primer on how to use stone in the garden.
The book is a useful primer on how to use stone in the garden. It also feels good in the hand.

 

Short sections give practical advice about using these natural treasures in rock gardens, walks, steps, walls and as accents in the garden. A final section is about plants that work well in combination with stones large and small.

Johnsen’s advice is helpful but for me the ‘spiritual’ aspects of the book are more interesting. Stone is revered in cultures around the world and understandably so. Beautiful in its variety of colours, shapes and textures, it conveys a sense of permanence that anchors us in a way that changeable plants do not.  A quote from the English artist Andy Goldsworthy underlines this point.

“A lone resting stone is not merely an object in the landscape but a deeply ingrained witness to time.”

A rock at Crawick Multiverse in Scotland shows the marks of time.
A rock at Crawick Multiverse in Scotland shows how beautiful the marks of time can be.

 

A number of the ‘spiritual’ uses Johnsen reviews, such as standing stones and stone circles, are familiar. Others are less so. I for one have never seen a split rock like the ones she illustrates, which apparently were regarded by Native Americans as doors to the underworld. Nor did I know that the continent’s indigenous people believed quartz contained supernatural power.

 

A vein of quartz forms a natural A on this rock at Glen Villa. I placed memory posts to my father and brother-in-law in this location to be near the A Rock. Does that testify to its supernatural power?
A vein of quartz forms a natural A on this rock at Glen Villa. I placed memory posts to my father and brother-in-law in this location to be near the A Rock which pulled me like a magnet.

 

I do know that using rock successfully requires paying close attention. Building the cascade at Glen Villa, one of the first things we did in the garden, took genuine patience. We had to examine each rock, find not only its best face but the face that it wanted to show to the world. Because, odd as it may seem, rocks will speak if you give them, and yourself, time to hear.

Rock art is one of the few rock-related topics Johnsen does not address. Perhaps this is understandable since few of us are about to use rock walls as canvases to tell stories. But since I love rock art and have ventured far into the Australian outback and other places to view it, I found the omission regrettable.

 

A strangely fingered figure is painted on a wall inside a cave-like overhang in the Kimberley area of West Australia.
A strangely fingered figure is painted on a wall inside a cave-like overhang in the Kimberley area of West Australia.

 

The Spirit of Stone is not a big book. It isn’t a philosophical tome and it doesn’t take long to read. But if you are looking for good ideas and practical advice about using stone in your garden, this is a helpful book to read.

 

 

You can see a bit of the trail on the left side of this photo, taken in 2009. We cleared brush from this area last fall. Some of the wildflowers have disappeared but the site still feels the same. Is this an example of unity persisting despite change?

Garden Plans: I’m Dreaming Again

Now that winter has dumped several feet of snow on a garden that was almost snow-free, I’m back by the fire, metaphorically at least, dreaming of the seasons ahead.

 

I took this photo about ten days ago, on a bright winter day after a fresh snowfall. More snow is falling now.
I took this photo about ten days ago after a fresh snowfall. Today is grey. And maybe more snow will fall. I hope not.

 

I’m dreaming about a trail that will lead around the property. I’m considering the route it will follow and what I will call it. I know the purpose of the trail — it will connect art installations now in place and others I’m working on, or planning. And while there are problems about the route, the big question is what the trail should be called.

The choice of a name may seem inconsequential but in my mind it matters enormously. A name does more than describe, it defines significance, and finding the right name is proving more difficult than I anticipated. The name I’m searching for will encapsulate what links the different installations and how they add to the experience of walking the land. It will identify something meaningful.

The trail as it now exists starts in the Upper Field beside the Skating Pond and leads into the woods.

 

In Transit/En Route is a path lined with signs that ask questions.
In Transit/En Route is a path lined with signs that ask questions about time, space and our relationship to them.

 

The end point of this installation, called In Transit/En Route, is a clearing, where a bench offers a place to sit and reflect. (I’ve written more about In Transit/En Route here, here and here.)

 

This is the Sundial Clearing. The shadow of a dead pine tree marks the hours of the day.
This is the Sundial Clearing. On the left is an uncomfortable pine box that serves as a bench. The shadow of a dead pine tree marks the hours of the day as it hits upright posts placed around the circle.

 

The trail continues beyond the sundial clearing into a meadow-like area with a small stream.

 

You can see a bit of the trail on the left side of this photo, taken in 2009. We cleared brush from this area last fall. Some of the wildflowers have disappeared but the site still feels the same. Is this an example of unity persisting despite change?
You can see a bit of the trail on the left side of this photo, taken in 2009. Last fall we cleared the brush that was smothering the wildflowers. I’m betting that now they will return.

 

Currently there is no installation in this space, tentatively named the water meadow. I plan to create something for the site but I don’t know what, although Heraclitus comes to mind. Over the summer I’ll spend time in the area, giving it a chance to speak —  and giving myself time to hear it.

Beyond the water meadow, the path splits and splits again. At the second division, a tall tree trunk painted yellow announces Two Roads.

 

This is one of the simplest pieces Ive made.
I learned only recently that the ‘yellow wood’ Frost refers to is not the yellow of New England’s autumn foliage but a wood full of yellow daffodils. I’m still trying to get my head around this change of season.

 

As in the poem, the two roads that present a choice to the walker lead to much the same place. At that spot, years ago, there was a farmhouse and a barn. Now it’s a quiet spot, out of the way, with a glade that reminds me of a poem by Yeats. In a year or two I will make an installation for the site, and possibly Yeats’ poem will be the genesis. But my idea needs time to grow and ripen, like the nine rows of beans he dreams of planting.

 

From the farmhouse there was a view onto the lake that we are restoring gradually.
From the farmhouse there used to be a wide view onto the lake. We are restoring the view gradually.

 

Beyond this site the route becomes complicated. There are simply too many ways to go, and too many sites that call out for recognition. The marks that history has left on the land often dictate where an installation needs to be placed and these land marks are not arranged neatly in a loop. Sometimes they veer off abruptly. Sometimes they are too close together, or too far apart. And sometimes the rhythm of the walk dictates the need for an installation even if there are no historical marks or striking natural features.  That is the case in the fields near Lilac Cottage, a small house surrounded by lilac bushes, that many decades ago was used by a tenant farmer.

On two sides of the cottage are farm fields, and I’m working now on installations for both. Crossing one field will be a simple avenue of crabapple trees that I hope to plant in early spring. Crossing the other will be a more complex installation, inspired Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Scottish garden, Little Sparta, and tentatively titled The Past Looms Large.

 

My current project will lead across this field towards the Big Chair. I hope to complete this project by May, so stayed tuned for more information.
The installation I’m working on now will lead across this field towards the Big Chair. I hope to complete the project by May, so stayed tuned.

 

Logic dictates that the path continue beyond the Big Chair, from the sun-filled field into a rather gloomy forest. The transition from light to shade is abrupt and is matched by a change in topography. From a dry, relatively flat field, the path leads downward, becoming increasingly soggy, provoking a  change in mood that I hope to make explicit. (Dante, anyone?)

Following this same path, walkers reach Orin’s Sugarbush, a project that needs only a few finishing touches before it is complete. (For more about this installation, click here and here.)

 

On a snowy day in January, my husband and i snowshoed past Orin's Sugarbush. It is magical spot in winter, with tin maple leaves tinkling in the wind.
On a snowy day in January, my husband and i snowshoed past Orin’s Sugarbush. It is magical in winter, when the tin maple leaves suspended from the trees chime in the wind.

 

A short distance beyond Orin’s Sugarbush the path comes out into another field. Here, walkers cross a stream before heading up the hill to the Skating Pond where they began.

 

The metaphoric bridge is what my family calls this spot. Their name for it makes me laugh.
My son calls this the metaphoric bridge. In one direction the words are written in French, in the other, in English. And despite what the signs say, the bridge is actual.

 

Walking the trail I’ve sketched out would take a fast walker an hour at least. Loops off the main trail could easily add another hour or more. And loops seem necessary: at almost every junction another site calls out to be honoured.

These site specific installations speak to what was, but also to what may be. It is easy to walk across the land and see nothing, or to see only a tiny part of what is there. It’s easy to miss the spirit of the place. My hope is that the art I create makes this more difficult. That it helps us to see.

 

I've been watching this tree rot for half a dozen years or more. Each time I pass it, I stop and notice what has changed.
I’ve been watching this tree rot for half a dozen years or more. Each time I pass it, I stop and notice what has changed.

 

Which bring me back to what this trail will be called. I’m searching for a name that brings to the surface the ideas that link the installations. Regular readers will know that I like using words outdoors. (I wrote about this recently on the English website ThinkinGardens. You can read that here.) Words are a part of the installations I’ve created to date and that will probably continue. The passage of time and the history of the site are elements as well, yet I know there is something more, something deeper that I haven’t identified.

I want a name that rolls off the tongue easily, that isn’t pretentious. Most important, though, it needs to encapsulate what the trail as a whole reveals about the land and the experience of being on it. It needs to speak to the deep heart’s core.

Do you have suggestions? I welcome individual words or combinations of words — even crazy thoughts. Because who knows where a thought will lead?

 

This

Experimenting Landscapes: A Book Review

Experimenting Landscapes: Testing the Limits of the Garden is the newest book about the International Garden Festival at Métis, Québec. Full of helpful insights from  the author Emily Waugh, the book presents photos and essays analyzing some of the Festival’s experimental gardens. Focusing on a selection of gardens from the last ten years, the book suggests five categories or methods of investigation that help readers position the gardens within a larger context.

 

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This cover photo shows Courtesy of Nature, by Johan Selbing and Anouk Vogel. It is one of my favourite installations in recent years.

 

Waugh’s categories ask us to consider how some gardens “Disaggregate and Re-present” or “Focus Within Frames” to help us see things we might otherwise miss; how “Altered Viewpoints” and “Unexpected Materials and Formats”  give new perspectives and how “Landscape as a Living Experience” brings richer awareness.

True to its title, the gardens selected stretch the definition of garden and test its limits. And all to the good, in my opinion.

“Disaggregate and Re-Present” examines gardens that help us see the details — the trees within the forest, as it were — by breaking a big picture into its component parts. One of the most successful is Tiny Taxonomies by Rosetta Elkins, where ordinary plants that form the floor of a boreal forest are re-presented in mirrored cylinders of different heights.

 

Tiny Taxonomies by Rosetta Elkins
Tiny Taxonomies by Rosetta Elkins. By removing plants from their original context, Elkins helps us see them as something special, non-commercial species with their own beauty.

 

“Focusing within Frames” is a familiar concept in garden design. Openings in hedges, tall trees at key locations, allées that lead our eyes to a special object or view — these tricks have been used by gardeners for centuries.  At the International Garden Festival, though, the idea is expanded beyond the familiar. A variety of types of frames draw our attention to our surroundings, to views or objects that are so familiar we no longer see them. One of the featured installations is the forest scene presented on the book’s cover, a project by Johan Selbing and Anouk Vogel with the beautifully appropriate name,  Courtesy of Nature. Ordinary trees and ferns become almost sacred by virtue of the building that surrounds them, and inside the pristine enclosure we engage with these familiar landscape elements in new ways.

 

This view of Courtesy of Nature shows the doorway to the gallery-like box tht encloses a section of the existing forest.
This view of Courtesy of Nature shows the doorway to the gallery-like box that encloses a section of the existing forest. Setting the trees apart from the forest emphasizes the significance and beauty of the familiar.

 

Two other gardens that I find particularly successful are included in this category.  One is the now permanent Réflexions colorées by Hal Ingberg, an installation that plays with perceptions in a way that engages everyone who sees it.

 

Hal Ingeberg's installation uses semi-reflective glass to mirror the surrounding forest and to see ourselves as part of it.
Semi-reflective glass mirrors the surrounding forest and allows us to see ourselves reflected, separate from yet also a part of the forest. I have many, many photos of this installation. Each time I see it, I have to take more because it looks different in every season and at every time of day. One of my favourite photos shows a tiny grandchild with her nose pressed against the glass, trying to figure out what is inside and what is outside the frame.

 

Diane Balmori’s Making Circles in the Water focuses our attention on the St. Lawrence River, a key feature of the landscape that had become almost hidden behind a curtain of trees and plants. Small circular cones we can peer through and a series of frames we can walk through limit our sight to a section of the larger scene. These two types of frames, combined with the title that recalls how throwing a rock into water makes rippling circles, connect us physically and emotionally to the surroundings and remind us of how we can affect it.

 

Making Circles in the Water, by Balmori Associates, playfully engages visitors. I saw many people, children in particular, running through the frames. in playfocuses attention on the
Making Circles in the Water, by Balmori Associates, engages visitors in multiple ways. I have seen children running through the frames, adults standing amid them and staring in both directions, people posing inside the frames to have their photos taken.  The subtle colour gradations draw the eye through the frames to the water beyond.

 

What I particularly appreciate about the experimental landscapes at the International Garden Festival is how they alter my views, both visually and mentally, of even the most familiar things. Tree Stands by relais Landschaftsarchitekten placed ladders in a grove of trees; anyone brave enough to climb a ladder would see the forest from a new vantage point. Camouflage View by Arenda/Lasch used angled mirrors to simultaneously hide and reveal the surroundings. While my photo may show the view onto the St Lawrence River quite clearly, walking through the space was a different experience. With each step, the angled view changed, confusing and distorting background and foreground in a way that made the surroundings impossible to ignore.

 

Camouflage View by Aranda/Lasch. I saw this installation early in June, 2006, while plants were still in their pots.
Camouflage View by Aranda/Lasch. I saw this installation early in June, 2006, while plants were still in their pots.

 

Ordinary materials used in unexpected ways can challenge our expectations.  Round Up by Legge Lewis Legge shifted a grass lawn from horizontal to vertical, by way of turf hills covered with sod held in place with packing straps.

 

Round Up by Legge Lewis Legge. When I saw them the hills were fairly uniform but as the season progressed, the changed shape, slumping, shifting and growing into individual characters.
Round Up by Legge Lewis Legge. When I saw them, the hills were fairly uniform but as the season progressed, they changed shape, slumping and shifting as the grass grew longer.

 

The last of Waugh’s five categories presents the landscape as a living experience. Two of the most powerful installations she covers in this section are Afterburn by Civilian Projects, and This Rocks! Get Lost! by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.

Afterburn shows the destructive and regenerative power of fire. Charred posts suggest a landscape destroyed by fire which, although initially barren, will become alive again as pioneer species take root and grow.

 

The smell of charred wood was strong on the day I visited. I loved the contrast of colours -- the orange surveyor's paint, the silvery shimmer of the scorched wood and the bright blue sky above.
The smell of charred wood was strong on the day I visited. I loved the aesthetics of this installations, in particular the contrast of colours — the orange surveyor’s paint and the silvery shimmer of the scorched wood set off against the bright blue sky above.

 

Each entry that Waugh presents includes quotes from the garden designer that speak to intent. Michael Van Valkenburgh wanted to do a project “where the power of landscape material was the whole idea.” This Rocks! Get Lost! positions five enormous chunks of Vermont marble in a woodland site. The raw power of the stone drew me and every other visitor I saw into close contact with the stones.

 

When I saw This Rocks! Get Lost! by Michael Van Valkenburg Associates, I wanted to touch each piece.
When I saw This Rocks! Get Lost! by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, I had to rub my hand against each piece, to sit and be quiet, to give myself time to feel the weight of the marble, a material more often seen in small polished pieces.

 

Essays by international garden writers and designers add heft to Experimenting Landscapes, making it much more than a picture book reviewing festival gardens from previous years. Both the author Emily Waugh and the Garden and Festival Director Alexander Reford connect the festival to the garden’s beginnings, when Elsie Reford began what she called ‘adventuring’ with soils, planters and hybrid species. She tested the limits of her garden in a climate where she was on her own. As her great-grandson writes, “with nobody to compare herself to, she could only be constrained by her own lack of imagination.”

For me, that encapsulates the value of seeing and engaging with experimental gardens. They help me ‘adventure.’ They push me to fight against the limits of my imagination, to  look, to see,, to comprehend. Even to imitate.

Several years before I saw Round Up, I used grass vertically to create the Grass Snake at Glen Villa. The idea didn’t come all at once, it developed in a back and forth dialogue with my friend, the landscape architect Myke Hodgins. The initial impulse, though, came from an experimental garden I saw pictured in a book.

 

Snow hides the eyes of the grass snake but emphasizes the curves of the snake's shaggy 'skin.' The apple remains out of reach.
Snow hides the head of the grass snake but emphasizes the curves of its shaggy grass ‘skin.’ The apple remains out of reach, regardless of season.

 

Currently I  am working on two projects that fall within Emily Waugh’s categories. In one I’m using unexpected materials and formats in a new way; in another I’m altering the viewpoint. Both, I hope, will not be constrained by a lack of imagination. Rather, in the process of creating them I hope they will open my eyes to new possibilities and new ways of seeing and understanding the environment I am a part of.

What will my experiments do for others? Will they open eyes or close them? I know that many people find experimental gardens off-putting. They are Irritated by what they see, or dismissive. Or worst of all, they are left indifferent. While I regret these reactions, I understand them. Like many pieces of contemporary art, experimental and conceptual gardens aren’t always easy to get your head around. They run counter to everyday ideas about what gardens are. But I hope that instead of shutting their minds to these gardens, people will give them a second look. Perhaps even a third.  Waugh’s excellent book is a good place to begin.

 

north_5_small

North

North is a direction, an idea, an experience. North as designed by the architects Suresh Perara and Julie Charbonneau of the Montreal firm PER.CH is a triumph.

Using familiar materials, PER.CH turns the idea of north on its head. Literally. Thirty-nine fir trees hang upside down from a metal framework, their soft green triangles pointing down to a bare Toronto beach.

 

All photos courtesy of Suresh Perara.
Photo courtesy of Suresh Perara.

 

North is one of eight installations that make up Winter Stations, an exhibition on the shores of Lake Ontario. Now in its third year, the project challenges designers to use Toronto’s lifeguard stations as the basis for winter art. This year’s theme, Catalyst, asks them to “disassemble and re-shape our notions of Toronto’s waterfront, with particular attention to the sand and materials strewn across the beach…[to be] a catalyst for change.”

North does this, in spades.

When I saw a photo of North in The Globe and Mail, I immediately thought of an inverted map of the world. Instead of an arrow pointing upwards to the north, the arrow formed by the top of the tree was pointing downwards. North flipped to point south? On a closer view, other reversals and tensions became apparent, between the stark setting and the lush growth of the trees, between the soft, dripping branches and the chopped off trunks. Dead carcasses hanging from hooks in a butcher’s shop came to mind, discarded Christmas trees transformed to sides of beef, swaying slightly as the butcher’s fan rotated.

 

All photos courtesy of Suresh Perara.
Photo courtesy of Suresh Perara. The ladder of the lifeguard station is clearly visible in this photo.

 

When I met Perara and Charbonneau at their studio in Montreal late last week, they described the thinking that led to their design: the idea of a northern forest, a quintessentially Canadian landscape, set against the image of an empty, frozen beach that was, at the same time, a place of nostalgia, tinted playfully with childhood memories.

Putting these images together produced a work that speaks to change and alters our perceptions of a familiar landscape.

 

north_5_small
Photo courtesy of Suresh Perara.

 

The fir trees they’ve used are re-purposed Christmas trees, two months later still surprisingly green. Other elements are equally surprising. The trees are dead yet they seem alive. As you stand on the beach, they sway gently overhead, mimicking the movement of the water at ground level. As you walk through them, pushing them aside, they rustle gently like a bead curtain. But perceptions really flip when you climb the lifeguard station ladder. Moving through the fairytale forest, you reach a clearing at the top. But instead of seeing out over tree tops, you look out across chopped off trunks. Brutality at one end, fragility at the other.

Suresh and Charbonneau were in Toronto for the opening of Winter Stations. On an unseasonably warm day, the deserted beach they had pictured was full of people. They saw a young girl, 5 or 6 years old, stop and stare. It’s so weird, she said, I love it! They heard a father ask his young son what he thought the installation meant. The boy didn’t answer, or if he did, they didn’t hear.

Neither child was interested in analyzing or assigning meaning to the installation — it isn’t necessary to do that in order to enjoy its surreal quality. And while seeing photos of North makes me smile, the images also raise questions, about the commodification of nature, the brutal disregard we too often have towards our surroundings and the effect our actions have on our environment.

 

north_11_small
Photo courtesy of Suresh Perara.

 

PER.CH is founded on the notion that architecture can allow us to experience the everyday world in richer and deeper ways. Art installations like North or Forest SQUARE Sky, a 2009-2010 installation at the International Garden Festival at Métis, Quebec, reinforce this notion. They give the creative team room to experiment and even to fail. For Perara and Charbonneau, part of doing these projects is discovering what will happen. They are interested in the interaction with the public in public spaces. And they wonder, will the canopy of trees provide a gathering spot? Will the space be a catalyst for public debate? Will it provoke changes, in attitudes or behaviour?

Finding the title for the installation gave Perara and Charbonneau the focus necessary to create a project on a very tight budget. For me the title gave entry to a gathering place of ideas. I hope I’m fortunate enough to be in Toronto before March 27 when Winter Stations ends. If I am, I expect that North will once again make me think about what I’m seeing. On the spot I expect it will oblige me to feel what’s going on around me. And that, I believe, is a hallmark of a good work of art.

This sign seen at the wonderful Italian garden Bosco della Ragnaia, created by Sheppard Craige, says it all: If not here, where?

Thinking about Gardens

After a short but enjoyable holiday in Florida, I’m back in Quebec. Moving from one weather system to another that is radically different strains the body and provokes obvious questions. Why leave ocean breezes for frozen lakes, or blue skies and green palm trees for white snow and grey skies?

 

The angle of this photo tells you how hard I was working at leaning back and doing nothing.
The angle of this photo tells you how hard I was working in Florida. Don’t laugh: leaning back and doing nothing takes some doing. (Ok, not much.)

 

It is cold here. And it keeps on snowing, making thoughts of winter gardens a mockery. Not that cold is bad. In some ways of thinking, cold temperatures build character. They generate activity where warm climates generate sloth.

Don’t believe it. Cozying up by the fireplace is my favourite winter activity. It’s where I can focus on plans for the year ahead, considering plants I want to add or subtract, or simply dreaming of projects I’ll never even start.

 

Sunrise at Glen Villa... a good time for dreaming.
Sunrise at Glen Villa… a good time for dreaming.

 

Recently I’ve been doing more than dreaming, though. I’ve been focusing on a topic that engages my brain, my heart and my (metaphoric) pen.

Those of you who read this blog regularly will know that I care about words and use them carefully. I try to avoid clichés and code phrases that hide what is really being said. (Hmmm… interesting.)  So when Anne Wareham, the editor of the challenging and entertaining English website ThinkinGardens, asked me to write about using words in the garden, I jumped at the chance.

 

This sign seen at the wonderful Italian garden Bosco della Ragnaia, created by Sheppard Craige, says it all: If not here, where?
Bosco della Ragnaia, a wonderful garden in Italy created by Sheppard Craige, uses words extensively. This sign in the garden says it all: If not here, where?

 

A Matter of Words is a lament. It is also a call to action. Words are rarely used in gardens today, and to my way of thinking this is a great loss. I’ve written about how I’m using words in the garden at Glen Villa (you can read that piece here) but the article in ThinkinGardens takes a longer, broader view.

I’m delighted that this provocative English blog has given me the chance to share my thoughts with a geographically wider audience. I’m pleased, too, at the reception the article is getting, and I say thank you to the many people who, having read my ideas on the subject, have subscribed to this blog.

ThinkinGardens is a garden website that I recommend whole-heartedly. It provides a matchless forum for exchanging ideas with people around the world who care about gardens and believe they are, or can be, about more than plants. As the website’s manifesto states,

“… today most people enthusiastically take gardens for granted, regarding them as an anodyne balm for the pressures of modern life and certainly not as a source of mental or artistic provocation. It is the object of the thinkingGardens group to reinstate gardens as a stimulus to pleasurable and productive debate and to foster gardens that offer deeper artistic expression.”

If you aren’t a subscriber to ThinkinGardens, I encourage you to subscribe. I think you’ll be pleased with the breadth and depth of the commentary. And if you disagree with what I’ve written in A Matter of Words, say so, on the ThinkinGardens site or here, on Site and Insight.

I welcome your reactions and your ideas. Do you believe that gardens ‘mean’ something and that words can enrich that meaning? Or do words in the garden distract?

 

I lifted from this photo from an on-line article in the English newspaper, The Telegraph. The cut-line that ran with the photo reads "This year, look out for cacti, price wars and carrot yoghrt," says Matthew Appleby.

Do You Care about Garden Trends?

Do you pay attention to garden trends or do you think they are a pile of baloney?

Every year about this time, I read an article telling me what’s in and what’s out. Hot new plants are described. I read that there’s a colour I can’t live without, or that shrubs are making a comeback. (When did they ever go away?)

These articles appear in magazines, newspapers and on-line sites in countries around the world.  Sometimes they are based on surveys, sometimes on opinions, sometimes on catchy phrases. Alliteration abounds. As do odd conclusions.

 

I lifted from this photo from an on-line article in the English newspaper, The Telegraph. The cut-line that ran with the photo reads "This year, look out for cacti, price wars and carrot yoghrt," says Matthew Appleby.
I lifted this photo from an on-line article that ran in the English newspaper, The Daily Telegraph.

 

The cut-line on the photo reads, “This year, look out for cacti, price wars and carrot yoghurt.” What? I only look out for cacti to avoid being pricked. As for carrot yoghurt…

So are journalists telling us something significant in their annual trends reports or are these pieces just lazy fallbacks?

In the U.S., Garden Design magazine says that natural materials are in, which seems less like a trend than a necessity in a garden. Natural dye gardens, where  plants are used to make dyes for colouring textiles, yarn, and clothing, are also touted. But who has the time (or inclination) to revive what sounds like a 60s throw-back, and not a very interesting one at that?

In England, the Daily Telegraph doesn’t stop at the standard top ten trends but doubles up (doubles down?) to 20. New plants are there (natch) along with back to the basics. Add blander brassicas and I scratch my head. Which is it to be, novelty or the fundamentals, the exciting or the unobjectionable? Or am I being picky to think there’s a disconnect?

 

Little Sparta (1 of 1)
Order, Disorder, Future: is this a disconnect? And can you arrange the words at Little Sparta to say whatever you want them to say?

 

What constitutes a trend, and whose views determine what is or isn’t? Garden Design consults landscape architects and designers. The English magazine Gardens Illustrated adds a horticulturalist, a critic and several garden educators. Together they bring many years of experience gathered from different contexts. Should I expect consistency in the trends they report?

(Last year’s Brexit vote is making a mark. Last year Gardens Illustrated consulted garden professionals from the U.K., Germany, Sweden and Chile. This year all were from England.)

Londoners needn’t be good indicators for what is happening in Scotland; the same holds true for gardeners from the east coast to the west. Add national variations to the mix and significant differences should surely occur. To a certain extent they do. Minimalism and simplicity are said to be the trend in Australian gardens, urban jungles in the U.K., and mixing the old with the new in the U.S.

 

Recycled wine bottles provide a shiny backdrop to a bust of Queen Victoria at the Gibberd Garden. Does this constitute using the old with the new?
Recycled wine bottles provide a shiny backdrop to a bust of Queen Victoria at the Gibberd Garden. Does this constitute using the old with the new?

 

But when overlaps occur, we can begin to pay attention. Whatever the source, and whatever words are used to describe the phenomenon, there is a generalized concern with plantings that accommodate climate change.  There is — and has been for some years — an interest in greater biodiversity and sustainability. Attracting butterflies and pollinators, using wildflowers and native plants, turning lawns into meadows, being mindful of the impact of our actions: these are trends that aren’t trendy fashions but essential actions.


Trends or Movements?

You may want to take part in a recent discussion about trends and movements in garden design. The debate focuses on New Perennialism and, specifically, the use of ornamental grasses and the designs of the Dutch plantsman Piet Oudolf as seen on the High Line, Oudolf’s iconic design for the abandoned railway line in New York City.

Tony Spencer started the conversation with a post he titled Tempest in a Flower Pot. The discussion widened with a critical piece written by Bridget Rosewell for the English website ThinkinGardens, The High Line Revisited. 

Multiple points of view are expressed with style and passion, and  the comments that follow make for provocative reading. Why not chip in?


Happy Birthday to Site and Insight!

Inverted branches stride across a field, recalling the first inhabitants of this land.
This photo appeared in my first blog post, Introducing Glen villa. It shows part of Abenaki Walking, my tribute to the original inhabitants of the land where I live, the Abenaki Indians.

 

This week I’m celebrating an anniversary. Four years ago I wrote my first blog post and since then I’ve written  well over 200 pieces, averaging slightly more than one post per week.

I’ve written about Glen Villa and other gardens in Canada, the U.S., the U.K., Italy and France. I’ve written about people, plants and plans, about art and garden design.. I’ve shared my ideas and I’ve asked about yours.

To the many who have responded to blog posts through comments on this site or less publicly, I send a big thank you. I value your comments and appreciate the time we have spent on line together.