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The Montréal Botanical Garden

For the week of Monday June 4, 2012

On June 9, 1931, the Montréal Botanical Garden was founded. Today, this garden, which occupies 75 hectares in the city’s eastern central portion, is one of the largest in the world, containing some 22,000 plant species and cultivars, 10 exhibition greenhouses, about 30 themed gardens and a vast arboretum.

The administrative building and part of the entry garden
© Parks Canada / Nathalie Clerk / 2006

It was through the initiative of renowned professor and scientist Brother Marie-Victorin that the Montréal Botanical Garden came into being. Born in 1885, Marie-Victorin discovered his passion for botany when he was sent to the countryside to convalesce. He rapidly became a specialist in botany, publishing Flore Laurentienne, a major work on the plants of Quebec, in 1935. In 1930, he helped to found the Association du Jardin botanique de Montréal to lobby for the construction of such a facility in Montréal. Construction on the new garden began in 1932, but was interrupted by the Depression. Although the work stalled, Brother Marie-Victorin began writing to Henry Teuscher, an experienced landscape architect, developing the design of the grounds with him. The two of them determined how the garden was to be laid out so that it could become an “ideal botanical garden” with scientific and educational functions.

Construction resumed in 1936 and Marie-Victorin was named scientific director of the Botanical Garden, while Teuscher became chief horticulturalist. The garden officially opened its gates in 1939, and was an immediate success with the public. After Brother Marie-Victorin died in 1944, the garden fell on more difficult times, despite the fact that Henry Teuscher was appointed curator. However, the Garden began to flourish again in the 1970s.

Inside a greenhouse
© Parks Canada / Nathalie Clerk / 2006

Today, the Botanical Garden, which has contributed to the development of horticulture in Canada, is known around the world. It is one of Montréal’s most famous sites. Hundreds of thousands of visitors come every year to appreciate its beauty and the diversity of its plants. It includes more than 30 themed gardens with special features, such as the Water Garden, First Nations Garden, Rose Garden and Japanese Garden. The greenhouses, with their displays of exotic ecosystems, are open year-round. The Garden also includes a scientific research centre devoted to the study of its diverse plant collections.

The Montreal Botanical Garden is one of the world’s most extensive botanical gardens, and was declared a national historic site in 2008. Brother Marie-Victorin has been declared a person of national historic significance in recognition of his achievements in the field of botany.

To learn more about gardens and botany in Canada, please read the following articles on This Week in History: Victoria’s Mosaic of Landscapes!, David Douglas: Botanist par excellence, Stanley Park: Where nature and culture come together and Elsie Reford's Paradise. To learn more about the Montréal Botanical Garden, visit the Montréal Botanical Garden website and the Historic Places Directory.

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