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

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Entries in Frederick Olmstead (1)


A Gardening Job with Spiritual Benefits

A staff member planting a flower pot in spring.A client lives in a penthouse apartment on the twelfth floor of an assisted living residence. The building is located on the southern slope of Mount Royal, an elegant mountainous protrusion in the center of the Island of Montreal. Each side of the mountain has its own unique purpose for the residents of this city.

Frederick Olmstead, the landscape architect who created Central Park in New York City, designed the eastern slope of the mountain into magnificent public parkland that begins at a busy street and climbs into the idylic pinnacle of the mountain. The northern slope is home to the Universite de Montreal, a prominent francophone university, as well as St. Joseph’s Oratory, an awesome looking shrine dedicated to faith healing. The western slope is reserved for a cemetery and the southern slope contains the city of Westmount, an upscale residential neighbor - hood, nestled into the mountain and surrounded by the larger city of Montreal. The building that houses my client’s home straddles the boundaries of the mountain where the southern portion meets the northern section, while the terrace of their new home faces south, overlooking the roofs and tree tops of the city of Westmount.

Roof Tops and Riviere St. Laurent [St. Lawerence River] in the distanceThe location of this residence is so awe-inspiring that the sundrenched common dining room, while technically located in the basement,  is actually at ground level of the mountain and affords its residents a specatular view of the city. Before moving here, the client - a retired couple -  enjoyed the beauty of a garden at their private home. After relocating, they needed a visual link back to their former life. That was achieved by decorating their new terrace with patio furniture and containers filled with flowers as well as a few pot-grown vegetables.

Every spring, I smuggle plants and gardening tools into the sumptuously decorated lobby of their building, as I furtively find my way to an elevator reserved for the trade.  Residents, who happen to be milling about in the lobby, swoon at the sight of the colorful assortment of flowering plants. The unabashed expressions of joy on their faces are another reminder of the extraordinary, powerful effect that beautiful flowers have on people. Everyone I encounter on my path through the lobby asks me to stop to allow them to sniff and admire the flowers.

A view of the mountain top and trees of Westmount. The first time I stepped out onto my client’s terrace, I was over - whelmed by the combined effect of the mountain winds, the clean fresh air, the unobstructed daylight, and the awesomeness of the surrounding vistas. Few residents in Montreal are fortunate to view their city from this perspective. Each season, when I return with my staff to plant flowers and vegetables, I experience a sense of spirituality – a strong oneness with nature that I do not feel in anyone else’s garden. Believers will wryly explain that we are closer to God in such an elevated location. Doubters might want to reconsider their opinion. All they need to do is visit the client’s terrace to duplicate my experience.

An entry-level digital camera was used to photograph the views from the terrace. I doubt if these images will recreate the spirituality that I found; all that one can hope for is that readers will enjoy the beauty of the vistas. Facilitating that pleasure are transparent security walls, surrounding the terrace on all sides, that allow unobstructed views of the city of Westmount, the St Laurent [Lawrence] River in the distance, and a "roof-top" garden on the terrace of the eleventh floor below.

The "roof-top" garden on the eleventh floor belowIngeniously and wisely, the building management dedicated a revenue-valuable part of that floor to an outdoor garden for the enjoyment of all of their tenants. Here, the flowerbeds are raised and lined internally with insulation to ensure that the roots of trees and shrubs are well protected during the cold winter months.