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.
My friend, the landscape architect Myke Hodgins, named the area after the broken china my daughter and I found on the site, and I’ve worked on the area off and on since 2002.
Our first job on site was to rebuild a low stone wall around the area, a rectangle approximately 40 X 60 feet. Our second was to create a bedroom, an essential for any hotel. I wanted to cover the old iron frame bed I tucked into a corner with roses but there wasn’t enough light so instead I planted flowery perennials that could withstand the shade.
But as hardy as the plants were, they couldn’t survive the winter in only a few inches of soil atop a steel plate. That meant that every fall the plants had to be dug up, planted in earth over the winter and replanted every spring.
After a few years of doing that, to eliminate one annual job, the bedspread changed to a patchwork quilt made of moss.
A friend visiting shortly afterwards pointed out that a bed set off to one side didn’t make a strong enough statement in such a large area. I took note of his words and added cement bricks inset with broken china to mark where rooms might have been.
Over the years, there have been many changes. We added the dining room table in 2007 and the chairs shortly afterwards.
As soon as the table was finished, I realized that this area, too, needed more definition. So in September in 2007, I began making a rug using pieces of broken china set into cement squares.
With a rug underneath, the dining room became the focal point of the China Terrace.
Keeping the China Terrace in good shape is an on-going process. And, like many gardeners, I can’t leave well enough alone. Last year I modified the plantings at the entry, terracing the slope to suggest the different floors inside the hotel.
This year, I tackled a problem that has been bothering me for some time — the bricks that divide the space into rooms. Over the years, they have lost their impact, almost disappearing entirely, covered with grass, moss and the detritus of time.
I knew that I wanted to strengthen the design, lifting the bricks out of the ground and making them look more like the walls that remain in an archeological dig. I couldn’t raise them above ground level, though, because we need to mow the grass and mowing around raised ‘walls’ would mean spending a lot more time on maintenance. In my mind, though, I had an image of walls set off by gravel that I’d seen in an archeological site somewhere, so we mocked up a sample combining the materials.
Instead I decided to make the ‘wall’ wider by adding slate as a border and replacing the grass between the bricks with slate cut to the same length.
To keep the ‘walls’ flush with ground level and to make installation easier, we put the bricks and slate into a metal channel set into the ground. This meant digging up a lot of the grass as well as the bricks themselves, but I didn’t mind since the grass had become full of unattractive weeds.
We didn’t change the placement of the ‘walls’ or the openings that suggest doors from one room to the next. Nor have we quite finished replacing the sod but the difference, before and after, is striking.
The walls are now much more prominent visually. At first I worried that they were too prominent, but I know that with time, the grass will begin to encroach and they will settle into place.
We’ll finish laying the sod this coming week, finishing the work on the China Terrace for the year. But already, I know what is in store for next year….
Do you have projects that keep drawing you back? How do you know when to stop?