Category Archives: Design

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.

Pining Away

October 27th, 2019 | 8 Comments »
Jacques says he loves to be this high off the ground. Not me!
I'm not pining away, but the pine tree is. Or was. This week we tackled a big job that I've been wanting to do for a few years, which was to remove an enormous old pine tree near the bank of Lake Massawippi. The photo below from 2014 shows the beginning of the end of this tree... needles on the upper branches are much thinner than they should be. It also shows how the tree towered above the ones around it.   [caption id="attachment_8228" align="alignleft" width="1600"] The boathouse may have been


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


The China Terrace in Autumn

October 6th, 2019 | 9 Comments »
china terrace (5 of 5)
The China Terrace is my interpretation of history ... a room in the garden at Glen Villa where I have recreated parts of Glen Villa Inn, the old resort hotel that once stood on our property. Towards the end of summer I wrote about the new 'walls' that we installed to mark the division between the different rooms in the hotel: a reception area, bedroom and dining room.  (You can read that post here.) The 'walls' are now covered with autumn leaves, and the grass we seeded over a month


A Bench with a View

September 29th, 2019 | 10 Comments »
A simple and very stylish bench made from ordinary 2x4s.
Last week's blog prompted so many responses that I'm writing about benches again. Kathy Purdy, a friend, regular reader and blogger extraordinaire (you can read her blog here) made the excellent comment that the view from a bench is as important as -- more important than? -- the design itself. I also have photos of many interesting bench designs that I didn't include last week. So location as well as design is the focus for this post. I've positioned benches at Glen Villa with the view very much in mind.  A Victorian-style


The Right Bench in the Right Place

September 22nd, 2019 | 11 Comments »
The colour of this bench makes it memorable, even without the names and dates of previous owners painted on the back.
Garden benches come in all sizes and shapes. Some are strictly utilitarian, some decorative, and some add meaning to the garden through their design. The simple utilitarian version of a bench is a familiar sight, whether with a back ... [caption id="attachment_8053" align="alignleft" width="3696"] This bench from a garden in Newfoundland invites you to sit down and admire the pond and the plants around it.[/caption]   ... or without.   [caption id="attachment_8056" align="alignleft" width="3888"] This bench is stylish even though simple in the extreme, thanks to the chunky legs and squared


Containers That Match Your Mood

September 2nd, 2019 | 8 Comments »
This combo worked well from late May to late September.
Recently a friend asked if I'd written about container gardening. Her question started me thinking about how the plants on the decks around our house have changed over the years. I pulled out old photos to see if my memory was accurate. Yes, the choices I made had changed. And while that wasn't really surprising, what I noticed most was that the differences year to year reflected changes not only in my experience but also in my emotions and moods. Decks surround Glen Villa, our house and garden in Quebec, offering lots of space


The China Terrace Gets a Face Lift

August 25th, 2019 | 10 Comments »
I used Lamium 'Fancy Nancy' for the bedspread and Alternathera 'Purple Prince' for the pillow.
The title of this post might well be The China Terrace gets a Floor Lift... but that would be confusing and not entirely accurate. So what has happened? The China Terrace, a re-imagining of the grand resort hotel that once stood on the property, was one of the first projects I undertook at Glen Villa. [caption id="attachment_1567" align="alignleft" width="1024"] The entry to the China Terrace uses old pillars I found in a local antique store. The posts that curve up beyond suggest a staircase to an imaginary second story.[/caption]   My


Try and Try Again

August 18th, 2019 | 15 Comments »
The wrought-iron will rust eventually but we can scrape and oil it when it does.
The old saying is a good one: if at first you don't succeed, try, try again. There's a meme in the gardening world started by Bonney Lassie at call Tell the Truth Tuesday. Despite my fair share of failures, I've never joined in. But La Seigneurie, one of the newest parts of my Quebec garden, fits the meme all too well. So even if it isn't Tuesday, here's the truth. In early June this year, we seeded a farm field as part of Timelines, the 3 km trail I've developed that explores questions



August 11th, 2019 | 14 Comments »
I designed this fence made of steel posts and wire cable to be as invisible as possible from a distance and attractive up close.
Fences come in all shapes and sizes, yet in one way or another they all serve the same purpose: to separate one area from another. At Glen Villa, my garden in Quebec, the oldest fence separates a former farm field from a driveway.   [caption id="attachment_7852" align="alignleft" width="1024"] It's obvious from the way the tree has grown around it that this barbed wire fence was put up a long time ago.[/caption]   An equally practical but more decorative fence is the one I designed to protect shrubs from the deer that