Gardens of Light: A multi-sensory gateway in the heart of Montreal

Every autumn, the Jardin Botanique of Montréal presents themed outdoor gardens that showcase diverse cultures. This year’s Gardens of Light guides visitors around the globe through its illuminated Chinese, First Nations, and Japanese Gardens. 

Chinese Gardens 

The Chinese Gardens were first featured in the Montreal Botanical Gardens in 1991. Beautifully crafted by the Shanghai Institute of Landscape Design and Architecture, the scene is the result of a collaboration between the Parks Department of the City of Shanghai and the Jardin Botanique de Montréal. The landscape strives for a  perfect balance of water, stone, plant, and architecture. An arrangement of plants and minerals are embellished with luminescent lanterns that recount Chinese tales and traditions. 

Chinese lanterns date back to the Han Dynasty, when monks traditionally used them on the 15th day of the lunar year to honour Buddha. For the Gardens of Light exhibition, lanterns were handcrafted by artisans in the Shanghai region and imported to Montreal. 

The stone sculptures by the water, which incorporate grey rocks imported from Lake Tai in China and yellow rocks from Saint Hélène Island in Montreal, represent an alliance between Montreal and China. 

First Nations Gardens 

The First Nations garden spans 25,000 square metres and is the largest garden in North America dedicated to people of First Nations and Inuit descent. The First Nations portion was first included in the Gardens of Light exhibition in 2015. With over 300 different plant species and 5,000 trees and shrubs, this garden mimics a peat bog, a tundra, and coniferous forest. The Sacred Tree recounts stories of the Circle of Life and the forces of nature. In the evening, multicoloured lights illuminate the Tree, illustrating the four seasons. Florent Vollant, an Innu Singer and spokesman for the First Nations Garden, explained the garden’s message of tolerance.

“[The garden acts] to break down the barriers of ignorance and intolerance between Native and non-Native people,” Vollant said. 

Japanese Gardens

The Japanese Garden, carefully crafted by architect Ken Nakajima, offers scenes of serenity that contrast with our fast-paced way of life. Funded by subsidies from the governments of Japan, Canada, and Quebec, the exhibit includes a walk through the Japanese Pavilion, which provides a glimpse into Japanese history and culture. The Japanese garden is minimalistic and pays special attention to spatial arrangement. The stones lining the garden are a unique variety of peridotite specially imported from the asbestos mines in Thetford Mines, Quebec. At night, the selected Japanese plants and flowers are lit, exposing their radiant beauty.  

Gardens of Light offers its visitors a tranquil and fascinating walk through different cultures around the globe. The exposition ends on Oct. 31. Doors are open until 9:00 p.m. on weeknights and until 10:00 p.m. on weekends. Tickets, which include admission to the garden during the day and fixed-time entry to the Gardens of Light, are available online

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