Please let me lead you into a little piece of heaven on Earth from my region. It’s a beautiful garden that became a prime touristic destination in the area. In the summer of 1926, Elsie Reford began transforming her fishing camp on the Metis River into a garden. Located 220 miles north-east of Quebec City, at 48.51º N. latitude, the gardens she created over the next thirty years were the northernmost in the eastern half of North America. Known to some as Les Jardins de Métis, to others as Reford Gardens, the gardens have become famous since they were opened to the public in 1962. It was our usual end-of-year trip at my primary school and a favourite place to go when we had family coming over the summer. Last June was it’s 50th anniversary and the entry price was only 50¢ (the price from 1962!) so I grabbed the occasion to show the garden to a friend that just moved into the region and I also grabbed my camera, hoping you’ll enjoy the photo tour!
Gardening was by no means Elsie Reford’s first calling. From the early 1900s she had come to Grand-Metis to fish the pools on the river. She also rode, canoed and hunted. She continued fishing until 1926 when an operation for appendicitis intervened. Ordered to convalesce following surgery, her doctor suggested gardening as a genteel alternative to fishing. She was 54 years old. During the summer of 1926, she began laying out the gardens and supervised their construction. The gardens would take ten years to build. The construction would extend over more than twenty acres. When she began, with the exception of a flagpole, a cedar hedge and a tree-lined driveway, the property was barely landscaped at all. The hay was cut to provide feed for the horses. Flowerpots were arranged on the veranda. It was, after all, a fishing lodge.
Note from Elsie Reford, July 13, 1954:
“Lilacs were marvelous, azaleas very brilliant but I sometimes wonder if the sweeps of blue poppies are not the most satisfying, for apart from their great beauty they outlast everything else for length of time of flowering. They have now been giving much delight for almost a month.”
The Blue Poppy Glade was so named because it was where Elsie Reford displayed one of her rarest and most enchanting plants. The Himalayan blue poppy (Meconopsis betonicifolia) is one of the marvels of the plant world. Native to the Tsangpo Gorge in the southeast corner of Tibet, it grows at altitudes of 3,120 to 4,000 metres (10,200 to 13,100 feet). These blue poppies are the progeny of the first plants that Elsie Reford grew from seed in the 1930s. Intrigued by the enthusiasm it generated, she was among the first gardeners in North America to try the seeds, obtained from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland. Nestled between martagon lilies (Lilium martagon var. album) and maidenhair ferns (Adiantum pedatum), the blue poppies bloom from the middle of June through the end of July. Notoriously difficult to grow, part of our success is due to the climate of the Lower St.Lawrence, which provides the plants with the humidity and cool night air that the Meconopsis enjoy.
This flower became an icon of the region, and it really is beautiful to see! Hope you liked the visit, and if you ever come into the beautiful region of Mitis, you’ll find that the people are as charming as the landscape.
Information and facts taken from the Reford Gardens website. All pictures by me.