Friday, December 9, 2016

The Botanical Garden: An Urban Oasis of Natural Beauty

Montreal Memories & Nostalgia

The Chinese Garden: This is one of the many thematic gardens available to the public to visit. The site writes in “Elements of the Chinese Garden”: “The 2.5 hectares of the Chinese Garden contain more than 200 varieties of perennials, 50 of aquatic plants, 15 varieties of bamboo, 4 of annuals, 160 of shrubs and approximately 100 varieties of trees. In a Chinese garden, look neither for the lawns of the English garden nor the precise lines of the French garden. Chinese gardens favor plants and trees that tradition and history have imbued with symbolism. Designers prefer more natural-looking perennial flowers over annuals.”
Photo Credit & Source: espacepourlavie

The Montreal Botanical Garden (Jardin botanique de Montréal) is large, expansive and impressive, containing, the site says, “22,000 plant species and cultivars, 10 exhibition greenhouses, Frédéric Back Tree Pavilion, and more than 20 thematic gardens spread out over 75 hectares,” adding “ it’s also a perfect place to enjoy fresh air and natural beauty.”

The garden was founded in 1931 during the Great Depression. Two names are prominent in the Garden’s history: Brother Marie-Victorin (born in 1885, in Kingsey Falls, Quebec, as Joseph-Louis-Conrad Kirouac) and Henry Teuscher (born in 1891 in Berlin, Germany), whose persistence and vision brought it into fruition, making it one of the great public gardens in the world. Its size and the diversity of its plants are indeed remarkable and inspirational. You could spend days roaming around the large urban garden.

I have visited this place numerous times, and each time was enjoyable. My first memory of coming to this place is during the 1960s with my family as a young boy of no more than 10. It took us more than a hour to get here, to the corner of rue Sherbrooke E. and boul. Pie-IX, by bus from our home in the Mile End neighbourhood, situated on avenue du Parc not far from avenue du Mont-Royal, where another prominent green space existed. A place where I spent many happy moments during childhood and afterward. I credit Montreal with having many tree-lined streets and large planters everywhere. It makes for a more pleasant environment.

Leslie Hancock/Ericaceae Garden: One of the many gardens that are found on the grounds of the main Garden. This particular garden contains a multicoloured array of azaleas, rhododendrons, and wintergreen tea plants. 
Photo Credit & Source: espacepourlavie

For some, Nature requires destroying and dominating; while for others, Nature needs be cultivated and preserved. The differences are seen in the language each group uses to describe the future. One thinks that man-made and artificial products are equal to (or better than) what can be found in Nature, while the other appreciates the beauty and life-affirming value of what was there before us. Truly, I shudder to think of a world devoid of any flowers, shrubs, trees and of natural beauty.

There are hints of this in all major cities—some stronger than others; such places are lifeless and soulless valleys of grey concrete, of steel and glass structures, both inside and outside. Modernity at its worst; the buildings are designed with efficiency in mind, but disregard the need of humans. (Yet, people are forced to work in such places to “earn a paycheque.”) No doubt, working in such structures can only make one sick, where Man is alienated from his natural surroundings.

Small wonder, then, that some have natural green plants on their desk, if only to alleviate the symptoms of working in an artificial place and remind us of what is naturally beautiful.

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