Garden Adventures in Quebec, Part One

Bistro, vines

I can’t help it. I turn vacations into garden-touring marathons. So when my husband Jeff suggested we visit Quebec for our 20th anniversary, I figured he was safe.  I assumed that French Canada was, if not tundra, probably solid forest.  But it turns out Quebec City is one big garden, or so it seemed to me, coming from brown and dry SoCA. Everywhere I looked, I saw hanging baskets abundant with flowering vines.  Back home, such things would desiccate in a day.

Red flower pots

“Here,” I said, thrusting the camera into Jeff’s hand. “Take my picture.” I didn’t tell him I already was planning a GGW post about Quebec City, and needed a person in the photo to show the scale of those giant red flowerpots. 

Yellow daisies

What surprised me (perhaps it shouldn’t have) were exuberant beds full of plants way too tender for a climate even locals describe as severe. Obviously what’s a perennial in SoCA (given ample water and rich soil) can be grown as an annual even in the far northeast.  Shown here, forming the backdrop to a composition consisting of pink gaura, yellow daisies and purple Verbena bonariensis are burgundy-leaved cannas—a small-flowered variety that was a mainstay of many of the flowerbeds I saw. I wonder if it’s a kind with corms that can overwinter here in the ground. 

Parliament gardens

 The gardens surrounding Quebec’s parliament are impressive, colorful and extensive.  When you consider that a 20-foot flowerbed is more than enough for most of us, imagine the labor involved in maintaining hundreds of yards of floral borders.

Museum garden

I was beat after walking all over Quebec City’s historic district and touring the Museum of Civilization. Then I saw the museum’s rooftop gardens. Another hour flew by, effortlessly (at least for me).

Yellow terraces

Terraces in the museum’s garden were planted with vegetables. Metal tubes above them suggested vine tendrils, and lent the garden a wonderful sense of vitality and whimsy.

Garden plan

The museum garden is called the Jardin Nourrir, or Nourishing Garden, and—as exemplified by this landscape sketch of one of the areas—is instructional as well as entertaining.

Blackboard

What a great idea: Install a blackboard in the garden, on which to write memos and sayings.

Blue garden

Statuary throughout the rooftop garden engages adults and children alike.

Blue sand copy

I wonder how difficult it is to dye playground sand blue.  “Here, put some in your hand while I take a photo,” I instructed my husband. “That way, people can see its texture.”

“You should blog about this,” Jeff said.

He knew what I had been up to, all along.

(Next time, Garden Adventures in Quebec, Part Two: Montreal’s world-class botanical garden.)

About Debra Lee Baldwin

Debra Lee Baldwin gardens on "an inhospitable half acre" in Escondido, CA, near San Diego. She is an award-winning photojournalist and artist with hundreds of articles and columns to her credit. Debra's books are Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens and Succulents Simplified. www.debraleebaldwin.com.

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13 Responses to Garden Adventures in Quebec, Part One

  1. Deborah at Kilbourne Grove September 15, 2009 at 6:41 am #

    Debra, I am glad you enjoyed your trip to la belle province. The first time I went to Quebec City, I was amazed by how “European” it looked, and after I visited Paris, I still thought so. Because our summer is so condensed, plants grow very quickly. But, then comes winter! Cannas do not winter over, they need to be dug up and stored in a space that is above freezing.
    Great pictures!

    Hi, Deborah — Thanks for clarifying about the cannas. Yes, belle indeed! Debra

  2. Kat September 15, 2009 at 11:02 am #

    There are so many things I love, but I think the giant red flower pots are my favorite. I love tropical pots to begins with, but on that scale they are stunning. Great post.

    Thanks, Kat! Yes, those red flowerpots were what made me decide I simply had to share what I had found with all of you. I love whimsy in a garden, and these were on a grand scale. Debra

  3. Benjamin September 15, 2009 at 11:14 am #

    Ha! I think I have my next project–I know right where blue sand could go. Well, maybe another color. It’d look neat in winter, I think. Always wanted to see Quebec, pour beaucoup des raisons. Thanks for the mini tour.

    Hi, Benjamin — By all means, if you add colored sand to your garden, blog about it and let us know. Years ago I sprinkled crushed tumbled glass (a product of recycling) on my garden pathways. I still see a glint of it here and there. And I’ve strewn the gravel walkway between my house and garden with florist’s marbles. They add sparkle and interest to what would otherwise be a drab area. Such a simple thing to do, but visitors from itty bitty kids to tree trimmers notice. Debra

  4. Alice Joyce September 15, 2009 at 11:20 am #

    OMG, great post!
    I haven’t been to Quebec in….well, let’s just say, it’s been a long time ;~D
    Alice

    Hi, Alice! I can’t believe you haven’t been garden touring in Quebec! Love your blog. You conduct super garden tours and go on garden adventures worldwide. Next up, Part Two, Montreal’s botanical garden. Stay tuned! Debra

  5. salix September 15, 2009 at 12:34 pm #

    What a fantastic report. The giant pots, the roof gardens, the parliament gardens – wow. Looking forward to part two!

    I think you’ll like what I found in Montreal. Jeff enjoyed it, too. I ran around the place like a spaniel off leash. Debra

  6. Pam/Digging September 15, 2009 at 3:07 pm #

    That rooftop garden is amazing, and I’m going to have to go back and look at all your pics again to admire the giant flowerpots, annual plantings of our perennial plants, and blue sand. What a fun gardening city QC appears to be.

    Hi, Pam — There does seem to be a joie de vivre in Quebec, when it comes to gardens. A delightful discovery! Debra

  7. Loree / danger garden September 15, 2009 at 3:19 pm #

    Oh Debra! What a great post. Thank god for patient husbands who put up with us! I don’t know what I would do without mine.

    Thanks, Loree. I’ll pass your comment along to Jeff. I neglected to mention that making me happy makes him happy. If I were into, say, touring Revolutionary War museums, he’d make it happen and probably go along. Debra

  8. Dragonfly Lady September 15, 2009 at 4:03 pm #

    Great photos,looking forward to following you on your hols inthe botanical gardens, Happy Anniversary.

    Thank you! ;+) Debra

  9. guild-rez September 16, 2009 at 6:44 am #

    Great shots..
    Besides Vancouver in British Columbia;
    Quebec City is my favourite City in Canada and one of the oldest European settlements in North America (1608).
    Until now the City has kept its wonderful european french language , fashion sense, art and culture . The food is exquisite and I love the the outdoor restaurants. The beautiful botanical garden is very well known,
    Gardening in Quebec has its own challenges because Quebec City has a humid continental climate characterized by cold and snowy winters, warm and rather humid summers, and lots of precipitation throughout the year.
    The prolonged winter season and ample snowfall led to the idea of establishing the Quebec Winter Carnival.

    Thank you for sharing your pictures!!

    Gisela

    Hi, Gisela — Great info and perspective on Quebec! Being a thin-blooded Southern Californian, the idea of going anywhere that actually has winter has little appeal to me. I shivered vicariously when reading about how Quebecoise revel in their 6-month snowy winter, and how visitors actually book rooms in a hotel made of ice. I found the city to be proudly French, and the shopkeepers bilingual. “Bon jour!” they’d say, followed by “Yappita yappita yappita yap.” When I gave them a blank look, they switched effortlessly to English. Debra

  10. Lisa at Greenbow September 16, 2009 at 11:42 am #

    Yep, I would imagine after 20 years he has a clue as to how you operate. Congratulations and thanks for taking us along on your tour. Those huge pots are something else.

    Hi, Lisa — Next time, just for Jeff, I’ll go hiking in the Colorado Rockies. Maybe take on a fourteener. Or perhaps dirt biking, trout fishing or backpacking. (I’ve been thinking we should do a wilderness trip for two decades. Hasn’t happened yet.) Debra

  11. Shirley Bovshow "EdenMaker" September 16, 2009 at 4:00 pm #

    A woman after my own heart! My family always teases me when I get my camera out.
    “Are you going to blog on this?”
    Of course I am! Like you, my passion is enjoying gardens anywhere I can find them. It’s especially nice to discover gardens in public places. Someone cares!
    Shirley Bovshow

    Those of us who plant and tend our own gardens know how much work goes into creating a unique Eden. To designers, landscapers and gardeners everywhere: Major appreciation for your efforts and a huge thank you! Debra

  12. Les September 18, 2009 at 7:22 am #

    Quebec City is one of my favorite places, we are toying with going there next summer, depending on how big our tax refund will be. Last time we were there we stayed at an old nunnery turned hotel. However, my wife was a little frustrated that she could not understand the spoken French, she teaches the language. Finally, we met a woman at the farmer’s market from Paris, and they spoke together with no problems. She explained to my wife that she had lived there over a decade and still has a hard time understanding everything. I look forward to part II.

  13. Angela (tikipod) September 26, 2009 at 12:50 pm #

    Beautiful shots and now I need to find an excuse to get up to Quebec!
    These fotos are great, especially the red pots!!

    Theres a few companies that sell “safe, nontoxic” colored sand for children in bulk but the color reminds me of my son’s “Moonsand” which is sand that’s easier to mold.