Category Archives: Art

Goals for a New Year

December 31st, 2021 | 7 Comments »

When I look out my bedroom window, this is what I see. Or what I will see before long. Lake Massawippi isn’t frozen yet, but frozen or not, the prospect reminds me that this is the time of year to look ahead.

 

 

And to look back. What did I accomplish in the garden this year and how does it compare with what I set out to do?

I planned to renew the bed on the China Terrace, and I completed half the job. The pillows were plumped but I didn’t change the moss as I intended. That easy task is one I will do in the spring. Or so I hope.

 

 

I fiddled with the plants at the entry to the China Terrace and while I’m not yet satisfied with the results, I am happier than I was a year ago. I am very happy with the dining room table. The new napkins and goblets compliment the centrepiece that I arrange every year, and the romantic atmosphere I’m going for is enhanced by autumn leaves. If only I’d straightened the candlesticks (i.e., the pieces of wood) before I took the photo!

 

 

I continued to move plants around in the North South Arrow, the bed I started in 2020, to give the long narrow shape more structure. I hope  that moving the Miscanthus into an arc at the middle will prove to be a good choice. I definitely liked the way it looked in the fall.

 

 

Again this year, I did not fulfill a goal I set for myself a few years ago, to fence the Lower Garden. I am ready now to accept that I never will do this and I’m glad. The idea was to protect the shrubs and flowers from the deer, but opening and closing a gate would make every trip from the house to the lake more difficult, particularly when hands are full of towels and other paraphernalia.

 

This view shows the Lower Garden in May. The long staircase to the lake is not visible but it is on the left, across from the  end of the stone wall.

 

As usual, many things were done that I didn’t plan to do. I planted new trees, three multi-stem birches at the end of the Big Meadow, five crabapples on the berm beside the Skating Pond and one more crabapple by the steps that lead from the house to the Lower Garden.

 

 

Jacques and Ken, my left and right hands, rebuilt a set of steps that lead through the garden. (Amazingly, I do not have a photograph of the new steps, so a photo of the old ones will have to do.)

 

It’s easy to see why these steps had to be replaced.

 

Steps that were part of the wall of the old Glen Villa Inn, an early 20th century resort hotel that once stood on our property, were also rebuilt. The new steps are still steep but a lot safer now that the tread is flat.

 

 

In the wall to the left of the steps is an alcove that possibly held a fireplace in the original hotel building. Filling that alcove is one of my goals for 2022. When we re-built the wall in 2019, following the same footprint and using the same stones, we found many items, including some lovely old coloured bottles.

 

 

My plan for next year is to display those bottles and some of the other items we found in a glass case that I used in an exhibition of my art some years ago.  I will cover the bottom of the case with a golden velvet cloth and stain the new legs to match the existing stain.

 

 

I will continue to work on Timelines, the 4 km trail that leads through fields and forests to tell the story of the land. In the section called The Clearing of the Land I will add four painted tree trunks to suggest  a settler family. These static trunks will contrast with movement shown by forked branches, inverted to suggest people walking. These  ‘walkers’ are the Abenaki, the original inhabitants of the land, and the contrast is meant to make a point about occupation and displacement.

 

The painted tree trunks will include a plaid pattern to suggest a family of Scottish descent, one of many who settled in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.

 

Also underway is a collage on another tree trunk. Once finished and enclosed in a clear plexiglass column, the maple trunk will become part of Continuum, the section of Timelines where trees are shown in their many stages and uses. Covered with photos of paintings of trees, it will be the central point of a group of seven maple saplings. The section will then get a name: the Group of Seven. (For non-Canadians, the Group of Seven were artists working in the early 20th century who glorified the landscape of northern Canada. Trees featured prominently in their iconic paintings and I will use many reproductions of these in the collage.)

 

 

An unexpected decision towards the end of last summer points to a goal for 2022 and beyond — the transformation of what was becoming an increasingly weedy Big Meadow to a meadow full of native wildflowers and grasses. In September, we dug up and seeded a large section of the Big Meadow and we will dig and seed another section next year. Seeing how the bare ground changes over the next two or three years is an exciting prospect.

 

 

Every year I set more goals than I can realistically accomplish but next year I have only two big projects in mind: to launch the book I’ve written about Glen Villa, to be published mid-year by McGill-Queen’s University Press, and to open the garden one day a month from June through September. The prospect of sharing the garden with other people, through words and visits, makes me very happy.

 

Members of the team at NIP Paysage, a firm of landscape architects based in Montreal, posed by Bridge Ascending, a sculpture made by Doucet & Saito from remnants of an old covered bridge.

 

Setting goals gives me something to look forward to, but each of us approaches the year ahead in our own ways. Do you set garden goals? Did you manage to do all you intended to do? Or are you content with your garden as it is? If so, lucky you!

 

A Memorial in the Garden

December 5th, 2021 | 12 Comments »
Memorials are not typically found in private gardens. Occasionally you see a marker for a well-loved pet, like the one below that I came across at Glen Villa Art Garden, my garden in Quebec's Eastern Townships. Stones like Goldie's make a sorrowful statement about the past, but they also are aimed at the future, at preserving memories and transforming what used to be into a continuing part of the present.   [caption id="attachment_9966" align="aligncenter" width="1575"] Goldie was a dog. I'm guessing she was a Golden Retriever.[/caption]   Memorials to individuals

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Creating a Scene

October 19th, 2021 | 2 Comments »
When our children were young, I dreaded taking them to the grocery store. If I was lucky, the expedition would be quick and easy. But some days, the little brats screamed for chocolates  or put unwanted items into the shopping cart, and when I took them out, they created a scene. Unpleasant for me and for everyone around us. Scenes in the garden are another thing entirely. They can be magic, transforming an ordinary arrangement into something special. And today, with help from Jacques Gosselin and Ken Kelso, I made

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

July 26th, 2021 | 16 Comments »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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 »
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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