Gardens Are Not Only About Plants: A Chinese Lantern Exhibition at the Montreal Botanical Gardens
October 11, 2012
Allan in Chinese gardens, Insectarium, Jardins Botanique, La magie des lanternes, Montreal, Musings on Gardening, The magic of lanterns, botanical gardens, chinese culture, lantern exhibit

The magnificent horticultural phenomenon in Montreal, known as Botanical Garden [or Jardin Botanique in French] is an internationally acclaimed destination for tourists and gardeners. It is also a desirable place for those seeking an exhilarating outdoor experience. The garden sits on 185 acres [75 hectares] of arable land and contains 20,000 plant species displayed among 31 specialized gardens.

Two of the most popular attractions at this site are the Chinese and Japanese gardens. The Chinese is the largest of its size outside Asia, and the Japanese is complete with serene Tea Room and Bonsai collection.

Every autumn, the Chinese garden stages a lantern exhibit. This year, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the opening of the garden, an historical Chinese theme was selected. Titled The First Emperor’s Procession  it is made up of awesome-looking and life-sized thematic lanterns that pay tribute to China’s first Emperor, Quin Shi Huangdi and his cavalry.

Designed in Montréal, the lanterns are handcrafted by skilled artists in Shanghai, using traditional methods. Then they are transported by sea to Montréal where they are painstakingly arranged on and around the reflecting lake in the center of the garden to create a truly magical spectacle.

Visitors will gasp with delight when they see autumn’s evening sky lit up by nearly 900 traditional lanterns. To conserve energy, each is illuminated by bulbs using TFT LED Contactless System technology that consumes 10 times less energy than traditional lighting.

It will take more words than we have in the English language to describe what I saw and how I felt when - as dusk turned to night - I experienced this stunning visual presentation. The exhibit, an attestation that gardens need not be only about plants, continues nightly until October 31, 2012. It will return next fall, transformed by yet another theme.

Visitor’s Note: The exhibit is so popular, that on some nights the wait to enter is very long. When we arrived at the P1 gate with our grandchildren, it was suggested we return to our cars and drive east to the P2 Insectarium parking lot to access the exhibit from an alternative entrance. There, instead of waiting for over an hour to get in, we spent less than 5 minutes paying for admission. Later that night, we gave the children another treat when, on the way back to the car, they detoured into the amazing Insectarium and then into the Aquatic Garden where they stared in wonderment at the dramatic night lighting of the plants and water.

Article originally appeared on Garden Design, Montreal, Perennial Flower Gardens, Gardening Tips, Gardening Advice, Gardening Book Reviews (
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