Description of Historic Place
Les Jardins de Métis National historic Site of Canada is an English-inspired garden created by Elsie Reford from about 1926 to 1958. The property, which covers approximately 18 hectares (45 acres) of land, is located on the banks of the St. Lawrence and Métis Rivers between the towns of Mont-Joli and Matane, near Sainte-Flavie, Quebec. The site includes one villa and six distinct garden areas and more than 500 horticultural varieties. Official recognition refers to the gardens as well as the built elements within the property boundary at the time of designation.
Jardins de Métis was designated a national historic site of Canada in 1995 because:
- the gardens, planned and developed over a thirty-year period by Elsie Reford, provide an excellent Canadian example of an English-inspired garden, with specialized gardens, winding paths, allée royale, and a variety of flower beds arranged in an informal manner;
- les Jardins de Métis benefit from an exceptional microclimate, favourable to the growth of plants, flowers, bushes and trees, certain varieties of which are to be found nowhere else in the country.
Jardins de Métis is an excellent Canadian example of an early-20th century English-inspired garden. The gardens were created by Elsie Reford from about 1926 to 1958 on the grounds of a summer home given to her by her uncle, George Stephen, founder of the Canadian Pacific Railway and Canada's leading entrepreneur of the 19th century. Originally a fishing lodge, Mrs. Reford created the gardens from a rough landscape, taking full advantage of the site's favourable microclimate and its sublime views. The site now includes specialized gardens, winding paths, an allée royale and a variety of flower beds arranged in an informal manner.
Source: Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, Minutes July 1995.
The key elements relating to the heritage value of the site include:
- its location between the towns of Mont-Joli and Matane, near Sainte-Flavie, Quebec;
- the careful placement of the gardens at the confluence of the St. Lawrence and Métis Rivers to take full advantage of the site's microclimate;
- the natural stream, the banks of which are stabilized by stone walls, that serves as a central feature of Reford's gardens;
- the evergreen shelterbelt along the St. Lawrence River, designed to protect the gardens from winter winds;
- the winding path connecting the gardens;
- the designed gardens in their locations, composition, built features and plantings, plant varieties, feature elements and structures in their original materials and proportions, including:
- the Floral Beds, also known as the Entrance Garden, designed as a showy flowering garden;
- the modestly scaled Rock Garden, also known as the Scree Garden, including its multiple levels, its meandering path through the woods, the clearing with its millstone, the rockeries of stone and gravel, the collection of alpine plants, the collection of gentians and lilies and the saule de Bock specimen;
- the Rhododendron Garden, including its collection of exotic rhododendrons, a Japanese maple planted by Mrs. Reford, its collection of himalayan blue poppies (the signature flower of the site) and its extension to a rose garden;
- the spectacular Long Walk, also known as the allée royale, a mixed border garden in the English style designed to bloom from spring to fall with its steps, herbaceous borders, flowering specimens introduced by Mrs. Reford, including the basket-of-gold, rockcress, lilacs, peonies, delphiniums, lilies and phlox; concrete path designed to imitate flagstone; and its termination at a vista overlooking the St. Lawrence River;
- the Crabapple Garden, with its underplantings and its collection of Rosybloom hybrids;
- the Primula Garden, established by Mrs. Reford to showcase exotic primula specialized plant collections, including: collections of primulas; a sawara false cypress; and a chalef argenté specimen.
- the Villa Reford, also known as Estevan Lodge, with its one-and-a-half storey massing and its wood construction in the Regency style;
- viewscapes within the site and toward the St. Lawrence and Métis rivers;