Category Archives: Miscellaneous

Borders, Boundaries and Beds

March 21st, 2021 | 4 Comments »

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 of those two terms brought garden ‘beds’ to mind, creating a trio of words to ponder over.

This is what I’ve concluded. Both borders and boundaries are lines that separate and define. They can be physical divisions — solid fences or border walls, for instance — or they can be less tangible, even invisible like the line on a map, while still marking where one area ends and another begins.  A border can be decorative, as on a tablecloth; a boundary can be metaphoric or moral, a limit on what you will accept in terms of speech or action from another person.  As for beds, must they be places where plants sleep as well as live and grow?

Putting verbal nuances aside, my mind shifted to the delight of all three. How gorgeous it is to look down on agricultural lands from an airplane to see a patchwork of fields, presented in shades of green, earth brown or tawny gold, depending on the season and the crop.

 

I must have taken this photo through a very dirty window. Even so, it shows how many colours a patchwork of fields can contain.
I must have taken this photo through a very dirty window. Even so, it shows how many colours a patchwork of fields can contain.

 

Stone walls are the traditional method of dividing fields in my part of Quebec. They are the result of necessity — in earlier days, stones had to be cleared so a field could be plowed and planted, which meant they had to be moved somewhere. So either they went into walls …

 

This crumbling stone wall once separated two farm fields at Glen Villa.
This crumbling stone wall once separated two farm fields at Glen Villa.

 

… or into rock piles at edges of the fields-to-be.

 

I discovered this stone pile when deciding on the route of Timelines, the trail that explores ideas about history and memory.
I discovered this rock pile when deciding on the route of Timelines, the trail that explores ideas about history and memory.

 

Fences mark both borders and boundaries but the message they carry is different from the message of a stone wall. The poet notes that while a wall separates, it always needs mending, the “frozen-ground-swell under it” making “gaps even two can pass abreast.”  The fence is a stronger barrier, telling the outsider to go away, to stay out, that this is my land, not yours.

 

The fence here is protecting shrubs against the deer. I've used this design in fences at several places in the garden at Glen Villa.
The fence here is telling the deer to go away. It works well, allowing plants to be seen and deer to be excluded. I’ve used the design in fences at several places in the garden at Glen Villa.

 

The Abenaki used to move across a land that had no borders or boundaries, and I’ve shown this at Glen Villa in several scenes. Because the Abenaki believe that human beings were created from the ash tree, I used inverted ash branches to show a group striding across an old farm field.

 

The Abenaki were migratory. While there are no signs that they camped on land that is now called Glen Villa, they did walk across it to go from their summer to winter camps.
The Abenaki were migratory and I used the slope of the land to show the chronology of their history.

 

Lower in the field, the Walkers encounter signs that settlers have arrived. First in time came split rail fences, then barbed wire which I have used to entangle the walking figures.

 

A winter frost makes a beautifully painful scene.
A winter frost makes a painful scene look beautiful.

 

In gardens that are more conventional than mine, more standard things act as boundaries. Hedges of all shapes and sizes are often used to differentiate one part of a garden from another.

 

Hedges define the boundaries of this walkway into one of the nine garden 'rooms' within Scampston Hall's Walled Garden.
Hedges define the boundaries of this walkway into one of the nine garden ‘rooms’ within Scampston Hall’s Walled Garden.

 

See-through fences or gates do the same.

 

Split rail fences remain common sights in Quebec's Eastern Townships. Protecting trees from cattle and other animals is much less common.
Split rail fences remain common sights in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. Using them to protect trees from cattle and other animals is much less common.

 

At the China Terrace, my recreation of the resort hotel that once stood on the Glen Villa site, hotel ‘rooms’ are bordered by blocks made of slate and china shattered when the hotel burned down in 1909.

 

The brick and slate blocks at the China Terrace mark imaginary walls between imaginary rooms.
The brick and slate blocks at the China Terrace mark imaginary walls between imaginary rooms.

 

The small stream at Glen Villa marks a boundary, not between countries as rivers do, but simply between one side of the stream and the other.

 

The stream running through the meadow creates a wavy black line, a strong contrast to the white snow.
The stream running through the meadow creates a wavy black line, a strong contrast to the white snow.

 

Knowledgeable linguists may be able to explain the difference between a flower bed and a border. I can’t do this with any certainty. Generally, though, I think of borders as linear strips of ground filled with shrubs and flowers, like the new North South Arrow at Glen Villa

 

This was how the Arrow looked last fall. I hope to finish planting it this summer.
This was how the Arrow looked last fall. I hope to finish planting it this summer.

 

For me, a bed (aka, a flower bed) can have any shape — it can be round, square, triangular or some shape without a name. I don’t often describe the plantings around the Cascade as a flower bed, but according this definition I suppose they are.

 

Yellow flag iris make a splash at the Cascade.
Yellow flag iris make a splash at the Cascade in early summer.

 

The Roman god Terminus protected the markers that indicated the end point of one thing and, presumably, the beginning of another. Greeks called these markers Herms, after the god Hermes, and over time both the Greek and Roman forms acquired a particular shape, similar to the Term I saw at Rousham, a wonderful historic garden in England.

 

Earlier versions of Terms or Herms showed male genitalia. By the 17th century, the figures had become less revealing.
Earlier versions of Terms or Herms showed male genitalia. By the 17th century, the figures had become less revealing.

 

I’m using the idea of a Term figuratively in a section of Mythos, the extension of  Timelines that considers how mythology shapes our views of the world and how, by re-thinking the stories, we can re-shape the message they send.

 

One of the seven stone figures I've made over the winter. To me they looks scary. Do you react the same way?
This is one of the seven figures I’ve made over the winter to show men turned to stone by Medusa.

 

I’ve used the same shape as traditional Terms to re-tell Medusa’s story, twisting the idea of the border, or end point, to illustrate Medusa’s effect — which was to turn to stone those men who dared to look directly at her.  The end of these stone-like figures is death, the end of life. Which is sometimes what this pandemic feels like.

What do you call the planted areas in your garden? Are they borders or beds? And does it matter?

 

Ruins and Recoveries

December 30th, 2020 | 7 Comments »
A triumphal arch, Roman style, was part of the landscape at Painshill, an early 18th century garden in England.
What can we say about 2020? Queen Elizabeth's Annus Horribilis comes to mind. So does the subject of ruin -- personal and business ruin, political ruin and the final ruin, death, which came this year for hundreds of thousands of people, more than we imagined possible when the pandemic began. But, Janus-like, ruins have a positive as well as a negative face. It may seem contradictory but history and the evidence of my own eyes tell me that to contemplate ruins is to contemplate the future as well as the past.

Read More...

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.

Read More...

The Medicine Wheel and the Four Directions

September 20th, 2020 | 4 Comments »
Paul stretched the deer skin for his drum and holds workshops to teach others how to do the same.
Earlier this week I was fortunate to visit a new installation on the Tomifobia Nature Trail in the company of its creator, Paul-Conrad Carignan, and Paul's partner, Sylvia Bertolini. Paul is a Metis Algonquin-Anishnabe Elder and the site he designed is dedicated to spiritual and healing teachings of the Indigenous Medicine Wheel and its four directions. At a clearing beside the trail, located in Quebec's Eastern Townships close to the border with the United States, large granite slabs, or stelae, rise up at the four directions. Each stone is engraved with an

Read More...

Cats, Deer, Grouse and Hogs

June 3rd, 2020 | 2 Comments »
cat silhouette (4 of 4)
Last week I sent out a single photo as a Wednesday vignette. It showed a groundhog and a cat standing close together, absolutely still.     Lots of people responded to that photo, remarking on how close together the two animals were. But photos can be deceiving. Take a look at the photo below, for instance. Does it show a real deer or a painted silhouette?     I did not manipulate the photo of the cat and groundhog and I've often spotted them together in that same part of the garden.

Read More...

Wednesday Vignette

May 27th, 2020 | 6 Comments »
cat and hog (1 of 1)
I spotted this couple in the garden a few days ago. Do you think they had seen something ominous? Or was the cat stalking the groundhog?  

Stuck!

May 25th, 2020 | 6 Comments »
One of the many cherry trees now blooming everywhere. There seem to be more blooms this year than usual.
You know you are having a bad day when the tractor that is meant to pull you out of the brook runs into trouble en route to the scene. Something on the tractor's winch pulled loose but Jacques Gosselin, a man who can do almost everything, indoors and out, fixed it in a minute using a rock he found nearby.     We were on our way to pull a four wheeler called a Gator out of a stream that, mistakenly, I thought I could cross.   [caption id="attachment_8764" align="alignleft" width="3088"] An 'After' photo of

Read More...

Visitors to the Garden

April 6th, 2020 | 4 Comments »
Tidy work!
In the last few days, we've had visitors in the garden. Some didn't knock on the door, but they did leave their calling cards to let us know they came around. [caption id="attachment_8585" align="alignleft" width="5184"] Tidy work![/caption]   I can guess who made those holes, but what creature did the work below? [caption id="attachment_8583" align="alignleft" width="3456"] Did a bird strip these trunks bare?[/caption]   Birds are always welcome in the garden. Ducks, too. [caption id="attachment_8582" align="alignleft" width="5184"] I think these mallards are just getting acquainted. But shouldn't he be following her?[/caption]  

Read More...

More Advice

March 2nd, 2020 | 10 Comments »
The Cascade in early January 2020.
Last week I advised myself not to set overly ambitious garden goals for 2020. I must have been under the weather. This week, I'm back to normal, aiming to accomplish most of the goals I set myself even while acknowledging that doing that will mostly likely be impossible. Although I set six goals for the year, I made only one resolution, which was to photograph one part of the garden every month. Anne Wareham of ThinkinGardens, a site that posts interesting and provocative blogs from around the world, did this last year in her own garden,

Read More...

Advice I’m Giving Myself

February 24th, 2020 | 7 Comments »
After a month-long break from blogging, I'm back writing and thinking about my garden goals for 2020. And I'm giving myself some stern advice. Don't try to do too much! Was I crazy to set myself six big goals for 2020? Clearly the answer is yes. Already I can see that completing two of those goals is next to impossible. I know I won't be fencing in the Lower Garden and I doubt I will do much to extend Timelines, the trail that explores questions about memory, identity and our relationship to the

Read More...