Explore a Giant Playground of Conceptual Gardens

Reford Gardens

Reford Gardens


Bas-Saint-Laurent. This activity was part of our 3-Day Road Trip in Bas-Saint-Laurent designed for families and individuals interested in unique travel experiences.


A national historic site of Canada, the Reford Gardens has been a cultural space and must-see destination for over 50 years. The Reford Gardens provide visitors with varied multisensory experiences, housing approx 3000 species and varieties of plants, including the famous Himalayan blue poppy.

Starting in late June, the International Garden Festival presents innovative contemporary gardens designed by landscape architects, architects and artists from around the world. Conceptual gardens give visitors the opportunity to experience contemporary art and offer children a giant playground in which to explore fun and interactive installations.

Who would enjoy a visit to Reford Gardens:

Exploring a giant playground of conceptual gardens at Reford Gardens was on our travel bucket list and we were able to experience the International Garden Festival as part of our trip to the region of Bas-Saint-Laurent.

By the time we visited Reford Gardens, it was the last day of our 5-day road trip and both the adults' and the kids' enthusiasms were waning at this point. Given the kids' energies were diminished and thus, they did not have the same patience they did during the beginning of the trip, we decided to visit the playspaces in the International Garden Festival immediately upon entering the park. As to be expected, the kids enjoyed interacting and playing with the many contemporary art installations. It proved to be difficult when it came time to pry them away from the playspaces.

Botany-enthusiasts, adults and children who have an appreciation for flowers, plant life, and lush gardens will no doubt enjoy visiting Reford Gardens. The International Garden Festival is an added bonus for those who also have an interest in contemporary art.

I can certainly imagine my father who lives and breathes to garden spending several hours exploring each of Reford Garden's various areas. Our three young kids, however, do not have the same zeal for greenery or plush landscapes. In the end, we took the kids along because I knew they would appreciate the International Garden Festival and its playspaces.

A video of Ronan, Kiarra, and Seamus interacting with their favourite installation at the International Garden Festival
Some tips for your visit to Reford Gardens:

This advice is more for visitors with young children. Be prepared for a bit of walking in order to explore the garden's many areas (the trails cover 1.6 km or 1 mile). There are two locations for washrooms - one of the locations being at the front near the entrance. It's helpful to keep in mind that the walk towards the washrooms from inside the park may be neglible to some but for younger kids, I would advise to encourage them to use the washrooms before entering the garden. We were reminded while there that when our youngest has to go while he's too preoccupied playing, he will usually surrender to the inclination at the very last minute.

Check the Reford Garden's website for what is on bloom to avoid disappointment. For example, if you wish to catch the blue poppy glades, the website mentions you can catch them in bloom from mid-June to the end of July. Don't visit thinking the flowers and plants in the garden are miraculously shielded from natural elements. Seasons will largely determine what you will be able to view at the garden.

If you are visiting the gardens with young children, I would advise visiting the other areas first before hitting the playspaces. If your kids are anything like ours, you may encounter some difficulty leading them away from the play installations long enough to visit the rest of the garden. Provided your kids are well-rested and in good spirits, the promise of visiting the play area before you leave Reford Gardens can be used as motivation for them to exercise patience while you visit the other areas. (I am referring to kids in the plural which you will find I tend to do throughout this site but of course, this tip applies as well to visitors with a single child)

I did not spot any drinking water fountains while we were at the garden. Admittedly, I wasn't looking that hard. Nevertheless, I recommend bringing water in reusable containers if similar to us, you like to stay hydrated.

Some of the art installations/playspaces found at the International Garden Festival:

"Assemble" by Katie Strang, Christine Dewancker, & Craig Van Ravens is comprised of six fixed base structures and loose, movable stick components. Participants are invited to find and gather the small wooden stick objects and assemble them onto the base structures to form bush huts.

© 2018, Martin Bond, "Assemble" by Katie Strang, Christine Dewancker, Craig Van Ravens, Jardins de Metis/Reford Gardens, International Garden Festival

"Le rocher très percé" by Humà Design is a reinterpretation of Percé Rock, a huge sheer rock formation in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Visitors are encouraged to touch, climb and enjoy this normally untouchable icon. One can also circle round, climb and even lie down on this contemporary remake in a natural and festive environment.

© 2018, Jean-Christophe Lemay, "Le rocher très percé" by Humà Design, Jardins de Metis/Reford Gardens, International Garden Festival

Kiarra climbing the "Le rocher très percé" installation

The visitor is invited to walk through the cornfield maze, along the path or between the plants, discovering the three playscapes. "aMAIZEing" is a garden that emphasizes three main aspects of playing: shapes, movement and change.

© 2018, Jean-Christophe Lemay, "aMAIZEing" by Marta Milà Pascual and Marc Torrellas Arnedo, Jardins de Metis/Reford Gardens, International Garden Festival

Ronan at the "aMAIZEing" installation

Kiarra swinging away at the "Swing Line Garden" installation

"La Maison de Jacques" (or Jack’s House from the children’s fable Jack and the Beanstalk) by Romy Brosseau, Rosemarie Faille-Faubert, and Émilie Gagné-Loranger is different from the one we know. The house is a green grove that is enveloped in bloom. Once inside, you wander between the rows of beans tightly winding their way up a light wooden structure. The walls divide the space into a series of small hidden gardens, singular in their proportions. These cocoons are ideal hiding places for a game of hide-and-seek.

© 2017, Jean-Christophe Lemay, "La Maison de Jacques" by Romy Brosseau, Rosemarie Faille-Faubert, and Émilie Gagné-Loranger, Jardins de Metis/Reford Gardens, International Garden Festival

"Les hélicoptères" by Anna Thomas & Carson Isenor invites visitor to remember the playfulness and beauty of nature and to celebrate the life cycle of the native maple tree. Adults will remember how they used to play with the seeds and show their younger counterparts how it is done. Touch, spin, examine, explore, and remember to play with the real one come autumn.

© 2018, Martin Bond, "Les hélicoptères" by Anna Thomas & Carson Isenor, Jardins de Metis/Reford Gardens, International Garden Festival

Seamus gives the "Les hélicoptères" installation at the International Garden Festival a thumbs up

June, September and October, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (ticket booth closes at 5 p.m.)
July and August, 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (ticket booth closes at 6 p.m.)


200, route 132, Grand-Métis (Quebec) Canada, G0J 1Z0 (approximately 5h38 drive from Montreal)


Persons under 13 years old are free.
Adult Daily Rate $20CDN.
Student Daily Rate $17
Young Adult Rate (14-18 yrs old) $10

For More Info on Reford Gardens:

Reford Gardens

Disclosure: All or a portion of this event was sponsored or provided at a reduced cost in exchange for coverage on our site. All opinions expressed on our site are our own - no pretenses here!

Photo: Reford Gardens