Tag Archives: changes at Glen Villa

Creating a Scene

October 19th, 2021 | 2 Comments »

When our children were young, I dreaded taking them to the grocery store. If I was lucky, the expedition would be quick and easy. But some days, the little brats screamed for chocolates  or put unwanted items into the shopping cart, and when I took them out, they created a scene. Unpleasant for me and for everyone around us.

Scenes in the garden are another thing entirely. They can be magic, transforming an ordinary arrangement into something special. And today, with help from Jacques Gosselin and Ken Kelso, I made one.

The scene we created is next to the Continuum pool. Continuum is part of Timelines, the series of art installations that ask questions about history and memory as a way of delving into our relationship with the land.  Continuum is meant to illustrate how each small change we make affects what follows … a variation of the butterfly effect, in which a tiny modification ends up making a large difference.

I’ve used wood, rocks and water as the way to demonstrate this, with maple trees the dominant element. I’ve shown them as young saplings and as elders, as a source of food and shelter for humans and animals, as commercial product and as inspiration for art. Last winter I drilled rocks with the pattern of the maple key or samara, the little helicopter thing that contains the tree’s seed. We placed one drilled rock along the path near an ancient maple.



We placed two more drilled rocks beside the Continuum pool, beside one rock I left undrilled. On the slope above the pool we arranged rocks to outline the samara shape, creating a positive version that mirrored the negative one below.



Over the summer, we seeded the area and brought in some ferns to make the drilled rocks look as if they had always been there.



I liked what we’d done but it wasn’t quite right. People noticed the rocks on the sloping hillside but often missed the drilled rocks below. And for the full message to be conveyed, they needed to notice both.

A few weeks ago, I went around Timelines with my friend John Hay. He suggested a simple solution: turn the smallest rock clockwise, so that the drilled holes echoed the pattern of rocks on the hillside above. This morning we did that. And we did one thing more.

This is the result.



Turning the rock and making it more upright helped. But it was adding the tree stump that created the scene. It’s more than a scene, though. Not only does the stump draw  the eye, it also continues the theme. Beginning and end in a single glance.

Despite the rain and the sudden drop in temperature, I count this as a very good morning indeed. Here’s hoping your day goes well, too.

Continuum, Part Three

June 27th, 2021 | 6 Comments »
In 2005, I started to cut a trail at Glen Villa; that trail became Timelines, the walk through fields and forests where art installations explore ideas about history, memory and our relationship to the land. I've written about this trail in many blog posts; I wrote about Continuum, one part of the trail, in two posts last fall. (You can find those posts here and here.) This large rock outcropping is what prompted me to first begin thinking about how to give voice to the land and the ideas and emotions it evoked. When I


The Past as Prelude

February 1st, 2021 | 1 Comment »
The great English landscape architect Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe got it right. What's past is past. But while it is over and done with, the past can't be ignored. Instead, Jellicoe said, we should "ponder on the past not as the past but as a pointer to the future." In troubled political times, this sounds like good advice.  It's equally good advice when applied to the land. When I began to work on the garden at Glen Villa some twenty years ago, history was the principle that guided me and it continues to be a powerful element,


The Dining Room Table on the China Terrace

September 4th, 2020 | 10 Comments »
The China Terrace is my way of representing the past in the present, of giving a new life to memories of the years when Glen Villa Inn welcomed summer guests from near and far. According to a local newspaper of the time, Canadians and American visitors "from every state in the Union" came to spend their holidays here in North Hatley, Quebec. The hotel's life was brief, though. Built in 1902, it burned to the ground in 1909, shortly before opening for its eighth season. Not long after moving into Glen Villa in 1996, I discovered an


The Yin Yang is Remade

August 10th, 2020 | 10 Comments »
You know how one thing leads to another? That's what is happening this year at Glen Villa. Last November we began to rebuild the foundation wall of the old Glen Villa Inn.  Once the job was complete and I saw the impressive wall, I knew it needed a garden to complement it. The result is the newly planted area, the North South Arrow, now beginning to grow in. Between the hotel wall and the Arrow is a low circular stone wall. Its original purpose was to provide a turn-around for horse-drawn carriages bringing


In Transit/En Route in 2020

July 20th, 2020 | 8 Comments »
In Transit/En Route is part of Timelines, the trail at Glen Villa that explores ideas about time, memory and our relationship to the land. Dating back to 2009, it was one of the first sections of Timelines I built and was an inspiration for all that followed. Over the intervening years, In Transit/En Route has undergone many changes, including several iterations of the signs that lead from an old field into the woods. First the signs stood on wooden posts that held red glass squares with circular openings.     I based that design on the Chinese concept of the universe,


Planting the North South Arrow

June 25th, 2020 | 4 Comments »
Last week I wrote about the genesis of the North South Arrow, the new area we are planting at Glen Villa, describing how the concept for the area changed over time. Today I'm writing about the plants I chose and how I decided to arrange them. Jacques had warned me that the soil on site was a mix of sand and gravel that would need to be modified substantially if I wanted anything planted there to thrive. His advice was to dig up the top six inches and replace the


The North South Arrow

June 15th, 2020 | 10 Comments »
Months ago, when we were rebuilding the foundation wall of Glen Villa Inn, the huge resort hotel that once stood on our property, I began thinking of a new planting area to complement the new wall. A photo taken shortly after the hotel burned down in 1909 showed plants arranged around the low stone wall in front of the hotel, where horse-drawn carriages circled to pick up and drop off hotel guests. The planting around that circular wall prompted me to consider a similar arrangement. [caption id="attachment_8368" align="alignleft" width="1600"] The


Reviewing 2019

December 31st, 2019 | 8 Comments »
Today, on the last day of the year, I'm looking back at what happened in the garden in 2019. Without question, the single biggest event was the Open Garden Day in July. Over 300 people attended and we raised almost $10,000 for the Massawippi Foundation, helping that organization to continue its support for community activities and the conservation of biologically significant land. [caption id="attachment_7759" align="alignleft" width="2048"] Catherine Walker and Gary Ross volunteered to help on the Open Day and their music added a special touch to the day.[/caption]   Getting ready


The Job is Done!

December 2nd, 2019 | 8 Comments »
The foundation wall of the old Glen Villa Inn is once again standing tall. Rebuilding the wall has been quite a process. In its prime the wall was the base of a grand structure.   [caption id="attachment_1503" align="alignleft" width="1000"] An old hand-coloured postcard shows Glen Villa Inn in all its magnificence.[/caption]   Unfortunately, like so many summer resort hotels built of wood, it didn't last.   [caption id="attachment_8331" align="alignleft" width="1600"] The fire that destroyed the hotel left an impressively long wall and two chimneys. The planting beds in the foreground hint at a