The small houses were half submerged and the water continued to bubble towards their roofs. Then one of them, with bright orange walls, was overwhelmed by another wave. The cause: a girl of about eight in a yellow kayak, paddling through the water while chatting with her mother nearby.
They weren’t real houses, but models about three feet high each. They were submerged in an artificial pond, part of an installation called “The 100 years lineWhich symbolizes the effects of climate change. Part of the International garden festival, the work, designed by a collective whose architect Etienne Bernier, sits somewhere between the playground, conceptual art and landscape.
And that’s what the festival – located at Jardins de Métis in eastern Quebec – offers: “gardens” that advance the art of landscape architecture and make people think. The 100-Year Line exhibit “was meant to evoke the fun, but also the utter dread that such” extreme weather “events might evoke in those who experienced them,” says Alexander Reford, who runs the festival and also Reford Gardens.
This will do the trick for the next series of projects in 2022. Each year, the festival invites landscape architects (and other designers) to submit pieces on a particular theme. They recently launched the call for next year, on the topic Adaptations.
“Our theme for 2021 was a response to COVID,” says Reford: Magic Lies Outside was the column. “It was the idea that the natural world is something we have to come back to. This year, it’s time for us to face the truths of climate change as they strike us in the face.
Les Jardins de Métis are located near the town of Grand-Métis and are known in French as Jardins de Métis. It was first created by Alexander’s great-grandmother, Elsie Reford, between 1926 and 1958. Today, Mr. Reford, who had a previous career as a historian, directs at the both the festival and the garden.
Next year, the gardens will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Elsie’s birth, and Mr Reford suggests her work sets a powerful example. “She was one of the handful of people who really led the way as Canada as a place to grow gardens,” he says. “But she wasn’t a landscape architect by training, and he wasn’t a man. And she used the landscape without bulldozing what was there, as most men of her day did.
Adapting to the hilly terrain, it has set up an English garden on the south shore of the lower Saint-Laurent. Even today, it is a remote place, 330 kilometers east of Quebec; Bas-Saint-Laurent is a solidly rural region that has also long been a vacation spot for wealthy Quebecers. “Since COVID, like in a lot of rural areas, we’ve seen a lot of properties change hands, a lot of new developments,” Mr. Reford said. “It’s the combination of a happy influx of creative people and a need to deal with certain social changes. “
Climate change is also a force here. In 2021, the gardens received too little rain and then too much, Mr Reford says. Warmer winter temperatures and reduced snowfall threaten some plant species on the site.
For now, it is a region of freshness, soft light, coniferous forests and rolling farmland. And the gardens are a unique draw. Under Mr. Reford’s direction, the festival surrounded Mrs. Reford’s Gardens with a series of installations by some of the most creative landscape architects (and other designers) in North America.
“One of the challenges we give designers is to create something that creates a buzz over the course of an entire season,” Mr. Reford said. And some, like the The 100 years line, last for several years; others are reused in new facilities. All construction is done by staff members.
During my summer visit, Pierre Thibeault – one of Quebec’s great architects – was having lunch in the gardens. Mr. Thibeault was completing an open-air wooden stage, one of the many projects he has completed for the gardens over the years. It is a rare mix of contemporary architecture and landscape in a sylvan setting dotted with rare plant species.
Festival projects from previous years were still there, including giant slabs of marble rescued from a Vermont quarry (by Michael Van Valkenburgh, 2011) and a black burlap tent supported by birch logs (by artist Mathilde Leveau and architect Ronan Virondaud). “Is it a landscape? Is it visual art? Is it architecture? Mr Reford asks rhetorically. “There is a great mix between the professions.
Such conceptual and formalistic approaches meet greener approaches, in the world and in gardens. “A lot of young designers are interested in agriculture,” says Reford. “There is a nostalgia and also a real embrace of the agricultural world. They move away from the pretty and turn to the productive.
And also towards a better understanding of how the landscape must adapt to the effects of climate change. “We are seeing decreased precipitation, erosion of shorelines and loss of animal and avian species,” says Reford. “There is no doubt that we too must adapt to changing circumstances. The change is coming and you can feel it in the garden.
the International garden festival accepts applications from designers until January 11. The festival starts on June 25, 2022.