01 October 2006

Montreal's Other Masterpiece

Montreal’s second masterpiece

It’s a fairly long bus ride through the congestion of downtown Montreal, from the Midtown Holiday Inn (where I had to pout and threaten to call the trip organizer when I came to check in at 8 am after my 21 hour train ride before I could get my room) to the haven of tranquility that is the Jardin Botanique Montreal, or the Montreal Botanical Garden

Even though my energy was somewhat flagging after the train trip and then a spectacular time at Flora, I girded up my loins and my camera and prepared to see what this 75 year old public space had to offer.

And the answer is, quite a lot, of course.

From the traditional carpet bedding arrangement of annuals that greet visitors at the main entrance, to the zenful tranquility of the Japanese and Chinese gardens, from the rich woodlands of the Leslie rhododendron gardens to the flamboyant displays of perennials, childrens gardens and other themed gardens, this is a marvelous, and obviously well-utilized public space.

The Gardens were the dream of Brother Marie-Victorin back in the mid 1920s. (Incidentally, Agriculture Canada’s hardy rose series includes AC Marie-Victorin, a disease-resistant shrub rose introduced back in 1998.) When the dream was about to become a reality, unemployed people in Quebec were hired to build what has become a marvelous tribute to plants in the heart of the city.

They did well, and the dream continues to this day.

Currently, there’s a remarkable Chinese lantern show going on at the Gardens. While it really gets going at dusk and onwards, it’s worth visiting the Gardens at any time of the day just to see the incredible craftsmanship of these lanterns. They’re more than just your basic pagoda style lanterns, believe me! There are birds, fish, dragons, mythical creatures, lotus, people, all sculpted by artisans in Shanghai, China from silk specially treated to be water resistant, and the theme this year is celebrating Chinese holidays. So you’ll see a dragon boat, a dragon dance, kites, and much, much more The colours are vibrant beyond words, and you can’t help but leave the garden feeling both relaxed and exhilarated at this glimpse of genuine Chinese culture. Incidentally, the Chinese garden at the Montreal Botanical Garden is apparently the largest one outside of Asia—quite an accomplishment, and one to be applauded.

Bravo, Montreal, for all your horticultural triumphs.

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