Lonely Planet review for Jardin Botanique
Montréal’s Jardin Botanique is the third-largest in the world, after London’s Kew Gardens and Berlin’s Botanischer Garten. Since its 1931 opening, the 75-hectare garden has grown to include tens of thousands of species in 30 thematic gardens, and its wealth of flowering plants is carefully managed to bloom in stages. The rose beds in particular are a sight in summer. Climate-controlled greenhouses house cacti, banana trees and 700 species of orchid. Bird-watchers should bring their binoculars. A popular draw is the landscaped Japanese Garden with traditional pavilions, tearoom and art gallery; the bonsai ‘forest’ is the largest outside Asia. The twinning of Montréal with Shanghai gave impetus to plant a Chinese Garden. The ornamental penjing trees from Hong Kong are up to 100 years old. A Ming-dynasty garden is the feature around Lac de Rêve (Dream Lake). In the northern part of the Jardin Botanique you’ll find the Maison de l’Arbre (Tree House), a permanent exhibit on life in the 40-hectare arboretum. Displays include the yellow birch, part of Québec’s official emblem. The First Nations Garden reveals the bonds between 11 Amerindian and Inuit nations and indigenous plants such as silver birches, maples, Labrador and even tea. The Orchidée Gift Shop in the main building has a wonderful selection, including handmade jewelry and crafts, stuffed animals and beautifully illustrated books. In fall (mid-September to early November) the Chinese garden dons its most exquisite garb for the popular Magic of Lanterns, when hundreds of handmade silk lanterns sparkle at dusk. Montrealers are devoted to this event and it can feel like it’s standing-room only even though it’s held in a huge garden. Creepy crawlies get top billing at the bug-shaped Insectarium. Most of the 250,000 specimens are mounted but live displays include bees and tarantulas. The admission ticket includes the gardens, greenhouses and the Insectarium.