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Goals and Resolutions

January 7th, 2021 | 10 Comments »

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Ruins and Recoveries

December 30th, 2020 | 4 Comments »
A triumphal arch, Roman style, was part of the landscape at Painshill, an early 18th century garden in England.
What can we say about 2020? Queen Elizabeth's Annus Horribilis comes to mind. So does the subject of ruin -- personal and business ruin, political ruin and the final ruin, death, which came this year for hundreds of thousands of people, more than we imagined possible when the pandemic began. But, Janus-like, ruins have a positive as well as a negative face. It may seem contradictory but history and the evidence of my own eyes tell me that to contemplate ruins is to contemplate the future as well as the past.

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Tree Hugging for Tree Huggers

December 21st, 2020 | 16 Comments »
Seen at the botanical garden in Sydney, Australia
Do you know when the phrase 'tree hugger' was coined? I didn't, so I looked it up. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the first known use of the term dates from 1965. Other words coined that year: jet lag, mini dress, pop art, teach-in, doo-wop and time traveller. Reading these words, I felt like a time traveller myself. In part this is because those words are so familiar now but also because the connotations of 'tree hugger' have changed so much. In 1965,  tree hugger was a derogatory term. Not so today.

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Continuum, Continued

November 23rd, 2020 | 4 Comments »
untitled (7 of 7)
Over the last few weeks, while the weather was remarkably kind, I've continued to work on an extension to Timelines, the trail that explores ideas about memory, history and our relationship to the land. I wrote about the initial work on Continuum in my last blog post, almost a month ago.  Since then, lots has happened. We added a wonderful tree trunk bench alongside the stream, right next to the old lid from a sap bucket that was used, who knows how many years ago, when maple syrup was being made at Orin's Sugarcamp.

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Continuum

October 27th, 2020 | 12 Comments »
This is how the rock looked in 2013, before I started on the trail extension.
"There is often a huge difference between an idea and its realization. Ideas must be put to the test. That's why we make things, otherwise they would be no more than ideas." Andy Goldsworthy's words ring true for me. I have more ideas than I can realize, certainly more than I can act on in my lifetime.  Folders splitting at the seams contain scribbled thoughts and doodles, pages torn from magazines, projects detailed but never executed. So when I begin to translate an idea into the reality that Goldsworthy speaks

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Autumn Leaves

October 12th, 2020 | 11 Comments »
The Forms are one installation on Timelines, the trail at Glen Villa that explores ideas about history, memory and our relationship to the land.
Walking through the woods recently, I passed this installation, called The Forms.   [caption id="attachment_9253" align="aligncenter" width="3728"] The Forms represent the basic building blocks of the constructed world. They are one part of Timelines, the trail at Glen Villa that explores ideas about history, memory and our relationship to the land.[/caption]   The colours of the plexiglass shapes stood out from the muted tones around them, attracting me like a magnet. Closer, I noticed leaves scattered on top of them, some haphazardly, some artfully arranged.     The contrast in colours atop

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Autumn Colour Brings Joy

October 6th, 2020 | 4 Comments »
The colour of this sourgum is quite different from the one next to it -- this one a fruit salad of peach and apricot, the other a fire of red-hot apple.
The autumn colours seem particularly intense this year at Glen Villa, my garden in Quebec's Eastern Townships. Leaves started to turn earlier than usual and the height of the season has almost come and gone. But what a season it has been! It started early, when a small horse chestnut tree (Aesculus pavia) began to turn.   [caption id="attachment_9230" align="aligncenter" width="2541"] This photo was taken in mid-September[/caption]   It continued as the sourgum trees (Nyssa sylvatica) nearby began to change colour. First one tree caught fire ...   [caption id="attachment_9228" align="aligncenter"

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Visitors at Glen Villa

September 29th, 2020 | 11 Comments »
The team from NIP Paysage stand beside Bridge Ascending, a sculpture by Quebec artists Louise Doucet and Satoshi Saito.
Last week was very unusual -- after a summer of isolation, living inside a family-only bubble, two groups of visitors came to tour Glen Villa. One group came from NIP Paysage, a landscape architecture firm in Montreal whose name reflects its approach to every project it undertakes. To understand, you need to know that NIP is the French acronym for a PIN, or Personal Identification Number. So, as its website states, "NIP aims to reveal the true character of the environments upon which it intervenes." I first met two of the principals

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The Medicine Wheel and the Four Directions

September 20th, 2020 | 4 Comments »
Paul stretched the deer skin for his drum and holds workshops to teach others how to do the same.
Earlier this week I was fortunate to visit a new installation on the Tomifobia Nature Trail in the company of its creator, Paul-Conrad Carignan, and Paul's partner, Sylvia Bertolini. Paul is a Metis Algonquin-Anishnabe Elder and the site he designed is dedicated to spiritual and healing teachings of the Indigenous Medicine Wheel and its four directions. At a clearing beside the trail, located in Quebec's Eastern Townships close to the border with the United States, large granite slabs, or stelae, rise up at the four directions. Each stone is engraved with an

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The Dining Room Table on the China Terrace

September 4th, 2020 | 10 Comments »
china terrace (6 of 10)
The China Terrace is my way of representing the past in the present, of giving a new life to memories of the years when Glen Villa Inn welcomed summer guests from near and far. According to a local newspaper of the time, Canadians and American visitors "from every state in the Union" came to spend their holidays here in North Hatley, Quebec. The hotel's life was brief, though. Built in 1902, it burned to the ground in 1909, shortly before opening for its eighth season. Not long after moving into Glen Villa in 1996, I discovered an

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