Spot Cool Stuff, generally speaking, is not a fan of botanical gardens. As a place to walk around for a few minutes as part of a romantic date, maybe. If we happen to be near the entrance of a botanical garden. . . and if we had some time to spare . . . and if admission is free . . . we’d possibly consider popping in. But would we plan a trip around a botanical garden? Never. Absolutely not. No way. There’s no botanical garden worth that.
Except perhaps one: the Montreal Botanical Garden.
Unlike most other botanical gardens, which typically strike us as being little more than the glorified backyard of some millionaire with too much time on his hands, the Montreal Botanical Garden is like a museum of living art. A huge museum, with numerous thematic gardens spread out across 190 acres and 10 exhibition greenhouses.
[ ALSO ON SCS: Cancun's Underwater Sculpture Garden ]
Family travel in Montreal
This post is part of a series featuring cool Montreal family travel ideas. As with everything we write in the Spot Cool Stuff family travel section, all of the Montreal attractions and activities described in this series are as fun and interesting for adults as they are for kids. Merci to Tourisme Montreal for sponsoring their posts and providing expert advice. Check out their travel database to virtually explore Montreal’s multitude of other offerings.
During our visit, the Montreal Botanical Garden was hosting Les Mosaïcultures Internationales, the world’s most prestigious horticultural art competition. Teams from around the world submitted plans for sculptures made from organic materials: flowers, shrubs, vines, trees, plants, even sticks and bark. Expert judges selected the best 50 designs. And then the hard part started — building the sculptures took more than six years and 200,000 plants!
As a collection, Les Mosaïcultures Internationales can only be summed up with one word: WOW!
Intricate and whimsical and larger-than-life, each sculpture is a visual feast that captivates the attention no matter how large a botanical garden curmudgeon a visitor may be. Even our video game-loving 10 year old, who generally has no interest in plants unless they are fighting zombies and who had to be dragged to Les Mosaïcultures Internationales over howls of protests, declared the exhibit to be “the coolest thing ever.” Our 11-month old baby seemed enthralled too.
Among the most stunning sculptures:
• Mother Earth (very top photo) features a matriarch’s torso rising 15 meters (50 feet) above a field of shrub-sculpted bison and deer.
• The Man Who Planted Trees depicts a giant planting a sapling (pic to right) as horses gallop past (pic immediately below); the piece was inspired by a book and Oscar-winning movie of the same name.
• The Tree of Birds (last photo on this page) artistically renders each of the 56 species of birds listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It was such a complex engineering challenge to build that this one sculpture took more than five years to complete! Visitors have to climb up onto a viewing platform to take it all in.
Unfortunately, Les Mosaïcultures Internationales’ run in Montreal ends September 29th, 2013. But nearly every exhibit at the gardens is cool in some way. Look online to see what’s happening during your visit — the Montreal Botanical Gardens are worth making a special trip for.
Planning your trip to the Montreal Botanic Gardens:
Getting there: A parking pass, $12 per day, is valid for lots at the Insectarium, Biodome and planetarium too. Alternatively, take the subway to the Pie-IX station. Click here for more.
For families: There are strollers, surprisingly high quality strollers, available for free (with a $50 deposit).
If you go: Show up at 9am sharp, when the gardens open, to beat the crowds.
For your bookshelf: Living Sculptures
More Montreal travel from Spot Cool Stuff:
An Overview of Montreal Family Travel Ideas (That Are Fun For Adults Too!)
The Rowdy, Medieval fare at the L’Auberge du Dragon Rouge Restaurant
A Visit to the Montreal Biodome
A Review of the Marriott Chateau Champlain: The Best Hotel Room View in Montreal