Category Archives: Art

Art in Winter

December 11th, 2017 | 18 Comments »

I woke yesterday to a fine dusting of snow, and during the day more snow fell. Today it outlines the branches of the big oak tree by our boathouse and the old crabapple trees by the drive, emphasizing the contrast between rough bark and soft fluffy white.


The shape of the crabapple tree becomes dramatic when outlined with snow.
The shape of the crabapple trees becomes dramatic when outlined with snow.


The forecast calls for more snow to come, and as confirmation, the sky is grey. But once the snow stops and the barometer rises, the sky will be a clear, bright blue that cheers the spirits.


A typical winter scene: bright blue skies and a coating of frost.
This scene from a few years ago isn’t particularly unusual. But it is particularly gorgeous to my eyes.


For those who live in warmer climes, the thought of snow and ice and temperatures that routinely drop to -30C must be daunting. But for those of us accustomed to winter, it is full of glories, just waiting to be seen. Some are ephemeral …


A simple clump of grass becomes a work of beauty when outlined by snow and sunlight.
A simple clump of grass becomes a work of beauty when outlined by snow and sunlight.


… others longer lasting.


Old farm equipment acquires allure in the snow.
Old farm equipment acquires new allure in the snow.


At Glen Villa, my garden in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, sculptures and installations that I’ve created reflect the history of the land. These art works have a special appeal in winter. When the sun shines, the steel bands of Trees Rings cast shadows on the snow, mirroring the tree’s internal rings on the ground as they do in the air.


Tree Rings is a sculpture I made to commemorate the life of a venerable maple tree.
Tree Rings is a sculpture I made to commemorate the life of a venerable maple tree.


On frosty mornings, the barbed wire encircling these inverted branches acquires a beauty that denies its  hurtful reality.


The barbed wire that traps
The inverted tree branches form one part of an installation called Abenaki Walking. It honours the original inhabitants of this area of Quebec.


Webster’s Column, the sculpture I made to celebrate my husband’s 50-year career as a journalist, appears black and white in the distance, missing only the touch of red that would turn it into the newspaper riddle popular when I was a child.


Webster's Column celebrates my husband's career as a journalist.
Glass panels protect the newspapers that fill Webster’s Column. Do you remember the riddle?


Colours make a stronger statement in winter than they do in other seasons, when so many other colours compete.  A yellow tree trunk advises caution, think about your choice.


Frost has a double meaning here.
Frost has a double meaning here, where paths split.


A gleaming red apple warns you to resist temptation.


Snow outlines the Grass Snake in winter.
Snow outlines the Grass Snake in winter. And believe it or not, Eden — or something close to it — does exist in wintery worlds.


Even blacks and whites gain strength.


Winter's black and white accentuates the starkness of Ghost Walk, the final section of Abenaki Walking.
Winter’s black and white accentuates the starkness of Ghost Walk, the final section of Abenaki Walking.


At Orin’s Sugarbush, silver leaves chime gently, announcing the holiday season.


leaves (1 of 1)


And by the front door, a tree awaiting its silver star provides the seasonal touch of green. Iced, of course.


This little spruce tree is attached to the chimney stack. Some years I put up this tree, other years a wreath. The tree takes less work.
This little spruce tree is attached to the chimney stack. Some years I put up this tree, other years a wreath. The tree takes less work.


Here’s hoping that your holiday season is filled with colour and joy, and your garden with winter’s art.


A wreathe for the holidays.
A wreath for the holidays.


Metis International Garden Festival

August 22nd, 2017 | 6 Comments »
The optical illusion never fails to delight.
  Recently I visited the International Garden Festival at Metis, Quebec. I've attended the Festival many times since it first opened in 2000, but in previous years I've gone with adults. This year was special -- I went with two teenage granddaughters.   [caption id="attachment_5512" align="aligncenter" width="1425"] The festival gardens are adjacent to the St. Lawrence River in a part of Quebec that offers much to explore.[/caption]   Playsages, the theme for this year's Festival, was a good fit for the three of us. The word is a mash-up of languages, blending


The Upper Room Updated

August 7th, 2017 | 10 Comments »
An overview, looking towards the dogwood panels.
  Finishing The Upper Room, the area that honours my mother and her beliefs, was one of my goals for 2017.  I started work on the area last summer, hoping to finish then, but everything took longer than expected. This year, the sand-blasted panels that are the central feature were installed in the spring, the area was planted in early summer, and the final elements were added in July. The dogwood screen remains the crowning glory. It stands at the uppermost of three levels, defining the space without closing it in. I'm particularly happy with


Clichés to Live By

July 3rd, 2017 | 15 Comments »
George Bush's statement was a promise not to raise taxes. Did he?
I'm thrilled to announce that an exhibition of neon art I've created will open on July 8 at The Winsor Gallery in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Winsor Gallery features cutting edge contemporary art, and I'm honoured to be exhibiting there, where artists of the calibre of Alexander Calder, Attila Richard Lukacs, Patrick Hughes, Angela Grossman and Fiona Ackerman have been shown. This exhibition gives me special pleasure: the invitation to exhibit came as the result of two garden visits. The first visit happened several years ago when I went to Broadwoodside, a garden near


The Upper Room

April 26th, 2017 | 24 Comments »
The hardscaping for The Upper Room was completed last summer.
After months of anticipation, yesterday we installed the glass panels at The Upper Room. The wait was long but it was worth it -- I am thrilled with the results. The Upper Room is a memorial designed to honour my mother and her beliefs. It's a tribute to family and to the traditions I grew up with in Richmond, Virginia, when classically symmetrical architecture, brick, and boxwood shaped our streetscapes and our view of the world. From inception, brick and boxwood were essential elements of the design. So was a sense of embrace. I wanted the


Garden Plans: I’m Dreaming Again

March 27th, 2017 | 27 Comments »
You can see a bit of the trail on the left side of this photo, taken in 2009. We cleared brush from this area last fall. Some of the wildflowers have disappeared but the site still feels the same. Is this an example of unity persisting despite change?
Now that winter has dumped several feet of snow on a garden that was almost snow-free, I'm back by the fire, metaphorically at least, dreaming of the seasons ahead.   [caption id="attachment_5009" align="aligncenter" width="600"] I took this photo about ten days ago after a fresh snowfall. Today is grey. And maybe more snow will fall. I hope not.[/caption]   I'm dreaming about a trail that will lead around the property. I'm considering the route it will follow and what I will call it. I know the purpose of the trail -- it will connect art


Experimenting Landscapes: A Book Review

March 13th, 2017 | 10 Comments »
Experimenting Landscapes: Testing the Limits of the Garden is the newest book about the International Garden Festival at Métis, Québec. Full of helpful insights from  the author Emily Waugh, the book presents photos and essays analyzing some of the Festival's experimental gardens. Focusing on a selection of gardens from the last ten years, the book suggests five categories or methods of investigation that help readers position the gardens within a larger context.   [caption id="attachment_4966" align="aligncenter" width="300"] This cover photo shows Courtesy of Nature, by Johan Selbing and Anouk Vogel. It is one of



February 27th, 2017 | 10 Comments »
North is a direction, an idea, an experience. North as designed by the architects Suresh Perara and Julie Charbonneau of the Montreal firm PER.CH is a triumph. Using familiar materials, PER.CH turns the idea of north on its head. Literally. Thirty-nine fir trees hang upside down from a metal framework, their soft green triangles pointing down to a bare Toronto beach.   [caption id="attachment_4945" align="aligncenter" width="2000"] Photo courtesy of Suresh Perara.[/caption]   North is one of eight installations that make up Winter Stations, an exhibition on the shores of Lake Ontario. Now


Garden Goals for 2017

January 9th, 2017 | 10 Comments »
The tin maple leaves hung in November 2016 are now coated with snow, making the scene even more evocative.
Setting annual goals for the garden keeps me on track and helps me avoid jumping from one thing to another, something I'm all too prone to do. Last year I set 10 goals for myself and discovered, looking back in last week's post, that ten was too many. So in 2017 I'm cutting my ambitions in half and setting five goals for the year ahead. 1. Finish The Upper Room The bare bones of The Upper Room, the new area in the garden that honours my mother and her beliefs, have


Looking Back and Forth

December 31st, 2016 | 10 Comments »
Since I didn't do anything about new pots, I shouldn't have a photo to illustrate this goal. But I did use Mandeville vines on the living room deck. I've had these same plants for ten years or so, and they continue to provide abundant blooms and colour.
Last December I took the risky step of setting goals for 2016. So as that year ends and 2017 begins, it's time to assess. How much of what I wanted to do did I actually accomplish? 1. The Cascade: As intended, I modified the plantings around The Cascade. I reduced the number of different types of plants, improved the drainage and the soil in the beds themselves. As a result, the plants flourished and I was content. But of course there are always reservations. The Weigela 'Wine and Roses' needs another year