Monday, August 5, 2013

Métis Gardens

We have been visiting my parents in eastern Quebec. They happen to live close to one of Canada's most famous gardens, les jardins de Métis, which were created by Elsie Reford in the early 20th century on a small peninsula that juts out into the St. Lawrence river. The gardens are best known for their meconopsis, the blue poppy, for which the cool local micro-climate is ideally suited as well as for the gardens's gentians and rhododendrons. Unfortunately, the blue poppies and rhodos had finished blooming by the time we visited, but many other plants were at their best. The gardens have been public since the 1960's. (Click to enlarge)

Allée royale, Métis Gardens

The gardens, which are immaculately maintained, are set along a small river and surrounded by a black spruce forest  and include Estevan Lodge, which was Elsie Reford's summer house. They have a short growing season but because summers are always cool, most plants grow particularly well and bloom for a long time.

Tradition has it that Elsie Reford, who inherited the property from her uncle, Lord Mount Stephen, builder of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and whose husband was on the board of the Cunard Line, would get plants from Europe on the Cunard Line's transatlantic ships sailing from London to Montréal. The liners, on their way to Montréal, would stop in mid-St Lawrence and a small tender would deliver the plants and bulbs for the garden.

Estevan Lodge
Allée with view to the St Lawrence

The site of the gardens is magnificent, and Elsie Reford was able to make the most of it. Because the gardens were created almost a century ago, some of the plantings are very mature and have had time to grow to impressive sizes. One of the most impressive features is how the flowerbeds merge into the adjoining forest to seem to be an extension of it.

Bonsai growing on an old grindstone

When we were there, lilies and delphiniums were at their best.

Allée royale

A permanent competition of international garden installations is held at the gardens. The displays are interesting, although they have hardly anything to do with gardening per say. 

I would say that best feature of the gardens are the plants. In most gardens, by early August, many of the plants are beginning to look bedraggled.  In Métis, in large part  because of the constant humidity and cool temperatures, plants look as fresh as they do in spring in other gardens.


  1. A very pretty garden and peaceful looking too.

  2. What beautiful gardens. I would have liked a stroll through there. I quite like the art installations too.

  3. The art is interesting; the gardens beautiful. I suppose the installations are less jarring in person, but in the pictures they seem shiny and hard.

  4. Stunning gardens. You seem to have a knack for finding them. And I'm with Craig - I like the artwork. Especially those giant allium heads (see, everything can be related back to the garden).

  5. Thank you for this, Alain! I am going to Quebec City next week for the Garden Writers Symposium, and have been trying to decide whether to go a day early and go to Metis Gardens. You've just decided for me. Looking forward to it!

    1. I think you won't regret it. It is a magical place.

  6. We visited Reford in June of 2010 and really enjoyed it. Loved the garden and got a kick out of the Garden Festival entries. I was interested to read the book, Elsie's Paradise afterwards. Sounds like you had a very nice trip. Sheri


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