When Is a Garden…Not a Garden?
The Garden Festival at Grand-Métis, Québec, invites
designers to go the limit—and then some.
By Peter Jacobs, FASLA
The International Garden Festival at Grand-Métis, Québec,
continues to test the limits of contemporary landscape practice
and garden design. After four brief years of operation, the festival
has 33 contemporary garden exhibits that provide ample material
to question whether we are invited to experience the garden, fragments
of the garden, or simply the idea of the garden.
Photo by Robert Baronet
The Reford Gardens, the site of the festival, are some 600 kilometers
northeast of Montreal at the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River.
They comprise a substantial plant collection initiated in the early
decades of the twentieth century by Elsie Reford, a collection that
was recently expanded by her great-grandson, Alexander, to include
an ambitious program showcasing contemporary gardens. The Garden
Festival welcomes a rich mix of landscape architects, environmental
designers, graphic artists, biologists, and architects who have
formed all manner of interdisciplinary teams in support of their
proposals (see “The Artful Garden,” Landscape Architecture,
Garden and landscape designers owe much to those who finance, organize,
animate, and publicize efforts such as the Métis festival.
The entrepreneurial spirit and financial risks involved in mounting
this and other garden festivals are considerable, but they create
opportunities for all of us to push the limits of practice beyond
current boundaries. New ideas, like a samurai’s sword, need
to be tempered with time, but a lack of new ideas leads to the rapid
atrophy of professional practice.
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