Magic lies outside is the theme of the annual International Garden Festival, which aims to “bring us hope, to exalt creativity and to add colour to this world that is struggling to overcome this global pandemic and to come out of several months of confinement.”

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A garden with hard tile surrounding small square plots of land where trees and shrubs are planted.

Now in its 22nd year, the 2021 edition at Reford Gardens in Quebec, Canada features five new installations, submitted from Canada, the United States, France and Sweden. These additions extend the current gardens, creating an outdoor museum of art.

Related: Casa CBC incorporates greenery at every level 

A cactus garden surrounded by dirt and rocks.

Choose Your Own Adventure

Balmori Associates from New York present this work, inspired by the effects of global warming. The fight against climate change, coupled with the impact of the pandemic, drove the team to rethink the human/nature connection. 

An overhead view of a garden with hard tile surrounding small square plots of land where trees and shrubs are planted.

This contemplation is represented in simple lines of plants crisscrossing with hard materials. The message simplifies our relationship with the soil, water, air, plants and animals. Choose Your Own Adventure sets out to encourage visitors to feel the hot ground underfoot, smell the moisture or dryness in the air and hear the crunch of gravel as they walk.

Three straw huts surrounded by a field of flowers.


Architect Emil Bäckström from Stockholm, Sweden presents Hässja, a traditional hay-drying technique that offers shelter and a connection to nature. Each of the three structures is made up of millions of pieces of straw, transforming a once-living grass into a cozy and protected space for contemplating the resurgent need to intermingle human needs with those of nature. A press release explains the installation by saying, “The covid-19 pandemic has taught us a lot. It has exposed a disconnection from nature, agriculture and the importance of biodiversity. All around the globe, a regained interest in traditional, sustainable ways of inhabiting the earth is emerging.”

A structure that looks like two satellite dishes connected to each other and facing out at a forest.

Miroirs Acoustiques

Presented by landscape architects Emmanuelle Loslier and Camille Zaroubi from Montreal (Quebec) Canada, Miroirs Acoustiques gives visitors the chance to experience sound in a newly presented way. Inspired by sound mirrors used across the coast of Great Britain during WWI to detect approaching enemy aircraft, the installation allows sounds to bounce and focus, amplifying them via two parabolic reflectors (recycled aluminum antennas) planted in the ground.

An overhead view of a blue house opened up to look like an exploded diagram of a house.

Open Space

A team of architectural interns for Quebec, Canada (Gabriel Lemelin, Francis Gaignard, Sandrine Gaulin) delivers an open space in the outdoors. The premise is a completely unboxed house, loaded with endless possibilities. It not only provides an open space but a way for the mind to openly roam with new consideration for the doors, staircases, windows and walls around us every day.


David Bonnard, DE-HMONP architect, Laura Giuliani, landscaper, and Amélie Viale, visual artist, represent Lyon, Villefranche-sur-Saône and Lissieu, France with Porte-bonheur, an installation about reopening the doors firmly shut during the pandemic lockdowns.

“Porte Bonheur is a rite of passage between reality and potentiality. The installation invites visitors to dare to throw open the door, cross thresholds, go outside and explore their surroundings with all the wonder of a small child.”

The Reford Gardens will be open daily from May 29 to October 3, 2021, in addition to being accessible to members in the low season.

+ Jardins de Métis

Images via JC Lemay, Martin Bond, Nancy Guignard and Antoine Proulx