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Les Fleurs du Québec

My wife and I recently returned from a short vacation to Québec where we spent most of our time in the old city. What impressed both of us the most were the bold bedding schemes which were literally found everywhere…around the Parliament buildings, encircling fountains, and at most storefronts and street corners. They were different from the flower displays we were accustomed to seeing at home in that they were bigger, quite sharp in contrasting colour palettes, and very much "in your face."

That old cliché go big or go home really applies here as most of these bedding schemes rely on large feature plants such as Datura, Castor Bean, Purple-Leaved Amaranth, Canna Lilies, Cleome, and Red Banana, all of which grow much larger there due to the warmer summers. Grasses, both hardy and tender, were also a key component of these flower displays as Purple Fountain Grass, Pennisetum ‘Moudry’, Miscanthus sinensis, and Red Napier Grass (Pennisetum purpureum) punctuated planters and bedding schemes alike. Edibles such as rhubarb, black-leaved kale, and curled parsley (nicely paired with blue Ageratum) were equally prominent and frequently used in mass plantings. Even exotic plants like Mandevilla and Passionflower (neither of which survive the winters in Québec City) could be found tastefully framing storefront windows for the fall season.

The planters were equally unique, whether it was a massive cauldron of chrysanthemums with a fake fire below or an ancient six-foot-tall street urn totally immersed from top to bottom in Golden Potato Vine, ferns, and Sedum ‘Lemon Coral’. The massive metal planters that dot the grounds of the Québec legislature were bursting with trailing begonias, Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’, and variegated Plectranthus flanking the lion’s heads found on their sides. The more upright door displays in old Québec City featured flowering cabbage, cut corn stalks, and ornamental gourds offset with a sprig of artificial fall foliage for contrast. There were even summer art installations composed of upside-down car planters with turf on top, which must be a French thing because although amusing, I didn’t really get it.

True whimsy was easy to find in the old sections of town such as Petit Champlain, where close-quartered storefronts sitting on narrow cobblestone lanes are literally vying for your attention. There was a pig sitting on a rhubarb planter looking into the shop window, a garland of bare branches and terra cotta pots flanked by rabbits, and Dragonwing begonia planters at Le Lapin Saute (a famous local restaurant). Other storefront windows were elaborately framed in dried cornstalks, hydrangea blooms, ornamental grass flowers with a contrast of bright orange gourds. And while we are on the subject of pumpkins and gourds, I have to say that we saw more of these on the streets of Old Québec than we found in the country during our drive around Iles d’Orleans, where they actually grow them.

Window boxes rule in the old city, as there is very little ground space between the centuries-old stone buildings. These provide most of the colour in city squares such as Place-Royale with starkly contrasting combinations like orange begonias and red coleus, and by the time autumn arrives, many of these will trail over the brightly coloured awnings below. We also stumbled across an offbeat sunrise bedding scheme by the old post office that filled a triangular bed on a steep slope using just marigolds and wax begonias. Elegant simplicity found a place here too as evidenced by one café with cerulean awnings and trim tastefully accented by just four yellow chrysanthemums and some green trailing ivy.

Usually when I go on vacation, I try to turn off my inner gardener but the flower displays of Old Québec were so impressive that I knew I had to share them with you. I hope you have enjoyed them as much as we did.

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