Category Archives: Glen Villa

A Mid-Summer Check Up

August 14th, 2017 | 5 Comments »

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 in The Big Meadow, previously known as The Big Lawn.

My first major goal was to finish Orin’s Sugarcamp. Last week we cleaned up the area, removing some tin leaves and miscellaneous bits and pieces. We added slate steps to make it easier to walk up the incline that leads to the sugar camp and visually lowered the granite lintel by adding more earth in front and behind. Now, someone climbing the steps will easily see the quotation cut into the stone: “The Gods can be known to exist on account of the existence of their altars.”


The words come from Chrysippos, a Greek philosopher. I saw them at Little Sparta, a garden in Scotland, and knew immediately I would use them at Orin's Sugarcamp.
The words come from Chrysippos, a Greek philosopher. I saw them at Little Sparta, a garden in Scotland, and knew immediately I would use them at Orin’s Sugarcamp.


Before the clean up we added a short column of corrugated tin at one corner. The column ties in with a larger project I’m working on, which I’ll write about at some point. I like the contrast between the rusted tin roof and the un-rusted column — it underlines how things change over time, an important idea behind that larger project.

The final change was something minor that nonetheless has a big impact. Compare these two photos to see if you can spot the difference. The first photo is from July 1 …


This photo is from July 1, 2017.
Yes, the leaves stacked by the tree are gone, but that’s not the change I’m talking about.


… and the second from August 8.


The angle is different and the change is subtle.
The angle is different and the change is subtle, and so hard to notice.


Did you spot it? The change was lowering the boiling pan and turning it around so that a long bent piece is in front, almost touching the ground.

The weight of winter ice and snow brought down some of the tin maple leaves that hang around the sugar camp. Within the next few weeks we may re-hang some of them, but we could stop today and call it quits.  Except for one thing.

The installation is named after Orin Gardner, a real person who worked for my father-in-law. Recently I learned that Orin was a strong Christian. The person who told me this worried that combining his name with the quotation from Chrysippos could lead people to think otherwise. I respect this concern and am searching for a way to acknowledge it.


A close-up shows the twisted boiling pan, where maple sap was reduced to maple syrup.
A close-up shows the twisted boiling pan where maple sap was reduced to maple syrup.



The second major goal was to improve the plantings at The Skating Pond.

One area at the Skating Pond has never done well — it’s soggy, with soil that no plant seems to like. Last summer, hoping to uncover more of the rocky ledge that edges part of the pond, we started digging. We didn’t find rock; instead we created a mess — a steep slope with crumbly rock.


Talk about eyesores!
This is what the area looked like earlier this summer.


To correct the problem we added crushed rock for drainage, rocks for stability and good quality soil. We transplanted several clumps of the Calamagrostis that is growing nearby, even splitting some of the larger plants, and to my delight, they didn’t suffer.


I'm trying several other plants to see how they manage -- Aralia 'Sun King' and Agastache. Maybe I'll add some Rudbeckia.
I’m trying several other plants to see how they manage — Aralia ‘Sun King’ and Agastache. Maybe I’ll add some Rudbeckia.


In the fall we’ll divide more Calamagrostis. We’ll move out the Japanese blood grass that has never done well, repair some of the boardwalk and change the shape slightly, to provide a better entry point.

I’m confident that we’ll finish work on the Skating Pond this year. I’m equally confident that next year I’ll fiddle around with the plants. What I won’t do is disturb what is working well.

The Skating Pond is at its best where it is most natural.


If only all the rock was as gorgeous as what you see here.
Wildflowers fill the field around the Skating Pond, changing with the seasons.


A flower I seeded years ago has happily spread all around, as have many other wildflowers.


I can't identify the plant exactly -- I gathered seeds from plants that were growing along a nearby road.
I think this is knapweed, a type of scabious. I can’t identify it with certainty — I gathered seeds from plants that were growing along a nearby road.


Resident snapping turtles sun themselves on the rocks.


I can't tell the turtles apart but I know there are two of them -- I've seen both at the same time.
I can’t tell the turtles apart but I know there are two of them — I’ve seen both at the same time.


Water bugs, dragon and damsel flies add life and movement.


A Canada darner rests on a native day lily beside the Skating Pond.
A Canada darner rests on a native day lily beside the Skating Pond.


The constant movement makes the area an attraction for children and grandchildren. And for me — I can watch for hours at a time.


sp damsel fly (1 of 1)
I think this is a Whitetailed Skimmer. Please let me know if I’m wrong.


Work on both of these projects will probably continue next year but for now I’m satisfied with the progress made.

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


Now for a Rest!

July 31st, 2017 | 14 Comments »
As the day began, I snapped one photo of cars parked in the field. It was the last photo I took for the day.
The last few weeks have been busy. Preparing the garden for visiting groups and getting everything in place for Saturday's Open Garden Day has been fun, but also a lot of work. And now that August is here, I'm ready to put my feet up -- for a day or two, at least. But first, I want to thank the 20 volunteers who worked at the Open Garden Day. They made the day a success, and I couldn't have done it without them. The weather cooperated beautifully, and the day


You are Invited!

July 23rd, 2017 | 6 Comments »
It's less than a week until our second annual Open Garden Day. I'm ready for it, bilingual volunteers are prepped, and the garden is looking fine. So I hope I'll see you here, next Saturday between 10 and 4. There's no need to reserve a spot, and all are welcome, with admission payable on site. (No dogs or picnics, please.) Here are the details.     And here's a preview of what you'll see. The Cascade by the house ...   [caption id="attachment_5399" align="aligncenter" width="1425"] The yellow Ligularia add a nice


What a Difference a Month Makes

July 17th, 2017 | 26 Comments »
Looking beyond the nepeta you can see how the Big Meadow is coming along.
Yesterday was Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day. The 15th of the month is when garden bloggers from around the world post photos of what is blooming in their garden. (Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting this meme.) I haven't been doing this, and I'm not sure I will in the future. But I can't resist showing off one particular bloom at Glen Villa, my garden in rural Quebec. The flower I'm showcasing is Nepeta recemosa 'Walker's Low.' It's a cliché to say that a plant is blooming its heart out,


Garden Visitors

June 27th, 2017 | 12 Comments »
I want to add a tall spiky plant that pops up through the Nepeta at occasional spots and tones in with the barberry and rusty steel.  I'm trying several possibilities this year, including early summer blooming Eremurus 'Cleopatra.' I've ordered the bulbs for fall planting.
This week the first group of gardeners will be coming to tour Glen Villa. Forty plus members of the Ottawa Garden Club will spend the morning  here, on what I'm hoping will be a sunny day. They are coming at a good time -- the garden is looking fabulous. I rarely write a blog post that's only about flowers, but this week the blooms are so spectacular that it's worth showcasing their beauty. The Aqueduct, where last year I added Nepeta 'Walker's Low', Ruby Carousel barberry and Porteranthus (formerly Gillenia trifoliata) to existing boxwood balls,


Garden Envy

June 20th, 2017 | 19 Comments »
The Upper Field at Glen Villa is a what dieticians argue against, butter spread thick on the ground.
Coming home from a tour of English gardens I felt a short, sharp shock. Everything in my garden looked inadequate, not up to the standard I had come to expect. I moped. I complained. Why can't I grow the hundreds of plants I saw and admired?  Some of them must surely suit my climate. So why don't the garden centres around Glen Villa stock them? Then I faced the facts. My garden will never match the perfection of an English estate that employs six or seven full time gardeners.  The garden centres will


Open Garden Day 2017

May 14th, 2017 | 3 Comments »
Glen Villa Open House 2017 eng 1200x800
I'm happy to announce that once again this year, we are opening the garden at Glen Villa as a fundraiser for the Massawippi Foundation. Here are the details.     As you can see, the admission goes directly to our local community foundation, Fondation Massawippi Foundation. The Foundation supports community projects -- school playgrounds, a community health centre, meals to shut-ins and seniors and much more. It also supports land conservation through the Massawippi Conservation Trust. In the few short years since the Trust was established, almost 800 acres of


The flowers that bloom in the spring, Tra-la

May 9th, 2017 | 8 Comments »
untitled (5 of 20)
Gilbert and Sullivan got it right when they wrote about spring flowers. The flowers that bloom in the spring, Tra la, Breathe promise of merry sunshine — As we merrily dance and we sing, Tra la, We welcome the hope that they bring, Tra la, Of a summer of roses and wine. Right now, I'm dancing and singing. Because everywhere at Glen Villa, spring flowers are blooming. Daffodils galore brighten the path to the China Terrace ....   [caption id="attachment_5129" align="aligncenter" width="1319"] We planted these daffodils about fifteen years ago. The


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