mystery garden tour
The Secret Garden Tour offers the opportunity to explore exceptional Westmount gardens
By Patricia Dumais
Photography by Joe Donohue
It’s no secret that Westmount is blessed with an abundance of beautiful gardens. From tiny postage-stamp sized ones to sprawling mountainside domains, there is no lack of greenery to feast our eyes upon. And the hilly topography of our city lends itself to the creation of some very interesting landscaping concepts.
Once every three years, the Westmount Horticultural Society organizes a Secret Garden Tour that allows residents to visit spectacular hidden gardens that otherwise would not be accessible to the general public. The seventh Tour took place on Thursday, June 15 and fortunately the weather cooperated with sunny skies.
… a Secret Garden Tour… allows residents to visit spectacular hidden gardens that otherwise would not be accessible to the general public.
The gardens to be visited are a mystery until one picks up the map of their locations and a box lunch before setting out on the tour. The twelve featured gardens were open from 10 am to 4 pm, giving participants ample time to stroll around and take in their beauty.
Photographer Joe Donohue and myself set off to discover our first garden, a vast cliff side terraced landscape, complete with waterfall cascading into a pond and multiple reflection pools. Chatting with the two full time gardeners we were told that the garden was ten years in the making. They encouraged us to visit the back of the property where a large terrace overlooks a spectacular view of the city, just above a lovely natural wooded area.
We moved on to the next one, a more modest but lovely formal garden with a fountain within view of the Oratory. Then on to a home with a large front rock garden, by which a winding stone staircase led to an exceptional hillside rear garden that included a waterfall pool. Beautifully designed with evergreen bushes of all shapes and sizes, and hidden corners where rhododendrons and azaleas grow.
We then arrived at a series of neighbouring gardens, once part of a large estate, and each unique in its own way. One was a shady back garden with an original stable covered in climbing hydrangea. A floral arch framed with clematis led to an area where familiar hostas and ferns flourished with peonies, Thalictrum and Kirengesholma palmata. I learned that this garden has been cared for by many generations of the same family.
‘The Tour left me with lots of inspiration for my own gardens.’
Another exceptional garden in the same area had many exotic plantings that could be viewed from the street. Following a path past camellias and hibiscus one came upon the secluded Oriental garden, with footbridges over streams, waterfalls and an amazing variety of exotic plants. The gardener explained that these had to be transferred to a greenhouse in the Fall, to be then replanted in the Spring.
Further along our tour, we visited a lovely front garden with a magnificent window box designed by Flore.
Our last stop was at a property that once belonged to the Marguerite Bourgeois nuns. One of the original crab apple trees still stands at the rear of the garden! Winding stone stairs led to the side of the house where an apple tree has been trained to grow in the Espalier style. The terraced rear garden included various garden rooms and a beautiful waterfall created with stone from a Hemingford quarry.
The Tour left me with lots of inspiration for my own gardens. What I above all learned is that gardens are on-going projects, that we should not be afraid of experimenting and that, whatever the budget, we all have the means to beautify our properties with flowers and plants, providing we are willing to put in some time and effort.
Hats off to the Westmount Horticultural Society’s organizers and volunteers for all the work they put in making this year’s Secret Garden Tour a delightful success.
Images: Joe Donohue
Joe Donohue has frequently exhibited in Montreal, Toronto and New York. In 2007 Joe had a solo show at Harry’s Bar in Paris. His work can be found in many private and public collections, notably La Bibliothèque Nationale du Québec and the Art Gallery of Ontario. In 2008, he received a prize from the Applied Arts Photography and Illustration Magazine Awards for “Le Vieux Port”. See more of his works at joedonohuephoto.com
Patricia Dumais, artistic director, award-winning graphic designer specialized in brand design is co-founder of Visionnaires, publishers of Westmount Magazine. Patricia develops visual concepts and ensures that all deliverables follow our publication’s standards and reflect the editorial voice. You can connect with Patricia on Linkedin, Twitter and Pinterest. or by email at email@example.com.