Saturday, 19 May 2012

Monet’s Garden, Giverny

I have just returned from the continent where I completed a work placement at Monet’s Garden in Giverny, northern France! This is a garden I have read about and listened to people eulogising over many times, and I was more than a little excited as I tootled along on the Eurotram beneath the Channel. On the evening of my arrival I was led around the garden at dusk, and speaking in hushed tones amongst the Water Garden we were suddenly interrupted by the sound of a cuckoo calling loud and clear from nearby woods! This atmosphere of wonder and magic then continued for a fortnight, as I soaked up the beauty of this incredible garden. Monet moved here in 1883 after being served an eviction notice (one of many and, the last!) at his rented house in a village up the River Seine called Poissy. At this time Monet was very much the struggling artist, and to boot had a mistress and eight children to contend with. In spite of all of this grief, somehow or other our hero was able to sign a lease on ‘Le Pressoir’, an abandoned cider farm in the picturesque village of Giverny, about 50 miles west of Paris. Monet, already an active gardener, now had acres of orchard to plant up and develop, and at the age of 43 settled down to spend the remaining 43 years of his life gardening and painting  here in this beautiful country idyll. In a letter preceding a visit by his friend Monet writes, “We’ll talk gardening, as you say, because as for art and literature, it’s all humbug. There’s nothing but the earth. As for me, I’ve reached the point of finding a lump of soil marvellous and I spend whole hours contemplating it. And humus! I love humus the way one loves a woman. I smear it on myself, and in the fuming heaps I see the beautiful forms and beautiful colours that will be born from it! How little art is compared to that! And how simpering and false.”
This man was a gardener, and was jolly well not messing about! He created here something of such wonder and beauty; it’s dashed difficult to understand how he got around to painting all of those masterpieces! The place is packed with plants, and is essentially a vast and extravagant exercise in the use of colour. Contrasts here, harmonies thither, and with such a complexity and density of planting that I had not before seen in spring. I am still sifting though my photographs (two cards worth) but over the next couple of posts I hope to relate the great joy I found in this place.

The ‘haricot beds’, just out front of Monet’s house! This pink hue is not typical of this region, but was painted by the previous tenant and the old boy liked it so much he kept it going

The Grand Allee leads up to the house from the road. Packed borders flank each side and climbing roses scramble on the arches overhead

Long, narrow borders typify this garden and provided Monet with the structure he needed to create long blocks of colour

Formal edging of Aubretia and Iris frame informal spring bedding

Looking across the beds intensifies the colour as the adjacent beds then become part of the image

I was a touch too early to see the Iris in all their splendour, but there was enough action about to set the old pulse racing

I am exceedingly fond of this use of colour! A hummingbird moth species I had not seen before frequented this display but I was unable to secure an image as I daren’t trample the border. Je regrette

The borders of the Grand Allee are slightly mounded up to give more height to the planting, here looking out from under the great old yews

Alyssum saxatile provides an arresting border edge!

Centaurea montana is one of the flowers of this region, it grows like billy-o out there and can be seen in flower in the garden and the surrounding countryside

Thermopsis rhombifolia, a keen favourite with the local Bombus species

The old Dutchman’s breeches, Lamprocapnos spectabilis, flowering in the Water Garden

Also in the Water Garden, the glorious dead-nettle Lamium orvala

A comma here basking gracefully amongst the blooms of Ornithogalum umbellatum, a bulbous gem that self-seeds gently throughout the garden

These scarabaeid beetle chaps were all over the place, and here tucking into the Clematis montana. The fauna over there is excitingly exotic, despite not being much farther south from dear Blighty. My first glimpse of a Swallowtail butterfly was in the garden, and the thing powered overhead ablaze with glory!


Charlotte said...

What a wonderful place to work! I visited Giverny last week, but was horrified by the crowds. Must be quite a factor for the gardeners to consider - the sheer quantity of people moving through the garden each year! But I'm sure that working there is quite different because you get to enjoy the garden during the quiet times.

Rosemary said...

Dear Bertie - how lovely that you have made an appearance again, and with some gorgeous photos. I love your introduction to Monet's garden.
It is about 5 years since I visited, and we made sure we were there early to see it without the crowds. You were lucky to be able to wander around the garden out of hours and have it, as it should be, to yourself.

Atlantic Homecare said...

Thanks for your appreciation! I feel very strongly about the plight of our native bees and hope that this blog will help people identify them and want to help save them by growing nectar-rich plants in their gardens.

Thank you for post..

Loi Thai, Tone on Tone said...

Dear Bertie - Welcome home!! I really enjoyed all your photos of Giverny. What an incredible experience. And, to study the garden without the tourists....lucky you!! It was so crowded when I visited....and unusually humid and hot. Still, I loved my visit. Looking forward to viewing this incredible garden through your eye. Cheers from DC,

Janet said...

You do get to go to all the best gardening places, Bertie. The use of colour at Giverny is stunning as befits the garden of a great artist. What a treat! Looking forward to more stunning photos including one of the swallowtail!

Gardener in the Distance said...

Thankyou, Bertie, I had no idea Monet cared about the soil and his garden so much. I thought he's just struck it lucky and got someone else to do all the work! A wonderful experience for you! All the best.

Sue said...

Welcome back Bertie and thank you for posting such beautiful photos and reflections on Giverny. I shall look forward to your further posts and photos about this stunning garden. Aren't hummingbird moth's amazing? I haven't been able to successfully photograph one either though!

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, sorry to admit I was there but the crowds turned me away and I missed out. It is on my "Bucket List" as they say.

Juniperhillfarm said...

A wonderful post and great photos, Bertie! Lucky You! I'm looking forward to more. So sorry to have missed seeing you at Hidcote. I understand we missed each other by only a day. Hopefully next time.



Prue said...

Welcome back to Blighty, Bertie! :D
What a lovely place Monet's garden looks. Thanks for including Monet's words. I didn't realise he loved humus so much! I'm stunned.
And what lovely photos (as usual)- particularly the comma in the Ornithogallum. What a cracker!

Wife, Mother, Gardener said...

Wonderful post & tour Bertie! Giverny is just what I imagine it to be. Beautiful photos of the plantings.

I would conjecture that Monet seemed to paint his garden for the same reason that most of us take pictures now adays... he was moved to do so! And with a mind to capture the fleeting moments, each impression of light, etc.

Thanks for sharing!

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