Yes, I was finally able to visit Mosaïcultures Québec 2022 the other day, more than a month after it opened on June 24th.
This wasn’t really a delay, however, but something my family and I had planned long in advance.
You see, my health doesn’t allow me frequent outings. Even though I live only minutes away from Bois de Coulonge Park where the event takes place, I calculated that I was only likely to be able to handle one visit.
So, I was looking for the perfect day. Not too early in the season, so the plants would have a chance to settle in. And it had to be a day with great weather: not too hot, not too cold, and certainly not rainy. I also, I need help getting around and my son, Mathieu, had to be available to push me in a wheelchair. And he lives a fair distance away and can’t take time off work. The need for an able assistant was important, as the show is outdoors and follows a gravel path. And we had heard it was difficult for wheelchairs to navigate. (As, indeed, it was!)
Fortunately, all the stars aligned on August 4. So, off we went for a morning of bewitching discovery. There were four of us: myself, my wife Marie, Mathieu and his girlfriend Rosemarie.
We were really lucky to have Yves Vaillancourt as our tour guide. He’s the event’s chief horticulturist. Not many people know as much as he does about mosaiculture: the art of growing plants on ornamental structures! So, I visited with a living encyclopedia who could answer all my questions!
What a Show!
I have seen all the Mosaïcultures Internationales exhibitions held in Canada to date (3 times in Montreal and twice in Gatineau). And this one is by far the most grandiose and sophisticated.
Also, what a beautiful background! Bois-de-Coulonge Park is renowned for its vistas and beautiful trees and the show was designed to take full advantage of them. They both surround the show and weave their way in and out of it. And the park is built on a series of slopes, meaning you can see the sculptures from more than one angle. For example, we could admire the world map made of living plants on the back of the Great Turtle from above, as if we were extraterrestrials seeing it from space. It was quite magical!
Here are some photos and impressions of what I saw during our visit:
The Lieutenant Governor’s Pergola
This enormous structure plays a key role in Mosaïcultures Québec 2022, linking the 21st century exhibition to Bois-de-Coulonge Park, which is a major historic site. But to know why, you have to understand that the park has been missing a vital element for the last half-century.
In 1966, the vast residence of the lieutenant governor, in the heart of the park, and around which the entire park was planned, went up in flames, taking with it the lieutenant governor, Paul Comtois, with it. It was never rebuilt, leaving this magnificent estate without its raison-d’être.
I visited Bois-de-Coulonge Park quite regularly for nearly 45 years until quite recently. In fact, for about 10 years, we lived only a few blocks away and it was our local municipal park. Even so, the design of the park was such that, even though decades had gone by, the footprint of the building was still clearly visible. It was especially sad to see the grand staircase, which once lead directly to the residence, rising from the park below to… bare lawn. Every time, I’d look at it and try to imagine what the park must have looked like, way back when!
“What a mistake not to have rebuilt it,” I kept thinking. This is all the more absurd in a city like Québec City, Canada’s oldest city, where history has always been so important. It was like removing Cinderella’s castle from Disneyworld, leaving a gaping hole where it once stood, then asking people to pretend not to notice its absence.
But now, temporarily, you can see the Bois-de-Coulonge with a large replica of the residence where it was designed to be. It’s not a residence, not quite, but rather a huge pergola with columns covered in living plants and topped by a green roof. It’s just enough like the original residence to give us an extraordinary historical reminder.
And it gives such presence to the park! It really comes alive again! It will be a sad day this fall when gigantic pergola is taken down and carted away!
It’s by far the largest green structure I’ve seen in 35 years of visiting gardens all over the world … and only 15 minutes from my house! Outstanding!
View From the Pergola
The pergola allows an extraordinary view of the park, as the residence would have done in its time. But now, you can look down on practically the whole Mosaïculture show. We see there, successively:
- The exhibit paying tribute to fight against COVID-19 under the name It’s Going to be Fine, where giant butterflies pull ribbons to create a rainbow of positivity;
- The First Nations Great Turtle, a 2-dimensional mosaic with a world map in plants on its back;
- In the distance, the Tree of Life, with its trunk swollen like an enormous baobab whose branches burst into yellow and red flowers;
- Completely in the background, partially hidden by the trees, is the vast St. Lawrence River, called by the Autochtones the “River of Mighty Water.” Yes, the real river. The only thing that is not a mosaiculture sculpture.
The Other Sectors of Mosaïcultures Québec
Once Upon a Time… A Land of Water and Ice
Arctic and aquatic animals and seabirds from cold regions feature in the sector Once Upon a Time… A Land of Water and Ice. And don’t animals always fascinate, especially when converted into living sculptures!
Tree of Life
Once Upon a Time… Mother Earth and Her Children
In the next sector of the exhibition, Once Upon a Time… Mother Earth and Her Children, there is obviously the masterful and emblematic work, Mother Earth, which dominates the entire sector and inspires so much attention. This softly smiling woman, a kind of Mona Lisa of the earth, extends her hand from which water flows representing earth giving life to the animal world.
This is Mosaïcultures Internationales’ emblematic mosaic sculpture, the one that has followed it from show to show all over the world. However, she has never looked finer than in Québec, thanks to the addition of a whole new element. Indeed, water now also flows from her hair, spilling down into a very realistic beaver pond tended by a giant beaver. Something see here for the first time.
This is one sculpture I never tire of admiring. Every time I see it, I’m almost moved to tears!
This sector is the domain of our planet’s endangered animals, ranging from corals to iguanas to elephants.
Here are some of my favorite sculptures from Once Upon a Time… Mother Earth and Her Children.
Once Upon a Time… the Nionwentsïo (Huron-Wendat Nation)
The next sector is devoted to indigenous peoples, specifically those of the region, the Huron-Wendat, their clans and their legends.
Once Upon a Time… Man and Earth
To be honest, by this point, I was no longer doing quite so well. I felt nauseous and dizzy. I hadn’t put out this kind of energy in ages and it showed. Still, we continued on… but I wasn’t as attentive as at the beginning and certainly missed a few points.
This last sector is a recall of the importance of agriculture in the life of the European settlers who came to settle in the Québec region 450 years ago. Among the tableaux and mosaicultures are the following:
A Wonderful Visit
By the very end of the visit, I felt so happy with my day. I had enough to feed my dreams for weeks on end.
However, I also felt very ill. I had overdone it and my body was telling me it was time to stop. So, when I was asked if I could stay an extra 20 minutes longer in order to meet Lise Cormier, Executive Vice-President and General Manager of Mosaïcultures Internationales of Montreal, designer and creator of the event, I had to politely decline. I normally would have been thrilled to, but…
On the other hand, Ms. Cormier afterwards invited me to return for a second visit with her as my guide to see how the show was progressing. After all, a mosaiculture exhibition is a vast display of living plants and they continue to react and grow throughout the summer.
Dare I try a second time? You know, I just might! Certainly, I’ll dream about it!
So, what are you waiting for? You still have time: Mosaïcultures Québec 2022 remains open until October 10, 2022, and it’s certainly a show you won’t want to miss! Here are the relevant details:
Hours: open 7 days a week from 10 a.m. to dusk;
Address: Bois-de-Coulonge Park
1215 Grande-Allée W, Québec City
Parking: yes, but somewhat limited. It might be wise to take advantage of public transit. There is more information on parking possibilities here: Useful Information.
Cost: $25 plus tax for residents of the Province of Québec, $35 for out-of-province visitors.
There are also special rates for 65+, students, and children (under 5 free), as well as family and passport packages.
Plus, there is a discount for tickets purchased online.
The entire site is accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.
To reach Mosaïcultures Québec 2022:
Telephone: +1 833 802-2022
Ticket Office: https://mosaicultures.billetteriealacarte.com/en/redirect/p1
I would like to thank Jacques Ouimet, Marketing and Communications Director of Mosaïcultures, for welcoming me so kindly and especially Yves Vaillancourt, Chief Horticulturist of Mosaïcultures Internationales, for his extraordinary garden tour! And my family—Marie, Mathieu and Rosemarie—for making my trip possible.
This is yet another of the many Year of the Garden activities held throughout Canada over the entire year 2022. For more information, visit the Year of the Garden website: livethegardenlife.gardenscanada.ca.