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Gardens Worth Visiting: Montréal Botanical Garden

February 26, 2010

Peace Garden at the Montreal Botanical Garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)One of my favorite gardens to visit is the Montréal Botanical Garden. This is a world-class botanical garden that boasts more than 22,000 plant species and cultivars, including 7,000 species of trees and shrubs, and thirty distinct themed gardens.

The Montréal Botanical Garden is an important source of garden inspiration for me. Because Montréal is only a 6-hour drive from my home in Maine, I can get there fairly often. And because the climate of Montréal is very similar to my climate in Maine, my visits here do not make me yearn for plants I can never grow; anything growing here can be considered as a candidate for my own garden.

Chinese Garden Entrance, Montreal Botanical Garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Although the garden’s official website recommends that 1-4 hours be allowed for visiting the outdoor gardens, I find that a full day is barely enough time. There are so many areas that I couldn’t possibly miss, and some that I find myself going back to more than once in the day. I love the drama of the Chinese garden, with its grand entrance and its lotus flowers that bloom almost at eye level beside a boardwalk. (I had never seen a lotus blossom until I saw them here, and they took my breath away.)

Lotus bloom, Montreal Botanical Garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Fading lotus bloom, Montreal Botanical Garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

I also love strolling along the quiet paths that wind around the garden’s ponds,Pickerelweed & Water Lilies in pond, Montreal Botanical Garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

and visiting the aquatic gardens, with their water hyacinths and water lilies.
Water Hyacinth, Montreal Botanical Garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek) Water Lily, Montreal Botanical Garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

"Anti Chamber," Montreal Botanical Garden (photo credit: Jean Potuchek)

I have mentioned before that I love art in a garden. The last time I visited the Montréal Botanical Garden, the idea of garden “rooms” was being gently spoofed by a series of “room” plantings that included this bedroom.

Despite extensive visits to the Montréal Botanical Garden, I still have not adequately explored the garden’s enormous arboretum. I have, however, spent many hours among the shrubs, especially all those wonderful varieties of rose and hydrangea.  And then there are the meandering paths of the Shade Garden, and the Flowery Brook, with its wonderful drifts of daylilies, irises, lilies, and peonies. This last may well be my favorite part of the garden, and I usually come back to it two or three times before I tear myself away at closing time.

The Montréal Botanical Garden is open every day from mid-May through October and Tuesday-Sunday the rest of the year. It is just a short walk from the Pie-IX metro stop, and a free tram is available for getting around within the garden’s extensive grounds.

This is a garden that is worth going out of your way to visit; the fact that it’s located in one of North America’s most wonderful cities is a bonus. And if, like me, you’re close enough to go back frequently, don’t pass up the opportunity!

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33 Comments leave one →
  1. February 26, 2010 1:18 pm

    These photographs are just beautiful. I have only had the pleasure of visiting the greenhouses of Montreal Botanical Garden during the winter months, though I am looking forward to visiting again this summer for a complete tour of the outdoor gardens. Thank you for mentioning that an entire day is needed to see everything, as I have been wondering how much time to plan. It looks like the making for a very enjoyable day. 🙂

  2. gardeningasylum permalink
    February 26, 2010 2:21 pm

    Jean, Looks like a must see – especially love that bedroom. Beautiful pictures!

  3. February 26, 2010 2:42 pm

    Jean, those lotus blossoms are absolutely beautiful, as are the water lilies, but I’ve never seen lotus like that. Wonderful photos!

  4. February 26, 2010 4:02 pm

    How lucky you are, Jean, to live close to that garden! Your images are SO lovely! Thank you!

  5. February 26, 2010 4:07 pm

    Oh my, how breathtaking on this snowy day! Thank you for sharing.

    • Jean permalink*
      February 27, 2010 3:49 pm

      Liisa, Would you believe that I’ve never been in the greenhouses? I don’t even know where they are! Maybe we should meet there sometime and show each other our favorite parts of the garden.

      Cyndy, I also found the bedroom charming. It reminded me of a neighbor a number of years ago who moved an old brass bed frame out into her front yard, filled it with dirt, and planted a “flower bed.”

      CV, These are the only lotus blossoms I’ve ever seen, so I have no point of comparison. When I first saw them, I didn’t know what they were. When I described them to a friend from Singapore as “water lilies on very tall stems,” he clued me in.

      Tatyana, I am lucky to live less than a day’s drive away; and Joey, I agree, summery images like these are a useful reminder on stormy winter days.

  6. February 26, 2010 6:04 pm

    I enjoy garden vistis very much, particularly the Botanical Gardens of each country, which at the moment is from the blogosphere. I am so happy your share it with us today. The bedroom in the garden sounds interesting. As for the chinese garden, as always they will pay much attention to every minor detail, especially in the arrangements. Can you differentiate the male and female lion guarding the entrance and do you see a baby lion there?

    • Jean permalink*
      February 27, 2010 3:51 pm

      Autumn Belle, I’ve stared and stared at the image of the entrance to the Chinese garden, and I can neither differentiate between the male and female lions or see the baby. Do enlighten me!

      • February 27, 2010 4:45 pm

        Jean, the 2 are guardian symbols of fengshui; Chinese Lions or Fu Dogs. Look at the legs. The female usually have a baby lion clinging to her. She is always position on the right side of the door (inside looking out) i.e. the left side of your photo with the baby under her left paw. The male lion has a ball or an auspicious object with him, usually placed near his paws too. Males are always placed on the left (i.e. right of your photo). As we know lions are fierce creatures, but Chinese lions are depicted as a family and when placed at entrances, guard the property and at the same time promote peace and harmony. They are never placed inside the home, but always outside e.g. the gate entrance. This is a protective fengshui symbol. The Chinese are very precise and will always follow this rule of tradition because most of them take fengshuil seriously. Everytime you visit a Chinese Garden or restaurant, do look out at the placements of objects (eg. plants, vases, statues) and check it out for fun.

        • Jean permalink*
          February 27, 2010 9:43 pm

          Thanks, Autumn Belle!

  7. February 26, 2010 6:07 pm

    Those lotus flowers are amazing! What a perfect public garden for you, since you can grow everything you see at your own home. There is a perennial garden here in Spokane at Manito park, but few of the plants there have inspired me. Guess I need to visit again.

  8. February 26, 2010 6:34 pm

    Wonderful post! I’m ashamed to say that I have not visited these wonderful gardens, even though they are in my hometown (I left before becoming a garden fanatic). Your tour is beautiful, I would love to see the hydrangea collection in bloom. I saw a picture somewhere of a 400 (?) year old bonsai that was on display there, I would love to see such a tree in person.

  9. February 26, 2010 7:24 pm

    Jean, I am also ashamed that I have not visited this garden, have been to Montreal, but to busy eating and drinking(I was very young, what can I say).
    I shall have to go, it would be a lovely weekend away from Toronto, if I can persude Ian that he would be interested.
    I do like the bed, would love to sleep out in my garden, but I think I would prefer a matress over grass!

  10. February 26, 2010 7:51 pm

    What a beautiful botanic garden. I would love to visit, but would not be able to grow any of the plants there unlike you :^) I will be visiting the Desert Botanical Garden in a few weeks and will undoubtedly be inspired to try something new in my garden.

  11. February 26, 2010 11:19 pm

    It looks like such a beautiful place! I could imagine that a few hours wouldn’t be nearly enough to soak in all the garden areas there.
    I really love your pictures of the water garden and the blooms there. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Lotus flower in person.

  12. February 27, 2010 2:48 pm

    Jean,how wonderful that you can go to Montreal. I have always wanted to visit Quebec. I even tried to teach myself a bit of French. Alas, maybe some day. Ted says thank you for your nice comment on my post, and thanks from me also.

    • Jean permalink*
      February 27, 2010 4:16 pm

      Deborah, I hope we don’t all have to answer for our misspent youths! Although as far as I’m concerned, good eating is as important a part of any trip to Montreal as visiting the botanical garden. Maybe we should meet there, spend the day in the garden, and then go out for a nice French dinner afterward. 🙂

      Rebecca, it’s never too late. Do you ever go back to Montreal to visit family or friends? There is a big collection of bonsai in the Japanese garden, but I must confess that I’ve never paid much attention to them. I’ve been doing some reading about bonsai recently, so next time I’ll look at them more closely and with appreciation.

      VW and Catherine, the lotus flowers really are amazing. Unfortunately, the last time I was there (with my camera), they were mostly still in bud, so I wasn’t able to get pictures of all those blossoms on their long stems swaying in the breeze. Next time!

      Noelle, I’ll look forward to your post(s) about the Desert Botanical Garden; the plants there will be as exotic for me as the plants growing in Montreal would be for you.

      Gloria, I am lucky to be so close by. Maine shares a long border with Quebec, and the closest part of that border is only about 125 miles away from my house. (Montreal and Quebec City, though, are considerably further.) I don’t get there anywhere near as often as I should. Montreal is pretty much a bilingual city; although French is the first language, most people can also converse in English. (Public servants and shopkeepers routinely speak in French and then immediately repeat what they’ve said in English, so that you can answer in either language.) Since I know a little bit of French (3 of my grandparents were born in Quebec), I try to use my visits there as an opportunity to practice. If you do get to Quebec, you could come to Maine, too. Then, if Ted really wants to thank me for my nice comments about him, he could donate some of his muscle-power to my garden projects. 🙂

      • March 6, 2010 4:32 pm

        Hi Jean, I haven’t been for a few years, having 3 little ones makes travelling challenging at the moment. I am considering a trip with my oldest, I would probably only make it to the gardens once, and only for a few hours. What would you say is the best time of year to visit? ~Rebecca

        • Jean permalink*
          March 7, 2010 8:40 pm

          Hi Rebecca, The best time to visit probably depends on which plants you’d most like to see. I’ve tended to go in high summer — late July/early August — but if you wanted to see irises and peonies, you might aim more for late June. Fortunately, the Montreal Botanical Garden website has a calendar of blooms to help you make just this kind of decision. Depending on the child you will be traveling with, you may also want to include the child-favorite insectarium!

  13. February 27, 2010 5:50 pm

    What lovely photos! I will definitely have to visit there the next time I head to Montreal!

  14. February 27, 2010 10:30 pm

    Jean, I used to have a season pass to this garden, when I lived half the year in Montreal, and I love seeing your photos of it. I really loved the Japanese gardens there in full summer. 🙂 Glad you featured it, and I couldn’t agree with you more that it is world-class. Que c’est beau!

  15. February 28, 2010 9:55 am

    Hi i came in via your comment in Autumn Belle’s. I feel envious for those people like you who has easy access to big and old botanical gardens. I’ve been reading about them but dont have the opportunity to visit. I am from the tropics and appreciate your posts as well as your diligence in making garden records in your older post. thank you. For a more summer look i am inviting you to visit my site, i have perennial blooms, because out conditions merit that.

  16. February 28, 2010 11:36 am

    I LOVE the Montreal Botanical Garden. But I love Montreal in general! Four years ago I took the train from Halifax to Windsor, Ontario, on a garden tour press trip, and Montreal was the first stop. There was a show being held down in Old Montreal at the time, Flora International Montreal–did you get to see it? I think it only ran two years, huge amount of effort and money but it was so fascinating to visit. After spending the morning there, I spent the afternoon at the Gardens, which wasn’t nearly enough time. I think I liked it even more than the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington/Hamilton, Ontario, and definitely much more than Toronto’s.
    Sorry I scooped you with Ceara, Jean; I was just so smitten that it was decided right then that she would be next. It’s all good, though.

  17. February 28, 2010 2:11 pm

    I love lotus blossoms too. Our local Balboa park has a large lily pond, one corner of which is devoted to lotuses. The grass by that corner of the pond always gets a trail worn into when the plants bloom, so much so that the park maintenance people started strapping barricades and caution tape around the spot the preserve the lawn…not the most wonderful effect.

    • Jean permalink*
      February 28, 2010 11:43 pm

      Meredith, is there such a thing as retrospective envy? I would love to live close enough to a garden like this one to have a season pass.

      Jodi, I, too, love Montreal; it’s one of my favorite cities in the world. Somehow I didn’t get there during the Flora International Montreal; I guess I can add retrospective frustration to my retrospective envy. And, yes, I’m pleased that we both recognized the quality of Ceara’s blog. The Gaspe Peninsula is another favorite place; les Jardins de Metis are on my wish list.

      James, I had a feeling that I might not be the only person whose experience with lotus blossoms was love at first sight. The boardwalk arrangement at Montreal Botanical Gardens is probably a good one for allowing people to get quite close to the lotus.

      Andrea, Thanks for the invitation to visit the summer flowers at your site. There’s a saying here in the northeast U.S. that March “comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” After a mild and dry February, we are getting a week of stormy weather for the beginning of March, so I need a shot of warmth and color.

  18. March 1, 2010 6:45 am

    Thank you for this peek into such a beautiful botanic garden Jean! I’m hard pressed to pick a favourite photo as they are all so stunning, but I have to say that shot of the pond is just so serene that I want to go and sit by it for awhile!

  19. March 1, 2010 8:03 am

    Jean, I’ve had my head in a schoolwork-induced fog for the past six weeks, with six more to go. However, I’m happy to have dropped by just when you were talking about Montreal, which is a great city and well worth visiting for many reasons.

    We used to drive through Montreal every summer on our way to and from Quebec City. But I never had the chance to see the Botanical Gardens. Really, I must rectify that! We did, however, get to see the Floralies Internationales show in its first year, which was a treat.

  20. March 1, 2010 11:10 am

    Jean, I have never made it to Montreal although I very much want to get to that part of North America while I can still drag around my trusty tripod. Thanks for sharing your lovely photos! The Botanical Garden is now definitely on my list of must-sees.

    • Jean permalink*
      March 2, 2010 9:07 pm

      Helen, I am very familiar with schoolwork-induced fogs; I’ll be back in mine when my sabbatical ends in August. I think the Montreal Botanical Garden is kind of a “sleeper.” I get the impression that it has been upgraded dramatically in recent decades and that its reputation has not yet caught up with those changes. So do stop the next time you are on your way through.

      Melissa, I’m happy to provide you with additional incentive to get to Montreal. It is one of my favorite cities in the world.

  21. March 2, 2010 10:47 pm

    What a beautiful place. Your photos are only a tease! You will have to post more, for those of us too far to visit. I like the look of the aquatic garden and would love to see photos of the shade garden, as well.

    • Jean permalink*
      March 3, 2010 8:42 pm

      Deb, I guess I’ll have to go back and take more photos! (What a hardship :-)) When I was there last with my camera, I was focused on helping my sister choose plants for a garden project for her, so the only pictures I took in places like the shade garden and the flowery brook were close-ups of plants she might like. Happily, however, the Montreal Botanical Garden website features a little slideshow of photos for each different garden area.

  22. March 11, 2010 8:23 am

    Thanks for sharing such lovely photos, Jean! How blessed to be staying so close to a renowned botanical garden!
    Have a wonderful day!

    • Jean permalink*
      March 12, 2010 4:07 pm

      Jacq, It is wonderful to have such a fine botanical garden within striking distance; makes me realize that I should make the effort to get there more often.

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