Monday, 5 March 2012

Les Quatre Vents: a beautiful legacy

 “We should be transported from our regular preoccupations. With an open heart and soul we can be receptive to the images, scents, sounds, spaces, and views that surround us, as well as to the touch of the wind and the rain, to the peace everlasting of the “genius of the place.”
 ~ Frank Cabot, "The Greater Perfection" 

I am guilty, dear readers, of overlooking what has been in my own rather large Canadian backyard. In fact I have somehow overlooked what is "considered to be one of horticultural masterpieces of the 20th century". Like many of us, my attention has been trained on the spectacular gardens of England and France and the famous designers that inspire and teach us. Granted, Canada is rather a large backyard, but I find no excuse for not knowing that such a glorious creation existed just one province away.

I first saw a picture of Les Quatre Vents (garden of The Four winds) just two short months ago as I was perched at my desk, researching the web for information on Canadian was sheer joy when the image below from appeared on the screen. I was completely enraptured by the unique border of ornamental rhubarb, the rill leading us to the view beyond. It was rather unusual - and daring - and brilliant. I was smitten and I have been searching for information on Frank Cabot and Les Quatre Vents ever since.

I am not going to write an in-depth piece here (I hope you don't find me lazy), but what I am going to do is provide you with some inspiring photos. I have compiled a list of links at the end of this post that will take you to articles written by authors who have actually visited the gardens and will do much more justice to this place than I could at this moment.

Situated near La Malbaie, Charlevoix County, Quebec Les Quatre Vents is the private garden of Frank Cabot and his wife Anne. A self-taught gardener and designer, Cabot spent 25 years developing, restoring and creating 20 acres of masterful garden 'rooms' that include the whimsical, the formal, the lush and so much more - all infused with Cabot's passionate eye to the "genius of the place".

Sadly, Mr. Cabot passed away in November 2011 at the age of 86. I am committed to visiting the garden this summer, even in the midst of our busiest season, but  I confess I deeply regret that I will not have the opportunity to meet this most inspiring gardener. He leaves us now his gardens as teachers and I hope you will find some inspiration from his work as I have.

Ornamental rhubarb creates a luscious border
Photo via: Riding the Buses

Frank Cabot in the garden at Les Quatre Vents
photo via:

A clever use of mirrors in the garden...
 creating the illusion that you could simply walk forever 

Photo via:

An archway in the pigeoniere beckons us to the gardens beyond
photo via: Doug Green's Blog

The Tea House at Les Quatres Vents
photo via:

The stunning contrast of the formal within a natural setting
photo via: The Cassandra Pages

A touch of whimsy...
This is from a wonderful collection of photos:

Photo via: Riding the Buses

...and also from  Riding the Buses
a stunning vista of glorious spring colour

The Blue Moon Bridge - I am speechless
Photo via:

For more information on Les Quatre Vents follow the links below:




Mr. Cabot has narrated a DVD about the gardens. A sample clip is available on youtube and at the link below. The charm, passion and wit is audibly apparent in the warm tones of the gardener.


You may have a hard time finding this book, I certainly have which is making the yearning that much more intense. Available online at all the usual places like Barnes & Noble, Chapters, and Amazon 'The Great Perfection' has a rather shocking sticker price. 

I have seen used copies available from just under $200.00 to well over $2000.00. At the time of this writing, there does not seem to be any new copies on the market. I am hoping if I am successful in making my garden trek, a copy may be available at the gardens themselves. wish me luck...and send me an email if you have a copy you would like to sell for less than the prices mentioned above :)


  1. You might try asking your local library... or having them check on loaning it from another library in your area. That has been a great resource for me. I have had some similar problems with finding gardening books - oh to live in England for their garden book resources!

    This is an amazing garden. The design speaks for itself. Thanks for sharing more about it. I hope that you get to be there this summer!...perhaps I will get to go there someday too!

  2. Julie that is a great idea and one I honestly hadn't thought of ...will call them today! From what I have read a tour of the gardens is supposed to be a highly emotionally experience, and was designed to be that way - nothing gave Mr. Cabot more pleasure than to see someone sitting at a garden's edge lost in thought and moved to tears. I hope we both get to see this too!

  3. Brenda, I am lucky enough to own this book, bought it when it first came out, and it is certainly in my top 10 garden books. I feel inspired every time I open it, and hope to see Les Quatre Vents for myself one day when I return to Canada.

  4. Richard in MarathonFriday, March 29, 2013

    Three or four years ago I tried to purchase a copy of "The Greater Perfection" as a gift for my sister. I had already bought my copy of the first edition shortly after it was published. As you point out, copies of the first edition are very pricey. However, I Googled "Hortus Press" (I think that it is, or was, owned by Francis Cabot) and you will find a website from which you can purchase copies of the second edition. In my case, I phoned the number and talked to a very nice lady who was Mr. Cabot's secretary, and she arranged to have Mr. Cabot autograph a copy, take it with him to La Malbaie, and mail it from there to reduce shipping costs. Talk about personal service! I think the website is still active but you might want to phone first before placing your order. It is an excellent book, well worth the price: I believe I read somewhere that it won an award of some sort.

  5. Richard this is brilliant - thank you so much for the tip. I found the site and will call them on Monday, $75.00 plus shipping...I am very happy with that. You have made my weekend!

  6. Thanks so much for visiting my blog -- I really hope you will visit Les Quatre Vents this summer because you will love it. In fact, I wish I could see it in every month of the spring, summer, and fall: Mr. Cabot has created and bequeathed a treasure. The book is gorgeous, and you'll certainly be able to buy one at the garden if not by mail order beforehand.

  7. Oh! I see that this was two years ago! Did you get there? I'm adding your blog to my feed reader because I love reading what other people write about gardens and plants - and now we can finally look forward to another growing season here in eastern Canada!

  8. Richard in MarathonSunday, April 26, 2015

    Hello, again. My wife and I visited Les Quatre Vents in July, 2013 and it was a great experience. A word of advice, though: visitors are organized in groups of about 25 and the dialogue from the guide is generally en francaise. If you are not fluent in French, you will miss most of the interesting background information provided by the guide. Our guide graciously took and answered questions in English. I would strongly recommend getting the book before going (if you can) and reading it thoroughly. Then you can just relax and enjoy your surroundings as you spend several hours strolling through this beautiful garden and admiring its creativity.