Category Archives: Plants

Goals for a New Year

December 31st, 2021 | 7 Comments »

When I look out my bedroom window, this is what I see. Or what I will see before long. Lake Massawippi isn’t frozen yet, but frozen or not, the prospect reminds me that this is the time of year to look ahead.

 

 

And to look back. What did I accomplish in the garden this year and how does it compare with what I set out to do?

I planned to renew the bed on the China Terrace, and I completed half the job. The pillows were plumped but I didn’t change the moss as I intended. That easy task is one I will do in the spring. Or so I hope.

 

 

I fiddled with the plants at the entry to the China Terrace and while I’m not yet satisfied with the results, I am happier than I was a year ago. I am very happy with the dining room table. The new napkins and goblets compliment the centrepiece that I arrange every year, and the romantic atmosphere I’m going for is enhanced by autumn leaves. If only I’d straightened the candlesticks (i.e., the pieces of wood) before I took the photo!

 

 

I continued to move plants around in the North South Arrow, the bed I started in 2020, to give the long narrow shape more structure. I hope  that moving the Miscanthus into an arc at the middle will prove to be a good choice. I definitely liked the way it looked in the fall.

 

 

Again this year, I did not fulfill a goal I set for myself a few years ago, to fence the Lower Garden. I am ready now to accept that I never will do this and I’m glad. The idea was to protect the shrubs and flowers from the deer, but opening and closing a gate would make every trip from the house to the lake more difficult, particularly when hands are full of towels and other paraphernalia.

 

This view shows the Lower Garden in May. The long staircase to the lake is not visible but it is on the left, across from the  end of the stone wall.

 

As usual, many things were done that I didn’t plan to do. I planted new trees, three multi-stem birches at the end of the Big Meadow, five crabapples on the berm beside the Skating Pond and one more crabapple by the steps that lead from the house to the Lower Garden.

 

 

Jacques and Ken, my left and right hands, rebuilt a set of steps that lead through the garden. (Amazingly, I do not have a photograph of the new steps, so a photo of the old ones will have to do.)

 

It’s easy to see why these steps had to be replaced.

 

Steps that were part of the wall of the old Glen Villa Inn, an early 20th century resort hotel that once stood on our property, were also rebuilt. The new steps are still steep but a lot safer now that the tread is flat.

 

 

In the wall to the left of the steps is an alcove that possibly held a fireplace in the original hotel building. Filling that alcove is one of my goals for 2022. When we re-built the wall in 2019, following the same footprint and using the same stones, we found many items, including some lovely old coloured bottles.

 

 

My plan for next year is to display those bottles and some of the other items we found in a glass case that I used in an exhibition of my art some years ago.  I will cover the bottom of the case with a golden velvet cloth and stain the new legs to match the existing stain.

 

 

I will continue to work on Timelines, the 4 km trail that leads through fields and forests to tell the story of the land. In the section called The Clearing of the Land I will add four painted tree trunks to suggest  a settler family. These static trunks will contrast with movement shown by forked branches, inverted to suggest people walking. These  ‘walkers’ are the Abenaki, the original inhabitants of the land, and the contrast is meant to make a point about occupation and displacement.

 

The painted tree trunks will include a plaid pattern to suggest a family of Scottish descent, one of many who settled in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.

 

Also underway is a collage on another tree trunk. Once finished and enclosed in a clear plexiglass column, the maple trunk will become part of Continuum, the section of Timelines where trees are shown in their many stages and uses. Covered with photos of paintings of trees, it will be the central point of a group of seven maple saplings. The section will then get a name: the Group of Seven. (For non-Canadians, the Group of Seven were artists working in the early 20th century who glorified the landscape of northern Canada. Trees featured prominently in their iconic paintings and I will use many reproductions of these in the collage.)

 

 

An unexpected decision towards the end of last summer points to a goal for 2022 and beyond — the transformation of what was becoming an increasingly weedy Big Meadow to a meadow full of native wildflowers and grasses. In September, we dug up and seeded a large section of the Big Meadow and we will dig and seed another section next year. Seeing how the bare ground changes over the next two or three years is an exciting prospect.

 

 

Every year I set more goals than I can realistically accomplish but next year I have only two big projects in mind: to launch the book I’ve written about Glen Villa, to be published mid-year by McGill-Queen’s University Press, and to open the garden one day a month from June through September. The prospect of sharing the garden with other people, through words and visits, makes me very happy.

 

Members of the team at NIP Paysage, a firm of landscape architects based in Montreal, posed by Bridge Ascending, a sculpture made by Doucet & Saito from remnants of an old covered bridge.

 

Setting goals gives me something to look forward to, but each of us approaches the year ahead in our own ways. Do you set garden goals? Did you manage to do all you intended to do? Or are you content with your garden as it is? If so, lucky you!

 

Shrubs and Deer Fences

November 5th, 2021 | 6 Comments »
Shrubs are a key element at Glen Villa Art Garden, my garden in North Hatley, Quebec. Unfortunately deer like shrubs as much as I do. So when I decided to plant shrubs in an old farm field to add seasonal colour and to block a view of the road, I knew I needed a fence. But what kind? Decorative metal fences were fine for city or suburban gardens but not for a garden in the country. Split rail fences looked good but they wouldn’t keep the deer out. Ditto for

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The North South Arrow, Year 2

September 3rd, 2021 | 4 Comments »
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.   [caption id="attachment_9886" align="aligncenter" width="4000"]

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Trees in the Garden

April 5th, 2021 | 2 Comments »
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

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The Past as Prelude

February 1st, 2021 | 1 Comment »
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,

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Goals and Resolutions

January 7th, 2021 | 10 Comments »
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

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Tree Hugging for Tree Huggers

December 21st, 2020 | 16 Comments »
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.

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Autumn Leaves

October 12th, 2020 | 11 Comments »
Walking through the woods recently, I passed this installation, called The Forms.   [caption id="attachment_9253" align="aligncenter" width="3728"] The Forms represent the basic building blocks of the constructed world. They are one part of Timelines, the trail at Glen Villa that explores ideas about history, memory and our relationship to the land.[/caption]   The colours of the plexiglass shapes stood out from the muted tones around them, attracting me like a magnet. Closer, I noticed leaves scattered on top of them, some haphazardly, some artfully arranged.     The contrast in colours atop

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Autumn Colour Brings Joy

October 6th, 2020 | 4 Comments »
The autumn colours seem particularly intense this year at Glen Villa, my garden in Quebec's Eastern Townships. Leaves started to turn earlier than usual and the height of the season has almost come and gone. But what a season it has been! It started early, when a small horse chestnut tree (Aesculus pavia) began to turn.   [caption id="attachment_9230" align="aligncenter" width="2541"] This photo was taken in mid-September[/caption]   It continued as the sourgum trees (Nyssa sylvatica) nearby began to change colour. First one tree caught fire ...   [caption id="attachment_9228" align="aligncenter"

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The Yin Yang is Remade

August 10th, 2020 | 10 Comments »
You know how one thing leads to another? That's what is happening this year at Glen Villa. Last November we began to rebuild the foundation wall of the old Glen Villa Inn.  Once the job was complete and I saw the impressive wall, I knew it needed a garden to complement it. The result is the newly planted area, the North South Arrow, now beginning to grow in. Between the hotel wall and the Arrow is a low circular stone wall. Its original purpose was to provide a turn-around for horse-drawn carriages bringing

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