International Flora Montreal 2006: Gardens of Extreme Delight on Display in Quebec

I’m not a passionate gardener but I do appreciate the garden passion. And on a very warm, sunny afternoon in Montreal this summer, I spent several hours ooh-ing and aah-ing over dozens and dozens of gardens of extreme delight.

International Flora Montréal 2006 takes place at the Lock Gardens on the Quays of the Old Port of Montréal on the Lachine Canal. With a backdrop of the historical grain silos and trains rumbling along the railway bridge, you’ll find the latest in greening your garden, balcony or deck. There are show gardens (something to dream about), water gardens (simply stunning) and city gardens (even for people in the most cramped spaces).

One of my favorites is the very James Bondish “I Spy” garden, featuring mannequin-like characters in various poses. It’s one of numerous avant-garde gardens, taking a new approach to the traditional garden. “The Blue Stick Garden” features blue monotone sticks that represent the “enigmatic interpretation of the mixed perennial border.”

I met renowned garden designer David MacQueen who was tending to his “Aquae Sulis” garden. A native of the Isle of Bute in Scotland, he combines architecture, interior design and graphic art in his unique displays. In 2005, his firm ORANGEnBLEU was invited to create a garden for the prestigious Chelsea Flower Show, where he was awarded a Silver Gilt Medal.

At the International Flora Montreal show, which runs through Oct. 9 of 2006, his “Aquae Sulis” garden is very spa and Zen-like in its simplicity. MacQueen explained that in the remote time of the Romans, “Aquae Sulis” was the name for the English spa town of Bath. To experience it, I had to put on slippers to enter the garden. There is nothing ancient about this garden: from its glass floor over water (it won’t break!), whitewashed walls, a mosaic wall of water and white yucca flowers and water plants, it’s Romanesque in feel yet contemporary in design.

“I love being surrounded by water,” said MacQueen in his strong Scottish brogue. The only splashes of color are a large red ball, colorful cushions for sitting and green apples (temptation?). A large chunk of soapstone from Montreal is displayed “au naturel.” It took MacQueen ten hours to design it, and he flew to Montreal to build it.

“They wanted me to bring the garden I had at Chelsea,” said MacQueen. “But I did a new one.”

And a fine one it is, indeed.

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