Category Archives: Plants

Giving Thanks

October 9th, 2017 | 13 Comments »


Today is Thanksgiving day in Canada, and there is much to be thankful for. In the garden, colours are bright.


Sedum 'Autumn Joy' lives up to its name.
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ lives up to its name.


Even when the flowers have faded, I’m thankful for work that’s been done.  At the Aqueduct the catmint ( Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’) has been cut back, making the bed look more like a monk’s shaved head than the overgrown mop of foliage it was only days ago.


Those stubs of nepeta between the boxwood should grow exuberantly next summer.
Those stubs of nepeta between the boxwood should grow exuberantly next summer. I hope the iris I added will, too.


Also looking bare after its annual cut is the Big Meadow. With the hay bales still in place, it looks less like a lawn and more like the farm field it used to be.


The grass is baled like hay and moved to the bank of the lake where it stops children from going over the edge.
This year we baled four bales, three of which you can see here. This is one fewer bale than last year. I think a drier summer accounts for the change.


Thankfully uncut are the ornamental grasses by the Skating Pond. They are at their best in autumn, particularly on a breezy day.


Miscanthus sinensis is at its best in autumn, particularly on a breezy day.
You can see two ornamental grasses here, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ in the foreground and Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ in the shadows at the back.


Usually, fall colours hit their peak at Thanksgiving, but this year the colours are muted, less vibrant than normal. I think this is due to the hotter and dryer days we had throughout September  — many days felt like summer. These warm days have continued into October, making fall still seem a distant prospect.

Going through the woods with my granddaughter, fall was more evident. We spotted some bright colours, but they often appeared in isolated patches, surrounded by green.


White birch trunks are common in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.
White birch trees are common in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.


Poplar leaves glowed yellow or occasionally appeared a blanched out white.


I think these are yellow poplar leaves.
At first I was quite excited, thinking these were yellow or tulip poplar leaves (Liriodendron) that aren’t typically hardy in this part of Quebec. I knew I was wrong as soon as I check an identification chart.


Ferns were clear markers of the change of season. Many have turned from green to toasted gold…


Another typical fall scene in my woods.
A typical fall scene in my woods, with ferns, ash trees and young poplars making a come-back.


but others, like Christmas ferns (Polystichum) and maidenhair ferns (Adiantum pedatum) still wear their summer clothes.


Maidenhair ferns still retain their colouring.
My granddaughter can now identify maidenhair ferns by their black stems and tiara-like shape.


The woods at Glen Villa comprise different ecosystems. Some sections are full of tall straight trees with almost no undergrowth.


These trees near the edge of an old farm field are part of a major project I'm working on now.
These trees near the edge of an old farm field are part of a major project I’m working on now. I’ll write more on that when the project is a bit more advanced.


Others are deep and mysterious.


This forest of tall pines looks ghostly when photographed.
This forest of tall pines was planted about 25 years ago. It always looks ghostly when photographed. I hope someone can tell me why.


Some places in the woods hint at earlier times, when the land was cleared for farming.


An old rock pile near an even older stone wall suggests that this was once a farm field.
An old rock pile near an even older stone wall suggests that this was once a farm field.


In other places, the hints turn into shouts and the land tells its story loud and clear.


Once upon a time there was an apple orchard here.
Once upon a time there was an apple orchard here. The  low stone wall marked the boundary.


Garbage collection and municipal dumps are relatively new things in many rural areas, including this one. Before they existed, farmers used the woods.  This old dump close to a trail contained many things you might expect: tin cans, glass bottles, rusted metal and an old inner tube.


An old rubber boot has disintegrated almost entirely. I wonder how long it has taken?
I wonder how long it took for this rubber boot to disintegrate as much as it has. Years or decades?


It also contained some surprises.


This modern convenience isn't as convenient as it used to be.
Once upon a time someone gave thanks for this modern convenience. It isn’t as convenient as it used to be.


Even if they are less vibrant than usual, colours still abound in the woods, on branches and on the ground.


Fallen apples in the woods.
Fallen apples in the woods may not be the perfect specimens you buy in a grocery store but they still make very good apple crisp.


Without doubt, though, the most colourful part of Thanksgiving — and definitely the most delicious — was the turkey.


A 13 lb turkey will be plenty for 9 people, with left overs galore. Or so I hope!
A 13 lb. turkey was plenty for 9 people, with lots of left overs to share.


Happy Thanksgiving!


The Big Meadow, 2017

September 25th, 2017 | 6 Comments »
I took this photo near the end of July. The mown path remained green all summer, thanks to the amount of rain we received.
Is it accurate to call The Big Lawn at Glen Villa The Big Meadow? If you use an American definition, the answer is yes.  If you consult an English dictionary, the answer is less clear. Webster's Dictionary defines a meadow as a tract of low or level land producing grass which is mown for hay,  and that definition fits precisely. Allowing the sweep of grass beside our house that was tended for decades to remain untouched produced six large bales of hay last year, the first year we didn't mow regularly.  Those bales were


Michiko’s Garden

September 10th, 2017 | 4 Comments »
Striations in the rock suggest ripples in a stream.
Last week I visited a very special garden, where rock outcroppings enhanced with shade-loving plants create an atmosphere of deep serenity.   [caption id="attachment_5589" align="aligncenter" width="1425"] Polystichum, or Christmas fern, is found in shady woodlands throughout Quebec. Note the small patch of tiarella cordifolia, another indigenous plant, at the top of the photo.[/caption]   Developed over the last fifteen years by designer Michiko Gagnon, the garden is at the end of a cul-de-sac in Quebec's Eastern Townships, not far from the U.S. border. It's an idyllic setting, with an old farmhouse that she and


A Colour-full Summer

August 28th, 2017 | 10 Comments »
The Coleus is a variety called Indian Summer. I pinched it back regularly to keep it from getting too big.  (thanks for the warning, Nancy A.!)
Even while summer is coming to an end, the garden continues to make me happy. I'm really pleased with the gravel garden.  Early in the summer we adjusted the slate border; now it steps rather than slopes down, giving a firmer definition to the edge. While the yucca didn't bloom this year, it did produce dense clumps that should bloom next year. The sedum 'Dazzleberry' is growing well and the small islands of sandwort (Arenaria verna) that I added offer good colour contrast.   [caption id="attachment_5567" align="aligncenter" width="705"] Although it doesn't show


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


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,


Vancouver Gardens

July 10th, 2017 | 14 Comments »
this Japanese maple is in my brother-in-law's garden, a beautifully cool and shady spot.
I'm on my way back to Quebec now, after five days in Vancouver. It's been a terrific trip. The weather has been spectacular and the opening of my exhibition, Clichés to Live By, was a huge success -- lots of people of all ages and lots of positive feedback. Along with visits to the Winsor Gallery to see the show, I've been walking around Kitsilano, the area of Vancouver where I stayed. 'Kits' was named after a Squamish chief, August Jack Khatsahlano. Once it was a dense wildlife-filled forest; now Craftsman-style houses


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