Founded in 1931 by teacher and botanist Brother Marie-Victorin, roughly two years into the worst worldwide economic downturn known to the 20th century, Montreal's then mayor Camilien Houde saw the creation of the gardens as an opportunity to employ Quebeckers suffering during the Great Depression. But getting the gardens built was a painstaking process with more detractors and naysayers blocking its progress than supporters in favor of a nature museum. For a detailed time line of events, visit the Montreal Botanical Gardens website.
With over 22,000 species planted in 30 gardens, ten greenhouses and an arboretum with 7,000 tree specimens that take up over half the space, the grounds are a sight for sore eyes. From the comely appeal of the rose gardens to the contemplative minimalism of the Japanese garden to the Chinese garden's striking architecture, there's a garden for every taste with flowers and trees from across the globe.
The gardens evolve from week to week. In May, the arboretum blooms with magnolias, followed by cherry trees, apples trees and then 200 varieties of lilacs imbue the air with their scent. Flowers get a head start with spring tulips in April, then hyacinths, and the alpine garden peaks mid-May. Late June features the first roses, water lilies and orchids are on display year-round in the greenhouses. To find out what species you can expect to ogle on your next visit, consult the Montreal Botanical Garden's detailed calendar of blooms.
Birdwatchers are encouraged to visit the grounds year-round, particularly in the winter and spring in the arboretum. At last count in 2009, 192 bird species were identified in the gardens and the numbers keep growing. And you don't need an eagle's eye or hours of tireless observation to catch a sight. Even your humble guide spotted a bird of prey lounging on a branch in early August.
In the late winter and spring, it's all about Butterflies Go Free, an event where over a thousand butterflies are set free in a greenhouse. Summer attractions are many, from Asian folk dancing to Japanese tea ceremonies to First Nations performances. And in the fall, the big attraction is The Magic of Lanterns, in the Chinese garden. A calendar of events is available here.
General Information: Prices, Opening Hours, Getting There
Click here for detailed information on visiting the Montreal Botanical Gardens.