Gardens of Light: Spectacular!


Yes, believe it or not, this full-sized sculpture illuminated from within is considered a lantern!*

I just visited the Gardens of Light show at the Montreal Botanical Garden and it’s absolutely spectacular!

Every year in September and October, the MBG lights up at night and offers extra opening hours in the evening so visitors can take full advantage of it.

A Short History


A few strands of Chinese lanterns at the entrance recall the first version of the Festival of Lights 25 years ago.

This colorful show began 25 years ago when the MBG imported hundreds of lanterns from China to light up their newly opened Chinese Garden. At the time, it was called “The Magic of Lanterns” and the lanterns were simply commercial ones, like those you could see anywhere in China. There was one single sculpture illuminated from within, all in yellow.

The exhibition has grown considerably since then, and now also includes the Japanese Garden and the First Nations Garden. This year’s “lanterns” are nothing like typical Chinese lanterns, but rather multicolored sculptures illuminated from the inside. This year includes the largest lantern sculpture ever presented at the MBG: a giant Chinese dragon that seems to rise from the waters of the garden’s main pond.

Visiting Garden by Garden

The show starts with the most spectacular part: the Chinese Garden.

This vast garden, freshly reopened after two years of renovation, is in itself breathtaking enough and certainly worth visiting during the day, but at night? Well, words simply fail me! You’ll be bowled over.


The dragon seems to dance on the water of the main pond.

This year, the theme is the Chinese dragon, the symbol of China, shown as an enormous illuminated sculpture that emerges from the main pond with its long undulating tail covered in blue scales. Chinese legend has it that the dragon lives in the heart of the oceans and clouds and is both beneficial and dangerous.


One of the dragon’s nine sons.

This year, the dragon is accompanied by its nine sons, each more colorful than the previous one. Around them dance red-crowned cranes, symbolizing the long friendship between twin cities Montreal and Shanghai. The effect is breathtaking!

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The Sacred Tree in one of its color permutations. Claude Lafond, Espace pour la vie

This is the first time the First Nations Garden has been included in Gardens of Light event. It features the Sacred Tree, a giant poplar illuminated by changing light projections that evoke the seasons and the perpetual transformations of nature. In this garden, a soundtrack lets us feel the heartbeats of Mother Earth and hear the crackle of fire as well as bursts of thunder.


A wall of the Japanese Pavilion serves as a screen to project images of autumn in Japan.

Don’t expect such brilliant color in the Japanese Garden. The lighting is softer and reveals the colors and textures of the plants while emphasizing the elegance of the pavilions and the garden’s natural harmony. It’s an invitation to slow down and enjoy the changing colors.

When You Visit


The Chinese dragon during the day.

Ideally, you’d arrive at the Montreal Botanical Garden during the day so you can see the three gardens during the daylight, then to go back in the evening, when it’s dark, for the light show. That’s what I did and it’s amazing how the gardens change completely when they are illuminated: it’s like visiting three entirely different gardens!

Pumpkins to Come


Photo: Espace pour la vie

If you can wait a few more days before visiting, there’ll be a second show at the Montreal Botanical Garden this fall: the Great Pumpkin Ball in the main greenhouse. It will run from October 6 to 31. It too is repeated yearly, just before Halloween


This year’s Gardens of Light show opened September 8, 2017, and will end on October 31, 2017. If you can’t make it this year, don’t worry. The MBG is already hard at work preparing next year’s show! Expect pretty much the same dates, so you can already book “travel to Montreal to see Gardens of Light show” on your agenda!

The Montreal Botanical Garden normally closes as dusk, but, during the show, ticket sales are extended until 9 pm, even 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays as well as on Sunday, October 8th. You can stay for an hour after ticket sales end.

There is no special rate for the Gardens of Light event: it’s included in the usual individual rate. You’ll find this year’s rates by clicking here.

The Montreal Botanical Garden is located at 4101 Rue Sherbrooke East in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. There is ample parking on the site and a subway station (Pie IX) nearby.

Enjoy your visit!

*Unless otherwise indicated, all photos are mine, but, of course, feel free to share them. Just credit

An Echinacea for Montreal’s Anniversary

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Echinacea ‘De Montréal’. Photo: Plant Select

Montreal, the New World’s largest French-speaking city, is celebrating a milestone anniversary this year: its 375th. And for the occasion, the City of Montreal has chosen a floral emblem: the ‘De Montréal’ purple coneflower (Echinacea ‘De Montréal’).

The new cultivar was developed by Quebec plant hybridizer Serge Fafard of Jardins Osiris. It’s an upright, robust and long-lived echinacea, about 2 ½ to 3 feet (75–90 cm) tall and 2 feet (60 cm) wide. The large blooms have a triple row of ray flowers and change in color through the season, starting orange, then turning more and more pink over time, although often retaining an orange halo around the central orange disc.

Flowering begins in July and continues until September. The flowers attract bees and butterflies throughout the summer and, if you leave the flowers left standing after the bloom, seed-eating birds in winter.

Echinacea ‘De Montreal’ will grow best full sun in any well-drained soil. It is solidly hardy in zone 4 and worth trying in zone 3.

Where to Find It


Great Gardening Weekend at the Montreal Botanical Garden. Photo: Espace pour la vie

Well, if you want to see it in person, go to Montreal this summer: it will be everywhere. Some 8,000 plants of this new echinacea were produced for the 2017 season and the City of Montreal has planted them in parks and public places throughout its territory as well as in the Montreal Botanical Garden.

The official unveiling of the new emblem, in the presence of ‘De Montréal’ echinaceas specially forced for early bloom, will take place on the first day of the Great Gardening Weekend at the Montreal Botanical Garden, that is on Friday, May 26, 2017. Please note that to mark the 20th anniversary of the Great Gardening Weekend and Montreal’s 375th anniversary, access to the event will be free for all visitors that day. The activity will continue on May 27 and 28 at the usual rate.

Plants will be on sale at the Botanical Garden boutique for the occasion. Some garden centers already offer them, especially those in the Montreal area.

When will it reach nurseries where you live? That may take a few years. But do be on the lookout for this new hardy perennial!

Happy birthday, Montreal!20170517A Plant Select

Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day


Winter? What Winter?

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Allen Gardens

When snow starts to pile up and you can’t step outside without wrapping yourself in three layers of clothing, what’s a northern gardener to do? Head south, you say? But that requires a lot of cash and free time. I have a better, cheaper solution: why not visit the nearest greenhouse?

I first started doing this when I was a student at the University of Toronto. It’s within walking distance of Allan Gardens (, Toronto’s grand Victorian greenhouse, but I’d only ever been there as a child. Then one day particularly blustery winter day, when I just had to take my mind off my studies and get outdoors, but couldn’t bear the thought of trudging endlessly through Toronto’s grey slush, an image suddenly popped into my head. That beautiful palm house, with its giant tropical plants: I wonder if it’s open in the winter?

Of course it was (it’s open 7 days a week all year and admission is free, which certainly met my student budget!) and in a few minutes, I was standing in a tropical paradise. You could see ice crystals on the curving glass panels and the park outside was white with snow, but so what? Inside it was warm and humid and smelled just like a forest after a rain. I wandered about, soaking up the heat and atmosphere, admiring the gorgeous blooms on the cactus and orchids. I really felt like I had physically absorbed part of it, as if some of that exotic beauty was now part of me. Then I went back to my studies, totally reinvigorated.

For as long as I remained in Toronto, that was my winter energizer.

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Montreal Botanical Gardens

Where I live now, in Quebec City, there is no public greenhouse nearby. There is, of course, the extraordinary greenhouse complex at the Montreal Botanical Gardens ( – by far the largest in North America! – but that’s a 5 hour drive there and back. I do manage to get there once or twice a winter, but most of the time, I steal that much-needed tropical ambiance… from a local garden center.

The larger ones near here have fairly vast greenhouses where I can get just the shot of tropical warmth and humidity I need to carry me through the endless months of snow. A trip a month or so and I’m really feeling good. Plus I usually need something from the garden center anyway: potting soil, seeds, etc.

So, bye-bye winter time blues, hello greenery, warmth and exotic scents. You too can charge up your winter batteries with glorious tropical sunshine today: just visit a greenhouse today!