Tag Archives: projects

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 guests to the old resort hotel. When we moved into Glen Villa in 1996, it was planted with highbush cranberry. As much as I admired the shrubs, I thought they were too tall and out of balance with the wall itself, so I removed them. I realized not long after that I wanted the garden to illustrate our family’s lives and the history of the site, so the circle became the Yin Yang, a symbol that recalled the years our family lived in China and that described an approach to nature that I found appealing, one based on a balance between opposites.


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I designed the Yin Yang in 2005 and by last year I was thinking about re-making it in some way, in part because the wall was beginning to collapse. The coping stones I added made this obvious.  They sat tight next to each other at first but after a dozen years, the gap had widened. The circle was spreading, the wall falling outwards, inch by inch.


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As soon as the coping stones were removed, it began obvious that the wall underneath was crumbling and had to be totally rebuilt.


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First, though, it had to be taken apart.


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François Langlois rebuilt the wall, helped by Jacques Gosselin and Ken Kelso. They laid out the coping stones in a perfect circle on the ground nearby and prepared a new circle to match, laying a strong foundation with proper drainage.


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They poured a cement base.


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Once it had cured, François began to rebuilt the wall.


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After a few weeks of work, the wall was finished. Filled with good soil, it is now ready for planting.


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But with what? and as what? I wanted an idea that would link the circle with the foundation wall on one side and the North South Arrow on the other.


I was standing on top of the hotel foundation wall when I took this photo. The North South Arrow is in the background.
I was standing on top of the hotel foundation wall when I took this photo. The North South Arrow is in the background. The Artemisia ‘Silver Mound’ that was part of the Yin Yang now outlines the arrowhead that points north.


It didn’t take me long to come up with an idea, in fact it came in a flash. The  Arrow is a straight line, pointing north and south, reflecting the fact that most of the guests at Glen Villa Inn came by train from southern states in the U.S.  The north-south symbol on a map is circular, and it is called a compass rose. What could be more appropriate?


According to Wikipedia, this was the first ornate compass rose depicted on a chart, from the Catalan Atlas (1375), with the Pole Star as north mark.
According to Wikipedia, this was the first ornate compass rose depicted on a chart, from the Catalan Atlas (1375), with the Pole Star as north mark.


The combination of direction and plant name told me right away that roses were the thing to plant. (And this despite the possibility of Japanese beetles.) Its name was obvious as well: no longer the Yin Yang, it is (or will soon become) the Compass Rose.

My job now is to select roses best suited to the site. I haven’t settled on colour or colours or how to arrange the bushes but I’m leaning towards hardy shrub or floribunda roses, ideally varieties that are highly fragrant. The Canadian Explorer series offers some interesting choices but there are many other options, including old roses that were available in 1902, when the hotel was built.

Suggestions, anyone?


Before and After

May 18th, 2020 | 9 Comments »
Despite the lockdown, life at Glen Villa has been, and continues to be, very busy. There is always a lot to do in the garden in springtime but this year, there seems to be more than ever. In March we started seeds under grow lights in the basement...   [caption id="attachment_8743" align="alignleft" width="5184"] Before: seedlings sprouting.[/caption]   ... before moving them towards the beginning of April up to the greenhouse.   [caption id="attachment_8733" align="alignleft" width="5184"] After: tomato plants galore![/caption]   It's easy to show the 'Before' for these tomato plants but to show


More Treasures from the Past

November 25th, 2019 | 15 Comments »
Work continues as we rebuild the foundation wall of the old Glen Villa Inn.   [caption id="attachment_8327" align="alignleft" width="1600"] The white sheets are put on at the end of each work day to protect against whatever the weather brings.[/caption]   I first wrote about this project a few weeks ago in a post titled We are (Re)Building a Wall and in that post I recounted some of the history of the old hotel.   [caption id="attachment_8332" align="alignleft" width="1600"] This black and white photo shows the hotel as it was in its


Buried Treasures

November 19th, 2019 | 12 Comments »
Slowly the wall that used to hold up the old Glen Villa Inn is beginning to look like a wall again.     As exciting as the re-building are the treasures we discovered when the wall came down. We found glass bottles of all sorts, clear and coloured, broken and unbroken.     Some of the bits of glass were plain, some more decorative.     A clear glass jar with nicely interlocking circles saying Ripans tabules came from Ripans Chemical Company, New York. Thanks to an on-line search and information from The Toadstool


Pining Away

October 27th, 2019 | 8 Comments »
I'm not pining away, but the pine tree is. Or was. This week we tackled a big job that I've been wanting to do for a few years, which was to remove an enormous old pine tree near the bank of Lake Massawippi. The photo below from 2014 shows the beginning of the end of this tree... needles on the upper branches are much thinner than they should be. It also shows how the tree towered above the ones around it.   [caption id="attachment_8228" align="alignleft" width="1600"] The boathouse may have been


The China Terrace Gets a Face Lift

August 25th, 2019 | 10 Comments »
The title of this post might well be The China Terrace gets a Floor Lift... but that would be confusing and not entirely accurate. So what has happened? The China Terrace, a re-imagining of the grand resort hotel that once stood on the property, was one of the first projects I undertook at Glen Villa. [caption id="attachment_1567" align="alignleft" width="1024"] The entry to the China Terrace uses old pillars I found in a local antique store. The posts that curve up beyond suggest a staircase to an imaginary second story.[/caption]   My


Little Things Mean a Lot

September 18th, 2017 | 14 Comments »
Little things mean a lot, in the garden as well as in song. It's the little things that explain why we gardeners are always looking and re-looking. Shall I move this plant, modify this combination, add or subtract? This past week I've been changing some little things at the Skating Pond. After 12 years, a few boards on the boardwalk needed to be replaced. And changing some boards gave me the chance (the excuse?) to change a few more. Quite a few, as it turned out. Because what started as a tweak ended


Lawn to Meadow, Part 1

June 14th, 2016 | 12 Comments »
  Last year, an unbearable number of Canada geese decided they liked our big lawn. We didn't like them, or what they left behind. Shouting didn't make them go away, running at them was  a joke. But we knew that if our lawn was to be usable, the geese had to go. I asked anyone I could for advice and learned that nothing much seemed to work. A spray used by golf courses did the job for a while but it smelled so bad that no one wanted to outside, which defeated the