Plant nerd alert: this garden is for you! Sure, the Roger Van den Hende garden in Quebec is beautiful, even on a drizzly day like the one when I visited, guided by the incredibly knowledgeable Blanche Dansereau, Adjunct, Emeritus Professor at Laval University’s Faculty of Agriculture and Food.
Waterproof notebook and camera in hand, I followed Professor Dansereau to our first stop: the demonstration beds. Now, I’ve seen trial gardens, so I knew this one would display some of the newest annuals about to hit the nurseries in the next year or two, but this garden knocked my Blundstone boots off. Neatly arranged and clearly labelled in the pristine beds, which were easily accessible on crushed stone pathways, were some captivating cultivars that I’m hankering to get my hands on. Many were from brands I’ve seen in nurseries across the country, including Proven Winners, Hort Couture and many of the All America Selection winners, but DECO-Style, a Quebec-based grower and breeder that was unfamiliar to me, offered some stunning new plants that I’ll be chasing down for my garden next season.
If that had been all I could see of the Roger Van den Hende Botanical Garden, I would have gone home happy. But the herbacetum was about to knock off both my Blundstones and my rain hat. A living plant encyclopedia, this unique garden was laid out by plant families in a style long abandoned by most botanical gardens in favour of more ornamental arrangements. Pity, because this kind of display has so much information and instruction to offer plant enthusiasts. You can read plant books until you’re blue in the face, but until you see poppies growing alongside corydalis, bleeding-hearts and bloodroot, the written text is just so much blah, blah, blah. Seeing such diverse genera growing in a single bed, united by the fact they share a common family — in this case, Papaveraceae — is gobsmacking. How I wish this garden were closer to home — I’d visit it daily.
If you could drag yourself away from these two areas of this six-hectare garden, there’s also an arboretum, a charming water garden, a rose garden of more than 200 species and cultivars, an ericacetum of acid-loving plants, including some marvelous, mature rhododendrons and a stunning pergola showcasing climbers and vines.