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COVETING THE BEAUTIFUL,
HIMALAYAN BLUE POPPY

THE FLOWER OF MY DREAMS
BY

ANNA MAY KINNEY

    
Five years ago, I could only recognize about six flowers by their common names and forget knowing any Latin. While my knowledge is still quite limited, it amazes me, how much easier learning something new becomes when you are truly fascinated with it. Maybe that’s why children learn things so much quicker than us older folks; they are able to immerse themselves in a subject.

Like all other avid gardeners, there’s that one species that I cannot wait to acquire. In my case it’s the Himalayan Blue poppy (Meconopsis betonicifolia)

My dear friend, Heather, is both a world traveler and a garden enthusiast. She has visited gardens throughout Canada, United States, Scotland, Ireland, England, Australia and Indonesia, to name just a few places. Always arriving with a stack of incredible pictures, she helped plant the seed that developed into the gardens I have today.

Her family has a summer home on Metis Beach and since childhood, one of her favorite places to visit is the Metis Gardens. On one visit she brought me pictures of these delicate blue poppies and it was love at first sight.

I take pride in the fact that there has never been a seed that I could not get to grow, even though my fig tree did take six months to germinate.  Well, sadly to say, after trying everything it said to do on the seed package, my little blue poppies would not germinate.

Not being defeated by this failure, my friend brought me two more packages of seeds. In the meantime, there was a lot of work going on in my garden, making a shade area underneath the giant willow was no easy task, I just prayed the little poppy seeds would appreciate it. Still nothing grew.

Well, maybe it is because this is not a plant that normally grows in our climate. You maybe asking, then why does this unique plant do so well in a garden that is a couple of hundred miles further north?

You have often heard me talk about microclimates, and how two neighbors can have such varying conditions, that one may have frost on a cool night and the property next to it will not even have to protect the delicate plants.

 Well, the Metis Gardens are situated in their own unique microclimate. Just south of the 49th parallel, the gardens are built at the confluence of the Metis and St. Lawrence Rivers. They are several hundred feet above sea level, and are perched on a headlong overlooking the bay. Pointe aux Senelles protects them from the strong north winds and the spray of breaking waves.

In the 1920’s when Elsie Reford designed the gardens she made sure that the most fragile plants had the greatest protection. Beds are adjacent to a stream, in a series of basins, creating areas of heat and humidity. Resulting in an environment where plants entirely unknown to Quebec in the 1920’s could grow and prosper, many of these same plants are still almost impossible to grow elsewhere in the province.

With an average snowfall of more than 600 cm. the gardens lay protected from November through May.  In the spring, plants with only minimal protection emerge unharmed.

Lord Mount Stephen, founder and President of the Canadian Pacific Railway, built what is now known as the Villa Reford as a fishing camp in 1887.  In 1918, his niece, Elsie Reford named her new summer residence Estevan Lodge.

This Elsie Reford was a lady I would of enjoyed spending a few hours with, she would take many walks down to the river every day, always in style, even down to the special outfits she wore to go fishing, one of her favorite pastimes.

Elsie was a self-taught gardener, who quickly became an expert in growing unusual and rare plants. She dedicated her summers, between 1926 and 1959 to the more than 40-acre treasure we now know as the Metis Gardens.

There are more than 2,000 varieties and species of both native and exotic plants in bloom in succession from June to mid-October. As you walk alongside a rushing brook, you come upon one lush garden after another. Each artistically designed with an assortment of these unique plants.

I am resigning to the fact that the only way I am going to see a live Himalayan blue poppy is to visit the Reford Gardens, the only problem is that going there will only increase my desire to have even more varieties of plants, seems like a never ending quest for the unattainable.

The gardens are located 150 km (93miles) east of Riviére du Loup and the junction with the Trans-Canada highway. Their address is Reford Gardens, Route 132, Grand-Metis, Quebec, G0J 1Z0, (418) 775-2222, E-mail; jarmetis@globetrotter.qc.ca, or at least take the time to visit their web site; http://www.jardinsmetis.qc.ca