In 1749, Pehr Kalm wrote a travel journal in which he gives lengthy descriptions of the agricultural practices and the kitchen gardens of the inhabitants of New France, but he mentions no ornamental plants. Yet, forty years later, Thomas Anbury published his own travel journal.
In the Governor’s Garden, flowers appropriate to the 18<sup>th</sup> century are concentrated in the pleasure garden, but they can also be found in the other plots and along the walls. In the plots along Notre-Dame street, which were created in the 19th century when the Museum first opened, the plants are those one would find in a Victorian garden. These include peonies, day lilies, hortentias, hostas and astilbes.
This plant was know in New France mainly for its medicinal properties. Indeed, yarrow has been used for millennia to cure wounds, ulcers and bleeding haemorrhoids. In North America, most Native groups used it. They called it “squirrel tail” because of the shape of its leaves. Its essential oil acts as an anti-inflammatory. Yarrow infusion can be used in compresses to treat wounds.
Called Dianthus, divine flower, by the Greek philosopher and botanist Theophrastus, it has been grown for over 2000 years for its scent and its beauty. In ancient Rome, it was known as Jupiter’s flower. In China, it was used for its medicinal properties and is mentioned in ancient Chinese herbaria as a treatment for urinary tract infections. It was also very popular in 17th century France where its cultivation fascinated rich and poor alike. This interest continued until the early 20th century.
The daylily originated in north-east Asia. It was brought to Europe as an ornamental plant and was naturalized in North America. It blooms for only one day and produces no seeds. It spreads when plant bits take root.
Various forms of iris have been grown since the dawn of time. It can be seen on the walls of 4000-year-old Egyptian temples. In the Middle Ages it was used for its medicinal properties as well as its aromatic properties in the case of species with roots which, when ground up, smell like violets. It is the flower of Florence and of Tuscany. In France, in 1147, Louis VII adopted the yellow iris as the emblem of France. The iris spread across the entire northern hemisphere and includes many different species, perennials as well as bulbs. The latter include the blue flag which grows naturally in every region of Québec. Indeed, it is the floral emblem of Québec.
Belonging to the same family as the Jerusalem artichoke, this flower originated in Central America when it was being cultivated 3000 years ago. The plant can reach up to 3 metres in height and its flower can grow to 80 cm across. The sunflower owes its name to its ability to face the sun all day. The Iroquoians grew it for its seeds. In Europe, the sunflower was initially considered an oddity, then as snack food. Its widespread cultivation began in the 19th century and quite early in Québec.