Victoria Day


“Victoria Day is a Canadian statutory holiday celebrated on the Monday preceding May 25 in every province and territory. It honours Queen Victoria’s birthday. In Quebec this holiday is called “Journée nationale des patriotes.”

The weekend when it falls is generally called The Long Weekend despite the fact that most statutory holidays are Mondays. Most importantly in Quebec it is when most people start their “gardening” for the summer, ie buy and plant “flats” (polystyrene rectangular boxes) of annual bedding plants such as petunias, impatiens, geraniums, marigolds and pansies. It is the busiest weekend of the year in garden centres and by the time everyone is back at work front gardens are transformed with colour. And apart from mowing the grass and a bit of weeding that seems to constitute gardening for many Montrealers.

The date around mid May means most chance of overnight frost has past and usually the weather has warmed sufficiently for comfortable working outdoors. Our first experience of this weekend transformation took us by surprise: we had noticed ready planted hanging baskets and tubs appearing outside supermarkets along with their outdoor tents for shelves of bedding plants but did not expect everyone to do their planting on the one weekend so Tuesday driving to work gave us a pleasant surprise of instant colour.

That year we had determined that gardening was something we’d done in England and we intended to spend the summer weekends exploring our new territory. Also our container of furniture and possessions was delayed until well into June (that’s another story) so we had no gardening equipment, but we gradually succumbed: a few geraniums when our nice big terracotta pots arrived and then a few more plants until we were digging a new pond the following summer.

After a few years we learned to shop for our annuals before the rush of The Long Weekend and started planting in early May, occasionally having to protect against a late frost but in 2019 everything was delayed. We had returned from a visit to England a few days before Victoria Day but the weather was cool and wet with daffodils and hyacinths in flower and tulips only in bud. Deciduous trees were only starting to unfurl their leaves and the magnolias were still in bud. A week after Victoria Day found trees almost fully in leaf, magnolia blossoms nearly finished, although they had been spectacular, and tulips blooming alongside the later narcissus.

In 2019 we went to buy our annuals after Victoria Day when it appeared that much of the usual rush had taken place as some of the shelves were quite depleted. However I found enough of my “usuals” and have spent the past few days planting up window boxes and other containers.  Cascade petunias in the window boxes as usual but a couple of experiments elsewhere: pansies in the small Wichford pots while it is cooler, to be replaced by nasturtiums later in the season, and some different shade tolerant flowers in the pots on the front steps: dark-leafed ipomea, mauve alyssum, purple-flowered lamium and a couple of dark pink violas. Since the magnolia grew so large and shades the front steps it has become more of a challenge deciding what will do well in these pots.

Now nearer the end of May we have restained the deck while it is still cooler and are enjoying the blossom on the sour cherry tree, not that we expect to eat any more fruit than usual. The Viburnam carlesii again has lovely pale pink, clove-scented flowers. It must be four years since the digger backed into it, damaging the base of the trunk but it has survived, propped on a rock, each year producing lovely blooms, more than before its accident.