From California to Montreal

meerkittie(9)April 25, 2009

Hello everyone,

Newbie forum member here asking for some advice on moving from Southern California to (brrr...) Montreal.

Fiance and I are excited about the move, new culture, environs, etc but as an avid gardener I'm wondering what:

1) I can bring into Canada

2) will survive Montreal's climate

I found some prelim info on the web regarding orchids being on the CITES list (and maybe prohibited?), but what about regular plants like citrus and plumeria? Should I even subject my babies to the miles and potential refusal to entry at the border?

Thanks for any advice!


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Hi Meerkittie,

Having spent the last three x-mas/new-year holidays in the San Diego area -- and liking it very much -- I doubt that there is much of anything from there that will be hardy enough to grow outdoors here in Montreal.

As for what you can import, the CFIA has a "List of propagative plant material and other commodities that require an import permit if originating (i.e. place of propagation) from the Continental United States" -- hit the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: CFIA plant import list

    Bookmark   April 26, 2009 at 8:04AM
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Hi, you cannot bring anything that is in dirt - ie the dirt cannot cross the border as it may harbour disease. As much as I hate to say this, I do not recommend bringing any plants from the US to Canada. I live 2 hours from Montreal - very similar weather. It would be wiser to settle in first, check out what is in the local area for indoor/outdoor plants and find out how much/when you have sun in your new accommodation. I've tried growing lemon seeds and all I ever got was a nice green plant - no lemons. Indoors, of course, in a very sunny window.
Good luck with your move,
keep us posted!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2009 at 8:42AM
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tambo747(5 Canada)

I agree with mcpeg. Our climate is so different with winters that hit -30C. However, don't let that discourage you, there are many many stunning, hardy plants for you to choose from. I am new to gardening, with this being my second season but I think it might be wise to get to know your space, soil type, sun exposure etc, before anything else.
BTW, Montreal is such an amazing city! I imagine you've been here before. The city has so much to offer. Great restaurants, night life, museums etc. Your only challange will be to get used to the cold!
I hope the move goes well and that your garden is everything you could hope for!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2009 at 9:03AM
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Hello everyone,

Thank you for your advice and kind thoughts.

Jaro - thanks for the CFIA list. Wonderful concrete information (unlike the other government sites I've been reading). I'm happy to see that none of my houseplants are prohibited but I think I will take everyone's advice and find loving foster parents for my outdoor plants. And I'm sure I'll make the nurseries in Montreal very happy...

BTW any recommendations on good nurseries, plant exchanges, etc?

Mcpeg - lemon trees are beautiful but not likely to fruit. Citrus are grafted when you want fruit. I have a yuzu which the Japanese joke about since it supposedly takes 18 yrs to fruit. It makes me very sad since my yuzu is currently in flower but I probably won't be able to enjoy the fruit *sigh*

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2009 at 1:59PM
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"BTW any recommendations on good nurseries, plant exchanges, etc?color>"

It will be easier to answer that question when you know roughly to which part of Montreal you will be moving.

A few of the better local nurseries have fairly extensive selections.
But if you're into specialty items, sooner or later you end up doing mail order.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2009 at 6:16PM
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I'm not sure it is entirely the case that "you cannot bring anything that is in dirt". As far as I know you can bring in personal houseplants). This site: indicates that you can bring up to 50 plants with a phytosanitary certificate (implying that you just bought them) but this site: says "if you are importing houseplants from the continental United States as part of your baggage or household effects, you do not need phytosanitary certificates or import permits" (specifically excluding bonsai from the category of houseplants without explanation). As is always the case with the government, good luck getting someone to commit to an answer! I'm in Montreal so if you get stuck at the border with too many plants feel free to give me a call, and I'll come down and take them off your hands for you!

I'll warn you - if you want really sun-loving plants like plumeria to thrive, give them to a friend before you move here. On the other hand if you just want companionship, bring them along.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2009 at 11:32PM
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Thanks for the info, winnjoe. You hit the nail on the head as I was pondering the difference in info that I'm finding from one government site to another. =)

And I never realized (until you pointed it out) that my plants are indeed companions and they really make me happy. *sigh*

I may need to take you up on the offer to adopt my "friends." I still haven't figured out what's the best way to cross the border (rental truck/passenger car/air)so if I get turned away, I may end up staging a plant giveaway on the New York side of the border.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2009 at 3:01PM
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aquilegia6(5 PEI)

Here's what you need to know:
You are allowed to bring up to 50 houseplants with you as long as they accompany you at the border. Because you are coming from California, your plants will need a phytosanitary certificate, to certify that they are free from Sudden Oak Death. You will need to contact your local USDA-APHIS office to arrange for inspection and certification. There will be a fee for this, and your plants may also be inspected by CFIA once you arrive in Canada, for an additional fee. Neither fee should be very high. If you are interested in bringing outdoor plants, it may be possible but it depends what the plants are and whether you live in an area that is regulated for any quarantine pests. You would have to consult with the APHIS inspection office.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 28, 2009 at 10:26AM
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Wow, thank you aquilegia6. That is the most concrete information I've been able to obtain so far.

I will definitely be following through on this as it seems both reasonable (and possible)!

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   April 28, 2009 at 2:26PM
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dianasan(z5a Mtl)

Hi, meerkittie.

Do bring along your citrus and plumeria and other exotic plants. I'm sure there's a way to maintain them here.

We once started a lemon tree from seed. After a few years, the tree actually did grow lemons, though they never fully ripened. This was probably due to the fact that we used a seed from your standard supermarket lemons, not one of the new cultivars better adapted to residential conditions.

We would keep the lemon tree outside in summer and treated it as a regular indoor plant the rest of the seasons. I lost it just a few years ago because of scale.

I also have a crepe myrtle which we received as a seedling from Argentina. It bloomed for us in its 3rd or 4th year. I keep it outdoors in summer and in a dark, unheated garage in winter. I give it a good watering before bringing it in and don't water it again until it's ready to be put outside. In fact, I just put it outdoors last Saturday. I do the same with my oleanders and fig trees.

I also have a bay plant (the herb, not the oleandre) which is not hardy in our zone. What I do is bury the entire plant in my garden in the fall and dig it up in the spring, which I actually just did the day before. It looks like it pulled through for yet another year. I did the same with a rosemary plant which I purchased last spring, but can't tell yet if it survived being buried. I used to keep these indoors as houseplants over the winter, but I would usually lose my bay to scale or spider mites and my rosemary would just mysteriously dry up, maybe due to lack of humidity.

So welcome to Montreal. I hope you'll like it here -- it's really a great place. As mentioned above, please let us know in which part of the city you'll be living and whether you're moving into an apartment and will be container gardening or if you're moving into a house with a garden, so we can recommend the best nurseries and places to shop for gardening supplies.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 4:40PM
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Hello dianasan,

Thank you for the warm welcome. We are getting very excited at the prospect of living in a new city & experiencing the culture of Montreal - esp after the warm welcome everyone has been extending!

I think I will take some cuttings of my unusual citrus (yuzu & kaffir lime) and perhaps a branch or two of the plumeria just to keep me company in our new home. Not sure if they'll do well or not, but it's too sad to leave everyone behind.

We're still trying to figure out where to live. Any suggestions for a safe & quiet neighborhood where we won't have to drive? Our budget is $1500 for a 2 bedroom (hopefully 2 bath) with utilities included.

Also, an update on the Canada/US import/export challenge. I was able to locate a real person at the Canadian Food Inspection agency & his counterpart at the Orange County Agricultural Commissioner's office (who conducts the phyto inspection & provides the permit). We're working on seeing whether I need a inspection & permit (on this end) or if I can just take my plants with an import permit from Canada.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 2:18PM
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hello meerkittie...i live just north of montreal and have about 70 plumeria and several adeniums.and a few other tropicals....i just bring them in and store in the far as i will need the certificate but not an import pass because you are coming from the continental...if i may suggest....just leave the plummies with a friend and after they go to sleep in the fall,have them posted up should be no problem..
good luck

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 5:55PM
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"Any suggestions for a safe & quiet neighborhood where we won't have to drive?color>"

Drive where ?
...downtown ? industrial park somewhere ?
...the east-end petrochemical refineries ?

"safe & quiet neighborhood" suggests suburbs, rather than downtown -- although Westmount might also be an option ($$$).
Many people commute by train from suburbia -- including off-island (see link below).

Here is a link that might be useful: Montreal region commuter train network

    Bookmark   May 8, 2009 at 9:49PM
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Hello again everyone,

Diggy - thanks for the info & great suggestions. Am I safe to assume there is no prohibition to sending dormant plummies via post to Canada? If so, I'm relieved to hear that I may be able to bring along one of my tropical companions.

Jaro - our commute will be to McGill & Boul. St. Laurent so any neighborhood that has a metro or train to there would be viable. We will look into Westmount as suggested!

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2009 at 1:47AM
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hey meerkittie
just a little might want to have a look
at some small towns north of montreal...
rosemere..boisbriand....lake of two mountains...
all have axcess to trains going downtown and are
nice village settings in a city atmosphere...
cheers and good luck with the move....
the reason must be good for the leave the sunny warm south for the cold you like hockey??? lol

    Bookmark   May 10, 2009 at 11:31AM
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hi meerkittie
I live a 10 minute walk from the Cote des Neiges subway stop. I find it peaceful and quiet. My street has university students but they seem to be graduate students - a few 'loud' parties with classical jazz until 11 at night, that sort of thing. It is a very multiculural area. Very handy for commuting to the areas you mention. You'd be looking at apartment living in this neighbourhood, though.
The only thing I would be worried about with sending plumies by post is that if they have gone dormant that implies late fall, which for California might be winter here. Would they survive the shipping?

diggy500 - want some baby mesembs and stapeliads?


    Bookmark   May 10, 2009 at 10:27PM
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a very nice
are the mesembs yellow???
and are the stapeliads tall???
i'm up in rosemere

    Bookmark   May 11, 2009 at 6:14PM
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Hi meerkittie,

You may want to take a look at Notre Dame de Grace (NDG for short)/Snowdon districts as well. Nice family atmostphere in the Monkland Village, just north of Westmount and not as pricey. Snowdon/Villa-Maria subway stations nearby.
Its is good that you come about this time of the year because spring/summer is gorgeous in Montreal. There are all kinds of festivals. If you hurry up you may even be here in time for the Festival de Jazz de Montreal, coming up at the end of June for about 10 days with nice, free open air performances. I'm sure you'll like the friendly carefree atmosphere.
Just let us know when you arrive.

Dianasan, I'm intrigued to know how you go about burying a whole plant. It just so happens that I received a mail order of bay leaf plants,and it would be good to be able to keep them in the garden, since I do not have that much space to spare indoors and I don't want them to get sick either.
Can you elaborate a bit more? How deep do you bury them? do you keep them in a pot or planted directly in the ground?
Thank you.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 5:29PM
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Thank you for the recommendation consentida! Our list of "neighborhoods to check out" is starting to grow. One question, do you recommend any agencies or realtors for finding rentals? I've been scanning craigslist Montreal and the selection is so-so.

I am really looking forward to making new acquaintances and gardening buddies when we arrive in Montreal. I wish I could bring some of our California natives and Mediterranean plants to share but alas it looks like my traveling companions will be reduced to but a few very special plants...

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 9:57PM
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dianasan(z5a Mtl)

Hi, consentida.

I grow my bay plant and other plants which I want to bury in pots, though you certainly can plant them directly into the ground and then dig up the roots and bury the whole plant at the end of summer.

I have a raised bed vegetable garden, about 12in. deep. I have a 5-foot tree rose which needs to be buried in our climate. It's growing in an 18-inch pot. Therefore, I dig a trench, at least 18 inches deep and 6 or 7 feet long. I lay my rose (pot and all) down inside the trench. Alongside the long, thin trunk of the rose, I have room to nestle some of my other plants, such as my Tropicana rose which is in a 15-inch pot, and my bay plant which is in a 10-inch pot. I then fill in the trench with dirt and mound more dirt over the top.

My bay plant is about 20 inches or so tall. I bought it about 6 years ago in a 4-inch pot, the same size as most herbs are sold in garden centres. I don't know if bays are slow-growing or if being buried underground for half a year or so keeps the plant so compact.

Even if you don't have a large vegetable garden, a small flower bed should provide sufficient room for several small plants. Just dig the trench as deep as possible and mound more dirt over the buried plants.

Hope this helps.

Lousy weather for a Victoria Day weekend. I was out in the yard and had to come in because it's raining hard right now. I bought tomato plants and several cases of annuals the other day. I planted the annuals in my urns and several other planters and was hoping to plant my tomatoes today, but on CJAD's Tomato Talk this morning, they said to wait until next weekend because the temperature's going down to 2C tonight. I guess Victoria Day weekend just came too early this year.

BTW, I got my plants at Les Serres de Chez Nous (formerly Serres Lauzon) on Gouin. They have really nice plants including about 65 varieties of heirloom tomatoes and all their plants are more affordable than Botanix.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2009 at 1:01PM
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Many, many thanks Dianasan, this is what I call a detailed description, I think I will use this method, not only for the bay leaf but for others that I have received, such a dwarf pomegranate. This one is not hardy in our zone either. I just got an order from Richter's, that include the mentioned plus 5 species of jasminum. All the jasminums I will have to bring in because some of them will bloom in winter; so far it won't be a problem because they are very small plants . I foresee a problem when they grow, but by that time, I hope that my husband would have converted my guestroom into a plantroom for all my babies lol. You may wonder why I get plants that need to stay indoors for 6 months if I have not enough espace, but alas! I got a serious insanity attack and bought all of those that make me think of sunny and warm weather.
Bay leaf can grow into trees and it does not take too long to have one of about a 3 or 4 m tall. I guess that the sun and dry weather levels in southern Europe are crucial to rapid growth.
Lousy weather alright! not only is pouring but it is chilly. The only thing that I have planted already are some of my dahlias and a few oxalis.
Thanks a lot for the suggestion of Serres Lauzon. I had totally forgotten about them! I usually buy at Pepiniere Jasmin on Henry Bourassa, which carries nice plants and vegetables but I find them a bit pricey. So I'm going to check out Les Serres de Chez Nous weather permitting tomorrow or Monday.
Dianasan,I'll try your method of submitting the plants to a deep sleep this fall and I guess we will see the results next spring.
Take care and thanks again.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2009 at 5:49PM
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"I usually buy at Pepiniere Jasmin on Henry Bourassa, which carries nice plants and vegetables but I find them a bit pricey.color>"

No kidding!
I noticed last week they had Fothergilla gardeni ("witch's alder") for $80 a pop!!
A year ago I bought 10 of these plants for a small fraction of that price (from Jardin de Jean-Pierre, near Acton Vale -- on special order, direct from Iseli nurseries in Oregon).

But Jasmin did have something I couldn't resist: a couple of very small Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Wissel's Saguaro' plants, for $15 ea. -- pricey, but the only other way to get them is by mail order.
I figure I got lucky :O)

Here is a link that might be useful: more Fothergilla gardeni - Iseli

    Bookmark   May 16, 2009 at 7:32PM
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Hi jaro,
Gorgeous plants! Jasmin? A couple of days ago I saw a Magadascar jasmine that seemed to have my name written on it, but at $ 90... I decided that it belonged to somebody else :)
meerkittie, try Royal Lepage, they list properties for sale and for rent.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2009 at 10:42PM
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Hi Meerkittie, I'm wondering if you ever made it to Montreal. We didn't hear from you yet. I hope that this summer's rainy and cool weather does not discourage you too much.
If you are here, Welcome!

    Bookmark   August 4, 2009 at 2:37PM
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I hate to let you know about a trick my parents used when they moved from Chicago to Toronto about 7 years back. My mother told movers there were several house plants she just couldn't part with and the movers simply wrapped them up in brown paper and sent them along with the rest of the furniture. It all arrived in the moving truck, still in good condition never to be discovered by customs.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2009 at 4:33PM
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Hello Consetida! Thank you for the warm welcome. We're just settling into our new home in Plateau and trying to catch our breath.

I'm sad to say, our move didn't go quite as planned and I had to let ALL my babies go. Luckily, most were adopted by my father in law so I'll be able to see them from time to time.

I haven't had a chance to check out any local nurseries but was delighted to see how green the city is! MTL has so many parks and the rain is a refreshing change (I'll probably be singing a different tune come November though...) I've been ogling the variety of plants we don't see often in SoCal, and dreaming of bringing some home. If anyone has suggestions on garden centers (both for ogling and purchasing), please let me know!

Yugoslava, thanks for sharing your tip! Funny how our parents get away with so mother's the same!

    Bookmark   August 5, 2009 at 6:36PM
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Nice to know you made it safely Meerkittie and sorry to hear you had to leave your babies behind :(I know it is always a lot of work to settle down in a new city. Montreal is always more or less green in the summer, this one though is extraordinarily green with all the rain we are having. for some one who comes from a dry climate, all the greenery is very beautiful. For us Montrealers it is nice but the majority would appreciate having a bit of a more traditional summer with more sun.
We have a few garden centers and nurseries around the city. If you have a car, it will be easier to get there I will try to gather a few of them and post them in a few days. In the meantime, perhaps you would like to check a farmer's market in the Plateau around Marianne St. Apparently the farmers are there every Sunday morning until the month of October. Maybe , they carry plants as well. You could also check Marché Jean-Talon. They usually carry plants and flowers. Also Atwater Market and Marché de l'Ouest in the West Island.
In any event, let us know if we could help in any way. We will be glad.
P.S. I hate to admit that I have carried a few cuttings of quite a variety of plants in my suitcase from overseas and I have lost very few of them. I still have a geranium that I brought from Seville 25 years ago! Pssssst.!

    Bookmark   August 5, 2009 at 10:43PM
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a nice little plant shop is outside the Mont-Royal Metro (subway) station (during clement seasons). I bought a miniature sinningia through kijiji last fall, from a vendor here in Montreal, and it is still blooming.

Here is a link that might be useful: Kijiji Montreal

    Bookmark   August 7, 2009 at 1:50PM
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Consentida, thank you again for the hospitality and kindness! I have to admit everyone (with the exception of the metro folks) has been so welcoming! I am really starting to like our new city (the amazing food doesn't hurt either). =)

Funny you should mention the farmer's mkt in Plateau. I just read about it in a foodie blog so I'm planning a jaunt this weekend.

Winnjoe - thanks for mentioning the plant shop in front of the metro. I've been eyeing their plants every time I pass through the station and one of these days the self control is not going to last. Saw some beautiful goldfish plants (they don't do so well in the hot dry SoCal weather) and some cute carnivorous plants. Any good suggestions for a shop that specializes in carnies or has a good selection?

Again, thank you all for making us feel so welcome!

PS Consentida, wow how amazing! A 25 yr old geranium? That's older than many marriages these days.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2009 at 10:54PM
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BTW a question for the forum: where can I find a fellow vermicomposter willing to share a handful of worms with me? I've had quite a few wormie farms back in California and kept giving away kits to anyone who asked.

I guess they take a little more care here in Montreal but was shocked at the prices being charged. I suppose it's money that's going to a good cause, but if anyone has a little to spare, would you mind sharing with me?

    Bookmark   August 17, 2009 at 8:18AM
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Nobody has suggested a trip to the Montreal Botanical Gardens...what's up with that? Check it out!!!

Regardless of which plants you choose to bring to Montreal or not, please be ultra-cautious in regards to Sudden Oak Death. It's likely not an issue with your orchids but the Plumeria and Citrus potting soil could conceivably be harboring it.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 9:44AM
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