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

Blog

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

Read More...

The Yin Yang is Remade

August 10th, 2020 | 10 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

Read More...

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

Read More...

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,

Read More...

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.

Read More...

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

Read More...

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

Read More...

The North South Arrow

June 15th, 2020 | 10 Comments »
G.A. LeBaron used this business card -- an early example of salesmanship that goes some way to explain why he was so successful.
Months ago, when we were rebuilding the foundation wall of Glen Villa Inn, the huge resort hotel that once stood on our property, I began thinking of a new planting area to complement the new wall. A photo taken shortly after the hotel burned down in 1909 showed plants arranged around the low stone wall in front of the hotel, where horse-drawn carriages circled to pick up and drop off hotel guests. The planting around that circular wall prompted me to consider a similar arrangement. [caption id="attachment_8368" align="alignleft" width="1600"] The

Read More...

Flowers, Fields and Food

June 8th, 2020 | 1 Comment »
aqui with spirea (1 of 1)
An assortment of photos shows the variety of what is happening now at Glen Villa, my garden in Quebec's Eastern Townships. Flowers are blooming everywhere. One that I am particularly fond of is columbine. The native variety, Aquilegia canadensis, grows freely in many spots in the garden. In the photo below, it complements the colour palette of new growth on a spirea, Spirea 'Magic Carpet,' a shrub that the deer ignore. (Hooray!)     Years ago, I started various columbines from seed, including some seed I brought back from Australia. I

Read More...

Cats, Deer, Grouse and Hogs

June 3rd, 2020 | 2 Comments »
cat silhouette (4 of 4)
Last week I sent out a single photo as a Wednesday vignette. It showed a groundhog and a cat standing close together, absolutely still.     Lots of people responded to that photo, remarking on how close together the two animals were. But photos can be deceiving. Take a look at the photo below, for instance. Does it show a real deer or a painted silhouette?     I did not manipulate the photo of the cat and groundhog and I've often spotted them together in that same part of the garden.

Read More...