Flower Show on the St. Lawrence

Back to Montreal to check out the second year of International Flora, Le Festival de Jardins de Montreal. Located on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, with crumbling grain elevators as the backdrop, it's a flower show with Quebec attitude. And a twist--it's planted in June and is on view until September so gardens can mature and become well-established, rather than being uprooted after a week, as at most shows. There is an autumnal feel to the show, with lots of echinacea and grasses blowing in the wind. Some of the gardens have remained in place since last summer and are doing very well--particularly the roof garden which is quite lush now.

Of the new gardens, My Gourmet Garden (pictured) was particularly striking. Climbing edible plants such as broad beans, cucumbers and gourds are grown over large lattice structures. They make a distinctive entrance to the rich and bounteous display of herbs. Visitors are hit by the smell of basil, in red and green, thyme, rosemary, all interspersed with marigolds to keep away the bugs. The focal point of another garden was a red Muskoka Chair made out of recycled yoghurt containers which should become a must-have item for every cottage. We couldn't resist these birdhouses, each unique and made out of recycled barn wood and old farm implements--hoes, rakes and shovels. They looked wonderful popped in amongst the plants and flowers. The Rain Garden also emphasized recycling, and had an exposition on bio-retention systems and the use of run off water in the garden.

This structure was made of bamboo poles that were covered with burlap jute. Called "A Cathedral of Bamboo", the breezes flowed through it, as visitors wandered in amongst the "walls". The jute was a good way to integrate the structure with the plants. However one wondered what palms were doing in this northern setting. Other natural sculpture, called "land art" was made out of sticks, tree branches and other natural elements that looked exotic amongst the plants, with the river as its backdrop.

We had a chance to talk to the Directeur Generale of the show, Michel Gauthier. He said that he had a five year plan to make the show more sustainable and "green" but there are commercial considerations. Since the International Flora does not receive any government grants he was looking for corporate sponsors. Even though they may not be interested in flowers, when they hear the words sustainable and green they become instantly interested. He has introduced a special event "Kyoto in my Garden" to highlight environmental issues. We wished him luck in this exciting venture. :: International Flora

Tags: Montreal | Quebec