Category Archives: Miscellaneous


August 11th, 2019 | 14 Comments »

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.


It's obvious that this barbed wire fence is old -- the maple tree has grown around it.
It’s obvious from the way the tree has grown around it that this barbed wire fence was put up a long time ago.


An equally practical but more decorative fence is the one I designed to protect shrubs from the deer that are such a plague in country gardens. I found the style so effective that I’ve used it in fences in the upper and lower fields, the Asian meadow and the Upper Room.


I designed this fence made of steel posts and wire cable to be attractive but as invisible as possible from a distance.
I designed this fence made of steel posts and wire cable to be as invisible as possible from a distance and attractive up close.


A totally impractical but decorative fence in the Asian Meadow uses ornamental Chinese tiles inset into a low wooden fence to delineate the edge of the meadow and separate it from a picnic area.


Decorative Chinese tiles are set into a simple wooden structure.
This photo shows how important hard landscaping can be in areas where snow comes early and stays late.


One of the most attractive deer fences I’ve seen is the one below, spotted in the Bridge Garden on Long Island. The casual arrangement of long sticks is a variation of a Japanese style.


This simple structure and imaginative structure is an effective protection against the deer.
This simple and imaginative structure is an effective protection against the deer.


Compare it, for example, to this more formal fence at the Morikami Japanese Garden in Florida.


Tied bamboo fences are a staple of many Japanese gardens.
Tied bamboo fences are a staple of many Japanese gardens.


Some fences are purely practical but even practical fences needn’t be unattractive. I saw the one below at Madoo, the Long Island garden of the late Robert Dash, and while its material is utilitarian, its colour lightens the surroundings and adds interest to the plants at its base.


This fence probably screens an unattractive sight at Madoo, Robert Dash's garden on Long Island. It picks up on the strong primary colours used throughout the garden.
The strong green is repeated throughout the garden along with other strong primary colours.


Some fences make strong visual statements. At Veddw, the Welsh garden created by Anne Wareham and Charles Hawes, an opening into a farm field needed to be fenced. The ground on one side was much higher than the ground on the other, and the land sloped markedly from end to end. They solved this problem with imagination, and at low cost, by using slats of varying heights.

The uneven slats make a virtue of uneven ground.
The uneven slats make a virtue of uneven ground and create an interesting silhouette.


A similarly imaginative fence is at The Grove, the garden of the late David Hicks, where the silhouettes of famous landmarks decorate one side of a very plain fence.


A skyline at The Grove.
An over-the-top fence at The Grove features the Parthenon among other buildings. How many can you identify?

For a fence that illustrates the interests of the gardener, one designed by Christine Facer Hoffman, a medical scientist turned garden designer, tops my list. Ms Facer Hoffman’s dog is named Pi and this fence makes his name a reality… it is an endless sequence of numbers listing the decimal points of pi. The fence is also practical, keeping gravel out of the vegetable garden.


An aesthetically pleasing fence
The low metal  fence that surrounds the vegetable garden at Througham Court is aesthetically interesting. I wonder, though, if anyone has ever tripped over the raised numbers.


It’s easy to install a low-cost utilitarian fence, but how much more interesting it is to design one that suits the situation, the interests and the aesthetics of the garden owner. A wonderfully contemporary fence at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve combines open and closed spaces, a principle that informs many garden designs.  At first glance, the fence is a solid barrier.


A mass of flowers soften the appearance of the fence.
A mass of flowers soften the appearance of the fence.


But as you walk alongside it, the fence opens to allow flowers to peep through.

I love the combination of materials and colours in this Corten steel fence at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve.
I love the combination of materials and colours in this Corten steel fence at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve.


Designing a fence like this takes skill and imagination. Add the wonderfully toned plants and you have a winner.





Paths with Pizazz

August 4th, 2019 | 4 Comments »
The cmbination of regular and irregularly shapes stones along with the plants that break up the stones makes this path at Malverleys particularly appealing.
Many garden paths are ordinary, designed simply to get you from one place in the garden to another. Grass paths, the simplest and least costly type of path to make, appear in gardens so routinely that they almost disappear. Occasionally, though, you'll see a path that stands out. The grass path below is an example. It is well maintained and nicely curved but what lifts it out of the ordinary is the white line that edges it. That line draws your eye along the curve and makes the path itself impossible to ignore.


Introducing Mr. Albert Stumpson

July 3rd, 2019 | 6 Comments »
stumpy (2 of 5)
For many years a pine tree towered over an old house where a tenant farmer once lived.   [caption id="attachment_6230" align="alignleft" width="4000"] You can see the tall pine tree behind the house in this photo from 2009.[/caption]   In search of the sun, it gradually leaned farther and farther away from the house. Until one day, it fell.   [caption id="attachment_6221" align="alignleft" width="4316"] The screened porch on the farmhouse is the perfect place to sit on a summer's evening.[/caption]   When the branches were removed, my son-in-law noticed that the


Canada Geese Go Home!

June 23rd, 2019 | 15 Comments »
Canada geese are gorgeous birds to look at. But why, oh why, do I have to see them here at Glen Villa? Towards the end of May I saw two adults swimming with their little ones. How many babies were there?   [caption id="attachment_7636" align="alignleft" width="1790"] Talk about getting all your ducks in a row....or your geese in this case.[/caption]   The goslings swam in and out of sight, and each time I counted I got a different number. But I could see there were a lot of them. The next


Open Garden Day Tickets on Sale!

May 20th, 2019 | No Comments »
Saturday, July 20 is the day and you are invited!   Come and explore the wonders of the garden and landscape when Glen Villa opens to the public as a fundraiser for the Massawippi Foundation and Conservation Trust. All proceeds from your admission fee go to support land conservation, community projects and a network of trails that lead through pristine woodlands, preserved in perpetuity by the Conservation Trust. Buy your tickets now for a morning or afternoon visit!      

Oh, Deer!

March 17th, 2019 | 12 Comments »
Here's looking at you!
Long winters like the one we are experiencing this year in Quebec's Eastern Townships make life difficult for animals.  Deep snow that persists for months makes it hard for deer to find food in the woods and as time passes they come closer and closer to barns and houses. Yesterday I glanced out a window, disrupting two deer who were not far away, searching for something to eat.   [caption id="attachment_7324" align="aligncenter" width="5184"] Here's looking at you![/caption]   As I went to get my camera, another deer appeared.  Then another, and another, and another.


Fishing in Winter

February 24th, 2019 | 7 Comments »
This photo from 2008 shows the yurt on the ice.
Yesterday the temperature in Quebec's Eastern Townships was hovering just above freezing. The sky was brilliant blue and the sun glinting off clean, fresh snow brought out dozens of people, walking and talking -- and fishing through the ice. We live next door to Manoir Hovey, an outstanding resort hotel and a member of the prestigious international group, Relais et Chateaux.  I didn't have my camera with me yesterday to photograph the fun, but luckily I have photos that I took at Manoir Hovey in 2008 that show a similar scene.


Listening to Winter

January 30th, 2019 | 8 Comments »
The Abenaki were the original inhabitants of the Eastern Townships of Quebec. This part of my installation, Abenaki Walking, shows the period after the arrival of Europeans, when barbed wire impeded the movement of Abenaki across the land.
On a winter day when temperatures throughout Mid and Eastern North America are plummetting, it is difficult not to project human emotions onto the landscape.  How can winter be so cruel and miserable? A poem by the American poet Wallace Stevens suggests we should think more objectively about what we see outside our door. The Snow Man One must have a mind of winter To regard the frost and the boughs Of the pine-trees crusted with snow; And have been cold a long time To behold the junipers shagged with ice,


Haseley Court and Making History Visible

January 22nd, 2019 | 6 Comments »
The topiary chess set at Haseley Court was one of many things I admired there.
My last blog post, about making history visible and listening to the land, struck a chord.  Many readers responded via the Site and Insight web page or commented on Facebook and on the blog itself, saying they were touched by the piece. Several described how experiences in their pasts affected their responses today, both to their own garden and to gardens they visited. I know that is true for me. I grew up in Virginia, in a house with a big back yard where I could hide under bushes and pretend to be an explorer


A Year in the Garden: Part 3

December 31st, 2018 | 6 Comments »
Autumn colours is spectacular1
This final post of 2018, written on the last day of the year, brings the garden at Glen Villa to a close -- for now, at least. August is high summer in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. [caption id="attachment_7121" align="aligncenter" width="5184"] The trail through the Joe Pye weed is luscious in August, for bees and for pedestrians.[/caption]   Insects make their presence known. [caption id="attachment_7122" align="aligncenter" width="1797"] I'm not sure what flying creature this is, but I love the translucency of the wings.[/caption] NOTE: Thanks to Mark A. for identifying this