International Flora Montreal 2006 Press Trip
Garden Writers Region VII Meeting
June 14-16th, 2006

Thursday morning we were up bright and early for our official Region VII breakfast meeting where Larry had all kinds of goodies waiting for us, including a great breakfast! Thank you to all the suppliers who gave us some great plants, fertilizers, tools, etc). By 8:30 we were ready for our guided tour with Carole Lemaire (who was outstanding!) around the City of Montreal and to some of its hidden charms. I am sure you all know that next to Paris, Montreal has the largest French speaking population, but let me assure you there are a lot of people who speak English here so it is a very user friendly city. The first stop was to Saint-Joseph’s Oratory, located on the top of Mount Royal, with its Dome, a shining beacon for all to see. The flower bed at the bottom of the hill had the words “Seeds of Hope” planted. Carole said that they have 17 gardeners looking after the gardens…all the stations of the cross have garden surrounding them. Mount Royal is one of 1,011 parks that are in Montreal. This park is 495 acres and as you can see from the long shot of the Olympic Stadium, there is indeed a lot of green in Montreal.. Carole also went on to say that there is underground, a virtual city, with over 2,000 shops. You could never get tired of shopping in Montreal.

We next visited the Religieuses Hospitalières de St-Joseph. Here we were met and introduced to a bit of the history before being allowed to walk around the private gardens. This was such a peaceful and serene place to be…and such history!

Then a quick drive around the Atwater Market because as usual, we were running behind. I have just one picture as we were on the coach. You should have heard us moaning the fact that we didn’t have time to stop. Many had been there before and it really is an incredible place to visit. You cannot help but come out laden with goodies to take home…and the plant material is sooo good!

Our next visit was to Maison Saint-Gabriel, “one of the few rare farms in Canada that has belonged to the same group for almost 300 years. Today, it brings its past to life through its collection and its activities interpreting rural life in the 17th century. The vegetable garden and the herb garden are living and complementary elements.” Here you will see a roof of tin. Carole told us about these roofs unique to this area. They came about as a result of the homes having thatched roofs and catching on fire. The tin came from old cookie or tea tins being flattened and used as roofing.

This morning sponsored by Guidatour, thank you for making your city come alive to us Carole!

After this visit we met with Gilles Bengle from Tourisme Montreal for lunch at the Boris Bistro – oh la la what a lunch…this bistro is located right in the heart of Montreal’s historic quarter and just down the street from Flora…wonderful food and great service! After this is was hard to tear ourselves away – sitting in the afternoon sun under an umbrella sipping coffee was just the most restful place to be…but we must get to Flora, for that is what we came to see! Thank you again Gilles and Tourisme Montreal for this wonderful and relaxing time together.

As we all were walking into the Flora site, Veronica, Liz and I were lagging a bit behind when a fellow came up to ask if we were with a tour or on our own. He wanted to know because he was with the Montreal Gazette and his photographer needed someone to be in the garden when she took a picture. Veronica stepped right up into the position you see in my photo of her. This is why my pictures are a bit out of sync, because we did this and then I walked to the entrance and started all over again starting with the banners of Flora. The photo did appear in the paper the next morning, just about the same as the first one I took here.

We were here on press day, so you will not see very many people around the site other than press and those working on the last finishing touches for the displays. I really enjoyed Flora and think that in a very short time all the plants will be filled in nicely giving it a really finished look and feel. For right now though, I was impressed at what is here and know they will attract many visitors until it closes October 9th. It’s on the site of the old Mosaicultures show (just renamed Jardins des Ecluses) and I just have to say it’s a perfect spot for it. The theme this year is "The Garden Passion" and it includes 45 designers from Canada and abroad presenting the latest trends in gardening with just about 50 gardens for you to visit. They plan on running this event for five years and have different themes each year. I found the Garden Lounges a very thoughtful idea for those needing a rest during their day visit. There are five of them located throughout the site and during the evenings they can be rented out for private functions. The other exciting benefit is that they have put together a promotion to showcase some of the most beautiful gardens in eastern Canada called the Via Rail Garden Route stretching from Windsor to Halifax. There is a contest that you can enter at each of the gardens on the route, so see their site for further information on it. Thank you Julie Mailhot for sharing Flora with us!

You will see a display that is nothing more than concrete…I had to chuckle because this was really playing it close to the opening day! Hope they got it completed in time. After our visit we want back to the hotel and I had a much needed nap before dinner. After a wonderful Chinese dinner some of us headed to the Casino, while others walked a short distance to see La Joute ("The Joust") by Jean-Paul Riopelle. It is rather a dark sculpture/fountain, but at night with fire and mist on it, it becomes quite magical. It’s in a pretty little square with lots of trees and pathways.






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