Four Winds Gardens in Quebec is well worth the trip!

Les Jardins the Quatre Vents (Four Winds Gardens) in Quebec is well worth the trip!
By Sara Williams


When we think of glorious estate gardens, we think of Great Britain and Europe. But Quebec has one of the finest in North America, Les Jardin de Quatre Vents (The Four Winds Gardens), created by Francis H. Cabot. Located above the St. Lawrence River and backed by the Laurentian Hills, its 20 acres in the zone 4 maritime is a scenic 2 hour drive northeast of Quebec City.

Les Jardins de Quatre Vents consists of formal gardens around the house; the meadow, orchard and vegetable gardens; the ravine woodland stream and native flower area; the “pigeonnaire” (dovecot); and the Japanese pavilions. All very diverse but set seamlessly within the whole. As Cabot wrote, “By framing a view and directing the eye, paradoxically limiting what can be seen, you create an appetite for more… The invitation to explore is central to the garden.” And so it is.

Close to the house, the broad green carpet of lawn (Tapis verde) edged with hedges forms an east-west axis that draws the eye to the informal lake at its foot. On either side are Arts & Crafts style gardens with low stone walls: The White Garden with a central pool level with the lawn; The Rose Garden with an under-planting of pinks that blooms earlier and is then trimmed to form a blue-grey carpet of foliage beneath the roses; the Perennial and Goose Allees; and the Thuja Allee with its parallel water feature running down to the lake.

On the north side of the classic French farmhouse are three small formal gardens, each an extension of the interior of a room nearby. A Salad Garden is opposite the kitchen door. Next is the Bread Garden complete with a working outdoor oven flanked by two large topiary loaves of bread and fronted by a knot garden. Opposite the guest room is an “outdoor living room” composed of thuja topiaries - overstuffed chairs and a sofa.

A woodland ravine, stream garden and a small lake (home to both domestic and wild waterfowl) dominate the western end of the property. The lake is flanked by two bridges, one in Japanese style, the other in Chinese style.

I was blown away by the sudden and unexpected appearance of the blue-grey stone dovecote or “pigeonnaire”, modeled after a photo that Cabot saw in an old French book on rural architecture. Overlook­ing a long narrow reflecting pool, one sees the lake beyond through the pigeonnaire’s archway and the sky above in the water.

Last but not least, in the lower end of the wooded ravine, is the Japanese contemplation pavilion. It is so quietly authentic that it brings tears to one’s eyes. Surrounded by wood and water, it is indeed a “beautiful place in which to stop and view trout deeply.”

If planning to visit this summer, order your tickets now. The garden is only open during four summer Saturdays: June 25, July 9, July 23 and August 6. Tickets must be pre-booked and paid for online from http://cepas.qc.ca/jardins-de-quatre-vents (the site is in French with limited English, but easy to navigate). The majority of tours are in French, but two are offered each day in English. The tour groups are small (22) and times fill up fast.

Sara Williams is the author of the newly expanded and revised Creating the Prairie Xeriscape; Gardening, Naturally: A chemical-free handbook for the Prairies; and the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park & Zoo: A Photographic History. Join Sara on two garden tours this summer: May in Great Britain and Iceland (with cohost Melanie Elliott) in July. For more information contact Ruth at ruth@worldwideecotours.com or 888-778-2378.

This column is provided courtesy of the Saskatchewan Perennial Society (www.saskperennial.ca; hortscene@yahoo.com; NEW www.facebook.com/saskperennial). Check out our Bulletin Board or Calendar for upcoming garden information sessions, workshops and tours: Join Bernadette Vangool as she takes you on a tour of the Tulips of Amsterdam from the comfort of your chair – Wed, Jan. 27, 7:30 @ Emmanuel Anglican Church, 607 Dufferin St., Saskatoon [free]. Or, in Regina, learn about Landscape Design with Carmen Liebel – Tues, Jan. 28, 7:00 @ 1440 Scarth Street [free for Regina Horticultural Society members, $5 otherwise].

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