The Magic of Water at the Gardens of Glen Villa

During our trip to Quebec we were delighted to be invited to visit Glen Villa, the home of Pat and Norman Webster. Theirs is a big property of 750 acres near the small village of North Hatley, about 90 minutes southeast of Montreal. Pat writes the blog Site and Insight, covering topics related to art, gardens, and landscapes.

Glen Villa is so rich in its offerings and Judy took so many hundreds of pictures that I cannot cover it all in a single post. For now I want to just talk about how Pat captures the magic of water at Glen Villa.

Water in the garden is magical because it is simultaneously tranquil and restless, comforting and yet fundamentally wild. All these aspects are apparent here.

Judy: From the photographer’s perspective, water is also magical because of how it interacts with the light. It was overcast during our stay at Glen Villa, which provides one kind of light; at every step of the way, I was wondering what kinds of photos I could get on a sunny day, or at dawn or dusk. Then Jason would have had many more photos to sort through! (This is Judy in italics; I don’t usually write, but the water at Glen Villa is moving me to add a few thoughts, because it was so interesting to photograph.)


The Skating Pond is a good place to start. In the course of building a berm along a road bordering their property, Pat and Norman discovered water, clay, and stone beneath the surface. The Skating Pond is the result. (No one actually skates on the Skating Pond, but that is another story). In the picture above you can see the berm.


It was an overcast day when we visited the pond, and yet the water was still full of lovely reflections in its deceptive stillness. I think these tall grasses are Miscanthus, but I’m not positive. Pat mixed plants of her choosing with the naturally occurring vegetation.

Judy: While Jason and Pat were talking about the plants, I was admiring the reflections — look how puffy and deep those clouds are. And the reflected grass is just as interesting as the real grass. 


Other additions include the Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ and Japanese Blood Grass (Imperata cylindrica) seen above. Pat has written that she thinks there is too much ‘Karl Foerster’ here, but I don’t agree. This is a great grass for massing and why not take advantage of the space available?

I love the flowing quality of the stone here, which had been bedrock before creation of the berm.

Judy: The contrasting textures in this scene above are very pleasing to me. As is the vista. I could have spent all day taking photos of the boardwalk, which curves along the edge of the pond in just the right way. 

DSC_0432 glen villa

Late summer wildflowers, like these Rudbeckia, were also plentiful. I like that stone emerging from the center of the pond.

Judy: From this angle, it appears that the pond is on a plane all of its own, high above the upper field. Although you see the edge of the pond, it makes me think of an infinity pool, perhaps because of the reflection of the sky. 


Here’s another view of the ‘Karl Foerster’ and the curving wooden boardwalk.

Judy: At first glance, it looks like such a simple little pond. But all the shapes are just so, and interesting from so many different angles. I’m a total sucker for a curving path, and when you add water and plants and rocks and reflections…

Here the brook is crossed by a Japanese-style crooked bridge.

While the Skating Pond seems still, the water in fact runs downhill through the meadows of Glen Villa to nearby Lake Massawippi. In late summer this meadow brook was flowing rather low and slow.


The water then passes through a holding pond and little waterfall called the Cascade. Personally I think the Cascade would be an excellent site for a grotto. 


Finally the water flows into a rust-colored steel construction called the Aqueduct.

Judy: I had seen the Aqueduct on Pat’s blog, but not fully appreciated it until I saw it in person, and realized how it is part of the flow of water from the Upper Field. You really have to walk around the land to appreciate all of the elements Pat has created in it, and how they fit together to make something greater.


There are thriving plantings of succulents and Prairie Dropseed (Sporobulus heterolepis) where the Aqueduct makes its own waterfall.


Here’s another view from the house. I love the contrast here of metal, wood, dry stacked stone walls and that patch of blue provided by Russian Sage (Perovskia atroplicifolia).


From here the water flows into another steel channel, this time set into the ground, and into another pond.


Here’s a view from further back.


A final small pond is located just above a small boathouse by the lake.

Judy: The water from the angular steel Aqueduct and channel flows into this lovely round pond, surrounded by ferns and other plants. The light cooperated with the water to create these pleasing ripples.


Plants include Lady Fern (Athyrium filix-femina) near the steel channel and Japanese Forest Grass (Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’) on the farside of the pond. Siberian Iris (Iris sibirica) and Fingerleaf Rodgersia (Rodgersia aescufolia) is on the near side.


From ponds and channels the water finally arrives at the lake. The house at Glen Villa takes full advantage of its position above the lake shore.

Judy: The light didn’t cooperate for a great photo of the lake, but at least you see where all this water is ending up, and how it is integrated in to the overall landscape.


The water’s journey, of course, is never done. From here it continues to drain to the St. Lawrence and beyond.

The quality of water at Glen Villa is found in a wide lake, in tranquil ponds, and rushing waterfalls; and in partnerships with stone and steel, flowers and ferns. It evokes comfort, tranquility, and mystery.

More on Glen Villa in future  posts.

36 Comments on “The Magic of Water at the Gardens of Glen Villa”

  1. Terrific post Jason, you should collaborate more with Judy; it was great reading both your impressions. The water is truly magical in this garden, it is not easy to achieve the results seen here. I particularly love the image of water, curved board-walk and meadow planting.

  2. Jason, thanks for sharing this interesting garden! The owners are VERY TALENTED! I liked all water designs, especially aqueduct. Great idea with metal and stones. Judy, I love your pictures, the pond and reflection in the water is wonderful.

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