La Roseraie at the Montreal Botanical Garden
Angie and I visited La Roseraie, the rose garden in the Montreal Botanical Garden, while in Montreal in late June on the second leg of our 8-day trip to Canada. We met once again with our friend, rose garden director Claire Laberge, who took us around the garden pointing out the changes since our last visit in 2007.
The roseraie, one of the largest public rose gardens in North America, occupies almost 15 acres with over 10,000 roses representing 900 varieties of modern, old garden, and species roses. It has a distinct European garden feel that starts with the crouching lion guarding the entrance. This 4000 lb. bronze sculpture, a gift from the city of Lyon, makes a strong visual impression as you enter the garden and sets the tone for the rest of the visit.
Beyond the lion is the first of several large wrought iron arbors. This arbor signals the entrance into the ornamental section, the first of two major areas. This first section, inspired by the nearby St. Lawrence River, is laid out as a “river of roses” with mass plantings of modern roses flowing around islands of trees and shrubs, a symbolic interpretation of Canadian scenery. Popular modern roses – hybrid teas, grandifloras, floribundas, and climbers – are planted in elegant beds along a series of winding paths.
The second section is where the historical collections of shrub roses, old garden roses and species roses are planted. A very comprehensive collection of modern shrub roses include the work of Canadian and American hybridizers as well as David Austin, Meilland, and Poulsen. Claire showed us a new test bed of very attractive Kordes shrub roses that were planted last year and tolerated the Montreal winter with no casualties.
All gardens change with time; some changes are subtle. Since the MBG decided to discontinue the use of chemical pesticides 10 years ago, we noticed nice but disease-prone varieties have been gradually replaced with more sustainable roses.
Other changes are more apparent. Claire told us that they had started to under-plant most of the beds in the old garden rose section with lavender, hyssop, and alliums several years ago. These companion plants serve as a living mulch, controlling weeds, attracting beneficial insects, and bringing the color blue into each bed. The lavender looked especially good and in the mid-day sun reminded us of impressionist paintings. We noted the plants and plan on using the same idea at home.
Claire left us at noon and we took a lunch break before retuning to the garden to take photos. It was the warmest day yet we had on the trip and the sun felt good. But the bright afternoon sun made for harsh lighting for garden photography – a fact we would remember next time.
On a side note, we walked over to the Japanese gardens and saw some outstanding Bonsais, some over 250 years old. The walls in this garden had unique moon gates that I really liked.
I’ve lost count of the number of times we have been to this superb rose garden and each time we enjoy it all over again. As we ate ice cream before we left, we were planning on the next leg of our trip. Off to Ottawa the next morning to Parliament Hill, Rideau Hall, Byward Market and the excellent National Gallery of Canada.