Les Quatre Vents, Le Pigeonnier

Le Pigeonnier and its garden is one of 24 garden spaces at Les Quatre Vents

If you love gardens and live in Canada, be proud that one of North America’s finest gardens is right here. Well, right here and a little over to our right – near La Malbaie, Québec. It’s Les Quatre Vents.

Few people get to see this special place, open for only four days a year, to guided tours of about 22 people. Tickets go on sale early in December, and quickly sell out. In August, I was privileged to be one of 40 garden writers admitted for an exclusive look, guided by creator Frank Cabot’s son Colin.

What a garden this is! Cabot wanted to inspire an emotional response in his garden visitors. He’d be thrilled with me. I was unprepared by how strongly moved I’d be. Pictures are lovely, but immersion in a garden is something else. (To get something of an idea, try this panoramic tour. You get two free looks; then $5 gives you unlimited access.)

The iconic Pigeonnier – pigeonnier is French for both pigeon coop and pigeonhole – is but one of twenty-four garden experiences at Les Quatre Vents (the “four winds”). I’ll post on others later this week. Enjoy my little peek. Then I urge you to put this Québec treasure on your travel agenda.

From an archway in the Pigeonnier, one of Cabot’s black reflecting pools
Inside, an airy dining room overlooks the gardens on four sides. Note the angle of the vaulted ceiling.
Charming chinaware features vignettes from the gardens of Quatre Vents


Then, a secret staircase takes you somewhere unexpected
A fairytale bedroom, perfect for Rapunzel; its walls painted with trompe l’oeil scenes of the gardens
Parallel to the reflecting pool are two long, shady allées that seem to stretch to infinity.
Even as you approach the end, the path seems to stretch on and on and on…
…till you discover the secret, and a bunch of garden writers

Sadly, Frank Cabot died two years ago this month.  His obituary in the New York Times, notes that Cabot has had a Toronto-area connection, too, as an adviser to our own Royal Botanical Garden in Burlington. Amongst his many other horticultural credits is one as founder of America’s Garden Conservancy. It was originally done to protect the dry-climate Ruth Bancroft Garden near San Francisco. By coincidence, this was another garden I visited this year, and will also post on it soon. [Update: see my Ruth Bancroft Garden post here.]

And, finally, I can’t believe I’ve never posted on Les Jardins de Métis/Reford Gardens, which is about 200 km downstream, via road and ferry, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence. Yep. Post soon.

For my post on the architecture of Les Quatre Vents, see here. And for a post that features the famous water course and other greenery, see here.


  1. It looks like a wonderful place. I got moving way too fast in the panoramic view and I'm still a little woozy. It must be a real treat to actually visit there!

    1. Yes, the panoramic version can be a bit dizzy-making. If I recall, you can use the map to navigate from one garden to another, which helps your equilibrium some.

  2. Ladies, I really like your blog and I really like Toronto – I met my wife of 30 years there and I got married there – and I know your blog is called Toronto Gardens, but Toronto isn't all of Canada. For some of us, Les Quatre Vents isn't "right here" or a little to the right. It's a little to the left, or quite a long way to the left, or even a long, long way to the right.

    1. You're quite right, Howard, and I hope you'll excuse my tongue-in-cheek description. As someone who drove to Quebec City at least once a year for over 20 years (in a car stuffed with kids and cats), I know it's a long, long way to the right — a nine hour drive from Toronto to Quebec City, if we're lucky, then a good two hours more to Quatre Vents. Worth every minute, though. No matter which direction you come from, I hope you'll have the chance to visit. Drop by Toronto afterwards. We're just a little to the left.

  3. I've been watching Monty Don's shows on gardens around the world (on PBS). Just last night I was wondering if he is coming to Canada (or ever came as I do miss things!) Your post on this garden reminds me of his show. I've never heard of this (or Les Quatre Vents) Thanks for doing this article! If Monty ever comes I'm sure these will be on his list. He may be scouring your blog for possible locations right now. 🙂
    Newmarket, Ontario

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