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Fresh Off the Press: Autobiography of a Garden

A Fascinating Story and a Unique Personal Memoir

Patterson Webster is a visual artist, experienced gardener and popular speaker, lecturing on art history and garden design. In her new book Autobiography of a Garden, she takes us on a 25-year journey as she transforms a conventional country property into a landscape that challenges what a garden is or can be. Situated on Lake Massawippi in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, the garden sits on 750 acres (304 ha) of fields, woods, and water.

A close-up of the dining room table on the China Terrace
         A close-up of the dining room table on the China Terrace, set for dinner as it might have been the night before the Glen Villa Inn burned to the ground in 1909.

In this memoir, Patterson Webster weaves her own life into the story of the landscape, offering an inside look at how designing the garden unleashed her own creativity. She details how she changed from being a neophyte gardener who copied the ideas of others into one who created a unique approach to the land. Using the history of this magnificent property as a framework, she explores the meaning of creating a garden and the meaning that a garden can create, linking ideas about aging and the passage of time to the reality of growth and death in the landscape. 

Catmint and Lady’s Mantle on a stone wall.
Catmint (Nepeta × faassenii ‘Six Hills Giant’) and lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis) in bloom in the Lower Garden

Throughout the book, Webster considers the impact made by those who lived on the land before her: the Abenaki, the early settlers, the cottagers, the farmers, the US southerners who came to Quebec to avoid summer heat, and the northerners who defeated them in the Civil War. 

Grande Allée with white blooming crabapple trees.
La Grande Allée is lined with crabapple trees, Malus ‘Dolgo’. The name recognizes the main street in Quebec City and the connections between Quebec and France.

With engaging personal anecdotes, she desc ribes the thinking behind each part of the garden and the examples that guided her, the mishaps, and successes she encountered, and her plans for the future. Beautifully photographed and full of inspirational ways of thinking about gardens and gardening, Autobiography of a Garden encourages readers and gardeners to make their own surroundings more beautiful and much more meaningful.

You can order the book directly from McGill-Queens University Press, online through Amazon and other online distributors, or from fine bookstores everywhere.

A Few Comments

What a pleasure to be able to write about this wonderful book and be able to include it in my blog. Autobiography of a Garden, by Pat Webster, was written by a friend of mine about her beautiful garden, Glen Villa Art Garden, a garden I have taken groups to several times over the years. It’s a huge garden that melds as if by symbiosis into the natural landscape of hilly North Hatley, in southwestern Quebec. I was always fascinated by how Pat managed to incorporate elements of the past and the present, from the giant linden tree to the slip and slither of the Dragon’s Tail to the dining room table set for a tea party or the moss bed so soft you feel like cozying up on it … and so many other elements. What more can I say, except that it inspires wonder in all who visit!

Don’t hesitate to purchase this book: it will be a great source of inspiration for you as well as a wonderful source of information. And Pat famously includes bits and pieces of her wit and wisdom at every turn of the page!

And do come visit the garden, open to the public on special Open Garden Days.


Larry Hodgson

4 comments on “Fresh Off the Press: Autobiography of a Garden

  1. Pat Webster

    Larry, thank you for such a positive review. Writing the book let me remember and re-live the process of creating and developing a garden that pleases me and seems to please many others, too. I welcome visitors on the open garden days that remain this year, August 20 and October 1.

  2. Christine Lemieux

    Have to post again, after looking at the pictures on The Glen Villa Art Garden website. They are astonishingly beautiful!

  3. Love books that describe the process of how it came about. Most are by American or UK authors. Will be refreshing to read Pat’s book from much closer to home. It will make a good winter read.

  4. Christine Lemieux

    Oh my! What a creative, inspirational woman and book. It sounds like a wonderful shot of thinking outside the box and creating more meaning/ passion in a landscape. I will definitely get a copy and I would love to make the trip to see it as well someday.

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