hoeThe Hortus Press

The Greater Perfection - Foreword

Les Quatre Vents, in Charlevoix County, Quebec, has been acclaimed as the most aesthetically satisfying and horticulturally exciting landscape experience in North America. This finely wrought set of gardens nestles in rolling farmland between the shore of the St. Lawrence River and the margins of the boreal forest. Elements drawn from the best gardening traditions are seamlessly combined with the original and the unexpected into a splendid composition that nevertheless "belongs" perfectly in its natural setting. The work of a consummate plantsman endowed with an artist's eye, Les Quatre Vents celebrates that purest of human pleasures, the making of a garden.

The Greater Perfection transports the reader into the extraordinary setting that is Les Quatre Vents and illustrates the sequence of delights, diversions, surprises and allusions that await a visitor to the gardens. As the "autobiography" of the garden (eloquently "ghosted" by its maker), the book also chronicles the family origins of Les Quatre Vents and the more personal story of its expansion during the last quarter of the twentieth century.

The early garden grew around a house built in 1928 by the author's parents and was shaped by his two architect uncles in the 1930s and 1950s. However, it was only in 1975 that Les Quatre Vents began to be developed and enlarged in the hands of Frank Cabot. His account of the influences, challenges, problems, and pleasures that went into this task reveals the fascinating process behind the creation of a world-class garden that today has become a mecca for horticultural enthusiasts from every part of the globe.

Breathtaking color photographs by five leading garden photographers document the masterly "bones", architectural features, and inspired planting that characterize Les Quatre Vents, in intimate closeups and spectacular long views. Many elements of the garden appear in photographs for the first time, particularly those taken in the fall, winter, and spring, when the gardens are rarely visited. All demonstrate the sensitivity with which the garden combines with the natural landscape and offer an invitation to savor an exquisite garden experience.

Penelope Hobhouse, doyenne of garden designers and writers, in a foreword to The Greater Perfection states:

"Frank Cabot - on one level - has created a great modern garden using all the tricks of landscape design which have evolved through centuries. On quite another level, he has shown how nature works and how a contrived garden can fit into a wider landscape. With his passionate interest in plants, plant exploration and botany, he demonstrates how a discriminating choice of plants can produce something to satisfy both aesthete and ecologist as well as stir the heart of the horticulturist. This book is not only the story of a garden but an essay on the finer points of garden appreciation!"

Laurie Olin, the distinguished landscape architect, in his foreword, writes:

"Frank and Anne Cabot's achievement is unusual today for many reasons, not the least of which has been the time and resources devoted to its accomplishment. It is unusual in its great success in combining strong organization - views, structures, linked spaces, architectural follies - with superb, even experimental, horticulture. More often one finds strong bones and simple-minded planting or rich horticulture with poor organization or naïve structures and furnishings. Here both are carried out with great sophistication. Les Quatre Vents is indeed in the best tradition that prompted Francis Bacon's remark that of all man's architectural and design works, it is gardens that form the greater perfection."