Tag Archives: trees

Giving Thanks

October 9th, 2017 | 15 Comments »


Today is Thanksgiving day in Canada, and there is much to be thankful for. In the garden, colours are bright.


Sedum 'Autumn Joy' lives up to its name.
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ lives up to its name.


Even when the flowers have faded, I’m thankful for work that’s been done.  At the Aqueduct the catmint ( Nepeta racemosa ‘Walker’s Low’) has been cut back, making the bed look more like a monk’s shaved head than the overgrown mop of foliage it was only days ago.


Those stubs of nepeta between the boxwood should grow exuberantly next summer.
Those stubs of nepeta between the boxwood should grow exuberantly next summer. I hope the iris I added will, too.


Also looking bare after its annual cut is the Big Meadow. With the hay bales still in place, it looks less like a lawn and more like the farm field it used to be.


The grass is baled like hay and moved to the bank of the lake where it stops children from going over the edge.
This year we baled four bales, three of which you can see here. This is one fewer bale than last year. I think a drier summer accounts for the change.


Thankfully uncut are the ornamental grasses by the Skating Pond. They are at their best in autumn, particularly on a breezy day.


Miscanthus sinensis is at its best in autumn, particularly on a breezy day.
You can see two ornamental grasses here, Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ in the foreground and Calamagrostis ‘Karl Foerster’ in the shadows at the back.


Usually, fall colours hit their peak at Thanksgiving, but this year the colours are muted, less vibrant than normal. I think this is due to the hotter and dryer days we had throughout September  — many days felt like summer. These warm days have continued into October, making fall still seem a distant prospect.

Going through the woods with my granddaughter, fall was more evident. We spotted some bright colours, but they often appeared in isolated patches, surrounded by green.


White birch trunks are common in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.
White birch trees are common in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.


Poplar leaves glowed yellow or occasionally appeared a blanched out white.


I think these are yellow poplar leaves.
At first I was quite excited, thinking these were yellow or tulip poplar leaves (Liriodendron) that aren’t typically hardy in this part of Quebec. I knew I was wrong as soon as I check an identification chart.


Ferns were clear markers of the change of season. Many have turned from green to toasted gold…


Another typical fall scene in my woods.
A typical fall scene in my woods, with ferns, ash trees and young poplars making a come-back.


but others, like Christmas ferns (Polystichum) and maidenhair ferns (Adiantum pedatum) still wear their summer clothes.


Maidenhair ferns still retain their colouring.
My granddaughter can now identify maidenhair ferns by their black stems and tiara-like shape.


The woods at Glen Villa comprise different ecosystems. Some sections are full of tall straight trees with almost no undergrowth.


These trees near the edge of an old farm field are part of a major project I'm working on now.
These trees near the edge of an old farm field are part of a major project I’m working on now. I’ll write more on that when the project is a bit more advanced.


Others are deep and mysterious.


This forest of tall pines looks ghostly when photographed.
This forest of tall pines was planted about 25 years ago. It always looks ghostly when photographed. I hope someone can tell me why.


Some places in the woods hint at earlier times, when the land was cleared for farming.


An old rock pile near an even older stone wall suggests that this was once a farm field.
An old rock pile near an even older stone wall suggests that this was once a farm field.


In other places, the hints turn into shouts and the land tells its story loud and clear.


Once upon a time there was an apple orchard here.
Once upon a time there was an apple orchard here. The  low stone wall marked the boundary.


Garbage collection and municipal dumps are relatively new things in many rural areas, including this one. Before they existed, farmers used the woods.  This old dump close to a trail contained many things you might expect: tin cans, glass bottles, rusted metal and an old inner tube.


An old rubber boot has disintegrated almost entirely. I wonder how long it has taken?
I wonder how long it took for this rubber boot to disintegrate as much as it has. Years or decades?


It also contained some surprises.


This modern convenience isn't as convenient as it used to be.
Once upon a time someone gave thanks for this modern convenience. It isn’t as convenient as it used to be.


Even if they are less vibrant than usual, colours still abound in the woods, on branches and on the ground.


Fallen apples in the woods.
Fallen apples in the woods may not be the perfect specimens you buy in a grocery store but they still make very good apple crisp.


Without doubt, though, the most colourful part of Thanksgiving — and definitely the most delicious — was the turkey.


A 13 lb turkey will be plenty for 9 people, with left overs galore. Or so I hope!
A 13 lb. turkey was plenty for 9 people, with lots of left overs to share.


Happy Thanksgiving!


Trees at Glen Villa

August 30th, 2015 | 8 Comments »
This little horse chestnut tree is always the first tree to change colour. I took this photo on August  this year.
Trees play a major role at Glen Villa, my garden in Quebec's Eastern Townships. They provide shade in summer, colourful foliage in autumn and the promise that comes with spring green buds. In winter bare branches of deciduous trees offer a stark colour contrast outlined against the snow, and evergreens provide structure and a touch of colour in an otherwise muted world. Despite their many virtues, trees are not care-free. The old ones, in particular, need attention. At Glen Villa we have trees of all sorts, sizes and ages; but we have LOTS of


Less is More… more or less.

August 18th, 2014 | 5 Comments »
A few weeks ago I wrote about The Big Rock and my plan to simplify the plantings around it, using a  lesson I learned from touring gardens in Italy. We haven't tackled that project yet. But we have tackled another area, applying the same principles of simplicity and balance to great effect.Beside the drive coming into the house is a large stand of spruce, planted there some 50 years ago. They are tall regal trees that mark a transition from open farm field to forested hillside. Until last week, they were


Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden

May 4th, 2014 | 3 Comments »
A botanical garden is a special type of place. It's a garden but it exists for scientific purposes and not for beauty. Yet I think that most people visiting a botanical garden expect to see a beautiful place, a landscaped garden where plants are displayed with artistry.Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden achieves both of these goals -- and, because of this, is often named as one of the world's great botanic gardens. Located on the slopes of Cape Town's Table Mountain, its setting is hard to beat for grandeur, even on


A Breakfast of African Trees

April 22nd, 2014 | 5 Comments »
For a week I've been out of the loop -- no internet, no email, no phone. (It's been frustratingly wonderful.) Instead of posting blogs, I've been touring game parks in southern Africa, seeing amazing animals and even more amazing trees and shrubs. Here's a sample of some of the vegetation -- a tasty buffet, as it were.Every good breakfast includes an egg. So the first item on our menu of African trees and shrubs is the wild gardenia (Gardenia thunbergia). From a distance, the oval fruits resemble nothing as much as