Earlier this month I was able to fulfill a dream of mine because I went to see Claude Monet's garden in Normandy, France, in Spring. I've been there twice before, both times in Autumn. Monet's garden looked great then too, it looks great most of the year no surprises there, but I did so want to see it in Spring and now I have. Colour me a happy gardener, a very happy gardener. :-D Without much further ado here are some of my impressions of this world famous impressionist's garden to feast your eyes on!
Monet's paintings were all about colour and so is his garden. It's a riot of colour for most of the year and 10 gardeners are working their socks off to keep it that way. A lot of the planting is not permanent but consists of bedding plants. In May that's wallflowers, pansies, aubretia, tulips, irises, forget-me-nots etc.
Monet's flower garden is mainly made of flowerbeds, zillions of flowerbeds flanking miles of paths or so it certainly feels and although there are a lot of bedding plants, you can find some more permanent planting there too such as roses, peonies, fruit trees, trees etc.
Because Monet is such a world famous painter who was very much inspired by his own garden in Giverny, many people want to see Monet's garden to the tune of half a million visitors per year. Sissinghurst in Kent, England, is also a very famous garden and that feels crowded with 200.000 visitors a year even though it is at least three times the size of Monet's garden.
Everywhere you look your eyes are hit by this very particular shade of green that is called Monet Green. Personally I don't like it all that much as it is a very harsh colour and too much in your face. It is literally everywhere; on chains blocking paths, posts, gates, the house, the arches and metal pergola's, steps, benches etc. The paint has to be manufactured exclusively but I wish they wouldn't bother and simply buy an off the shelf turquoise green paint that's much easier on the eye. I simply love the soft pink they used on the house as it goes so well with the garden and the surrounding countryside but that green, oh that horrid acid green. But enough of that green, let's sooth our eyes with those gorgeous colours the plants provide.
Strangely enough there weren't all that many irises to be found in Monet's garden. Pretty weird as most of France is covered with irises in front gardens, alongside the road, against walls etc. in May as you can see here.
It's not for nothing that another famous painter used them in his paintings.
Dear Vincent was behaving like an ordinary tourist by painting Irises in May and Sunflowers in September, just like you and me taking pics of those flowers. Very cliche! ;-)
Monet's garden is split in two by a road and you can reach the other part by going through a tunnel under that road. By entering the tunnel you make a transition from one world into the next as you leave behind a sunny, hot, vibrantly colourful world ...................
and when you come up you'll find yourself in a garden that is cool, shady, calm and mostly green. Simply wonderful!
The famous waterlily pond where the waterlilies were not in flower yet as it was only early May. The use of colour in the water garden is very restricted; it is mostly provided by the famous waterlilies,
the equally famous Japanese bridge smothered with blue Wistaria and some discreet planting along the edge of the pond.
Or that is how it used to be when I visited Monet's garden 10 years ago. So imagine my shock and horror when I encountered this in the water garden. It looked horribly Disney to me. What happened to understated and tranquil? Where did the juxtaposition between the flower garden and the water garden go?
Apparently they had to use this new planting around the pond to keep that humongous herd of half a million visitors per year from trampling the edges of the pond. Sure, but why choose these garish colours? Why go from this
cool, calm, restful
Keep in mind that when you use colour along the water's edge you double the impact as the plants are also reflected in the water. IMO there is no need to use such harsh colours in what used to be such an understated and tranquil garden.
We're back into the flower garden to have a look at Monet's house as that is open to visitors as well. If you ever have the chance to visit Monet's garden don't forget to visit his house as well as it is really worth your while. The use of colour inside the house is just as imaginative as the outside one. You get to see many rooms both upstairs and downstairs. The dining room is particularly colourful in mostly yellow with a touch of black and white, and one of Monet's studios is very impressive with a lot of reproductions of his work hanging there. Just imagine what it must have been like when the real McCoy hang from those walls!
The kitchen with cheerful copper pans
A view from a window
View of the garden from an upstairs window
It was hard work to snap pictures from Monet's garden without zillions of people in them. There were quite a few people about when I was visiting the garden but it wasn't that badly crowded because I knew what would be the best time to see the garden. When I went to the garden there were only 2 or 3 people in front of me in the queue but when I left there were loooooooooooooong rows of people standing in the hot sun waiting for admission.
I hope you enjoyed your visit to Monet's Garden and we'll say goodbye with a pic of one of my favourite flowerbeds.
copyright 2008 Y.E.W. Heuzen
It is not enough that romance lies behind the birth and growth of the landscape and the mantle of plants that clothe it. The happy traveler must seek to convey some of that romance to others who have not had the good fortune to enjoy it and what better means can there be than by making a garden. Frank Kingdom-Ward