IT IS one of the most exciting gardens in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

And Elspeth Straker, for one, feels privileged to have grown up knowing both the heaven that is Les Quatre Vents and the passionate gardeners who fashioned it out of 15 hectares on the banks of the St Lawrence River.

The garden has been called Canada’s best-kept secret, despite nestling in the countryside bordering the unpredictable waters of La Malbaie, an hour-and-a-half south of Quebec and location of last year’s G7 Summit.

However, a new film, The Gardener, is about to coax Les Quatre Vents out of the shadows and Elspeth, with her presidential chains of office for Northumberland British Red Cross firmly in place, is delighted to have secured a screening.

The money raised on the night, at Hexham’s Forum Cinema, will go to the charity for use locally.

Watching a trailer for the film opened up a whole box of lovely memories, she said, of the long family friendships that existed between her own Montreal family and Frank and Anne Cabot, who hailed from the creme de la creme of Boston society.

What is known as The Boston Toast captures the lofty status of their family: “And this is good old Boston/ The home of the bean and the cod/ Where the Lowells talk only to Cabots/ And the Cabots talk only to God.”

The value of the legacy left by Frank Cabot, a financier by profession, lay in something other than money though. A self-taught horticulturalist, the garden he and his wife, Anne, nurtured for 50 years speaks as much today of tradition refreshed by innovation as it did when he began.

Filled with plants from his many seed-hunting expeditions around the globe, he also imported ideas for structural features such as a Chinese moon bridge, a Japanese pavilion and an exquisite pigeonnier, the elaborate nature of which defies the English translation of ‘dovecote’.

Elspeth said: “Frank’s parents and my grandparents were great friends and I grew up playing with his son.

“There is an ornamental pool outside the drawing room door and we used to say to people who didn’t know it, ‘we’re going to jump in’, but when you did it only went up to your ankles.

“There was also a swimming pool which was so dark it looked black and we all hated it. The children used to say ‘can’t you turn it white’, but Frank and Anne would say ‘no, it’s always been like that’.”

The last time Elspeth saw Frank it was just two months before he died, in 2011 at the age of 84. “He was in bed and very ill, but we had a nice chat and talked about my grandmother,” she said.

“Anne is in her nineties now and still riding her Norwegian ponies.”

Elspeth first saw The Gardener in Canada in 2017, during a launch event attended by its maker, Sébastien Chabot. He introduced himself to Elspeth and elicited her help in getting the film launched in Britain.

Ultimately Chabot himself secured the national launch in London, which will take place over the summer, but he was more than happy to give the go-ahead for a soft launch in Hexham as it was in aid of the Red Cross.

Chabot spent a total of 22 days filming, returning at different times of year to reflect the seasons. He said his first reaction on entering the garden was “Am I still on Earth?”

The Gardener will be shown at Hexham’s Forum Cinema on Tuesday, March 5 at 7.30 pm.