Visiting Montreal this summer? Here’s some radical travel advice: take a break from the outdoor music festivals, and head to the Montreal Botanical Gardens.
So landscaped bushes and flower beds may not seem as exciting as a shopping spree at Simon’s. But this is not your average tourist attraction. It’s a socially and environmentally conscious urban hike that makes visitors think about the relationship between humans and nature.The Botanical Garden centres around the concept of “A Space for Life.” Everything is intended to raise awareness about biodiversity and the importance of protecting the environment. Walking along the 2.2km of path, I marvelled at plant sculptures, exhibits, and beehives, while contemplating the fragility of life on our planet.I haven’t been to Japan or China (yet), but the Chinese Garden (above) and Japanese Garden felt like the real deal. The Dream Lake Garden (above) is the work of Le Weizhong, a renowned architect and landscaper, who, at the time the garden was built, was the director of the Shanghai Institute of Landscape Design and Architecture.
Designed by Japanese landscape artist Ken Nakajima, the path to the Japanese Garden leads to a turquoise pond surrounded by waterfalls and blossoming flowers. There’s also a Tea Garden that can visited as part of a guided tour or tea ceremony. It’s a serene spot for a picnic or to watch the Koi carp swimming in the water. The First Nations Garden is particularly impressive – visitors can learn about indigenous cultures, histories, and traditions by walking through five zones. Best of all, the garden avoids stereotypes that typically accompany tourist attractions that profile Aboriginal peoples. (I’m talking to you, wax museum that erects nameless Natives next to “heroic” European explorers)
From the get-go, a committee of First Nations representatives worked with the Botanical Garden to develop the concept and create the garden. Plus, indigenous representatives continue to be meaningfully involved in the garden’s operations. They plan activities and special events, as well as offer teachings and guided tours to visitors. It’s all about knowledge sharing and breaking down barriers between settlers and indigenous communities in Canada.
Last but not least is the Mosaïcultures Internationales exhibit – an international horticultural art competition on display until the end of September 2013. Artists from 25 different countries have created spectacular plant sculptures that inspire dialogue about biodiversity. Seriously, these plant sculptures will blow your mind. Here are a few of my favourite sculptures: Above: Malaysia’s entry, Hands Up! This may be all we have left of real orangutans if we don’t smarten up and go green. Above: China’s entry from Shanghai- A True Story! The sculpture was inspired by the story from China in the late 1980s. Xu Xiu Juan, a girl born in a city in northern China, had loved red crown cranes since her earliest childhood. After graduating from university, she travelled very far, to Yangcheng Nature Reserve, to care for these cranes. But one day, when she tried to save an injured crane, she slipped into a swamp. The crane was saved but the girl never came up again to the surface. Above: Assembly of the First Nations of Quebec and Labrador’s entry, Born with the Sun. “The father-bird pays tribute to the celestial and spiritual universe, while the mother-bear sows the seeds of the earth’s future. They do this for their child, who will thereby remember his roots and grow up in harmony with all his kin. The canoe represents a new world, full of hopes and dreams to carry forth to the four corners of the world.” Can you believe that these are plants? Traveller’s Tip: Buy your tickets online if you plan to go to the Montreal Botanical Garden on the weekend. There was a huge line-up over the Canada Day long weekend.
Montreal Botanical Garden
4101, rue Sherbrooke Est Metro stop: Pie-IX
The writer was a guest of Tourisme Montreal. The tourism board did not review or approve this article.