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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Entries in botanical gardens (2)


Gardens Are Not Only About Plants: A Chinese Lantern Exhibition at the Montreal Botanical Gardens

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.


The Artist as Landscape Designer and Vice Versa; a book review for

From Art to Landscape, Unleashing Creativity in Garden Design, W. Gary Smith, Timber Press

Examine the front cover of this book. Notice how it is divided into 5 distinct color bands, each one deliberately positioned to play against the band adjacent. Notice too, how beautiful is the pastel sketch of a forest in band three and how it relates to and echoes the photograph in band four. This cover illustration, a work of art in its own right, heralds the beautiful visual experiences the reader will find inside this publication. Day after day, I would find myself returning to it, simply to enjoy the pictures. Often, I would forget that I was supposed to purposefully read it in order to write a review.

Mr. Smith is an award winning landscape designer specializing in botanical gardens. He is also a talented artist. His book takes the topic of garden design to a new level by raising the bar on the discussion about the role of art in landscaping. His work is neither a manual, nor a guide, nor a text book. It is an ode to the beauty and creativity we insert into nature when planning great estate gardens. Readers should not dismiss this book if the phrase great estate gardens does not apply to them. These settings illustrate universal elements of creativity in landscaping. Lessons learned here, and there are many, can be applied to gardens of any size..

The book is divided into two sections. In the first, the author introduces himself with a sensitive autobiography that narrates his development as an artist. Then he proceeds to build our visual vocabulary with elements of design that empower a garden designer. This section, pivotal to the overarching theme of the book, includes concepts such as shapes, forms, and patterns. These are categorized into scattered, mosaic, naturalistic drifts, serpentine, spiral, circles, dendric, and fractured. For each, there is a brilliant visual demonstration how such a concept impacts design.

According to the author, the next step is to encourage landscape designers to get in touch with their own creativity, and to sensitize their eyes to beauty. In that respect, the following chapter is a natural extension of a theme developed by Fran Sorin, in her publication, Digging Deep.  Mr. Smith’ recommends that we develop an aptitude for sketching, painting and drawing. These skills, he believes, liberate us from constraint and encourage creativity.

Furthermore, the author suggests, garden designers may be inspired by artists from other disciplines such as painters, sculptors, photographers and the performing arts, as all have a role to play in artistic nurturing. For example, in an examination of the Cascade Gardens at Longwood, the author demonstrates how cubism and abstract expressionism influenced the overall design of that garden and, in the next chapter, discusses how the Garden at Winterthur is, in its totality, an expression of fine art.

Part two of Mr. Smith’s book is a journey through the author’s professional accomplishments, with an emphasis on the artistic elements that shaped each of his works. These include The Pierce’s Woods at Longwood Gardens, The Tropical Mosaic Garden at the Naples Botanical Gardens in Naples, Florida, The New England Wild Flower Society’s Garden in the Woods at Framingham, Massachusetts and The Enchanted Woods at Winterthur. The final chapter discusses the essential role that garden designers can play in the conservation and establishment of ecosystems and the philosophical relationship between art and gardening.

Prepare to be overwhelmed by the stunning images that the author has complied for our education. Some readers may find it necessary to put down the book after each chapter, to savor the moment. But don’t read it for that alone. Read it also to appreciate the author’s richly colored images of proposed and executed garden designs. I would welcome the opportunity to hang all of Mr. Smith’s artwork on my walls; He is that good.