Category Archives: Design

How (not) to design a border

March 31st, 2014 | 5 Comments »
A few years ago, a huge tree blew down. The tree was at the edge of the lower garden, by what we call the dragon gate --  a construction of vertical and horizontal pieces of painted wood that matches architectural elements on our house. The tree and the dragon gate marked the start of a path that meanders through the woods and semi-wild areas of the garden.I cried when this 'tremblant' or trembling aspen blew down in a storm,but soon I preferred the more open view.Losing the tree was sad

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Art in a Garden: ephemeral vs permanent art

March 17th, 2014 | 4 Comments »
Ars longa, vita brevis...When Hippocrates wrote these lines, he was not referring to fine art but to the 'art' of medicine. In effect, he was saying that it takes a long time to acquire knowledge and to perfect skills -- and we have only a short time to do that. (I'd add that the statement is true about gardening, and many other things, too.)Over the years the phrase has acquired a different meaning: that art is what endures. But must it? Is 'permanent' art the best type of art for

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Art in a Garden: Yes or No?

March 10th, 2014 | 12 Comments »
Is it something in the air?  Recently I've been reading discussions about the advantages and disadvantages of using sculpture in a garden. Does it add or detract? Some have argued in favour; others are vehemently opposed. The strongest statement of opposition I've read came from a New Zealand gardener, newspaper columnist and blogger named Abbie Jury. "... a garden setting can enhance sculpture but I have never actually seen sculpture enhance a garden. As soon as you drop sculpture into a garden setting, it takes centre stage shouting “Look at me! Look

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Vertical Gardens: how high can they go?

February 24th, 2014 | 3 Comments »
Worth Avenue defines high end shopping in Palm Beach, Florida. High end appears in a different guise at a junction beside the avenue, where a vertical garden clothes a bare wall. Eleven different types of plants make up this wall. Late day shadows make the wall look less interesting than it is, but a close-up shows some of the variety of textures and shades of green that create the 840 square foot wall. In total, almost 11,000 plants create a stunning curvilinear design. Four textures and four shades of green.

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Ann Norton Sculpture Garden: a garden review

February 17th, 2014 | 8 Comments »
Combining sculpture and a collection of rare palms, the Ann Norton Sculpture Garden offers a quiet retreat from the up-scale social whirl of Palm Beach, Florida. Palm Beach, after all, was (and in some cases still is) home or vacation playground for many of the world's rich and famous, from the Kennedy and Pulitzer families, to Donald Trump, Bernie Madoff and Conrad Black. Ann Norton was a sculptor who married one of these wealthy men, Ralph Norton, an industrialist and an art collector whose collection became the foundation of Palm

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Do flowers make a garden?

February 9th, 2014 | 21 Comments »
Must a garden have flowers? Must it have trees and shrubs? Must it have plants at all? I think most people would say yes. But consider England’s great landscape gardens. Some of those designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown in the late 1700s had few if any flowers. And what about that masterpiece of garden art, the Ryoan-ji  garden in Kyoto? This garden from the late 1400s contains only sand, rock and small islands of moss. This image of the Ryoan-ji's Zen garden is from Wikipedia. So, is “garden” simply a word to be defined

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2013: Glen Villa reviewed

January 20th, 2014 | 4 Comments »
The end of January isn't the obvious time to do a year-end review, but since 2013 is well and truly over,  it's now or never. And since next week marks the one year anniversary of this blog, and I plan to review some of the top posts and your comments about them, writing a month by month review of what happened this past year at Glen Villa seems a reasonable idea. So let's go! January: The tiny evergreen seedlings we planted four or five years ago in an area I

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Observing and learning

January 12th, 2014 | 6 Comments »
A few months ago Don Stratham, a New York state garden consultant, wrote a blog post about garden mishaps, or learning from failures in the garden, in his blog called Rooting for Ideas. He listed some of his mistakes -- and what they had taught him. But what his post made me think of was the importance of observation itself, and of taking note of what you observe. I saw this forest scene a few years ago and was immediately struck by nature's artful composition. The contrast between the upright

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Looking ahead: Glen Villa in 2014

January 5th, 2014 | 8 Comments »
I don't make New Year's Resolutions. But planning ahead for the garden is a regular winter activity. So this is what I plan (correction: make that hope) to do in 2014. 1. Clean up loose ends. This category includes more things than I like to think about. I often start new projects before the old ones are finished, but this year I intend to do some tidying up before beginning anything new. (Ok, I suppose that counts as a resolution.) Loose end #1 is the final aqueduct pool, just above

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Extreme gardening

December 17th, 2013 | 7 Comments »
How hard can it be to go from this... On the beach in Perth, West Australia to this? A snowy day at Glen Villa Very hard! But it is even harder to go to this… Montreal on a cold win'ter's day: the view from my apartment window When I left Perth, West Australia, on Friday, December 13,  the temperature was 35C (or 95 fahrenheit) -- and climbing. When, after some 30 hours of travel, I arrived in Montreal it was still Friday, December 13. The temperature was -22C (or about

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