It’s hard to miss the entrance to the Reford Gardens, known to the locals as Jardin de Métis. The huge Edith Ann size Adirondack chair at the entrance, beckons all who pass to come in and savor the delights of this surprising place. We’ve visited many great gardens much to Ken’s chagrin, but this one amazed not only for its intrinsic beauty, but because we had to keep thinking about how far north we are and marveling how plants like azaleas and rhododendron were flourishing here.
The garden was begun by Elsie Reford in the early 1900’s after she inherited the property and house from her uncle, a railroad tycoon and one of the top 1% hoi polloi from Montreal. Originally she came here to fish and we saw astonishing photographs of reams of forty pound salmon proudly displayed by her family. They brought a flock of servants to this spot and lived in a Downton Abbey sort of way, wearing tails and ballgowns to dinner, even in this rustic spot. Elsie always raised flowers here to decorate the table and her home, but as she aged the fishing grew too strenuous and she devoted herself to creating an extraordinary garden. Her gardening utensils were displayed in the home in glass cases and looked like they had never touched a clod of earth, but her vision and the hard work of her employees created a special Eden here as she lived well into her 90’s. Her husband was a photographer not a gardener, but he documented all her efforts and his darkroom is still on display on the grounds. His photos were sharp, well lit and composed, and technically challenging for that era. The black and white panoramas he shot with a special wide camera were especially impressive. The home and grounds were given to the province in the 1960’s and judging by the flock of workers we saw today, the budget sustains the labor required to keep the grounds up to Elsie’s standards.
A brook runs through the grounds and the sound of the water adds to the ambience of the place. Today there are two gardens - the classic one begun by Elsie and one that features modern art installations that change periodically. I loved the traditional garden, but as is often the case, the modern art left me wondering what it was all about. The garden smelled terrific. The fresh piney smell was leavened by the lilacs which were just past their blooming prime. Some peonies had begun to bloom, but many were still in bud, making me guess that the summer season here is at least a month behind ours. It’s been a great year for springs. We enjoyed spring in February in Florida, March in South Carolina, May at home and now again here in Quebec.
We stopped for lunch at a restaurant/art gallery that also caught our eye for the parade of what looked like tree trunk sculptures out front. Most of the trunks actually were made of concrete, but they looked like a parade of primitive figures marching from the restaurant out back into the water. There were over a hundred life size sculptures whose appearance changes with the changing tides and light. The croissant stuffed with shrimp and cheese we had there was oh, so good.
We had plans to drive on and investigate the shore line, but the blue sky turned gray and it began to rain. But we did make one more great stop at a poissonnerie, which had local seafood fresh, frozen and smoked for sale. It was hard to choose, but we left with two huge already cooked lobsters. The sales lady said they are good cold and with the limited electricity we have here, one less thing to heat seemed like a great meal plan. She was right! We had lobster on a cruise not too long ago and there was no comparison. The flavor was fresh and vivid. We’ll have to stop at a poissonnerie again soon.