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

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The Donald Lecture

September 21st, 2021 | 10 Comments »

Last week, I spoke at Bishop’s University to a large group os students, faculty, staff and members of the local community.  My talk was one in a series of lectures held over the past 13 years called the Donald Lectures, sponsored by Bishop’s alumni John Donald. Previous speakers include some real superstars, people like Jane Goodall, Steven Pinker, Jesse Jackson, Edward Burtynski, and Naomi Klein, so I feel honoured to join the list.

Bishop’s 550 seat Centennial Theatre was almost at Covid capacity, with about 200 or more people in the auditorium, and with over 80 more on the live stream. It was the first time in a VERY long time that I’ve spoken in person to an audience, and an even longer time since I’ve spoken to that large an audience.

It was amazing!

 

Photo courtesy of Michael Goldbloom, Principal of Bishop's University.
Photo courtesy of Michael Goldbloom, Principal of Bishop’s University.

 

The questions from students after the talk were challenging. How do you integrate yourself into the landscape, and vice versa; and how do art and gardens fit into the picture? (Wow, that was a tough one.) What was your biggest disaster in the garden? (The first thing that came to mind was trying to get the Aqueduct to work properly. I could have named many others.) What is your most beautiful garden memory? (Impossible to choose only one. So I chose several: three family weddings in the garden at Glen Villa and one mental image from a garden in England where photos were not permitted.)

The talk was on a Wednesday. The following Saturday, students and faculty and community members toured the garden. It was a sunny day that ended in a downpour, well-timed at the end of the morning, after most people had walked the 4 km Timelines trail and had visited most of the garden proper. I had the chance to meet and talk to many students, which for me is always a high point. I saw some old friends and met some new ones. And as always, the day went smoothly thanks to two very special men.

 

Ken Kelso and Jacques Gosselin, the two men whose work makes my job in the garden and wider landscape possible. Photo by Michael Goldbloom.
Ken Kelso and Jacques Gosselin, the two men whose work makes my job in the garden and wider landscape possible. Photo by Michael Goldbloom.

 

A big thank you goes to all those who attended the lecture in person and to the large number who listened to the live stream. It was a real pleasure for me to share my passion and enthusiasm for Glen Villa Art Garden with you all.

The talk is available on Youtube, starting at about 40 minutes into this link:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0D7riTGkKg

If anyone watching the link has questions, do get in touch. I’m happy to present this talk or one of several others listed on my website to groups far and wide, either in person or via zoom.

 

The North South Arrow, Year 2

September 3rd, 2021 | 1 Comment »
Creating a garden isn't a quick and easy task, particularly a garden that grows out of personal memories and the history of the site. The most prominent and visible piece of history at Glen Villa, the land where I live, is the ruin of a summer resort hotel named Glen Villa Inn.  When it burned down in 1909, it left behind the stone wall that was its foundation. When we moved into Glen Villa in 1996, the wall was in a sad state, with stones falling down regularly.   [caption id="attachment_9886" align="aligncenter" width="4000"]

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My Favourite Gardens: the Reford Gardens and the International Garden Festival

July 26th, 2021 | 16 Comments »
untitled (24 of 26)
I first visited the Reford Gardens when the government of Quebec was in charge, sometime in the 1980s, I think, when the gardens were not very interesting. I can't count how many times I have visited since, though, and always with enormous pleasure. Les Jardins de Métis are divided in two parts, a historic garden and an international garden festival. The historic garden is a testament to the ambitions and talents of Elsie Reford who began to create the garden when she was in her 50s. Working in a cold climate,

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Continuum, Part Three

June 27th, 2021 | 6 Comments »
sign (3 of 8)
In 2005, I started to cut a trail at Glen Villa; that trail became Timelines, the walk through fields and forests where art installations explore ideas about history, memory and our relationship to the land. I've written about this trail in many blog posts; I wrote about Continuum, one part of the trail, in two posts last fall. (You can find those posts here and here.) This large rock outcropping is what prompted me to first begin thinking about how to give voice to the land and the ideas and emotions it evoked. When I

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My Favourite Gardens: Veddw

May 31st, 2021 | 6 Comments »
Veddw (5 of 22)
Why do some gardens appeal to us while others leave us cold or indifferent? Is it something in us, in the garden, or in the interaction between the two? Veddw is a garden in Wales, created over the last 33 years by Anne Wareham and Charles Hawes. It is a garden that touches me deeply, and I've spent many hours examining my memory and the photos I've taken there trying to understand why. I know that the connection between the site and its history is one reason. Acknowledging and highlighting that type of

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My Favourite Gardens: Villa Lante

April 22nd, 2021 | 14 Comments »
This fountain stands in the wooded area that once formed part of the garden.
Yesterday I gave an on-line talk about Glen Villa to a group of well-informed, well-educated women, many of whom attended the same single sex college I attended years ago. (What used to be Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Virginia is now the co-ed Randolph College.) In the question period afterwards someone asked if I had a favourite garden. It took me only a moment to respond. Not one, I said, but several. I named four or five gardens, and today as I think back, I am struck by  how different those gardens are

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Trees in the Garden

April 5th, 2021 | 2 Comments »
Autumn colour is more intense some years than others.
Trees are an invaluable part of a garden, so important that they are sometimes called its bones because they hold the other parts of the garden together. They are slow to grow and consequently are often the first thing planted in a new garden or one undergoing renovation. Trees do more than hold a garden together, though. They are miracle workers, cleaning the air, providing protection against wind and rain, focusing our view and, in northern regions at least, providing splendid colour in the fall.     At Glen Villa, they add privacy to a picnic

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Borders, Boundaries and Beds

March 21st, 2021 | 4 Comments »
This crumbling stone wall once separated two farm fields at Glen Villa.
One year ago, almost to the day, the border between Canada and the U.S. closed. The closing didn't end all movement back and forth but for all practical purposes, for most of us it put an end to easy crossings. Today, no one knows when the border will re-open, and wondering about that unknown date set me thinking about borders and boundaries as they relate to gardens and landscapes. What is the difference between a border and a boundary, and what impact, if any, does a verbal distinction make on the ground? Thinking

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The Value of Criticism

February 22nd, 2021 | 6 Comments »
Many people walking the trail ignored the sign pointing to Mythos and continued along the main trail.
Recently an article titled "Gardens Need Criticism" was posted on the garden website Veddw. Written by Veddw's garden maker Anne Wareham and originally published in Garden Design Journal in 2002, the article prompted me to think about the art of critiquing gardens and the art of receiving critiques. Last year a well-informed group of landscape architects and designers visited Glen Villa. I invited comments, and at the end of the visit one person quietly made a suggestion about a section of Timelines, the trail I've been working on for the last few years. His comment concerned

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The Past as Prelude

February 1st, 2021 | 1 Comment »
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The great English landscape architect Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe got it right. What's past is past. But while it is over and done with, the past can't be ignored. Instead, Jellicoe said, we should "ponder on the past not as the past but as a pointer to the future." In troubled political times, this sounds like good advice.  It's equally good advice when applied to the land. When I began to work on the garden at Glen Villa some twenty years ago, history was the principle that guided me and it continues to be a powerful element,

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