Situated on the Saint Lawrence River outside Quebec, Les Quatre Vents (the Four Winds) is a 20-acre estate garden filled with gorgeous flowers and exotic plants, many rare for the region, all growing against an unfolding series of alternately playful and deeply contemplative tableaux — this is garden design as high art. The designer was Frank Cabot, a self-taught horticulturalist who inherited the land from his famed Boston family. With his wife, Anne, he transformed an overgrown, neglected estate into the most beautiful garden in North America. In the fine documentary The Gardener, first-time filmmaker Sebastien Chabot uses an interview he filmed with Cabot before his 2011 death as the linchpin for a languorous tour of the grounds.
See the 10-foot-high delphiniums, the eye-popping Himalayan blue poppies, the Chinese moon bridge, the half circle of which reflects in the pond below, forming a perfect moon. And for giddy mad genius, see the Swedish tea house hidden in a tree. Such wonders, and so few will see them outside of this film. There are public tours four days a summer, for less than 100 people, but that’s it, a controversial choice Chabot doesn’t pursue with Cabot’s wife or son. The filmmaker has taken some heat for that, but the criticism seems misguided since his film is clearly a love letter to Cabot and his life’s work. Frank Cabot wanted to sit and consider his gardens, for one of the last times, and fortuitously, Chabot was there to capture his thoughts. In this way, The Gardener is the ultimate guided tour.