Documents: Kidz Korner:

Mosaiculture: Masterpieces of Floral Sculpture

...Part 1 of 3
by Anne Marie Van Nest
by Anne Marie Van Nest

Freelance Horticulture Editor and Contributing Writer for Canadian Gardening magazine (Canada’s largest and finest).

Freelance Horticulture Consultant and Lecturer. Author of “Niagara in Bloom - The Gardens of The Niagara Parks Commission”. Member Garden Writers Association (and GWA Foundation) National Board - Vice President.

August 17, 2003

Celebrating the horticultural skills of masters, Mosaiculture International Montreal (MIM) 2003, has returned. Larger and grander, the international competition of mosaiculture, features two and three dimensional plant sculptures that excite and astound. Imagine huge wire frame topiaries filled with plants that have different foliage colours and textures. Every one of the mosaiculture creations is a work of art that has visitors awe-struck by the beauty and intricacies of each sculpture. Mosaiculture is the re-invention of an old horticultural art form that was popular during the Victorian era. Keeping this skill alive in Montreal are horticultural masters from Canada and thirty countries around the world.

The mosaiculture garden site is at the Old Port of Montreal. It is on the historic site of Parc des Ecluses at the base of McGill Street. With a backdrop of grain elevators on one side, the buildings of Vieux Montreal on the other, the 2-D and 3-D sculptures are alongside the newly restored Lachine Canal (another impressive attraction that is now open once again for pleasure craft travel).

The theme for 2003 is Myths and Legends of the World. The sculptures represent cultural symbols of mythical and legend origins from countries around the world that have been part of folklore and nourished peoples imagination (some for thousands of years). Among the more than 100 pieces are mythical birds and animals, elves, fairies, spirits, sorcerers, dragons, cathedrals and dungeons. Each piece is an original work of art, created for the first time at Mosaiculture 2003. Words and pictures can not begin to describe the beauty and creativity of this unique art form.

Charles Hunter, Chief Horticulturist for Mosaiculture 2003 has a strong Niagara Parks connection (being a graduate of The Niagara Parks School of Horticulture and last year's Niagara Parks Mosaiculture garden supervisor). Charles had the challenge of installing the current garden which doubled in size, but kept the same six short week installation time. His job was to sculpt the land surrounding the 100 sculptures, plant the annual groundcovers along with more than 2000 shrubs and 700 trees. The new expansion area and subsequent re-design has allowed visitors to get closer to the sculptures so that the intricate details can be admired.

One of the most popular mosaiculture exhibits is entitled The Quebec Garden - The Legend of Mother Earth. It features a woman, her eyes and mouth shut with her arms and hands open and extended. Water runs through her fingers into the Lachine Canal. Her long and flowing hair is represented by many types of colourful plants. The sculpture represents a Huron legend from before the existence of the earth about a young woman called Aataensic living on a floating island in the sky. One day she went out looking for medicinal plants to dig. She tripped over a tree root and both Aataensic and the tree fell through a hole in the sky. The animals rushed to save her, with the Great Geese breaking her fall and setting her on the back of a turtle shell. The animals held a council and decided to create a great land for Aataensic. They spread mud from the tree roots over the back of the turtle shell which grew like a huge island. This would become the earth we now know. The peaceful face and welcoming arms strike powerful images in Mosaiculture visitors' minds.

Some of the favourite sculptures include a replica of the Peace Bell from the City of Hiroshima, Japan. The world's most visited tourist attraction, the Great Wall of China is represented by Beijing, China. For this exhibit, bare metal structures were sent to Canada from China. These block structures were then lined with long strand sphagnum moss and planted once they arrived in Quebec. When it was time to assemble the pieces, they went together like a large stacking block game. China was the only city that did not send a parks services team to create their sculptures. Through special arrangements, China sent a design and the metal frames which were planted by local staff.

Toronto combined symbolism with reality in their display. The CN tower and City Hall were represented in miniature on either side of a three-headed bison which represents the major regions (Africa, Europe and Asia) of emigration for people now living in Toronto. The body of the animal represents the original settlers, the First Nations people.

The most dramatic Canadian mosaiculture piece is the Inukshuk, which means 'upright man' in the Inuit language. The Inukshuk is a well-known symbol of the Canadian north. In the north, the Inukshuk is a human form made with a variety of stone slabs formed into a silhouette with outstretched arms. Inukshuk are set up to lead caribou herds into the hunters' path. They are also used to indicate the location of food caches and as a directional or navigational marker in the vast arctic tundra. For Mosaiculture, Inukshuk has been constructed out of wire and plants. It weighs 45 tons and rises impressively above the pathway by 12 metres.

The sheer number of sculptures and effort put into MIM is impressive. Six million plants were contract grown by 14 Quebec growers to cover all the MIM structures. A staff of 175 horticulturists and gardeners ensure that the floral sculptures stay in immaculate shape. This includes trimming the mosaiculture sculptures every two weeks so that the plants stay neat and tidy and do not outgrow their spaces. Each of the sculptures in the one hundred exhibits must also be watered frequently during a sunny day (and misted much more frequently). Irrigation specialists had a big challenge to custom design the watering systems for each of the mosaiculture pieces.

The structures are made of steel frames with a 1/2" to 1/4" mesh surrounding a soil base. The larger pieces required structural engineers to assist with the designs so that they would stay upright. Each sculpture is filled with a custom soil mixture of 50% Fafard #14 (soilless media), 12 % composted shrimp by-products, 13% sand and 25% peat moss. A slow release fertilizer with a 6 week release time is also added.

The idea for Mosaiculture came to Lise Cormier in 1995 when she was Director of the Montreal Botanical Garden as she was visiting Harbin, China. She was there to negotiate an ice sculpture exhibit for Montreal and saw a magnificent dove plant sculpture ten metres high. Further investigation revealed that the city had over 60 plant sculptures. The idea to bring this to Montreal was borne. After stopping in Paris to see if they would participate, she returned home excited about the possibility of creating an international exhibition in Montreal to share this talent with North Americans. The mayor at the time, Pierre Bourque said he would support the project if sponsors could be found. The exhibit had great support and the first two seasons brought 1.3 million visitors to the site.

For information call: 1-888-868-9999 or visit the Mosaiculture website at to learn more about this impressive exhibit. This is the last chance to see Mosaiculture in Montreal. The international competition opens in Shanghai, China in 2006 and Boston in 2009.

Mosaiculture is open every day until October 6th from 9 a.m. to dusk daily. Admission tickets are $12.50 for adults, $5.00 for children and $10.50 for seniors and students. All taxes are included in these prices. The ticket price includes admission to any workshops, shows or educational seminars. Enthusiasts can even watch mosaiculture building demonstrations while visiting the show.

Anne Marie Van Nest just returned from being thoroughly impressed with Mosaiculture in Montreal.

(Donna's note - this was part of the tour that I was on as well - see Pix area, Quebec Press tour for more!)



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