By Larry Hodgson
The world-famous International Mosaiculture exhibition will be setting up shop for the summer of 2022 in my backyard… Well, not literally in my backyard, but very close, in historic Québec City’s vast public park Bois-de-Coulonge, a stone’s throw from where I live. And I’m inviting you all to come see it!
Under the grand theme “Once Upon a Time … The Earth,” International Mosaiculture of Québec will consist of almost 200 three-dimensional horticultural works—like living multicolored sculptures!—arranged in 20 thematic tableaux. Put together by International Mosaiculture of Montreal which has presented its shows all over the world—Shanghai, Japan, France, Atlanta, etc.—, this will be by far the largest mosaiculture exhibition ever presented. And most of the works in 2022 are brand new.
These exhibitions have amazed 15 million visitors around the world in 21 years of existence. In Québec City, a further 725,000 visitors will be added to this number.
What is Mosaiculture?
Mosaiculture is the horticultural art of creating giant topiary-like sculptures using thousands of annual bedding plants to carpet steel armature forms.
The word mosaiculture, proposed at the end of the 19th century by the chief gardener of the city of Lyon in France, combines the idea of a mosaic—an assembly of colors—and horticulture—the art of cultivating plants.
Two-dimensional horticultural mosaic plantings evolved from the essentially monochromatic knot gardens of the 15thand 16th centuries. By the end of the 19th century, faster growing, colorful annuals replaced the original pruned shrubs. In parks, carefully trimmed masses of annuals were planted in geometric shapes in what was called a carpet bed, as they often represented a Persian carpet. Often dates or names were written in the beds using plants of contrasting colors. The floral clocks still seen today in such places in Niagara Falls, Geneva and Singapore are also two-dimensional mosaic plantings.
Three-dimensional mosaics are a more recent development, having evolved independently in Germany and China sometime in the mid-twentieth century using a technique sometimes called “stuffed topiary.” Initially, simple three-dimensional forms—representing a peacock, a rabbit or a duck, for example—were filled with soil and planted with carpet bedding plants in order to create living sculptures.
The concept seemed at first to be limited to a few public gardens, but by the 1990s, a serious revival was underway, with several regional mosaiculture competitions taking place, notably in China. Then the city of Montreal hosted its first international mosaiculture exhibition in 2000, with exhibits from a dozen countries, and that changed everything. The show attracted worldwide attention … and Mosaïcultures Internationales de Montréal, the company that has put on all the international mosaiculture exhibitions ever since, was born. It’s the company behind 2022 show.
Since 2000, mosaiculture sculpture has evolved quite a bit. Sculptures are larger (the largest mosaiculture in 2022 will be as high as a five-story building!) and more detailed, techniques and products have been refined and a broader range of plants is being used.
A typical tridimensional mosaic sculpture now has a robust metal skeleton, is covered with geotextile fabric, then filled with light potting soil. A sophisticated irrigation system is integrated into the structure, as maintaining a living sculpture requires frequent and careful watering.
Next, rooted cuttings are inserted through the geotextile, usually plants with colored foliage such as alternanthera (Alternanthera spp.) and lavender-cotton (Santolina spp.), thus adding living color to the sculpture. Throughout the summer, the plants are pampered and carefully trimmed, often weekly, so they’re at their peak at all times.
The result? Giant multicolored living sculptures that always fascinate visitors!
Preparations Have Already Started
While June 2022 may seem a long way off, work on the exhibition is already underway. Not only have plans been drawn up and approved, but installations have begun. Work in Parc du Bois-de-Coulonge is underway, as the foundations that will receive the heavy sculptures have to be ready before the onset of winter. The metal structures that serve as skeletons for each sculpture are being manufactured and assembled. And greenhouses are hard at work producing the some 6 million plants that will be needed come spring.
International Mosaiculture of Québec will take place from June 24 to October 10, 2022, in Québec City in eastern Canada (400 miles/650 km straight north of Boston). The admission fee has not yet been determined, but is expected to be around 20 Canadian dollars.
An additional note: 2022 has been declared the Year of the Garden in Canada and there will be many other horticultural activities across the country throughout the year. If you’ll be traveling to Québec City and are looking for other gardening venues, there’ll be plenty to discover!
Don’t hesitate to start planning your visit to Québec City to see the Mosaiculture International exhibition next year … and also the city’s other beautiful gardens. I have visited 5 previous International Mosaiculture exhibitions and I can assure you it is well worth traveling to see! You’ll come back wonder-struck, with your phone full of photos and your head jammed with unforgettable memories! This is an event that you certainly won’t want to miss!
Check the International Mosaiculture of Québec website regularly for updates on this amazing upcoming exhibition!
Unless otherwise mentioned, images courtesy of Mosaïcultures Internationales de Montréal.