Tag Archives: yin yang

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?


Making History Visible

January 16th, 2019 | 12 Comments »
Making history visible on the land is the concept that guides the projects I undertake at Glen Villa, my landscape and garden in Quebec. Recognizing and honouring what happened on the land before I came onto the scene is my way of hearing the voices of the past. It's my way of listening to what the land has to say. The land speaks in different voices from different times. Glacial erratics talk about the ice age. [caption id="attachment_7240" align="aligncenter" width="3271"] Glacial erratics form part of the waterfall at Glen Villa.[/caption]   A wolf tree standing among younger oaks


A Colour-full Summer

August 28th, 2017 | 10 Comments »
Even while summer is coming to an end, the garden continues to make me happy. I'm really pleased with the gravel garden.  Early in the summer we adjusted the slate border; now it steps rather than slopes down, giving a firmer definition to the edge. While the yucca didn't bloom this year, it did produce dense clumps that should bloom next year. The sedum 'Dazzleberry' is growing well and the small islands of sandwort (Arenaria verna) that I added offer good colour contrast.   [caption id="attachment_5567" align="aligncenter" width="705"] Although it doesn't show


Planting in Circles: The Yin/Yang

July 6th, 2015 | 16 Comments »
One of the first projects I tackled after we moved into Glen Villa in the late 1990s was what has become the Yin/Yang. A low, circular stone wall on the Big Lawn was full of overgrown highbush cranberry bushes. (I wish I had a photo to show you, but I don't.) I loved the bushes with their brightly coloured berries. I loved the birds they attracted. But they were too tall. The relationship between the wall and the shrubs was out of whack. Way out. I considered pruning them to lower the


Ornamental grasses, Part 3: What not to do (unless you want a good laugh)

November 17th, 2013 | 3 Comments »
My first attempt to use ornamental grasses was in a section of the garden I call the yin yang. An old resort hotel once stood on the property (to my amazement, I find I haven't written about that... must do so soon. ) In front of the hotel was a low circular stone wall. Horse-drawn carriages would drop guests off at the front door of the inn, then proceed around the circle and head back out the drive. The stone circle is on the left. When we moved into Glen