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Summer at Montreal's Botanical Garden

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When you need a natural sanctuary, a getaway from urban stress, few places in Montreal are more bucolic than the city’s Botanical Garden.

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Founded in 1931, the garden is located in Maisonneuve Park, opposite Montreal’s Olympic Stadium with its signature tower. The 185-acre Botanical Garden is part of the Space for Life museum district, a four-institution natural museum neighborhood that also includes the Insectarium, the Biodome, and the Planetarium

The garden features a collection of 22,000 plant species and cultivars, with 10 greenhouses and 20 thematic gardens. Highlights include a Chinese garden inspired by the private gardens of the Ming Dynasty, a six-acre Japanese garden, as well as a toxic plants garden (should the need for poisonous plants arise).

From May to October, the Frédéric Back Tree House courtyard offers one of the most intriguing collections of miniaturized trees (or bonsai, meaning “container-grown tree”), all indigenous to North America.

Quebec’s floral emblem, the blue flag iris, is one of the stars of the Flowery Brook, with its collection of peonies, lilies, and day lilies.

Those who are equally fascinated and repelled by the insect world will be drawn to the Insectarium, which is home to 250,000 specimens of insects. Monarch butterflies are labeled and released in September for their annual migration to the mountains of Mexico – nearly 2,500 miles from Quebec. An exhibit featuring a colony of industrious leafcutter (atta) ants is as mesmerizing as the scorpions and tarantulas, which, fortunately, are housed behind glass.

Take refuge in an Adirondack chair in the arboretum and listen to birdsong amidst a profusion of flowering plants and shrubs. As Henry James once wrote, few words are so beautiful as “summer afternoon” – to which we might add – and especially when spent at the Montreal Botanical Garden.