The Sunday Sun September 2, 2003


In Ontario and Quebec

fresh ideas

put floral art
in limelight


A FOLK TALE about a goddess using a stone to fill a hole in the sky inspired Shanghai's entry

  By Ruth Lor Malloy

Toronto has a new image --- but you have to go to Montreal to see it. 

Be prepared for a mythical animal with three heads and a bison's body. It stands more than 3 metres tall in a park near Montreal's waterfront along with statues of the CN Tower, SkyDome and City Hall.

Toronto's is one of 60 exhibits from around the world at this year's Mosaicultures International competition, which is considered the Olympics of the horticultural world. Gardeners from about 30 countries spent a month this spring creating works of floral art, based on the theme "Myths and Legends of the World."

Mosaicultures are three-dimensional metal structures decorated with plants in soil or foam and held together with fabric. Unlike topiary, gardeners construct these pieces rather than trim existing plants into shape. For this international competition, mosaicultures have to be original works of art, never made with plants.

Complicated watering systems keep the plants alive for the exhibition's three months. Montreal is using more than 30,000 metres of irrigation pipes, but much additional watering must be done by hand. It has hired more than 100 horticulturalists to keep it all beautiful.

Harbin in north-eastern China inspired Montreal's first such exposition. During a 1995 trip to Harbin, Lise Cormier then a director of the Montreal Botanical Garden saw mosaicultures for the first time.

When she proposed such a garden for Montreal, the mayor said she could do it if she found the money. Governments, tourism offices and the Quebec lottery eventually supported her dream in 2000 and again in 2003.

This year's theme has given gardeners a lot of scope, me most spectacular structure is Quebec's Mother Earth offering the gift of water, flowing between her fingers. At 9 metres high with hair 50 metres long, she is the largest of the lot, made with at least 300,000 plants, each placed by hand.


Toronto's exotic entry to is inspired by a fire-breathing chimera.

Impressive cobras

Toronto is competing with the likes of New Delhi's impressive cobras, one of which is 160 metres long and made of coleus, abermanthera, echvaria and sanolisa.

Canada's Inukshuk is 10 metres tall. Labels beside each exhibit explain the stories and the materials used.

Not all competitors are big, but most are clever and beautiful. Bucharest's expressive metre-high face of a shepherdess is crying a river. Belgium's knight in shining armour rides a leafy horse as he attacks a winged dragon. Boston's Moby Dick threatens Captain Ahab.

At Mosaicultures, visitors can also get their first look at giant Easter Island heads from Chile, Beijing's Great Wall and the Nazca pictures from Peru. There are phoenixes, tigers, camels and dancing women with almost metre-high hats.

And should you want to leam about how to make your own mosaiculture, daily workshops teach the techniques.

For Torontonians, Toronto's entry might be the most exotic of all. Inspired by the fire-breathing Greek chimera, they represent the various origins of the city's peoples heads of a lion for Africa, a deer for Europe, a tiger for Asia. The bison symbolizes the First Nations.

The concept created by the city's Parks and Recreation Department might leave one wondering if Toronto has any other myths or legends. At the 2001 exposition, Mayor Mel's moose made of coloured leaves represented the city.

A committee of officials and visitors' votes will decide the winner. All the exhibits will then be torn down and the current art works will never be displayed again. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity will be the last so time the international displays will be held in Montreal. It could be the only time that a chimera represents Toronto.

Shanghai will host the next Mosaicultures International in 2006. Boston will be the host city for the 2009 event.

Bucharest's entry above features a shepherdess crying a river of flowers, illustrating the Legend of Dambovita.


DETAILS: Mosaicultures International is at the
south end of McGill St., within walking distance
of Notre-Dame Basilica, the Archeological and
History Museum, and Chinatown. It is spread
over 60,000 square metres of Montreal water-
front beside the Lachine Canal, north of the century-old grain elevators. 

Displays are open daily from 9 a.m.
to dusk. Adult admission is $12.50.

MORE INFO: Contact Quebec tourism at 1 -
877-bonjour, 416-203-7666 or

Contact Mosaicultures International at 514-868-
2003,1 -888-868-9999 or 

GETTING THERE: VIA Rail has regular service between Toronto and Montreal. 

Contact 1-800-VIA RAIL or


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