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


Visitors at Glen Villa

September 29th, 2020 | 10 Comments »

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 of the firm, Michel Langevin and Melanie Mignault, in 2012 in London at the inauguration of the Chelsea Fringe Festival.  To promote Les Jardins de Métis and its International Garden Festival, the firm designed one of the most intriguing installations at the Fringe, a fact recognized when it was chosen to be the Festival’s opening venue.


My photos fail to do justice to this spectacular installation.
My photos fail to do justice to this spectacular installation. Set among industrial buildings, Floating Forest harkens back to the timber trade between Canada and Great Britain.


Floating Forest consisted of 450 slices of tree trunks floating on the dark waters of the Grand Union Canal. There, held in place by cables that allowed only minimal motion, the wooden circles created the impression of a mysterious forest hidden under water, swaying slightly in the breeze.


London (1 of 2)


I met Michel and Melanie again five years later at the International Garden Festival in Métis when I was visiting the gardens there with two granddaughters.


The granddaughters and I enjoyed this exuberant installation. The Vertical Line Garden is by Coryn Kempster and Julia Jamrozik. It is now installed on the roof of the Musée in Quebec City.
The granddaughters and I enjoyed this exuberant installation. The Vertical Line Garden, by Coryn Kempster and Julia Jamrozik, is now installed on the roof of the Musée de la Civilisation in Quebec City.


I met Michel and Melanie for a third time this week at Glen Villa. Along with a dozen members of their team they brought morning snacks, a delicious lunch from our local eatery, the wonderful Saveurs et Gourmadise, and lots of sharp, well-informed eyes.  It was a pleasure for me to welcome them and to hear their observations about the garden and art installations that make up Timelines.


The team from NIP Paysage stand beside Bridge Ascending, a sculpture by Quebec artists Louise Doucet and Satoshi Saito.
The team from NIP Paysage stand beside Bridge Ascending, a sculpture by Quebec artists Louise Doucet and Satoshi Saito.


To see them next to the Big Chair that the firm designed was a special treat.


I first saw the Big Chair at the entrance to the Reford Gardens in Metis. I knew immediately that I wanted one for Glen Villa. And here it is!
I first saw the Big Chair at the entrance to the Reford Gardens in Metis. I knew immediately that I wanted one for Glen Villa. And here it is!


Paul Carignan and his partner Sylvia Bertolini were my other visitors. After seeing Paul’s installation on the Tomifobia Nature Trail, I was more eager than ever to have him and Sylvia come for a visit, not only to get to know them better but also to show them  the installations I’ve created that relate to the Abenaki and their presence on the land. When Paul began to drum among the first group of Abenaki Walkers, the inverted ash tree branches that remember the original inhabitants of this part of Quebec, I couldn’t have been happier or felt more comfortable about the installation I created.


Paul drumming (1 of 1)



Equally satisfying for me was to show Paul and Sylvia other parts of Timelines that relate to the Abenaki. The turtle who rises from under the water to create Turtle Island …


The painted post on the turtle's back represents the chaotic, unformed world which the rising turtle is pushing away.
The painted post on the turtle’s back represents the chaotic, unformed world which the rising turtle is pushing away.

… the painted posts that suggest people walking through the woods …


walkers (1 of 1)


… and the group of Walkers who turn their backs on the palisade in The Clearing of the Land.


The path turns a corner and the palisade begins to collapse.
As the path turns the corner, the palisade begins to collapse.


Best, though, was when Paul and Sylvia saw this rock, a natural occurrence whose striking shape was for years partially hidden underground. Immediately they recognized it for what it was… a turtle moving slowly across the land.


turtle rock (1 of 1)


Because of the angle of the photo, the turtle is not completely evident. But if you look hard, you can spot the turtle’s head at the right, just coming out of the shell. You can also spot the turtle’s right front foot emerging as the animal moves forward.

To find the rock where I found it was good fortune. To uncover it to discover the turtle was a gift given me by the land. To share that gift with a couple who immediately recognized its significance was a privilege.

Thank you all for coming!

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


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


Marian Coffin, Landscape Architect

August 24th, 2020 | No Comments »
Winterthur (3 of 4)
In this year, the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment that gave women in the U.S. the right to vote, I'm thinking about American women from that era and the gardens they created. Marian Coffin (1876-1957) was one of the most sought-after of these women, particularly in the years before World War II. Trained at MIT between 1901 and 1904, one of only four women in the landscape architecture program, she went on to design over 50 significant estate gardens, mostly for wealthy clients on the East Coast. Her most important commission was


The Yin Yang is Remade

August 10th, 2020 | 9 Comments »
untitled (1 of 10)
You know how one thing leads to another? That's what is happening this year at Glen Villa. Last November we began to rebuild the foundation wall of the old Glen Villa Inn.  Once the job was complete and I saw the impressive wall, I knew it needed a garden to complement it. The result is the newly planted area, the North South Arrow, now beginning to grow in. Between the hotel wall and the Arrow is a low circular stone wall. Its original purpose was to provide a turn-around for horse-drawn carriages bringing


A Three Part Garden

August 3rd, 2020 | 2 Comments »
Meagher, Timelines-010
A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to visit a garden in the small village of North Hatley, Quebec, where I live, to see the work of garden makers Jane Meagher and Jean Vanaise. Here, over about ten years, they have transformed a one-acre town lot into a lushly varied garden. The transformation began when they decided to renovate and enlarge their house.  Before they began, the garden around the building was mostly grass plus a few bunches of flowers scattered more or less randomly. Not so today. Now their mini-paradise is set off from the street and


In Transit/En Route in 2020

July 20th, 2020 | 8 Comments »
sundial (1 of 2)
In Transit/En Route is part of Timelines, the trail at Glen Villa that explores ideas about time, memory and our relationship to the land. Dating back to 2009, it was one of the first sections of Timelines I built and was an inspiration for all that followed. Over the intervening years, In Transit/En Route has undergone many changes, including several iterations of the signs that lead from an old field into the woods. First the signs stood on wooden posts that held red glass squares with circular openings.     I based that design on the Chinese concept of the universe,


Bosco della Ragnaia: A Garden for the Mind

July 13th, 2020 | 6 Comments »
This overview of the sunny side of Bosco della Ragnaia illustrates how the garden maker has played with perspective and historic precedence.
Gardens and the peace they can bring are much on my mind today, as the number of people infected with COVID-19 continues to grow.  It is a fact that gardens can heal the body as well as the mind. Research from around the world tells us that even brief contacts with nature are beneficial, lowering blood pressure and reducing stress as effectively as antidepressants for mild to moderate depression. Almost any reconnection with nature has a powerful physical and mental healing effect, even something as simple as weeding a flower bed.


The Upper Room in 2020

July 6th, 2020 | 19 Comments »
untitled (1 of 7)
The Upper Room is the memorial I created to remember and honour my mother. Designed to reflect the things most important to her -- her family, her religious beliefs and her dedication to Virginia and its institutions --  the Upper Room is a small formal area set amidst a natural forest on a hillside above our house. I wrote about its creation in a post you can find here, gave an update on the project here and showed how it looked in winter in a post here. Although my mother died in 2010, it wasn't until


Planting the North South Arrow

June 25th, 2020 | 4 Comments »
plants in pots
Last week I wrote about the genesis of the North South Arrow, the new area we are planting at Glen Villa, describing how the concept for the area changed over time. Today I'm writing about the plants I chose and how I decided to arrange them. Jacques had warned me that the soil on site was a mix of sand and gravel that would need to be modified substantially if I wanted anything planted there to thrive. His advice was to dig up the top six inches and replace the