Tag Archives: lower garden

Goals for a New Year

December 31st, 2021 | 7 Comments »

When I look out my bedroom window, this is what I see. Or what I will see before long. Lake Massawippi isn’t frozen yet, but frozen or not, the prospect reminds me that this is the time of year to look ahead.

 

 

And to look back. What did I accomplish in the garden this year and how does it compare with what I set out to do?

I planned to renew the bed on the China Terrace, and I completed half the job. The pillows were plumped but I didn’t change the moss as I intended. That easy task is one I will do in the spring. Or so I hope.

 

 

I fiddled with the plants at the entry to the China Terrace and while I’m not yet satisfied with the results, I am happier than I was a year ago. I am very happy with the dining room table. The new napkins and goblets compliment the centrepiece that I arrange every year, and the romantic atmosphere I’m going for is enhanced by autumn leaves. If only I’d straightened the candlesticks (i.e., the pieces of wood) before I took the photo!

 

 

I continued to move plants around in the North South Arrow, the bed I started in 2020, to give the long narrow shape more structure. I hope  that moving the Miscanthus into an arc at the middle will prove to be a good choice. I definitely liked the way it looked in the fall.

 

 

Again this year, I did not fulfill a goal I set for myself a few years ago, to fence the Lower Garden. I am ready now to accept that I never will do this and I’m glad. The idea was to protect the shrubs and flowers from the deer, but opening and closing a gate would make every trip from the house to the lake more difficult, particularly when hands are full of towels and other paraphernalia.

 

This view shows the Lower Garden in May. The long staircase to the lake is not visible but it is on the left, across from the  end of the stone wall.

 

As usual, many things were done that I didn’t plan to do. I planted new trees, three multi-stem birches at the end of the Big Meadow, five crabapples on the berm beside the Skating Pond and one more crabapple by the steps that lead from the house to the Lower Garden.

 

 

Jacques and Ken, my left and right hands, rebuilt a set of steps that lead through the garden. (Amazingly, I do not have a photograph of the new steps, so a photo of the old ones will have to do.)

 

It’s easy to see why these steps had to be replaced.

 

Steps that were part of the wall of the old Glen Villa Inn, an early 20th century resort hotel that once stood on our property, were also rebuilt. The new steps are still steep but a lot safer now that the tread is flat.

 

 

In the wall to the left of the steps is an alcove that possibly held a fireplace in the original hotel building. Filling that alcove is one of my goals for 2022. When we re-built the wall in 2019, following the same footprint and using the same stones, we found many items, including some lovely old coloured bottles.

 

 

My plan for next year is to display those bottles and some of the other items we found in a glass case that I used in an exhibition of my art some years ago.  I will cover the bottom of the case with a golden velvet cloth and stain the new legs to match the existing stain.

 

 

I will continue to work on Timelines, the 4 km trail that leads through fields and forests to tell the story of the land. In the section called The Clearing of the Land I will add four painted tree trunks to suggest  a settler family. These static trunks will contrast with movement shown by forked branches, inverted to suggest people walking. These  ‘walkers’ are the Abenaki, the original inhabitants of the land, and the contrast is meant to make a point about occupation and displacement.

 

The painted tree trunks will include a plaid pattern to suggest a family of Scottish descent, one of many who settled in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.

 

Also underway is a collage on another tree trunk. Once finished and enclosed in a clear plexiglass column, the maple trunk will become part of Continuum, the section of Timelines where trees are shown in their many stages and uses. Covered with photos of paintings of trees, it will be the central point of a group of seven maple saplings. The section will then get a name: the Group of Seven. (For non-Canadians, the Group of Seven were artists working in the early 20th century who glorified the landscape of northern Canada. Trees featured prominently in their iconic paintings and I will use many reproductions of these in the collage.)

 

 

An unexpected decision towards the end of last summer points to a goal for 2022 and beyond — the transformation of what was becoming an increasingly weedy Big Meadow to a meadow full of native wildflowers and grasses. In September, we dug up and seeded a large section of the Big Meadow and we will dig and seed another section next year. Seeing how the bare ground changes over the next two or three years is an exciting prospect.

 

 

Every year I set more goals than I can realistically accomplish but next year I have only two big projects in mind: to launch the book I’ve written about Glen Villa, to be published mid-year by McGill-Queen’s University Press, and to open the garden one day a month from June through September. The prospect of sharing the garden with other people, through words and visits, makes me very happy.

 

Members of the team at NIP Paysage, a firm of landscape architects based in Montreal, posed by Bridge Ascending, a sculpture made by Doucet & Saito from remnants of an old covered bridge.

 

Setting goals gives me something to look forward to, but each of us approaches the year ahead in our own ways. Do you set garden goals? Did you manage to do all you intended to do? Or are you content with your garden as it is? If so, lucky you!

 

More Befores and Afters

May 30th, 2020 | 8 Comments »
A sudden burst of hot weather brought out shorts, t-shirts and leaves on the trees. It was only two weeks ago, on May 10, that the Cascade at Glen Villa was looking bare and boring.   [caption id="attachment_8771" align="alignleft" width="5184"] Will these bare branches ever bloom?[/caption]   Less than two weeks later, boring had become a bouquet of blooms. [caption id="attachment_8770" align="alignleft" width="3088"] Early evening light gives this scene a slight blue tint.[/caption]   Yet three days after that, the blossoms were beginning to fade, all thanks to extremely high temperatures.

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Is it Spring yet?

May 26th, 2019 | 12 Comments »
Spring is here, finally, with the promise that summer is a-comin' in. Or so it feels today. And maybe it will feel the same tomorrow, but who knows? Oscar Wilde said that conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative. Not so for gardeners in the Eastern Townships of Quebec where I garden. Weather means more for us. This year at least it means ground so soggy that farmers still can't seed their fields. It means trees still struggling to leaf out.   [caption id="attachment_7506" align="alignleft" width="5184"]

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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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The Lower Garden

July 19th, 2016 | 6 Comments »
It's garden visit time at Glen Villa. Last week a group from Quebec City visited the garden; this week it's a group from Ontario and the following week it's another group from Quebec. Then, on August 4, comes the big Open Garden Day when we could realistically have 500 people or more. I think all gardeners would agree -- it's satisfying when your garden looks good, or at least when it looks good enough to bring you that frisson of pleasure that tells you your work has paid off.  But when visitors

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The Lower Garden

June 23rd, 2016 | 8 Comments »
The downside of going away in May and June is not being at home. As much as I loved touring some amazing gardens in England and seeing some inspiring outdoor art, I missed being at Glen Villa, my garden in Quebec's Eastern Townships, during the peak time for planting and transplanting. Not to worry, though, I've made up for it -- my arms, legs, back and shoulders will attest to that. For the last week or more, I've been practically living outdoors, cleaning up, pruning, planting and transplanting, dividing and moving

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A Change of (Ad)dress

May 23rd, 2016 | 14 Comments »
  The weather at this time of year does strange things to the mind -- and to the wardrobe. One day is cold, the next is hot. Changing locations makes the uncertainties even worse. What do I pack? Summer dresses or winter woolies? I arrived in England a few days ago on a chilly morning that felt much like the mornings I'd left behind in Canada. But looking out at the countryside, it was obvious that summer was now dressing the fields.   [caption id="attachment_3982" align="aligncenter" width="3888"] A froth of white

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How (not) to design a border

March 31st, 2014 | 5 Comments »
A few years ago, a huge tree blew down. The tree was at the edge of the lower garden, by what we call the dragon gate --  a construction of vertical and horizontal pieces of painted wood that matches architectural elements on our house. The tree and the dragon gate marked the start of a path that meanders through the woods and semi-wild areas of the garden.I cried when this 'tremblant' or trembling aspen blew down in a storm,but soon I preferred the more open view.Losing the tree was sad

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The Joy of Weeding

September 2nd, 2013 | 2 Comments »
We all know that weeding is a chore, right? We also know that a weed for one person is a flower for someone else. Or, as often expressed, it's any plant growing where it isn't wanted.   Some people don't like ajuga in the lawn. I do. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it better, describing a weed as "a plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered." My favourite quotation about weeds, though, is Shakespeare's contribution: "Great weeds do grow apace." And indeed, they do. Or, at least, this summer they

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History Made Visible

January 30th, 2013 | 1 Comment »
             “Landscape is history made visible,” said J.B. Jackson, the American cultural geographer. I subscribe wholeheartedly to this idea.             Every piece of land has a history. Glen Villa has lots – in fact, you almost trip over it here. The waterfall, for instance, started life over a century ago, when a stream coming down through the woods was dammed to provide power for a sawmill. The waterfall at Glen Villa   Every gardener may not want to make history visible in their gardens, but

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