Ragged robin, lupins and buttercups edge the path that leads to the China Terrace, the re-creation of Glen Villa Inn.

Garden Paths

As the end of the year approaches, I’m thinking about transitions. In  the context of gardens, transitions are often linked to paths. Paths lead you somewhere, either literally or metaphorically. They take you through different landscapes — meadows, forests, open fields — whose settings evoke different moods. They come in all shapes and sizes — grassy and gravel, broad and narrow, straight and curved. One path may lead to a specific place, another to nowhere in particular and yet a third to someplace unknown, a future waiting to be discovered.

Anyone visiting Glen Villa, my garden in Quebec, can walk for hours on the paths we’ve cut. One of the first I made led through the garden and into the woods and fields that surround us. One part of this path ran parallel to the drive, towards what would become the China Terrace.

 

Ragged robin, lupins and buttercups edge the path that leads to the China Terrace, the re-creation of Glen Villa Inn.
Ragged robin, lupins and buttercups edge the grassy path that leads to the China Terrace, the re-creation of the old resort hotel that gave Glen Villa its name.

 

Over the years we’ve cut more paths. One covered with wood chips leads through the fern woods, past memory posts I painted to honour my father and brother-in-law.

 

The memory posts were new when I took this photo. Now, the paint is peeling and the wood beginning to decay, completing a natural cycle.
The memory posts were new when I took this photo. Now, the paint is peeling and the wood beginning to decay, completing a natural cycle.

 

Another path strewn with leaves leads into the woods.

 

Our grandchildren know the paths well and often walk them on their own.
Our grandchildren know the paths well and often walk them on their own.

 

Some paths are lined with flowers.

 

Joe Pye weed grows abundantly in this wet area.
Joe Pye weed grows abundantly in this wet area.

 

Others are lined with trees.

 

This is one of many paths that lead through the woods.
This is one of many paths that lead through the woods.

 

Some are straight…

 

This path used to wiggle. I prefer it straight.
This gravel path used to wiggle. I straightened it to reflect the lines of our house.

 

… others gently curved.

 

This path leads through the Big Meadow beside the house.
This path leads through the Big Meadow beside the house.

 

Some paths are sunny and cheerful…

 

The bundled tree trunks were part of an installation called Ghost Walk.
When I first installed them, the bundled tree trunks made up an installation called Ghost Walk. They have now decayed so much that I will probably remove them this summer.

 

… others darkly mysterious.

 

Despite the appearance, I took this photo in July. I can't explain why, but photos of this area always make the pine needles look as if they are covered in snow.
Despite the appearance, I took this photo in July. I can’t explain why, but photos of this area always make the pine needles look as if they are covered in snow.

 

The newest path is The Avenue, a double line of crabapple trees we planted in November.  It leads straight through the field, to a springtime of bloom.

 

A blue sky day -- and a cold one, too. The temperature was -19C when I took this photo!
A blue sky day — and a cold one, too. The temperature was -19C when I took this photo!

 

Or so I hope.

But I can’t be sure. Because not all paths lead straight ahead. Some take us in circles, returning us to the place we started. Some take us to places we’d rather not see, others to sights that surprise and delight.

 

Where will this path take us, and what are those strange cones in the distance?
Where will this path take us, and what are those strange cones in the distance?

 

The journey is the thing. It can stretch our minds as well as our legs. And surely that is part of the pleasure.

  • I am assuming you have extinguished the dancing sugar plums now and it is all ahead go for the new year. Health and happiness to all your family for the New Year!

    • siteandinsight

      No, sugar plums are still dancing. They only disappear on Jan 1. Happy New Year to you, too.

  • Paths are what turns a yard into a garden. It’s one of the epiphanies I describe here: http://www.coldclimategardening.com/2013/04/13/garden-epiphanies/ In a yard everything is visible at a glance, but you have to travel on a path–I don’t care if it’s 3 stepping stones–in a garden. It can’t all be seen at once. You and I both have large properties with paths measured in miles, but I have seen tiny gardens that still managed to have a path, and it made all the difference in terms of pleasure and interest.

    • siteandinsight

      What an interesting observation, Kathy, that a path makes the difference between a garden and a yard. I agree but hadn’t thought of it before.

      • I am glad you agree, because it’s my own personal definition. There are surely situations where a path is impossible (apartment balcony, for one) where the grower of plants feels he or she is a gardener tending a garden–and there is no path.

  • Even my tiny, tiny garden includes a curving path that disappears around a corner. One day, I’ll walk your paths, Pat, and I hope someday you’ll come see mine. Happy New Year to you!

    • siteandinsight

      Kathy Purdy makes the point that even the tiniest path transforms a yard into a garden, and your garden would seem to confirm that idea. I’d love to walk our paths, in North Hatley or Toronto. One of these days, Helen.

      • Most of the gardens that I saw on the GardenWalk in Buffalo had paths, even though they were quite small. The path might only take you to the garbage can, but you can be sure it was a pleasant trip!

  • Jason

    I’m sure that the new path between the crabapples will be spectacular in spring. Most of our paths are grass between garden beds, if I had time and money I think I’d prefer to convert them to pavers.

    • siteandinsight

      Pavers keep your feet dry but grass is nice and soft underfoot. I think I’d leave the paths in grass. Although it does need mowing…

  • Lucy Corrander

    Dark and mysterious is fantastic.
    In the summer I moved from coastal Dorset to the post-industrial urban North West and have set up a new blog for Loose and Leafy because the contrast between the two areas of England to be contained in the same place.
    It’s Loose and Leafy in Halifax
    https://looseandleafyinhalifax.blogspot.co.uk/

    • siteandinsight

      I knew you had moved — and quite a change it must be. Are you posting regularly again as Loose and Leafy in Halifax?