In the summer of 1926, Elsie Reford (1872-1967) began converting her fishing camp on the Métis River into gardens. Located on the northern part of the Gaspé Peninsula, these are the northernmost gardens in eastern North America.

Known as Les Jardins de Métis or The Reford Gardens, they were opened to the public in 1962. Few gardens have been created in such difficult weather conditions.

At first, Elsie was far from being a gardening enthusiast. Since the early 1900s, she had regularly come to Grand-Métis to fish for salmon. She also enjoyed horseback riding, canoeing and hunting. When surgery for appendicitis interfered with some of these physically demanding activities, his doctor suggested horticulture as an alternative. Elsie was then fifty-four years old. Her adventure began in the summer of 1926, when she developed the concept for her gardens and oversaw the start of their construction. The development of the 20-acre site will take about ten years.

When Elsie Reford begins her life’s work, the property she has inherited is a simple fishing lodge. There is no exterior landscaping, except for a flagpole, a cedar hedge and a spruce-lined main entrance.

Hundreds of miles from the nearest nursery, Elsie Reford is faced with challenges that would be difficult to imagine today. Little by little, the spruce forest was transformed into a garden that would become one of the most important plant collections of the time. To get there, she digs, builds stone walls, moves trees and has rocks transported from nearby fields. The refined compost required to grow her exotic plants is made from leaves that the gardener trades with local farmers. Where specialists in the field have failed, she succeeds by transplanting rare species, such as azaleas and blue poppies from Tibet. Determined, Elsie draws local people into her fabulous project, including farmers and fishing guides. Over the course of three decades, they would build magnificent gardens together.

The Reford Gardens is now administered by Les Amis des Jardins de Métis, a non-profit corporation recognized as a charitable organization. This organization is responsible for the preservation and development of the Reford Gardens.

Several books have been written by Elsie Reford’s great-grandson and current director of the Gardens, Alexander Reford. The guide Jardins de Métis (Les Éditions de L’Homme, 2005) presents both the history and the horticultural riches of this domain. The book Elsie’s Paradise (Les Éditions de l’Homme, 2004) paints a picture of the development of the Reford Gardens This book is illustrated with historical images and photographs by Louise Tanguay. Elsie’s Floral Heritage (Les Éditions de l’Homme, 2006), presents the stars of the garden collection such as the famous blue poppy, gentians, ferns, crabapples, peonies, lilies, roses, primroses, azaleas and bloodroots. The book paints a complete portrait with an archive of photographs and documents. Publications are available online at our boutique as well as in most bookstores.