Wendy Gurd discovered Rosemère by accident.
Thirty-three years ago, she and her husband lived in Montréal and looking for a quiet place to settle down and raise their kids when a friend from Rosemère asked them to care for her dog while she was on vacation.
The community of slightly more than 14,000 is located just off the island of Montréal, on the north shore of the Rivière des Mille-Îles.
"Right away, we said, 'Oh, this is really nice,' " Ms. Gurd recalls. She and her husband spent hours driving around Rosemère, admiring its lush gardens and elegant, winding streets. They bought a house later that year and have never even considered moving away. "I wouldn't want to live any other place," says Ms. Gurd, who also has served several terms on town council.
Rosemère is a place with cachet – a term repeated a lot there. Residents like to maintain their community's good reputation, and they're not afraid to boast about what they have. That sense of pride helped win Rosemère the distinction of a National Communities in Bloom Award last year – and to be nominated for it again this year.
"Obviously, that's a strong acknowledgement that the municipality is very prone to green policies," says Pierre Galarneau, a Globe Catalyst who nominated Rosemère as one of Canada's great communities for its commitment to the environment and bilingualism.
Mr. Galarneau points out that the town actively protects its trees, promotes composting and subsidizes rain barrels for its residents.
Michelle Brown, who works as a special-needs assistant at a local school, says Rosemère's beautiful gardens also help the town stand out. An annual "secret garden" tour offers residents a chance to show off their careful work.
Ms. Brown, whose front lawn features a small pond, says most people take their homes and gardens very seriously. "I'm a lightweight myself, but my garden is still pretty nice."
The town also offers free swimming and other recreational programs to encourage an active lifestyle, and a 30-minute train ride makes commuting easy for those who work in Montreal. That means Ms. Brown's daughters can live at home while attending university. "Personally, I love it. I love my neighbours, and everybody looks after each other," she says.
The community also prides itself on its bilingualism: Services are offered in English and French, a policy mayor Hélène Daneault considers one of the town's biggest successes. "Both cultures are very mixed together, and they enjoy that," she says, adding that sometimes it's impossible to tell whether children come from English homes or French until you hear them speak with their parents.
At one time, Ms. Gurd says, there were almost as many native English speakers as French.
"Those numbers aren't there now," she adds – in most households, French is the first language. "But many francophones will still move into the area because they know, even if they can't send their kids to English schools, they'll learn it just by being here."