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Québec's Les Jardins de Métis

Les Jardins de Métis
The "Blue Garden" was created for the 2003 International Garden Festival by Italian designer Antonio Perazzi.

Situated at the confluence of the Métis and the St. Lawrence rivers in Québec, Canada, Les Jardins de Métis (also known as Reford Gardens) sit high above the water's edge. Elsie Reford created these gardens at Estevan, the property she had been given by her uncle, George Stephen. She fished for salmon on the Métis river, making the trip from Montreal every summer. In the 1920s she began transforming her property into a garden. Gardening became the passion that ruled her life. Over more than 30 years she designed and developed a garden that is renowned for its imagination, its unique botanical collection and the careful integration of plants in a naturalistic setting.

Les Jardins de Métis are also the result of a unique collaboration. Elsie Reford was the gardener and her husband, Robert Wilson Reford, a photographer. He took photographs of the gardens over a period of almost 50 years. In the darkrooms he built for himself in Estevan Lodge and in his Montreal home, he developed pictures of the landscape, the flowers, and the family and friends who visited Grand-Métis. No other garden in North America is blessed with such a complete pictorial record.

The International Garden Festival

Les Jardins de Métis
Held over for a second year, the "Your Are Here" garden was created by a pair of designers from Cambridge, Mass., Taco Iwashima and Christopher Bruce Matthews.

For the past four years, Les Jardins de Métis has hosted the International Garden Festival, bringing together designers from all disciplines to contribute to the art of the garden. The premier attraction of the festival, the first of its kind in North America, is the presentation of temporary gardens created by respected designers from Québec and abroad. The gardens are built on a site adjacent to the historic gardens, thus providing a venue for dialogue between the past and the present, tradition and innovation.

In the words of the garden's director, Alexander Reford, "These are gardens which have few plants but lots of ideas." A strange and tactile blend of gardening and conceptual art, the designers' installations challenge visitors to interact with both space and materials, pondering in the process what the word "garden" may and may not mean.

Les Jardins de Métis
An obstacle course of sorts, "Parallaxe Boogie-woogie" was created by a local design group in Québec.

For the 2003 festival, garden installations included "You Are Here," a section of grass and weeds transplanted intact from a nearby field, boxed in with a low white picket fence and encircled by a hung "forest" of white plastic ribbons with bells on the bottom. Another featured garden, "Parallaxe Boogie-woogie," is a labyrinth of interconnected yellow plastic tubes constructed on a large beach of recycled glass ground to the consistency of sand. Barefoot, the visitor ducks and elevates his way through the geometric maze while enjoying the tickle of powdered glass between his toes.

trowel icon For more information about the Les Jardins de Métis and the International Garden Festival, visit the garden online at

This segment appears in show #2819.

Significant informational material supplied courtesy of Les Jardins de Métis. Copyright © 2003 Les Jardins de Métis. All rights reserved.

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Published August 31, 2007