Dianne and Gary Westlake
We just got back from a tour of some of the major gardens of Quebec. Our journey took us as far as Grand Metis on the Gaspe where we visited Reford Gardens. We also saw the Botanical Gardens in Montreal, the Daniel Seguin Gardens, Domaine Joly de Lotbiniere near Ste. Croix and the Flora International Exhibition in the old Port of Montreal.
The Botanical Garden of Montreal is one of the premier gardens of the world. The huge expanse includes a large arboretum, vast greenhouses, rose gardens, pond gardens and many specialized display gardens. One of the most pleasant areas was created by people of China and built by them using traditional methods. Two concrete lions guarded the gate and we were warned not to step on the threshold of the ornate entrance or we would have bad luck. We entered a beautiful courtyard where the sounds and sights of the city seemed to disappear and you immediately felt calm. The walls were punctured with small windows, each with its own design. This lead to the main area containing a large lake surrounded by gardens and red buildings in the Chinese style. Another courtyard to the side that contained miniature trees, some of which were 250 years old. Chinese do not call this bonsai but "penjing" and the difference is that it is a landscape in a pot instead of bonsai's single tree in a pot.
The Botanical Gardens has also a Japanese style garden with a pond in which large Koi frolick. The entire garden is designed to calm us with many shades of green and winding paths.
This was our third visit to the Botanical Gardens and we found large areas of beautiful gardens that we had never seen before. We had completely missed the alpine gardens and still have not seen all the greenhouses or the sensory garden.
The Daniel Seguin Garden is located in Saint Hyacinthe, about twenty minutes east of Montreal. Originally a teaching garden for students in the ornamental horticultural programme at the agriculture school, it is now open to the public. Here we found about 4.5 hectares (12 acres) of themed gardens - annuals, perennials, woodland, water, Japanese, ornamental grasses, roses, herbs, formal and more. There are more than 2000 species of trees and flowers and over 350 annuals. The garden was started about twenty years ago using an open field. Besides enjoying the variety of plant material, the use of objects and containers is especially inventive.
We visited Reford Gardens and saw the famous blue poppy in bloom, which alone was worth the journey. But the rest of the gardens were wonderful and it was topped off by a special tour by Alexander Reford, the great grandson of the original owner and garden designer, Elsie Reford. We amazed at how many different types of plants where in bloom at the same time. We saw roses blooming beside peonies, daylilies, and primula. The tour of Reford also the International Garden Festival which included a number of unusual gardens.
Domaine Joly de Lotbiniere was a summer home for a wealthy nineteenth century influential politician Sir Henri-Gustave Joly de Lotbiniere which overlooks the St. Lawrence River. Like Reford, it had been maintained by the family for many years but when they could not continue was taken over by the government. The garden went steadily downhill until a local foundation took it back and began to restore it (In Reford's case it was the descendents of the original family). Today, Lotbiniere is a large interesting garden with many unusual plants all labeled with numbers corresponding to the names on a plant list that you can take away with you.
Flora International brought together garden designers from all over the world to show what they could do. A cross between art and gardening, their designs challenged our ideas of what a garden can be. For example, one of the gardens was full of shiny green balls on sticks. On these green balls were written the names of plants. The arrangement was a pleasing display but the quirky message was fun too. Another was a brightly coloured, walled garden with wonderful sounds. There was a deck in the center that moved when you walked on it. Your movements changed the sounds coming from the speakers.
The trip was a delightful experience that we will think about for quite a while. We highly recommend that you visit these gardens if you get the chance.
Dianne and Gary Westlake are Master Gardeners. Have your garden questions answered by visiting our website at www.peterboroughmg.ca or call our garden hotline at 705-741-4905.