A path of exploration
Unveiling the beauty and meaning behind art and gardens


The Job is Done!

December 2nd, 2019 | 6 Comments »

The foundation wall of the old Glen Villa Inn is once again standing tall.

Rebuilding the wall has been quite a process. In its prime the wall was the base of a grand structure.


An old hand-coloured postcard shows Glen Villa Inn.
An old hand-coloured postcard shows Glen Villa Inn in all its magnificence.


Unfortunately, like so many summer resort hotels built of wood, it didn’t last.


The wall was enormous!
The fire that destroyed the hotel left an impressively long wall and two chimneys. The planting beds in the foreground hint at a possible addition next year.


A colour postcard of the hotel sent the year it burned had this poignant message on the back:


The Dames were one of the first American families to come to North Hatley. Descendants still do.
The Daves were one of the first American families to come to North Hatley. I haven’t identified the sender, E.B. and welcome any suggestion of who he or she might be.


In the last year, the hotel wall went from this …


In 2018 the foundation wall was almost entirely hidden by vegetation.
In 2018 the foundation wall was almost entirely hidden by vegetation.


to this …

We started the work in early November and finished late in the month.
We started the work in early November and finished a few days ago.


and finally to THIS!


Finished at last!


The muddy ground makes it difficult to appreciate the impact the re-built wall will have but we are delighted with the results.


A side view of the wall gives some sense of its dimensions -- about 16 feet at the highest point and roughly 75 feet long.
A side view gives some sense of the wall’s dimensions — about 16 feet at the highest point and roughly 75 feet long.


We left the check in the foundation wall that might have been a fireplace and we rebuilt the internal staircase. Now, we’ll be able to go easily from the bottom of the wall to the higher ground at the top.


This close-up shows how well constructed the staircase is.
This close-up shows how the staircase fits into the foundation wall.


The men from Paysage Lambert, a local firm we’ve used before who I can happily recommend, used stones from the original foundation wall to rebuild the new one. By looking hard they found good flat-topped stones for the steps.

I’m not sure yet whether the stairs at the top will turn in one or both directions — that is a decision I’ll make once the dirt piles are gone and the snow melts. Which means I’ll be working over the winter months to plan the next phase of this project. Because of course there has to be one.

The photo of the hotel ruins shows two beds edging the circular drive that turned in front of the hotel.

What do you, are those roses in bloom?
What do you think, are those roses in bloom? More likely they are annuals of some sort.


A postcard from before the fire shows trees, shrubs and hotel guests edging the drive.


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At the moment I’m seeing a simplified version of the arrangement in the photo from after the fire. The gravel drive for horses will be a mown path with two beds alongside it planted with shrubs and perennials. Currently we mow a path about ten feet wide around the wall and we’ll continue to do that.  If we plant perennial beds, they probably would be about the same width.


The grassy path around the stone circle would be about 10 feet wide and the planting beds roughly the same.
The bird’s eye sketch shows the hotel foundation wall, the Yin/Yang and two perennial beds.


The down side of this idea: it would require a LOT of plants. The plus side: we have very few areas where sun-loving perennials can thrive and this area gets full sun for most of the day.

In the hotel’s heyday, an asphalt path led towards the lake. Remnants of it remain.


The edge of the Yin/Yang is barely visible at the bottom of the photo.
The Yin/Yang with its contrasting colours, shapes and heights is visible at the bottom of the photo. Ignore the Canada geese!


So a variation on Idea 1 is to extend the border towards the lake, flanking the remnants of the path.


Another possibility?
Another possibility?


The downside of this scheme: it would take even MORE plants! But wouldn’t it look splendid?

I could combine one of these schemes or the other with a make-over of  the Yin/Yang, using a contemporary version of the strange four-trunked arrangement that stood on the hotel grounds.


The postcard identifies the location and the year that the photo was taken.
I can imagine a kettle suspended over a fire, cooking those annuals to a crisp.


Four young flexible trees could be trained together, but I’m not sure I’d like the result. I do like the idea of roses, though…

Ideas, anyone? What do you think?

More Treasures from the Past

November 25th, 2019 | 15 Comments »
This colour postcard shows the same or a similar flower arrangement. It also shows the dam and waterfall. The building in the distance was the clubhouse for the 9 hole golf course.
Work continues as we rebuild the foundation wall of the old Glen Villa Inn.   [caption id="attachment_8327" align="alignleft" width="1600"] The white sheets are put on at the end of each work day to protect against whatever the weather brings.[/caption]   I first wrote about this project a few weeks ago in a post titled We are (Re)Building a Wall and in that post I recounted some of the history of the old hotel.   [caption id="attachment_8332" align="alignleft" width="1600"] This black and white photo shows the hotel as it was in its


Buried Treasures

November 19th, 2019 | 12 Comments »
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Slowly the wall that used to hold up the old Glen Villa Inn is beginning to look like a wall again.     As exciting as the re-building are the treasures we discovered when the wall came down. We found glass bottles of all sorts, clear and coloured, broken and unbroken.     Some of the bits of glass were plain, some more decorative.     A clear glass jar with nicely interlocking circles saying Ripans tabules came from Ripans Chemical Company, New York. Thanks to an on-line search and information from The Toadstool


Another One Bites the Dust

November 11th, 2019 | 10 Comments »
The black tubing marks the edge of the clearing.
The job of rebuilding the hotel foundation wall is progressing but more slowly than we hoped. The slow-down was unavoidable, thanks to (really, no thanks to) the snow that fell this week.   [caption id="attachment_8274" align="alignleft" width="1600"] All the rocks on the right came from the foundation wall which now has been taken down entirely.[/caption]   The snow is attractive, no doubt, but it has come much too early.   [caption id="attachment_8273" align="alignleft" width="1600"] The Cascade looks pretty with its dusting of snow. I just hope the snow won't last too long.[/caption]


We Are (Re)Building a Wall

November 4th, 2019 | 18 Comments »
An old hand-coloured postcard shows Glen Villa Inn.
Don't worry, it's not a border wall we are building, only the foundation wall of the old Glen Villa Inn.   [caption id="attachment_1503" align="alignleft" width="1000"] A hand-coloured postcard shows Glen Villa Inn, North Hatley, Quebec.[/caption]   The grand old resort hotel was built in 1902 and burned down in 1909. In the summer it attracted guests from around North America, particularly southerners who came north to escape the heat and humidity of their home towns.  Getting to North Hatley, Quebec was an easy journey then -- patrons could board a train at


Pining Away

October 27th, 2019 | 8 Comments »
Jacques says he loves to be this high off the ground. Not me!
I'm not pining away, but the pine tree is. Or was. This week we tackled a big job that I've been wanting to do for a few years, which was to remove an enormous old pine tree near the bank of Lake Massawippi. The photo below from 2014 shows the beginning of the end of this tree... needles on the upper branches are much thinner than they should be. It also shows how the tree towered above the ones around it.   [caption id="attachment_8228" align="alignleft" width="1600"] The boathouse may have been


Kiftsgate Court: A Garden Review

October 21st, 2019 | 17 Comments »
Oh, my. Luscious.
Kiftsgate Court is one of those English gardens included on many garden tours, in part because it is so conveniently located, just down the road from Hidcote, the iconic garden created by the Anglo-American Lawrence Johnston. The gardens at Kiftsgate were created over the last hundred years by three generations of women -- grandmother, mother and daughter -- each of whom made her own contribution to the garden as it is today. Renowned for the Kiftsgate rose, the garden contains some wonderful areas and some fine plantings, with sumptuous flowers like this one that


Autumn Splendour

October 13th, 2019 | 8 Comments »
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This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving, and today I'm giving thanks for the splendours of autumn.  All week the colours have been spectacular!     This  view along the driveway at Glen Villa gives some idea of how brilliant the colour is.   [caption id="attachment_8143" align="alignleft" width="1600"] The red leaves are a sugar maple on fire. The white posts in the distance mark the entry to the China Terrace.[/caption]   On the stone wall of the house, Engelman ivy is a symphony of scarlet, red and maroon.   [caption id="attachment_8145" align="alignleft" width="1600"]


The China Terrace in Autumn

October 6th, 2019 | 9 Comments »
china terrace (5 of 5)
The China Terrace is my interpretation of history ... a room in the garden at Glen Villa where I have recreated parts of Glen Villa Inn, the old resort hotel that once stood on our property. Towards the end of summer I wrote about the new 'walls' that we installed to mark the division between the different rooms in the hotel: a reception area, bedroom and dining room.  (You can read that post here.) The 'walls' are now covered with autumn leaves, and the grass we seeded over a month


A Bench with a View

September 29th, 2019 | 10 Comments »
A simple and very stylish bench made from ordinary 2x4s.
Last week's blog prompted so many responses that I'm writing about benches again. Kathy Purdy, a friend, regular reader and blogger extraordinaire (you can read her blog here) made the excellent comment that the view from a bench is as important as -- more important than? -- the design itself. I also have photos of many interesting bench designs that I didn't include last week. So location as well as design is the focus for this post. I've positioned benches at Glen Villa with the view very much in mind.  A Victorian-style