Category Archives: Art

Another One Bites the Dust

November 11th, 2019 | 8 Comments »

The job of rebuilding the hotel foundation wall is progressing but more slowly than we hoped. The slow-down was unavoidable, thanks to (really, no thanks to) the snow that fell this week.


The foundation wall has been taken down entirely.
All the rocks on the right came from the foundation wall which now has been taken down entirely.


The snow is attractive, no doubt, but it has come much too early.


The Cascade looks pretty with its dusting of snow. I just hope the snow doesn't last too long.
The Cascade looks pretty with its dusting of snow. I just hope the snow won’t last too long.


The early snowfall is one part of the unusual weather we’ve been having recently. (Is unusual weather the new normal? Unfortunately, I fear it is.) Just over a week ago we had hurricane-strength winds that knocked out power lines all over Quebec, leaving many without power for three or four days. We were fortunate and never lost power but the ferocious winds blew down trees all over the property. The worst loss was a very tall pine tree that was the centrepiece of one part of Timelines, the trail at Glen Villa that explores questions about time, memory and our relationship to the land.


This is how the dead pine tree looked a few months ago.
This is how the dead pine tree looked last fall.


I discovered the tree at least ten years ago when scouting out the route for a new trail. As soon as I saw it, I knew it would become a feature of the trail. And so it did.


Looking up the trunk gives some idea of how tall the tree was... perhaps 40 or 50 feet.
Looking up the trunk gives some idea of how tall the tree was… perhaps 50 or 60 feet.


The tall pine and the clearing in the woods we created around it were the climax of a section of Timelines called In Transit/En Route.  It became the gnomon, or pointer, on a sundial and its shadow hitting numbered posts that circle the clearing marked the hour.


The black tubing marks the edge of the clearing.
The pine is visible behind the post with five red bands. The black tubing marks the edge of the circular clearing.


We installed the posts in 2011 along with a straight-backed bench built like a pine box. We cut the words In Transit/En Route into the wooden seat to underline the message. (I wrote about the origins of In Transit/En Route in blog posts you can read here, here and here.)


Autumn leaves make the message more poignant.
Autumn leaves make the message more poignant.


Several years ago we added a fallen tree with a plaque to announce the Sundial itself.


A summer view
The Sundial in summer stands out as a clearing in the midst of a green forest.


The passage of time was marked not only by the shadow of the tree but also by the presence of natural decay — and by the evidence that woodpeckers and other birds were going after the tasty insects in the rotting wood. It became clearer month by month that the tree wouldn’t last forever.


The numbered posts
The pile of wood chips at the base of the tree attests to the birds’ activities.


Nor did it. Weakened by age and by the depth and number of the holes in the trunk, last week in the storm, the tree hit the dust. Or the leaf mulch, if you prefer.


say something
The stump is hidden by the red sign, the last of a series of signs that ask questions designed to enhance awareness of the surroundings and of the present moment.


Amazingly, the trunk fell between a tree and the four o’clock post, damaging nothing but itself. I could have measured its length but didn’t think to do that before we cut it up for firewood.


add something
I wish I knew what time it fell. Was it around 4:15 as its location suggests?


The tree broke close to the ground and the decay at the base made it obvious that even without the high winds, it would have toppled soon.


Decay is evident.
The mighty has fallen, leaving a splintered stump behind.


Losing the tree makes me sad but its loss presents an opportunity. Shall I replace it or leave the sundial without a pointer, making the idea more abstract?  If I replace the dead pine, what shall I use? I could plant a tiny tree and wait for it to grow. I could add the trunk of a tree that we cut down, leaving the bark or stripping it off. I could add a post, taller than those that mark the hour, and that post could be made of wood or of metal. The post could be upright as the pine tree was, or it could be angled as pointers on sundials usually are.

And what about the black tubing that marks the circumference of the circle? Shall I leave it or replace it with some other material?

Lots of choices mean that I’ll be doing lots of thinking in the months ahead. What do you think I should do? I welcome your ideas.

Kiftsgate Court: A Garden Review

October 21st, 2019 | 17 Comments »
Oh, my. Luscious.
Kiftsgate Court is one of those English gardens included on many garden tours, in part because it is so conveniently located, just down the road from Hidcote, the iconic garden created by the Anglo-American Lawrence Johnston. The gardens at Kiftsgate were created over the last hundred years by three generations of women -- grandmother, mother and daughter -- each of whom made her own contribution to the garden as it is today. Renowned for the Kiftsgate rose, the garden contains some wonderful areas and some fine plantings, with sumptuous flowers like this one that


Paths with Pizazz

August 4th, 2019 | 4 Comments »
The cmbination of regular and irregularly shapes stones along with the plants that break up the stones makes this path at Malverleys particularly appealing.
Many garden paths are ordinary, designed simply to get you from one place in the garden to another. Grass paths, the simplest and least costly type of path to make, appear in gardens so routinely that they almost disappear. Occasionally, though, you'll see a path that stands out. The grass path below is an example. It is well maintained and nicely curved but what lifts it out of the ordinary is the white line that edges it. That line draws your eye along the curve and makes the path itself impossible to ignore.


Words on the Land

July 7th, 2019 | 8 Comments »
I deliberately made the questions difficult to read in order to slow people down.
A picture is worth a thousand words, or so the old saying goes. But sometimes a word says all that needs to be said. Or perhaps, more than a thousand pictures can convey. Words label each section of Timelines, the 2.9 km trail that we are opening to the public for the first time on July 20, as a fund-raiser for the Massawippi Foundation. (You can buy your tickets by clicking here.) Words begin the journey at In Transit/En Route, where signs ask questions   [caption id="attachment_7711" align="alignleft" width="5184"] I deliberately



June 9th, 2019 | 11 Comments »
Looking back shows the pink crabapples that mark the beginning and end of La Grande Allée.
Last week I showed a tiny speck of white at the end of the La Grande Allée. [caption id="attachment_7539" align="alignleft" width="5184"] You can see the drone camera easily in this photo. The speck of white at the end of La Grande Allée is much harder to make out.[/caption]   In that post, I promised a closer view of that hint of white. And here it is.   [caption id="attachment_7572" align="alignleft" width="3792"] Oh, my!  Could you tell from a distance that it was a chair?[/caption]   The white crabapple trees along


Making History Visible

January 16th, 2019 | 12 Comments »
Glacial erratics form part of the waterfall at Glen Villa. T
Making history visible on the land is the concept that guides the projects I undertake at Glen Villa, my landscape and garden in Quebec. Recognizing and honouring what happened on the land before I came onto the scene is my way of hearing the voices of the past. It's my way of listening to what the land has to say. The land speaks in different voices from different times. Glacial erratics talk about the ice age. [caption id="attachment_7240" align="aligncenter" width="3271"] Glacial erratics form part of the waterfall at Glen Villa.[/caption]   A wolf tree standing among younger oaks


Houghton Hall: A Garden Review

January 6th, 2019 | 8 Comments »
Add something about building
England has many fine gardens. Houghton Hall in Norfolk is one of the finest, offering a stimulating combination of horticulture, contemporary art and history that is far too much to absorb in a single visit. The most popular part of the garden is the five acre Walled Garden. Divided into contrasting areas, the Walled Garden contains a double-sided herbaceous border, an Italian garden, a formal rose parterre, fruit and vegetable gardens, a glasshouse, a rustic temple, antique statues, fountains and contemporary sculptures. With so many aspects, the area could feel muddled or over-crowded,


The Past Looms Large

November 27th, 2018 | 12 Comments »
The columns are striking in every season.
For the last eighteen months or more I've been working on an art installation that stretches along a 3-4 km trail at Glen Villa, my garden in Quebec.  The trail moves in and out of fields and forests, and each environment has its own character. When I started the project, the idea behind it wasn't entirely clear. Gradually, working with the land and listening to its story, the project took shape. Time -- how we think about it, experience it and represent it -- was a thread connecting each installation. So several


Rock Art

November 12th, 2018 | 19 Comments »
Australia Kimberley 2011-82
Cave paintings on the island of Borneo showing animals and human hands have recently been dated back some 40,000 years, making them the oldest known example of figurative rock art in the world. (Details of the story can be found in various articles, including one here from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.) Think for a moment about how long ago that is. Forty thousand years. It takes my breath away. I've been fascinated by rock art for many years and have been fortunate to see examples in South Africa, Namibia, Australia, Chile and Peru. While the particulars


Garden Hits and Misses

September 30th, 2018 | 13 Comments »
The fountain rises 70 feet into the air. On a sunny day it is beautiful to see. It works via a remote control!
At home after three marvellous weeks visiting gardens (and  friends) in England, I find much to criticize in my garden. After many years of travelling, I've come to expect this -- and to accept that a garden in Quebec's harsh weather conditions will never resemble an English garden, with its lush foliage and flowers, topiary and ancient walls. I've also come to expect that gardens other than my own will disappoint me. On every tour I've hosted, there has always been one garden I particularly looked forward to seeing. On