BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
With over six million flowers expertly sculpted into animals, birds, fish and people by 100 horticulturists, the garden to visit in 2022 is in Quebec City. “Once Upon a Time—The Earth” created by Mosaicultures Internationales de Montréal is located in the glorious Parc du Bois de Coulonge in the heart of the city—the former estate of a former lieutenant-governor—overlooking the vast St. Laurent and not far from the famous Plains of Abraham.
These giant topiaries were sculpted using thousands of annual bedding plants draped over a steel frame. Resembling a gigantic living art gallery, they are very different from classical topiary art in their design, freedom and almost lifelike beauty. Whether using succulents for eyes, wild grasses for manes, or herbs like parsley for accents, the variety of plant life is matched only by the ability of horticulturists to bring the creatures to life in this enchanted garden.
A giant butterfly outside the historic Château Frontenac, one of Canada’s grand railway hotels built in 1893, gives a glimpse of the park’s wonders. It is therefore fitting that the butterflies are among the first works you see upon entering, just beyond the pergola which partly reproduces the residence of the lieutenant-governor, which burned down many years ago.
Butterflies shoot rainbows around a turtle amid lush bedding plants, representing the origin stories of many cultures around the world. Elephants, whales, lions and zebras, as well as the symbolic Canadian moose await your inspection on the expansive grounds. A meditative Mother Nature seems to beckon to her world all around.
The circuit through the park takes visitors into a polar and marine world, an exhibition of endangered species from America, Africa and Australia, the world of the Huron-Wendat Nation, an Iroquoian-speaking nation that has lived in the St. Lawrence Valley in Quebec.
One of the most moving floral tributes is that of Elzéard Bouffier, shepherd and subject of the allegorical short story The man who planted trees, written in 1953 by the French author Jean Giono. It tells the story of a long and successful solitary effort by a shepherd to reforest a desolate valley in the foothills of the Alps in Provence.
Nearby, a beekeeper tends to his creatures on a carpet of glistening flowers, emphasizing the importance of bees in Mother Nature’s garden.
The eco-responsible exhibition respects the principles of sustainable development, using local markets as suppliers and composting plants at the end of the exhibition. More than 15 million people are expected before it closes on October 10.
Considered the international leader in mosaiculture, or horticultural art, Mosaïcultures Internationales de Montréal is a non-profit organization. Since its creation in 1999, it has presented five international competitions, seven exhibitions and produced more than 100 works in more than 20 countries.
Quebec City, a short flight from Chicago and an ideal weekend destination, offers some of the best French restaurants this side of Paris, wonderful views from the Promenade du Frontenac, an old town filled with wonderful antique shops and a complex and fascinating history since its founding by Samuel de Champlain in 1608. Visited this week by Pope Francis on his cross-Canada tour, it’s a lively city with sights to see and now, the garden the most fanciful of 2022.
Learn more by visiting mosaiculture.ca/en.