Wednesday, August 27, 2014


On the same day we visited the garlic farm, on Prince Edward Island, we visited the Bottle Tree Houses. The visit made my day because, not only did I enjoy the bottle houses but they had a very nice garden.

 I wasn't filled with confidence when we stopped at the visitor center in Victoria Harbor and they had no idea where this was. Maybe not on everyone's list of things to do on Prince Edward Island.

The three bottle houses we were to visit were built by Edouard Arsenault and, following his death, the large bottle at the entrance was built by his grandson Etienne Gallant.

After buying our entry tickets we took the pathway to the first house, The Chapel. Built of 10,000 bottles the chapel has an altar and pews, although difficult to capture in such a small space. After Mr Arsenault died several small services were held in the chapel as well as several weddings.

The pathway from the chapel leads over a small bridge with pond to The Six-Gabled House. This was the first building built by Edouard in 1980 and used 12,000 bottles.

 Edouard gathered the bottle from the dump and restaurants and eventually people would bring him their boxes of bottles.

How clever to use rectangular bottles on the sides of the house.

Beyond the Six-Gabled house as replica of the lighthouse at Cap-Egmont, where Monsieur Arsenault was the last resident keeper. The coast line is dotted with lighthouses of a similar structure.

I have a feeling that a bird house similar to the one you see here may appear in my own garden one day.

The third house is called The Tavern. Well, of course , most of the bottles would have come from there.

I was wondering if there would be a bottle tree and there was one set in the middle of the expansive lawn. The lawn is a very important part of the landscape here with green swards of perfectly manicured lawn stretching down to the roads. Islands of planting with shrubs and flowers break up the lawn. There is no shortage of water here.

I love the catmint clumps interspersed with yellow daylilies. Catmint grows well for me and I would love to achieve this effect but because of our long growing season tends to get too large and has to be cut back at least twice a year.

When a large Manitoba maple tree was brought down by heavy winds in 2010, Bill Galland carved this Spirit of Wood. The carving was named Edna, after the sister of Monsieur Arsenault, who died at the age of 99 the week the sculpture was completed.

They even provided little tables for picnickers and we just happened to have ours with us.

After lunch, as we walked back to the exit this perfect scene caught my eye and gave me my garden fix of the day.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


The problem with traveling so much is that I am way behind on all my posts, years behind on some. But today we have a good wifi connection so I am going to try to post about a visit we made two days ago on Prince Edward Island. A roadside sign had me saying 'Stop now!'.

We pulled down the dirt road into the farm where a large carts held masses of freshly picked garlic.

I approached the lady who was tying them up into bundles and told her I had never bought any like this before. " Oh, these are not for sale" she told me, " go into the barn."

There we saw racks of garlic hanging up to dry and some already dried and hanging in net bags for sale. Too many choices. Artichoke, Asiatic, Creole, Turban, Silverskin, Porcelain, Rocambole, Purple Stripe, Purple Stripe Marbled and Purple Stripe Glazed.

Then I noticed these bags of black garlic and was promptly brought a sliver of the black garlic to try. The processing takes 23 days and involves controlling the temperature and humidity while the garlic ferments into this sliceable black clove. A sweet, smokey, intriguing flavor. And so I bought a 50g bag of black garlic and a large bag of the regular which I forgot to photograph, so have no idea what it is. All I know is that I asked for large cloves because I dislike all those tiny cloves. I am pleased to say they use no chemicals at Eureka Garlic.

Of course a vanity plate on their truck.

So here is the black, sometimes called Korean garlic, prized by chefs. We had steak for dinner and we smeared the garlic over the steak for a delicious smokey flavor. I'm hunting for new recipes to try.

I may grow garlic again this year but it will just be the kind that my local nursery has and I certainly will not be doing the 23 day procedure.

Monday, August 11, 2014


In the summer of 2014 I visited two English gardens, The Lost Gardens of Heligan and Upton Grey, both of which had been brought back from dereliction to their former glory. I found it fascinating to learn what such an endeavor might entail. So, when I was offered the opportunity to review the book, Remaking a Garden, The Laskett Transformed, by Roy Strong, I jumped at the chance to learn about another such garden. The book is really a collaboration between the garden maker Sir Roy Strong and the photographer Clive Boursnell who photographed the remaking every step of the way.

So what and where is the Laskett. The Laskett, the name meaning 'a strip of land without the parish,' is a 4 acre property in the village of Much Birch situated between Ross-on-Wye and Hereford in England. It was purchased by Roy Strong and his wife Julia Trevelyan Oman in 1973. They made their first forays into the Laskett garden design in 1974. Neither had any formal training in horticulture or garden design but they both brought with them skills from their professions which were to stand them in good stead as they began the transformation of the field alongside their house into a garden. In Roy Strong's words they were 'gardening on a shoestring.'

After the photographer's and author's foreword the first chapter opens with Roy Strong telling the fascinating story of the development of this intensely personal garden. A garden of many rooms; an Arts and Crafts style garden with each garden named for some important occasion or person in their lives. But thirty years on and following the sudden death of his wife, Julia, Roy Strong becomes aware that change must come to the garden. The garden must move forward into the future. He begins the remaking. This story is told in succeeding chapters, each garden space with a few words by Roy Strong followed by photographs depicting the whole process of re-design.  The photographer, Clive Boursnell, whose idea it was to photograph the whole 10 year undertaking, lived in a camper on the property during that period of time. His photographs depict the garden at all times of the working day and in all seasons; before and after the renovation and most especially action shots of the gardeners, painters, builders, tree surgeons and artists as they went about their daily business. Roy Strong refers to these people as the cast.

The book is a feast for the eyes, from the endpapers, which depict a collage of garden photographs to the account of the garden making and remaking, the photos of the whole process and the delightful plan of the garden, by Jonathan Myles-Lea, which remind me of a John Speed map from his world atlas. I believe that this book would be an inspiration to any gardener.

The book teaches nothing about gardening except one most important thing. There comes a time when every gardener must stand back and take a critical look at his own garden and be unafraid to make changes. 

I hope one day to be able to visit the garden although for someone living overseas this is a challenge because the garden can only be visited as part of a group tour and not as an individual. Anyone who visits this garden would benefit enormously from having read this book.

Sir Roy Strong is an historian, garden writer, lecturer, and critic. He was Director of the national Portrait Gallery 1967-1973 and of the Victoria and Albert Museum from 1974-1987.

Clive Boursnell is a photographer of architecture, gardens, landscapes and people. His early training was in classical ballet and before his photographic career he worked as a geophysical prospector, professional mountaineer and assistant glaciologist.

The book is published by Frances Lincoln Ltd.

Sunday, August 10, 2014


Continuing our May visit to England.

FRIDAY MAY 16th 2014

Before leaving home in April I made a reservation for a parking spot at Greenway House, the summer home of Agatha Christie. The reservation for the parking spot was for the time between 12:30pm and 4:30pm giving us ample time to drive from Lyme Regis to the village of Galmpton. David took a photograph of me by this 1950s bus, a bus style seen on many of the Miss Marple episodes on TV. The bus is used to shuttle visitors without a parking permit from the neighboring town.

It was a narrow winding road up to the house, with absolutely no roadside parking, so I was glad to have researched the visit ahead of time and secured a parking spot. From the parking area a long driveway, in the Reptonian style and planted with rhododendrons, leads up to the house.

 We arrived to find that a tour of the gardens had just started so we hurried to catch up with the group who were in the walled garden.

The magnificent glass houses have been refurbished to their former mid 19 Century glory. Our guide pointed out the fish-scale glazing on this glass house.

The peach house

I never did find out the name of this variety of vinca with its unusual star shaped flowers.

We took the trail down through the woods to the River Dart passing by camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons. The same trail that Hercule Poirot took while searching for Ariadne Oliver on a recent episode, Dead Man's Folly. The trail leads to the boat house and battery which were also used to film scenes in that episode.

We arrived at the river to this wonderful scene.

We then returned to the house and to catch a glimpse of how Agatha Christie and her family spent Christmas and summer holidays entertaining their friends. Agatha would read her books to the guests. I wonder if they had mystery dinner parties?

In one of the rooms, behind a glass case, first edition copies of all her mystery novels. I remember being introduced to these books when I was 11years old. I must have read every one.

There was just time to relax on one of the deck chairs on the front lawn before walking back up the long driveway to our car and driving to find our B&B for the night. Believe you me the narrow country lane to Greenway House had nothing on the road down to our B&B, when we eventually found it!

At times the wing mirrors on the car were touching the hedgerows. Eventually buildings came into view and we drove in through the gates of Youngscombe Farm. 

Sally brought a welcome tray of tea to the lawn and we were able to enjoy the late summer afternoon sun before it dipped below the hill.

We had arranged to have dinner in and we had chosen lamb roast which Sally served in the dining room. This was followed by apple pie and clotted cream. How glad we were not to have to venture out down the lane to find somewhere for dinner.

After a peaceful nights sleep and the inevitable bacon and egg breakfast, we bid farewell to our hosts Michael and Sally Webb and their dog Hope.

First stop on Saturday was Overbecks and it was another sunny morning.