Tag Archives: linden tree

Trees in the Garden

April 5th, 2021 | 2 Comments »

Trees are an invaluable part of a garden, so important that they are sometimes called its bones because they hold the other parts of the garden together. They are slow to grow and consequently are often the first thing planted in a new garden or one undergoing renovation.

Trees do more than hold a garden together, though. They are miracle workers, cleaning the air, providing protection against wind and rain, focusing our view and, in northern regions at least, providing splendid colour in the fall.

 

Autumn colour is more intense some years than others.

 

At Glen Villa, they add privacy to a picnic area, creating a sense of enclosure as well as adding beauty.

 

Crabapple trees in bloom

 

In winter, their black trunks offer a contrast to white ground and snow on their branches makes lines in mid air.

 

untitled (1 of 1)

 

Trees can also shape emotional responses to our surroundings. In France, the road that leads to Chenonceau is lined  with closely-planted trees, and their elegant regularity transforms an ordinary journey into a stately procession.

 

This photo is from a dozen or more years ago. I hope the trees still look as good.
This photo is from a dozen or more years ago. I hope the trees still look as good.

 

In Italy, at the contemporary garden Il Bosco della Ragnaia, trees planted in lines create a different response. Instead of suggesting a stately procession, their lines marching across a field suggest order and discipline.

 

say something

 

At the English garden Stourhead, Henry Hoare and his successors grouped trees to form patterns of light and shade, emulating the paintings he admired.

 

The planting continues, judging by the small willow in the foreground.
The planting continues, judging by the small willow in the foreground.

 

At Petworth in Sussex,  Capability Brown placed single trees and groves to shape the view, sometimes in order to highlight attractive features, sometimes to hide unsightly ones — including whole villages from time to time.

 

A cropped view

 

In addition to being useful and beautiful, trees can also play tricks on our eyes and our sense of perspective.  A small tree planted in the distance looks farther away than it really is; a large tree on top of a hill makes the hill seem higher, and when a small plant is added in the foreground, the effect becomes even greater.

In Scotland, at Broadwoodside, a line of hornbeam trees (Carpinus betulus) seems to stretch out forever. The trees look as if they are evenly spaced but when I was there on a visit and walked along the path between the rows, I discovered that the journey was shorter than I’d thought: the distance between the trees changes as the path extends, and that change of spacing distorts what our eyes see and our brains register.

 

Looking out from the house towards the end of the allée, the spacing looks even.
Looking out from the house towards the end of the allée, the spacing looks even.

 

I could cite many examples from large properties where trees affect our sense of reality but the same principles can be used in much smaller gardens. There may not be a high hill or a sweep of ground long enough for a tree to exaggerate the distance, but plants of different sizes can do the same job.

The boxwood balls below, which I saw in Le Jardin Plume in Normandy, are all the same size. But imagine how your eye would be tricked if they became smaller as they receded. The path would look longer, particularly if the straight hedges and triangular form at the end of the path were shorter too.

Boxwood at Le Jardin Plume in Normandy

 

The bench we placed around the linden tree at Glen Villa provides a sense of scale, but we could distort that impression if we wanted to. The bench is now the right size for adults; if we made it the right height for small children, the tree trunk would look much longer and the tree itself appear more massive.

 

This photo is from Nov 6, 2005. So maybe autumn isn't late this year.
The effect of a lower bench would be greater if the photo was taken from farther away.

 

I played this trick on the eyes as part of Timelines, but there I reversed expectations: the Adirondack chair in the foreground is tiny while the one in the distance would fit a giant.

 

The sign near the chair spells out my intent.

 

Trees often mark boundaries, whether the side of a road or the edge of a stream or the line between one garden and another.  Less literally, they mark a boundary in time, between yesterday, when the tree began to grow, and today, when we see it, and tomorrow, when it is old and dying.

Looking back, I remember the maple tree that used to shade the house, and I see the sculpture that it has become. I think of the three words I chose to laser-cut into one the stainless steel rings: Seed • Shade • Shadow. They sum up the tree’s life story in a tidy fashion and I’m happy with the message they send. But at the same time I realize how inadequate words are when we try to sum up a life. They are never enough.

 

tree rings
I designed this sculpture to honour the life of the tree and named it Tree Rings to indicate how it grew, more in some years than in others.

 

Instead of looking back, I choose to look forward. The sycamore trees I planted in the meadow at Glen Villa a dozen years ago have not yet developed their camouflage bark but I know that one day, they will. And that gives me hope.

Do you have a favourite tree? Is it in your garden or in a park or one you only see in your dreams?

Five Good Things and a Bad

June 25th, 2018 | 12 Comments »
As June shines its way towards July, I'm outside soaking it in and enjoying the garden at Glen Villa. There are too many happy-making things to show in a single post, so today I'm focusing on only four. First come the hawthorn trees. We planted them more than 15 years ago and they have proved a mixed blessing, blooming well in some years, not so well in others. This year they were spectacular.     [caption id="attachment_6453" align="aligncenter" width="5184"] Seeing the trees from a distance was like seeing a cloud of light,

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Special Trees

January 14th, 2018 | 10 Comments »
A piece about specimen trees in the on-line magazine Gardenista started me thinking about trees and how special they are to me. Having recently planted a long allée of crabapple trees at Glen Villa, (and having written about it here) where the impact stems from the sheer number of trees and the precision of their placement, my mind swung to the opposite end of the spectrum, to individual trees that make an impact on their own. The most important tree at Glen Villa, my garden in rural Quebec, is the basswood, or linden as I

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The Colours of Autumn

October 31st, 2016 | 12 Comments »
I missed the peak of autumn colour this year in the Eastern Townships of Quebec -- where colours are as good as (or better than?) any place in North America -- because of some trips that took me away from home. So when a friend sent me a photo he took a week or so ago of the hills behind our house, I was delighted.   [caption id="attachment_4579" align="aligncenter" width="1000"] Our house and boathouse on Lake Massawippi are dwarfed by the hills that rise behind.[/caption]   What a spectacle it was. Friends who were

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Following my Tree: August

August 9th, 2015 | 10 Comments »
  Last month when I posted about the linden, or basswood, tree that is such a prominent feature of Glen Villa, my garden in Quebec, I was worrying that the trunk was beginning to split. I'm still worrying about that since a big hole in the canopy is clearly visible.   [caption id="attachment_2624" align="aligncenter" width="533"] The split in the canopy is most visible from this angle.[/caption]     The linden has four main trunks, almost certainly a sign that it was deliberately or accidentally cut when young. This is a common

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Following My Tree: July

July 10th, 2015 | 9 Comments »
A fully-grown tree doesn't change that much in a short time, or so you may think. But compare two photos of the linden, or basswood, tree (Tilia americana) that stands in my Quebec garden, Glen Villa. I took the first photo on June 13. [caption id="attachment_2454" align="aligncenter" width="1224"] The linden tree at the end of the Big Lawn looked quite perky on June 13, 2015.[/caption]   I took the second one two days ago, on July 8. [caption id="attachment_2455" align="aligncenter" width="1127"] The linden tree on July 8, 2015 has a sadder air.[/caption]  

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Following a Tree: What’s in a Name?

February 9th, 2015 | 4 Comments »
This year I am following the tree at the end of the big lawn at Glen Villa, my garden in rural Quebec. The botanical name of the  tree is Tilia americana. I call it a linden. That's not wrong -- the tree is a member of the linden family. Like many living things, it goes by several names. In England, it is a lime tree. In North America it is commonly known as basswood. Today I'm far from home, on holiday some 1800 kilometres/ 1100 miles to the south. So I can't trudge across the snow

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An Artist’s Garden in Spring

May 19th, 2013 | 1 Comment »
An article about Glen Villa, entitled An Artist's Garden in Spring, appeared this week in the Montreal magazine Urban Expressions.  Written by Donna Nebenzahl, the article is lavishly illustrated with my photographs of spring flowers. I particularly liked the big spread that shows the linden tree, with muscari, or grape hycinth, blooming in the grass. Urban Expressions used a different photo. I like this one, too. The link takes you to the article but doesn't show the excellent layout. Too bad, because the balance between text and photos showed the photographs at

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