Garden shows and expositions Garden visits Mosaiculture Public Gardens

A Personal Visit to Mosaïcultures Québec

Mathieu Hodgson and Larry Hodgson visiting Mosaïcultures Québec 2022. Photo: Rosemarie Sabor

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.

Yves Vaillancourt (debout) m’explique le fonctionnement des Mosaïcultures. Photo: Rosemarie Sabor

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!

Buffalo prairie at the Mosaïcultures show

The exhibition blends so well with Bois-de-Coulonge Park that it looks like the park was designed specifially to receive it. Photo: Clement Blouin

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.

The residence of the lieutenant governor in the Bois-de-Coulonge.
The residence of the lieutenant governor in the Bois-de-Coulonge before the fire destroyed it. Photo: Ville de Québec

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.

Lieutenant Governor’s Pergola
The Lieutenant Governor’s Pergola. Photo: Mosaïcultures internationales

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 Great Turtle
Here you see the 2-dimensional mosaic of the Great Turtle which is, according to indigenous legend, the origin of our world. Photo: Mosaïcultures internationales
  • 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!

Mosaiculture musk ox.
Hard to believe that the long, fibrous fur of this musk ox is made of living New Zealand sedge, a plant similar to a grass, but with brownish leaves! Photo: Rosemarie Sabor
Hard to believe that the long, fibrous fur of this musk ox is made of living New Zealand sedge, a plant similar to a grass, but with brownish leaves! Photo: Rosemarie Sabor
Adelie penguins seem to want to jump down from their ice floe to welcome us. Photo: Rosemarie Sabor
Mosaiculture Killer whale in mosaiculture.

The killer whale looked so realistic that it startled me when I first saw it from the corner of my eye. I actually thought for a second it might be real and was jumping out at me! Photo: Rosemarie Sabor
Mosaiculture of breaching whale in mosaiculture.
This baleen whale is breaching, like you’d see in the ocean. They’ve even piped in its call; it seems to be reacting out of sheer joy at being alive! A stunning display! Photo: Rosemarie Sabor

Tree of Life

Mosaiculture Tree of life.
The Tree of Life, the mythical tree of the Huron-Wendats, here becomes a large mosaic sculpture of 52 feet (16 m) tall with numerous thick branches. Photo: Rosemarie Sabor

Once Upon a Time… Mother Earth and Her Children

Mosaiculture of Mother Earth.
After the pergola, this is the main mosaic sculpture of the show. It shows a magnificent and magical Mother Earth in all her splendor. Photo: Rosemarie Sabor

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.

Mosaic sculpture of the Komodo dragon
The mosaic sculpture of the Komodo dragon is particularly realistic! The eyes are so realistic they’re almost scary! Photo: Rosemarie Sabor
Mosaiculture Girafes.
Mosaiculture Girafes, one of them apparently chewing on tree leave. Photo; Rich + Art Chamberland.
Mosaiculture African elephant.
An African elephant, life-size. Photo: Rosemarie Sabor
Mosaiculture Zebras
Zebras gallop through the African plains… at least, in our imagination! Photo: Rosemarie Sabor
Gorillas in mosaiculture.
It may be hard to believe, but the fur of these gorillas a hair is alive! A small groundcover plant called black mondo grass (Ophiopogon plansicapus ‘Nigrescens’) creates the impression of fine, dark fur. Photo: Rosemarie Sabor
Mosaiculture Amur tigers.

Amur tigers are nearly extinct in the wild, but are brought to life in these living sculptures. Photo: Rosemarie Sabor

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.

Mosaiculture bears.
The bear clan claims the black bear as its emblematic animal. Photo: Rosemarie Sabor
Arches of the longhouse and a mosaiculture wolf.
In front of the arches of a long tunnel, representing a Huron-Wendat longhouse, a wolf of the wolf clan howls from a field of flowers. Photo: Rosemarie Sabor
Mosaiculture of flying canoe.
The mosaic illustration Born With the Sun represents the Huron-Wendat legend of the sky goddess, Aataensic.. Photo; Rosemarie Sabor

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:

Mosaiculture of The Man Who Planted Trees.
This tableau tells the story of The Man Who Planted Trees and helped revive an ecosystem. Photo: Rosemarie Sabor
Mosaiculture raccoons.
Raccoons watch us with a sly smile, as if waiting for an excuse to sneak out and cause trouble. Photo: Rosemarie Sabor
Mosaiculture barnyard.
A barnyard of colorful poultry bustles about near a small outbuilding on the Bois-de-Coulonge’s actual farm. Photo: Rosemarie Sabor

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!

Your Visit

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
Email: mosaicultures@billetteriealacarte.com
Ticket Office: https://mosaicultures.billetteriealacarte.com/en/redirect/p1

Hodgson family at the Mosaïcultures
The Hodgson family at Mosaicultures Québec 2022: Rosemarie, Mathieu and Marie in the background, Larry in front.

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.

Garden writer and blogger, author of more than 60 gardening books, the laidback gardener, Larry Hodgson, lives and gardens in Quebec City, Canada. The Laidback Gardener blog offers more than 2,500 articles to passionate home gardeners, always with the goal of demystifying gardening and making it easier for even novice gardeners. If you have a gardening question, enter it in Search: the answer is probably already there!

14 comments on “A Personal Visit to Mosaïcultures Québec

  1. Shirley Star

    Wow! Very very nice! Thanks so much!

  2. JoAnn Martielli

    Haven’t been a subscriber for long. But have already learned so much from you. Am in North Carolina USA and afraid I have only visited Canada once! I want to thank you so very much for all your educational information and to tell you that you are providing an invaluable service. And this article on Mosaicultures is out of this world! Never seen anything like it! And if not for you I would have never seen it at all! God Bless you for all you have done and continue to do and know that you are a treasure!

  3. marianwhit

    Great to see you out and about and with your family, oh and the plants were wonderful too, giggle.

  4. John Wilson

    Larry, I can recall reading a previous post, I think when you visited a Mosaiculture event in Montreal a few years ago. But this version, beautifully photographed by Rosemarie, is much more impressive! I am very pleased you were able to attend, and witness such a grand accomplishment!

  5. Liz Hathway

    Thank-you so very much for sharing this. I hope you recover quickly and get to return for another visit.

  6. Raisa ghersi

    Thank you very much for such an interesting article, in which you have shown us such a beautiful place. I wish you soon your second visit to this wonderful park.

  7. Thank you for this great tour Larry. I look forward to reading your posts each morning, and this one was especially worth reading. I wish you all the best Larry. Take good care.

  8. Thank you so much for sharing, Larry. What a marvelous display. I’m so glad you were able to take it in. Keeping my fingers crossed that our health improves enough to take a trip from southwestern Ontario to see it.

  9. Miguel Valvano

    Thank you Larry for sharing this visit. I live in Northern Ireland and will not have chance to visit. But the photos and your descriptions make it worthwhile for those who are far. Best regards. Miguel

  10. Wow! so incredible. Rosemarie’s images have certainly motivated me to try and make it. So glad you got to experience the garden and hope that your health allows you to do so again. Thanks for this great tour.

  11. Bill Russell

    Planning to go in September. With great fortune, we might just see each other.

  12. Your post has convinced me that I need to visit Mosaiculture again. Thank you!

  13. What an amazing event, and I’m so glad your family got to see and experience it. Thank you for sharing the beautiful photos. Hope you have recovered from the adventure.

    • Thank you. Beautiful photos! I visited Mosaicultures in late June and your article has confirmed my belief that I must return to see how the animals have all grown hairier, shaggier and more colourful under the care of Mother Nature.

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