February 2018

Quebec City, where everything seems to bloom at once

Simultaneous blooms of purple celosia, pink snapdragons and ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass share space with silvery-blue eucalyptus and dark-leafed cannas at Jardin Jeanne-d’ Arc in Quebec City. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

I just returned from six days in beautiful Quebec City. Nearly 400 garden writers gathered in the Canadian province, where French is the predominate language and the streets have a definite European feel.

As a gardener, I made these observations of differences between gardening in Indiana and gardening in Quebec City. Quebec City is in Zone 3, which is much colder than Indiana’s Zones 5 and 6. The growing season there is much shorter, too, basically from late May to early October.


More than 130 kinds of edible plants adorn the main entryway to the 1877 Quebec Parliament Building. Fruit-bearing trees and shrubs grow in large Smart Pots, as do herbs, vegetables and edible flowers. Long, narrow beds in the lawn are planted with tomatoes, cabbages, beans and other food.

Beds of tomatoes, kale, beans, grapes and more replace lawn at Quebec’s Parliament Building. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Students from Laval University keep everything neat and tidy. The plantings are a cooperative project of the National Assembly and Urbainculteurs, a not-for-profit that promotes urban gardening. The harvests are donated to an organization that works with children in need.


The lawns have what many consider weeds, such as white clover. That’s because Canadian law bans the home use of lawn and garden chemicals for purely aesthetic problems, such as weeds or insect damage.

As a result, pollinating insects thrive. And, there was little to no damage on ornamental and food plants because with reduced use of pesticides, natural predators are allowed to do their jobs gobbling up bugs.


The color of flowers is richly saturated. That’s because the sun is not as bright as it is in Indiana, so flowers are not washed out or fried. The temps are cooler, too, which prolongs flower color.

The weather and lack of intense sun also allow many shade-loving plants, such as tuberous begonias, to thrive in sunnier spots.

All of the perennials seem to bloom at the same time. In Quebec, daylilies, phlox, coneflowers, black-eyed Susans and summer annuals, such as celosia and New Guinea impatiens, bloom right along with monkshood and others that bloom in September and October in Indiana.


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