Category Archives: Plants

Plus ça change…

April 9th, 2019 | 11 Comments »

This winter feels interminable. Surely in earlier years daffodils have been blooming by now, snowdrops long gone.

Well, no. It’s true that in some years snowdrops have appeared by this date.


April 1, 2016 (1 of 1)
These snowdrops were shivering in the cold on April 1, 2016.


Crocus have bloomed.


These crocus were lighting up the hillside on April 4, 2010.
These crocus were lighting up the hillside on April 4, 2010.


Pulmonaria have added their touch of colour.


April 4, 2010+ (1 of 1)
This pulmonaria or lungwort was blooming on April 4, 2010.


But it is also true that this April is better than some.  A lot better.


This photo from April 7 2013 shows a very wintery garden.
This photo from April 7, 2013 shows a very wintery garden.


Last year in early April, the crabapple allée was snow-free and the central path, still unseeded, a straight line of mud.


Snow lingered in the ditches alongside the allée and the path was straight mud... we seeded it last summer and this year it should be green.
Snow lingered in the ditches alongside the crabapple allée on April 2, 2018.


This year on exactly the same date, patchy snow still covered the field around the crabapple allée. But at least  this year the path will soon be green.


I took this photo a week ago, on April 2. It looks much the same now.
I took this photo a week ago, on April 2. It looks much the same now.


Comparing photos from different years gives me hope. The photo below from a few years ago shows magnolia in the Lower Garden in full bloom on April 23. And that’s only two weeks away.


Spring came early in 2012.
Spring came early in 2012.


Whatever the weather, though, these guys will still be hanging around, looking like they own the world.


Here's looking at you, kid.
Luckily deer don’t like barberry bushes. Otherwise those shrubs would be stubs.


Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

Jeffersonia Diphylla: My Favourite Plant

March 31st, 2019 | 14 Comments »
Jeffersonia diphylla grows in shady woodland conditions.
March is not leaving like a lamb. Lake Massawippi is still frozen solid, snow still covers the ground and today the wind is blowing fiercely. These unusually late winter conditions are discouraging, to say the least. But on the up side, they are giving me time to review some of the blogs I've written since I posted for the first time in January 2013. Over six years, in hundreds of blogs, I've reviewed books and gardens, considered issues in garden design, looked at how art is used in gardens and chronicled the development


This is spring?

March 25th, 2019 | 11 Comments »
A narrow road runs between these evergreens but you wouldn't know it from this photo.
According to the official calendar, spring arrived four days ago. Yet two days ago we received the largest dump of snow we've had all year -- 40 centimeters, or almost 16 inches. A late winter snowstorm is not unusual in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, where my garden Glen Villa is located. Snow tires are required in Quebec during winter; this year they could be removed legally after March 15. Pity anyone who did that -- the big dump came a full week later. Driving during the storm was perilous, even for a population that


Houghton Hall: A Garden Review

January 6th, 2019 | 8 Comments »
Add something about building
England has many fine gardens. Houghton Hall in Norfolk is one of the finest, offering a stimulating combination of horticulture, contemporary art and history that is far too much to absorb in a single visit. The most popular part of the garden is the five acre Walled Garden. Divided into contrasting areas, the Walled Garden contains a double-sided herbaceous border, an Italian garden, a formal rose parterre, fruit and vegetable gardens, a glasshouse, a rustic temple, antique statues, fountains and contemporary sculptures. With so many aspects, the area could feel muddled or over-crowded,


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


A Year in the Garden, Part 2

December 28th, 2018 | 6 Comments »
My son and grandson spotted this fawn very shortly after the baby was born.
The meadows and fields at Glen Villa are white with snow in December, but in June and July, they are alive with colour. [caption id="attachment_7079" align="aligncenter" width="5184"] Lupins brighten meadows and fields in late June and early July.[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_7092" align="aligncenter" width="5184"] Buttercups and dandelions colour a field yellow.[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_7088" align="aligncenter" width="5184"] Ragged robin turns this field rosy pink.[/caption]   Closer to the house, colours appear in smaller doses. [caption id="attachment_7090" align="aligncenter" width="5184"] Hawthorn trees are a froth of white.[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_7096" align="aligncenter" width="5184"] Old-fashioned day lilies


A Year in the Garden, Part 1

December 23rd, 2018 | 9 Comments »
A stream coming down the hill marks an S-curve at the entry to Glen Villa.
On a surprisingly mild winter's day -- not at all typical for Quebec in December -- I'm remembering the garden at Glen Villa as it looked earlier this year. January brought lots of snow.   [caption id="attachment_7035" align="aligncenter" width="5184"] A stream coming down the hill marks an S-curve at the entry to Glen Villa.[/caption]   [caption id="attachment_7036" align="aligncenter" width="4836"] The Crabapple Allée marches across the open field.[/caption]   February brought snow and gloomy skies. [caption id="attachment_7037" align="aligncenter" width="3456"] My sculpture Tree Rings honours the life of a maple tree that died


Topiary for the Holidays

December 14th, 2018 | 8 Comments »
Each bird is slightly different, and each has its own personality.
Do Christmas trees qualify as topiary? We never think of them as such but they fit the definition -- the Oxford dictionary calls topiary the "art or practice of clipping shrubs or trees into ornamental shapes." And surely Christmas trees don't grow naturally into the perfect cones commonly seen but have been pruned and clipped to shape them.   [caption id="attachment_5888" align="aligncenter" width="2099"] This cone-shaped spruce tree is attached to the chimney stack at Glen Villa. It hangs right outside our front door.[/caption]   As a young gardener, I disliked topiary, thinking that it was a distortion


Garden Centres and Garden Reviews

September 24th, 2018 | 10 Comments »
Gardening in Canada can be frustrating. The range of plants available through nurseries or garden centres is minuscule compared with the number available in England. And seeing so many wonderful cultivars that won't survive in my Quebec garden makes me envious of England's more temperate climate. Still, for anyone who loves plants, a visit to a garden centre is always a treat. The group I was hosting on my final garden tour spent a few happy hours wandering around the Burford Garden Company, an Oxfordshire-based enterprise. At this time of year


Oudolf at Pensthorpe

September 16th, 2018 | 10 Comments »
Over the last half dozen years or so,  I've visited several gardens in England designed by the Dutch plantsman, Piet Oudolf. These include Bury Court in Hampshire, Scampston Hall's Walled Garden in Yorkshire and Hauser & Wirth in Somerset. Because I've seen and enjoyed these gardens, I was eager to see Oudolf's Millennium Garden at Pensthorpe Natural Park in Norfolk. (A review of Scampston Hall's Walled Garden is here.) Pensthorpe was Oudolf's first commission in the U.K. Planted in 2000 and up-dated in 2008, the Millennium Garden is part of a larger natural reserve.