Looking ahead: Glen Villa in 2014

I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. But planning ahead for the garden is a regular winter activity. So this is what I plan (correction: make that hope) to do in 2014.

1. Clean up loose ends. This category includes more things than I like to think about. I often start new projects before the old ones are finished, but this year I intend to do some tidying up before beginning anything new. (Ok, I suppose that counts as a resolution.)
Loose end #1 is the final aqueduct pool, just above the boathouse and the lake. I need to decide what to plant in and around this sunken pool. I also need to decide if the stone work we installed in November is right. I’m afraid it isn’t. But whether we correct it or learn to live with the mistake is unclear. And maybe with the plantings in place, it won’t be a mistake after all.
The yellow witch hazel on the right will be the dominant feature
in the new plantings.
Loose end #2 is the flagpole stream at the south end of the lower garden, the only formal garden area at Glen Villa. Two years ago I decided to transform the small trickle of a stream into a hillside water garden, with informal plantings to mark the transition into the wilder area beyond. I haven’t changed my mind. I still want the plantings to remain casual. But at the end of last summer it was clear that ‘loose’ and ‘casual’ had become unacceptably messy. So the whole area needs to be dug up and re-planted. Or so I think today. Maybe in the spring it will look good enough to leave it for the time being. I hope so. Because I have more loose ends hanging…
From this angle the narrowly planted strip doesn’t look too bad.
Maybe part of the problem is the width. Hm-m-m. Is a wider messy bed the answer?
These include the plantings in the new straight-edged beds in the lower garden, that are just to the left of the area shown above. I love the stone edging in these beds but it doesn’t sit well with the left-over plants that I stuck in last spring. And perhaps the contrast between this straight-edge and the messiness of the flagpole stream is part of the problem. That thought has just occurred to me. Maybe it will provide an idea for dealing with both sections in a more integrated way.
The flagpole stream messy bed goes up the hill
to the right of the stepping stones in this photo.
The plantings around the Skating Pond may be a loose end, but until August it will be hard to know for sure. The Skating Pond is an area in the upper field that is becoming increasingly important in the bigger picture that makes up Glen Villa. I want to make sure that the plants I’ve used around the pond thrive and do what I want them to do, which is to look naturally artificial, or planned as if by accident. (Yes, I know that doesn’t make sense, but that’s how I think of the scheme.) The picture below shows how things looked in August 2013, after we fixed an area where the bank was collapsing. By August 2014, the plants should be established and hold the bank in place. At least, that’s the plan.
This little pond is above the boardwalk. Removing dirt from the collapsed hillside, we discovered
more ledge. Water fills this pool naturally, and drains into the big skating pond
through a channel under the boardwalk.
Then there is the China Terrace. The copper tubing staircase needs to be stronger visually but that is a small and easy job compared with the plantings on the bank behind it. This area and the entry bed it is part of simply don’t work as they should, which is to announce the presence of a ghostly recreation of a Victorian era hotel. Plus the deer like too many of the plants so fencing is required. Plus more terracing and a re-shaping of the edges. Designing a fence that looks good in the space and actually keeps the deer out won’t be easy. The fencing I used in the meadow and the upper field doesn’t feel right here so I’ll have to design something else.
The staircase looks flimsy. It needs some wooden elements, like banisters or a newel post.
Finally, there are the foundations of the boathouse. We’ve put off repairing them, but it’s finally time to tackle what could be an expensive job. If we get the required permissions to work near and in the lake, we will do this job before the damage becomes even worse.
The foundation are crumbling. We have to repair them or the boathouse will collapse and
we will lose an acquired right.

2. Start on new projects.
The prospect of fixing all the loose ends is rather daunting. In fact, even listing them makes me tired. Completing them may take all summer, or more. Yet I still hope to get on with the really fun part, the new projects.

Over the last few years,the yin/yang has been getting worse and worse, so it’s time either to replant or to do a major revamping. I’m leaning towards the latter, and have ideas for plants and a surrounding earth bank that give me pleasure to think about. I hope I’ll find time to put these plans into effect.

Imagine a raised earthen bank circling this inner circle, which then will act a bit like a sundial in a traditional design.
Reversing the traditional alignment, in the centre I’m thinking roses… a real departure for me.
The area by the big rock on the lawn needs attention. A visitor this summer noted that it looked fussy in relation to everything around it, and immediately I knew she was right. So all the grasses and extraneous plants here will go, to be replaced by the perfect tree. With Chinese symbolism in mind, I’m leaning towards a Charlie Brown-type pine. If I can find one that looks suitably wind-blown and scraggly, a variety that won’t become too tall, I’ll be happy.
In Chinese art, rocks and pines are placed together to suggest longevity and endurance in the face of adversity.
A crane, another symbol of longevity, often appears with them: its white feathers suggest old age.

The hillside above the driveway, where we park our cars, has bothered me for some years. The stone wall needs repairs and the diddly little supporting wall above the large rock has to go. I envision terracing on the hillside, possibly made with the same type of gabion basket that we used for walls at the aqueduct. I also see long, low interlocking hedges that will give a sleek, contemporary feeling to this area, much more in keeping with the style of the house than what is there now.

Imagine long sleek horizontal lines, along with new mowing patterns.

Finally, there is The Egg. This was a wonderful creation some ten or more years ago but it has not received the attention it deserves and has degenerated into a weedy mess, with a dangerously decrepit bench. I know what I want to do here but somehow, I think this project will have to wait yet another year.

The Egg used to bloom frothy white in springtime. The woven fence was like a basket, and steps
around the oval were like an eggshell. The boxwood were green eggdrops.

I won’t even mention the art installation I am hoping to create on another part of the land. Or the earthen maze. Or the…

For now, I intend to sit by the fire, read some gardening books and dream a little more. Isn’t that what winter is for?