Category Archives: Glen Villa

Art in Winter

December 11th, 2017 | 14 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.


Planting for Spring

November 14th, 2017 | 11 Comments »
Empty boxes and bags are proof that all the bulbs are now in the ground.
Last week my computer went on the blink and for three whole days, my typing fingers had a rest. The days off-line gave me time to do other things, but instead of using the time wisely, I wandered around feeling bereft. So it was only yesterday, when all was once again well on the computer front, that I ventured outside to plant bulbs. I should have done this weeks ago but the weather had been so fine, almost summer-like, that I kept putting it off. Until the snow fell.   [caption id="attachment_5837" align="aligncenter" width="3888"] Snow


The Straight and (not very) Narrow

November 1st, 2017 | 23 Comments »
These crabapple trees in front of my daughter's house are Malus 'Dolgo.'
  When is a straight path not straight enough? When is it too narrow? Last March, I decided to transform an unused farm field into something spectacular by lining the path that ran through it  with crabapple trees. When the ground was barely thawed, I paced out the length to determine how many trees to order.   [caption id="attachment_5771" align="aligncenter" width="5169"] This path was a convenient short cut across a flat farm field.[/caption]   I was taken aback. We needed 100 trees, 50 each side, planted at 18 foot intervals. The number made me


The Grandchildren Trees

October 24th, 2017 | 12 Comments »
One grandchild stands next to her tree along with her father.
The year after our first grandchild was born, we planted a maple tree in her honour. A few years later when our second grandchild was born, we did the same. We continued to do this. After each birth, another tree was planted. We planted the trees in a straight row, on the slope of an old farm field where the growing conditions were right -- plenty of sunshine and soil that wasn't too wet or too dry.  When the fifth grandchild was born, there wasn't enough room in the row, so we


Giving Thanks

October 9th, 2017 | 15 Comments »
The foliage of this tree (Nyssa sylvatica) is always colourful in autumn but this is the first time I've seen it with two distinct colours.  Can anyone explain why this happens?
  Today is Thanksgiving day in Canada, and there is much to be thankful for. In the garden, colours are bright.   [caption id="attachment_5729" align="aligncenter" width="2820"] Sedum 'Autumn Joy' lives up to its name.[/caption]   Even when the flowers have faded, I'm thankful for work that's been done.  At the Aqueduct the catmint ( Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low') has been cut back, making the bed look more like a monk's shaved head than the overgrown mop of foliage it was only days ago.   [caption id="attachment_5743" align="aligncenter" width="5184"] Those stubs of nepeta between


The Big Meadow, 2017

September 25th, 2017 | 8 Comments »
I took this photo near the end of July. The mown path remained green all summer, thanks to the amount of rain we received.
Is it accurate to call The Big Lawn at Glen Villa The Big Meadow? If you use an American definition, the answer is yes.  If you consult an English dictionary, the answer is less clear. Webster's Dictionary defines a meadow as a tract of low or level land producing grass which is mown for hay,  and that definition fits precisely. Allowing the sweep of grass beside our house that was tended for decades to remain untouched produced six large bales of hay last year, the first year we didn't mow regularly.  Those bales were


Little Things Mean a Lot

September 18th, 2017 | 12 Comments »
The added height offers a different perspective on the Skating Pond.
Little things mean a lot, in the garden as well as in song. It's the little things that explain why we gardeners are always looking and re-looking. Shall I move this plant, modify this combination, add or subtract? This past week I've been changing some little things at the Skating Pond. After 12 years, a few boards on the boardwalk needed to be replaced. And changing some boards gave me the chance (the excuse?) to change a few more. Quite a few, as it turned out. Because what started as a tweak ended


A Colour-full Summer

August 28th, 2017 | 10 Comments »
The Coleus is a variety called Indian Summer. I pinched it back regularly to keep it from getting too big.  (thanks for the warning, Nancy A.!)
Even while summer is coming to an end, the garden continues to make me happy. I'm really pleased with the gravel garden.  Early in the summer we adjusted the slate border; now it steps rather than slopes down, giving a firmer definition to the edge. While the yucca didn't bloom this year, it did produce dense clumps that should bloom next year. The sedum 'Dazzleberry' is growing well and the small islands of sandwort (Arenaria verna) that I added offer good colour contrast.   [caption id="attachment_5567" align="aligncenter" width="705"] Although it doesn't show


A Mid-Summer Check Up

August 14th, 2017 | 6 Comments »
I can't identify the plant exactly -- I gathered seeds from plants that were growing along a nearby road.
In the middle of August, the garden feels different. It's not as fresh or vibrant, not as satisfying. This makes it tempting to move into planning mode. But first, I need to review the goals I set for the year, to assess what still needs to be done. One goal was to hold a second Open Garden Day. I checked that off in July. Another was to let the garden express itself. This is a goal that will never be finished. But I'm doing my best, letting nature take its course in the fields and


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