An extraordinary garden – and the man who created it – are the subject of a splendid new film that opens in Australia tomorrow.
The Gardener is a documentary about Les Jardins de Quatre-Vents ('The Gardens of the Four Winds') in Quebec, Canada. Created over three generations, it has become one of the world’s foremost private gardens – according to the movie blurb, "It is an enchanted place of beauty and surprise, a horticultural masterpiece of the 21st century”.
Created by self-taught horticulturist Frank Cabot, the sprawling garden encompasses rolling lawns, intricate boxwood hedges, reflecting pools, waterfalls, sculptures, a Chinese moon bridge and even the St. Lawrence River, which flows through the 15-hectare property. While Les Jardins de Quatre-Vents is described as an "English-style garden", there are elements to suit just about everyone, and with a charming touch of whimsy running throughout.
Born in New York in 1925, Francis "Frank" Cabot was an investment banker who, in 1965, inherited the property that had been a wedding present to his grandmother in 1902. He subsequently turned his attention from banking to developing the sprawling grounds. According to The Globe and Mail, "His vision was inspired by gardens around the world, such as Vita Sackville-West's White Garden in Sissinghurst, England, the Pin Mill in Bodnant, Wales, the Taj Mahal in India and Japanese gardens".
In his, ahem, 'spare time', Cabot also established the non-profit Garden Conservancy (to help protect and care for gardens under threat from land developers), and served as chairman of the New York Botanical Gardens, and as an advisor to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and the Royal Botanical Gardens in Ontario. He was also made an honorary member of the Order of Canada, and a chevalier in l'Ordre national du Québec – not bad for a 'foreigner'!
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Cabot died in 2011 at the age of 86, but in 2009 he opened Les Jardins de Quatre-Vents to a film crew for the very first time. The result is The Gardener, which not only tells the tale of Cabot and his truly beautiful legacy, but also reflects on "the meaning of gardening and its impacts on our lives".
The Gardener screens this week at the Dendy Canberra, New Farm Cinemas in Brisbane, Theatre Royal Castlemaine, Village Rivoli in Melbourne, and the Golden Age Cinema & Bar in Sydney, with another screening slated for the Deckchair Cinema in Darwin on November 8.
If you fancy checking out the real thing, be warned: Les Jardins de Quatre-Vents is only open to the public for four days every summer (the northern hemisphere summer, that is). Tickets for 2019 are sure to sell out, and will be available on the garden's website in December.