Category Archives: Travel


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.





Favourite Things

June 27th, 2019 | 6 Comments »
The many petals of this peony capture raindrops.
Sometimes, pictures of pretty flowers are enough. I took these photos in a garden in Knowlton, Quebec that I visited last week. It was a grey, rainy day but the gardens were glorious! The flowers in one garden were the stars of the day.   [caption id="attachment_7653" align="alignleft" width="5184"] Raindrops on roses are nice. Raindrops on peonies are even better. I'm not sure how to rank whiskers on kittens.[/caption]   Bright copper kettles are no competition for the WOW! of this poppy. Talk about gorgeous!   [caption id="attachment_7652" align="alignleft" width="3765"] The


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,


Rock Art

November 12th, 2018 | 19 Comments »
Australia Kimberley 2011-82
Cave paintings on the island of Borneo showing animals and human hands have recently been dated back some 40,000 years, making them the oldest known example of figurative rock art in the world. (Details of the story can be found in various articles, including one here from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.) Think for a moment about how long ago that is. Forty thousand years. It takes my breath away. I've been fascinated by rock art for many years and have been fortunate to see examples in South Africa, Namibia, Australia, Chile and Peru. While the particulars


Garden Hits and Misses

September 30th, 2018 | 13 Comments »
The fountain rises 70 feet into the air. On a sunny day it is beautiful to see. It works via a remote control!
At home after three marvellous weeks visiting gardens (and  friends) in England, I find much to criticize in my garden. After many years of travelling, I've come to expect this -- and to accept that a garden in Quebec's harsh weather conditions will never resemble an English garden, with its lush foliage and flowers, topiary and ancient walls. I've also come to expect that gardens other than my own will disappoint me. On every tour I've hosted, there has always been one garden I particularly looked forward to seeing. On


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.


Petworth: a Landscape by Capability Brown

September 9th, 2018 | 18 Comments »
On a sunny day, what could be more agreeable than strolling through a landscape designed by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown? Earlier this week, two friends and I took advantage of the fine weather to do just this when we visited Petworth House in Sussex. The landscape there is one of the finest surviving examples of Brown's work. Walking through the 700-acre park, the surroundings appear to be totally natural, but in reality Brown shaped each part of the land with his customary flair.   [caption id="attachment_6709" align="aligncenter" width="4272"] This view from the


Tropical Foliage (and a little bit more)

February 12th, 2018 | 13 Comments »
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It's fascinating to see plants you think of as house plants growing outside. During a recent trip to Florida, I visited a friend and took a quick walk around her garden. The colours and textures were astonishing.     I can't name any of the plants, although they may be familiar to those of you who live in warmer climes.  Nameless or not, I loved what I saw, particularly the large-leafed beauties below.     Who can resist a shape like this rounded indentation? And the colour contrast was delicious.


Metis International Garden Festival

August 22nd, 2017 | 6 Comments »
The optical illusion never fails to delight.
  Recently I visited the International Garden Festival at Metis, Quebec. I've attended the Festival many times since it first opened in 2000, but in previous years I've gone with adults. This year was special -- I went with two teenage granddaughters.   [caption id="attachment_5512" align="aligncenter" width="1425"] The festival gardens are adjacent to the St. Lawrence River in a part of Quebec that offers much to explore.[/caption]   Playsages, the theme for this year's Festival, was a good fit for the three of us. The word is a mash-up of languages, blending