Hearing about someone's death always brings back memories of life. Yesterday, Davy Jones of the Monkees died and memories of my childhood started drifting through my mind, watching The Monkees on telly; Daydream Believer is still one of my all time favourite songs.
On the same day I heard, somewhat belatedly, that Frank Cabot an American financier and self-taught horticulturalist had died the previous November. I was lucky enough to meet Frank and photograph one of his extraordinary gardens, Les Quatre Ventes in Quebec back in the early noughties. The whole trip was brilliant fun. I went with journalist Rebecca Pow. We flew to Les Jardins de Metis, a garden made by Elsie Reford a contemporary of Gertrude Jekyll. On a lovely evening with golden light, Elsie's dashing great grandson Alex Reford showed us Elsie's garden.
The highlight in July is a glade of blue poppies (Meconopsis betonicifolia). Now, speaking from experience, they are generally pretty fussy critters but the cool night air and humidity rising from the St Lawrence river offers just the right conditions for them to thrive.
Next day, at dawn, I photographed the garden and the International Garden Festival held at the Reford Gardens.
Later in the week, after a mad morning Kayaking along the River Bic we headed off to Les Quatre Ventes, one of two of Frank Cabot's famous gardens. The weather was a disaster, rain, rain, rain. When it finally eased to a drizzle, Frank offered to show us around his garden, it would take an hour, he said, and that was all the time he could spare. It was a remarkable garden, each part borrowed clever ideas and tricks from renowned garden designers from around the world. A 30-foot high pigeonierre was reflected in a long, dark pool not unlike something you would expect in Alice in Wonderland, stepped rills, huge Gunnera-lined grass paths creating odd vistas, an enormous mirror reflecting back just where you had walked. His final trick was to make us walk one of his Nepalese rope bridges over a deep ravine, to me it felt like I was being made to walk the plank.
As I reached the other side I cheekily asked Frank if he built the bridges to scare off nosy journalists, he smiled back with a twinkle in his eye and diplomatically offered us the afternoon to take full artistic license and photograph whatever we wanted, and to enjoy his garden. We did both.
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