Where have all the heirlooms gone?

“Sacré potager,” created by Montreal-based Atelier Barda Architects, is a garden that gets around. One of the most popular attractions at the 2013 edition of the International Garden Festival – held at Reford Gardens/Jardins de Métis in Quebec – it is enjoying a return engagement at the 2014 festival. Between engagements, it stopped in at Canada Blooms in Toronto in March; and a pared-down version was presented at Casa d’Italia for the 2nd edition of D!SEGNO, a celebration of lifestyle, fashion and design in Montreal’s Little Italy. “Sacré potager” pays homage to “forgotten vegetables,” offering a plea for their return to our tables.

Reford Gardens/Jardins de Métis is located on the shores of the St. Lawrence and Mitis rivers at the gateway to the Gaspé Peninsula; the national historic site is ranked as one of the great gardens of North America. Created by Elsie Reford over a period of 30 years, Reford Gardens is a living testimony to her passion for gardening and plants. Today, her great-grandson, Alexander Reford, leads a team that maintains this unique horticultural and architectural heritage. As for the International Garden Festival, it is the leading venue for the exhibition of contemporary gardens in North America. Since 2000, the festival has presented 140 gardens by more than 750 designers from Canada and 15 other countries.

“Sacré potager” explores the wild and the sacred. The wild are the plants that we once cultivated 100 or more years ago; because they have assumed a special importance in our battle to preserve plant biodiversity, they are considered sacred. “Sacré potager” is composed of wooden altars of varying sizes evoking crossroad oratories or private chapels. Heritage vegetables grow at the base of each altar, evoking the biodiversity that is shrinking, undermined by the processes of selection, production and marketing of modern society. 

Votive candles adorn each display, customized with images of vegetables. With a witty combination of the sacred and the profane, the garden is meant to raise awareness and promote biodiversity – inviting the visitor to make an offering for the return of heritage seeds and biodiversity to our gardens, markets and grocery stores. 

Atelier Barda Architects is engaged in questions surrounding the contemporary transformation of landscapes and seeks responses that work at a human scale for different places and users. Founded by three architects (Cécile Combelle, Antonio Di Bacco and Patrick Morand) and a designer/graphic designer (Julien Pinard), the firm advocates a playful approach when developing solutions that are above all simple and poetic. Atelier Barda has developed different projects and competition entries from installations to urban spaces, for which the group has been awarded several prizes both in Quebec and internationally.

The competition for this year’s festival – the 15th annual – attracted 293 proposals for contemporary gardens, submitted by over 700 architects, landscape architects, designers and artists from 35 countries. Six new projects were selected, with designers from Canada, the U.S., Spain, Switzerland and South Korea represented.

The 15th edition of the International Garden Festival continues to Sept. 28, 2014, at Reford Gardens/Jardins de Métis in Quebec.