Category Archives: Glen Villa

The North South Arrow, Year 2

September 3rd, 2021 | 1 Comment »

Creating a garden isn’t a quick and easy task, particularly a garden that grows out of personal memories and the history of the site.

The most prominent and visible piece of history at Glen Villa, the land where I live, is the ruin of a summer resort hotel named Glen Villa Inn.  When it burned down in 1909, it left behind the stone wall that was its foundation. When we moved into Glen Villa in 1996, the wall was in a sad state, with stones falling down regularly.


This is how the wall looked in 2007.
This is how the wall looked in the winter of 2007.


Two years ago my husband and I decided that the wall was such an important remnant of the past that we couldn’t let it fall down entirely. So in November 2019, it was rebuilt.


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In front of the wall was a stone circle where hotel guest got into a horse-drawn carriage that would take them to the nearby village of North Hatley, or to the train station to meet a guest arriving from one of the southern states in the U.S. For some years, that circular wall was home to the Yin Yang, where I planted perennials of contrasting colours, heights and textures intended to suggest the black/white contrast of the Asian symbol.


The un-repaired foundation wall is in the background.
The un-repaired foundation wall is in the background, the unplanted Yin Yang in the foreground.


Ten or twelve years ago, we added a sleek stone coping to the top of that wall but by 2019, the original stones were falling down, creating gaps between the coping stones.


The gaps were becoming dangerously wide.
The gaps were becoming dangerously wide.


So in 2020, that wall was also rebuilt, using the same stones but adding a stronger foundation.


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The two rebuilt walls threw this part of the garden out of balance. Before, it had been an almost neglected corner; now it was important, demanding something more than weedy grass.

The North South Arrow was the solution. I designed the Arrow to suggest the train trip taken by so many of the hotel guests as they came north for the summer. A long straight line oriented directly north-south, the new bed was a place to try new ideas and new plants. The plants had to be big — the arrow was over 100 feet long and 15 feet wide. The plants also had to be unappealing to the voracious deer that call Glen Villa home. This meant planting lots of shrubs along with deer resistant perennials. I chose plants with hot-coloured flowers or foliage at the southern end of the arrow and those with cool-coloured flowers or foliage at the north.

We dug the North South Arrow in 2019, shaping it with arrowheads at both ends and bringing in good soil to replace the sandy grit that was there.


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The first plants went into the new bed in June, 2020.


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Covid meant that many of the shrubs and perennials I’d chosen weren’t available so it was only this spring that the bed was fully planted. And my! How it has grown.

Here is one section of the Arrow on June 2, 2021. The line of Panicum ‘Northwind’ is meant to suggest the railroad tracks bring people north.




A month later, many of the shrubs were blooming and the columnar boxwood at the southern end of the Arrow were standing tall.


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A different view, also taken on July 2 this year, shows the yarrow (Achillea ‘Sassy Summer Sunset’) and one of the Spireas (Spirea ‘Double Play Big Bang’) in bloom. Beyond the Arrow is the re-built circular wall with its new name and new plants: the Compass Rose. And beyond that is the rebuilt hotel foundation wall, with a bench giving a view onto the new beds.


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By August 2, the Elderberry bushes (Sambucus ‘Laced Up’) were starting to gain height and the Russian sage (Perovskia Denim ‘N Lace) was blooming well.


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And now, on September 2, the Panicum North Wind is showing off its stuff. As the seasons continue, its line that zig zags the length of the Arrow will become more prominent, tying the planting scheme together.


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There are some unfortunate gaps and some plants that aren’t performing as well as I’d hoped. The mock orange shrubs whose fragrance was meant to suggest a clichéd southern sweetness are not pulling their weight, thanks to the deer, and I may have to replace them. The Artemesia ‘Silver Mound’ needs regular pruning to keep it from falling apart, but I still like the way its round form echoes the balls of boxwood.

I haven’t been as attentive to details this summer as I should have been and I’m trying to make up for that now, as summer turns to fall. The arrangement of plants that looked so good on paper isn’t as satisfying as I hoped it would be, so in a few weeks I’ll dig up and re-arrange the plants, softening the sharp zigzagging angles and joining the line of grasses to reinforce the idea of a train track. I’ll continue to enclose some sections, as shown above, making them into ‘compartments’ on the train but blocking as much as possible the view from one side of the arrow to the other.

It isn’t easy to re-work a planting as new as the North South Arrow. It takes courage — but I know it will be better if I do.

What projects do you have in mind for the fall?


Continuum, Part Three

June 27th, 2021 | 6 Comments »
sign (3 of 8)
In 2005, I started to cut a trail at Glen Villa; that trail became Timelines, the walk through fields and forests where art installations explore ideas about history, memory and our relationship to the land. I've written about this trail in many blog posts; I wrote about Continuum, one part of the trail, in two posts last fall. (You can find those posts here and here.) This large rock outcropping is what prompted me to first begin thinking about how to give voice to the land and the ideas and emotions it evoked. When I


Trees in the Garden

April 5th, 2021 | 2 Comments »
Autumn colour is more intense some years than others.
Trees are an invaluable part of a garden, so important that they are sometimes called its bones because they hold the other parts of the garden together. They are slow to grow and consequently are often the first thing planted in a new garden or one undergoing renovation. Trees do more than hold a garden together, though. They are miracle workers, cleaning the air, providing protection against wind and rain, focusing our view and, in northern regions at least, providing splendid colour in the fall.     At Glen Villa, they add privacy to a picnic


Borders, Boundaries and Beds

March 21st, 2021 | 4 Comments »
This crumbling stone wall once separated two farm fields at Glen Villa.
One year ago, almost to the day, the border between Canada and the U.S. closed. The closing didn't end all movement back and forth but for all practical purposes, for most of us it put an end to easy crossings. Today, no one knows when the border will re-open, and wondering about that unknown date set me thinking about borders and boundaries as they relate to gardens and landscapes. What is the difference between a border and a boundary, and what impact, if any, does a verbal distinction make on the ground? Thinking


The Value of Criticism

February 22nd, 2021 | 6 Comments »
Many people walking the trail ignored the sign pointing to Mythos and continued along the main trail.
Recently an article titled "Gardens Need Criticism" was posted on the garden website Veddw. Written by Veddw's garden maker Anne Wareham and originally published in Garden Design Journal in 2002, the article prompted me to think about the art of critiquing gardens and the art of receiving critiques. Last year a well-informed group of landscape architects and designers visited Glen Villa. I invited comments, and at the end of the visit one person quietly made a suggestion about a section of Timelines, the trail I've been working on for the last few years. His comment concerned


The Past as Prelude

February 1st, 2021 | 1 Comment »
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The great English landscape architect Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe got it right. What's past is past. But while it is over and done with, the past can't be ignored. Instead, Jellicoe said, we should "ponder on the past not as the past but as a pointer to the future." In troubled political times, this sounds like good advice.  It's equally good advice when applied to the land. When I began to work on the garden at Glen Villa some twenty years ago, history was the principle that guided me and it continues to be a powerful element,


Goals and Resolutions

January 7th, 2021 | 10 Comments »
Chinook Sunrise is from the  Canadian-developed 49th Parallel series of roses.
In January last year, I laid out six garden goals for the year ahead, never believing I'd be able to achieve them all. I put them on paper nonetheless to give myself something to aim for and, to my surprise, I find that over the last twelve months I completed five of the six. This may be due to Covid-related restrictions that kept me closer to home, or it may be because I was intent on using the time well, but regardless of why, I'm pleased with what I managed to do. So, what


Tree Hugging for Tree Huggers

December 21st, 2020 | 16 Comments »
Seen at the botanical garden in Sydney, Australia
Do you know when the phrase 'tree hugger' was coined? I didn't, so I looked it up. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the first known use of the term dates from 1965. Other words coined that year: jet lag, mini dress, pop art, teach-in, doo-wop and time traveller. Reading these words, I felt like a time traveller myself. In part this is because those words are so familiar now but also because the connotations of 'tree hugger' have changed so much. In 1965,  tree hugger was a derogatory term. Not so today.


Continuum, Continued

November 23rd, 2020 | 4 Comments »
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Over the last few weeks, while the weather was remarkably kind, I've continued to work on an extension to Timelines, the trail that explores ideas about memory, history and our relationship to the land. I wrote about the initial work on Continuum in my last blog post, almost a month ago.  Since then, lots has happened. We added a wonderful tree trunk bench alongside the stream, right next to the old lid from a sap bucket that was used, who knows how many years ago, when maple syrup was being made at Orin's Sugarcamp.



October 27th, 2020 | 12 Comments »
This is how the rock looked in 2013, before I started on the trail extension.
"There is often a huge difference between an idea and its realization. Ideas must be put to the test. That's why we make things, otherwise they would be no more than ideas." Andy Goldsworthy's words ring true for me. I have more ideas than I can realize, certainly more than I can act on in my lifetime.  Folders splitting at the seams contain scribbled thoughts and doodles, pages torn from magazines, projects detailed but never executed. So when I begin to translate an idea into the reality that Goldsworthy speaks