Domaine Joly De Lotbiniere

Domaine Joly De Lotbiniere occupies a protected location along the south shore of the St Lawrence river just to the west of the village of Ste Croix and there you can discover an amazing garden.

The Domaine Joly-De Lotbiniere is now a public garden operated by a non profit organization dedicated to preserving these buildings and gardens. They were started in 1672 when this land was granted to the De Lotbiniere family as their seigneury in New France. It’s history, passing through several generations of this family until 1967, is a fascinating tale of a family dedicated to forest preservation and horticultural progress.

Maple House built in 1851 by Pierre Gustav Joly was to become the summer residence of the family and the impetus for the greater development of the attractive gardens that occupy the land between the house and the river. That magnificent house is still open, allowing the public a wonderful glimpse of its grandeur and history.

All around the gardens are the remainder of the 1000s of Black Walnut trees, planted in 1882 by Henri Gustav as part of his experiments to see if they would be hardy at Domaine Joly De Lotbiniere. Patently they are. In front of the house there is an expanse of lawn that has as its centrepiece a large circular garden planted to Bonica roses and Verbena bonariensis. This intermingling of the sturdy pink flowering shrub roses and the tall airy Verbena is an eye catching study in contrasts.

A little farther down the hill you approach a vine laden arbour that invites you to pass through it and onto the neat turf edged pathways. They lead you through a series of rectangular gardens. The vision, as you enter, is of a series of stunning perennial borders filled with an amazing diversity of plants. It’s hard to remember that this garden is as far north as it is. The surrounding forest and river create a microclimate that belies its actual zone 4 location. Closer inspection reveals a variety of non hardy plants, such as the fig tree, that are interspersed into this garden and are obviously wintered elsewhere.

There is a section for vegetables that would have been much bigger when the house was occupied by the family. Many of the plants are identified with a little blue number and visitors are handed a guide book where they can look up the species from among the approximately 2300 listed. Hours can be spent just wandering and enjoying this brilliant sun filled space with its vibrant displays but don’t spend all day there.

On my early morning visit I was approached by one of the knowledgeable guides who suggested that I move on and visit her favourite part of the garden. This really was, saving the best for last. The shade garden with the early morning light slanting through the trees was a truly magical place. Ponds, streams and pathways were overhung with large trees and surrounded by mosses and ferns and an extensive collection of shade tolerant plants. A tall yellow flowered plant had our entire Garden Writer’s group leafing through their guide books to discover that it was Salvia glutinosa. We are all surprised that is was not only a Salvia but it was yellow flowered and liked the shade.

We slowly wandered the shady paths of Domaine Joly De Lotbiniere discovering other delights and letting the serenity and peacefulness of the space overwhelm us; wishing we could return at the end of many of our busy days to regain that wonderful calmness that this garden creates. I’ve travelled many gardens and this one has truly made it into the top echelon of gardens that must be visited again.

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