Spending a weekend in Montreal is the next best thing to visiting Paris. Where else can you get that European flavor without getting on an airplane? We usually visit Montreal during the last weekend of June to visit with friends and see La Rosaraie, the rose garden at the Montreal Botanical Gardens. But often we find that the rose garden peaked the week before we arrive, so this spring we made plans to go a week earlier to catch the garden at its best and take some rose photos for a new book we’re working on and guess what? Their peak bloom, like ours in New England because of a cool spring, was at least a week late!
Still there were plenty of beautiful roses in bloom and, as an added bonus, the Quebec Rose Society was holding their annual Rose Show at the MBG the same weekend we were there – a week earlier than in the past. Mike was invited to judge, so while he was judging the show with our friend, former Rose Garden Director Claire Laberge, I strolled through the garden.
It was a perfect day to be in the garden. The temperature was in the 70’s, there was a nice breeze, and the sun went in and out, so I didn’t broil. By tradition, I always take a picture of the big bronze lion that guards the entrance to the rose garden, and this time the Sea Foam roses were just beginning to bloom.
While many of the shrub roses were still in their bud stage, I found plenty of roses were in a perfect stage of bloom – roses that during past visits had already gone by. I took plenty of photos – over 100 – and can’t begin to describe them all, but here are a few that I think are worth mentioning.
The climbing rose Compassion, winding its way up a wrought iron trellis, was one of the first roses I saw. Its orange pink petals had a touch of orange-yellow inner petals and a noticeable fragrance. This rose was introduced in 1972 and I can see why it’s remained popular.
A bed of Honey Dijon roses caught my eye because of its unusual golden brown/yellow blooms. As you can see from the photograph, this rose was aptly named because it has the coloration of honey mustard. It also has beautiful form.
One of my favorite roses, a rose we used to grow in our garden and I have on my wish list to grow again, is Europeana. This floribunda has been around since the 1960’s and has received many awards. I was impressed by its true red color and the disease-free foliage. Another rose that I’ve added to my wish list is the luscious deep golden yellow rose South Africa. This rose from Kordes, a German hybridizer known for producing disease resistant roses, has dark green, shiny foliage – a perfect backdrop for this rose.
While visiting the Rose Garden was our major goal, Mike and I extended our stay a few days so we could experience Montreal, the city. In the late afternoon and early evenings we explored Ste. Catherine Street, a major shopping area of the city, a half-block from our hotel. In the mornings, we’d walk down rue de la Montagne to a small café, called M’s, which had the best croissants I’ve had since Paris.
One afternoon we went to the Beaux Arts Museum that had a special exhibition of Faberge eggs. We felt right at home when we saw the Chihuly glass sculpture displayed outside one of the Beaux Arts building. The Beaux Arts is comprised of several buildings on opposite sides of busy Sherbrooke St. that is accessed through a tunnel going under the street.
The exhibit included four Faberge Easter eggs created for the Romanovs as well as other Faberge creations and that alone was worth the trip. After a short break we explored some of Beaux Arts’ permanent collection including a fantastic ceramic and glass collection and some Impressionist art.
Along with our visits to the garden and the museum, we enjoyed some delicious meals in Montreal. One night we ate at La Societe, a restaurant in our hotel that was reminiscent of a Paris bistro. Another night we took a cab to Vieux-Port Montreal, the “Old City”, and enjoyed walking down the crowded streets lined with restaurants and souvenir shops. Remarkably, we walked into one of the first restaurants that we had eaten at when we had come to Montreal 16 years ago! We decided fate had placed us at the door of Vieux-Port Steakhouse and we decided to have dinner there. Good decision. We had the best steaks we’ve had in a long time.
Sometimes a plan comes together, and our weekend in Montreal was one of those times. Great roses, great art and great food, all without the hassle of hopping on a plane. I can’t wait to go back again.