Monet’s Garden at Giverny

When I began to plan a group tour to France last spring, Monet’s garden at Giverny was my starting point. Best known as an artist of more than 2,500 paintings and a principal organizer of the First Impressionist Exhibition in Paris in 1874, Monet himself believed his garden to be his greatest work.

The garden comprises two parts: the flower garden within the Clos Normand (Norman enclosure) at the front of the house, and a nearby water garden with a Japanese bridge that was the inspiration of many of his later paintings.

The central feature of the flower garden is the Grand Allee, a pathway under six metal arches in Monet’s signature green that begins at the enclosure’s gate and ends at the home’s front door. Exuberant flower beds line each side of the path, with climbing roses clambering up the arches and reaching toward the heavens. When I visited last week, the garden was filled with irises, peonies, poppies, clematis, roses, alliums, and France’s national flower–the blue corn flower. Newly planted nasturtiums had not yet begun their summer crawl across the path.

Grand Allee

Grand Allee

View from Monet's bedroom window of Grand Allee, flower beds, and orchard.

View from Monet’s bedroom window of Grand Allee, flower beds, and orchard.

One of the most photographed buildings in the world--the Monet family home.

One of the most photographed buildings in the world–the Monet family home.

The design of the water garden is a stark contrast to the regimented layout of the flower garden; the space is picturesque and naturlaistic. At its heart is a pond refreshed with water from a small brook of the Epte River. Bamboo, willows, irises, daylilies, and grasses along the pool’s edge, water lilies within its banks, and wisteria over the bridge, provide the wild abundance found in the paintings most closely linked to Giverny.

Monet began the water garden in 1893, ten years after moving to Giverny.

Monet began the water garden in 1893, ten years after moving to Giverny.

The Japanese bridge and water lilies were favorite subjects of Monet's paintings in his later years.

The Japanese bridge and water lilies were favorite subjects of Monet’s paintings in his later years.

The garden, particularly the flower garden, is prettier than I imagined it would be. Although its hard to distinguish in photos, the color schemes definitely have a painterly effect, and if you squint your eyes its easy to frame a lovely “impression” in any direction. Fortunately, Monet and his friends left scores of notes, as well as paintings and photographs, which have facilitated the recreation of the gardens.

The biggest surprise to me was the cozy domesticity of the home. The chrome yellow dinning room was both welcoming and visually exciting, with a dozen chairs around the table, cupboards filled to the brim with china, and Japanese prints covering nearly every square inch of wall. The blue and white tiled kitchen with its abundance of copper pots was no less exciting, and both Monet’s bedroom and studio/drawing room (once hung with the paintings he would not sell, now decorated with reproductions) provided an intimate look at the artist as a man, rather than a luminary. Unfortunately, photographs could not be taken in the house, but all rooms can be viewed here.

The only sour note was the number of visitors. The gardens and house were so tightly packed with people it was sometimes necessary to shuffle from one spot to the next, since a full step couldn’t be taken in any direction.

Recovery was sweet, however, with a more solitary and contemplative walk to the church, Eglise Sainte-Radegonde de Giverny, and lunch on the outdoor patio of the Ancien Hotel Baudy.

The church at Giverny.

The church at Giverny.

The Monet family grave in the churchyard.

The Monet family grave in the churchyard.

Many American artists stayed at the Hotel Baudy when studying and painting in Giverny.

Many American artists stayed at the Hotel Baudy when studying and painting in Giverny.

Across the small street, an outdoor patio proves to be the perfect place for lunch.

Across the small street, an outdoor patio proves to be the perfect place for lunch.

Voila!

Voila!

Post Script: Monet’s Garden at Giverny is my 50th blog since I began posting on Hortitopia in January! With any luck, I should be able to reach my goal of 100 posts this year. Many thanks for your friendship and comments. If you’re a new reader, check out these early favorites:
What is Hortitopia?
Cogitating
Only in the South

17 thoughts on “Monet’s Garden at Giverny

  1. Gail Elfert

    Your pictures and descriptions almost make me feel that I am there enjoying this breathtaking scenery. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
  2. Elaine

    Marian, we can’t wait for our trip to Paris, Viking River Tour, and see Monet’s Garden, and villages along the way. It will be a 8 day trip and then three days alone in Paris. You really wet our appetite for the beauty of the gardens and homes in France. What a wonderful trip you had.
    See you soon in FL.
    Elaine Ko-Talmadge (and Tony)

    Reply
  3. Pauline

    so lovely to see Giverny through your eyes, the view down the Grand Allee is really colourful. I think most of the photos I have seen of it was when the path was almost hidden by nasturtiums, I prefer it at this time of year. This garden is definitely on my wish list of gardens to visit before it is too late!

    Reply
  4. Marian St.Clair Post author

    Pauline–My group was definitely the beneficiary of a late spring. I did not expect to see poppies and irises in mid June. It was beautiful. Did you know the head gardener at Giverny, James Priestly, is English?

    Reply
  5. Phil Miller

    My wife and I visited Giverny in early October, 2012. The gardens were just a beautiful then, minus the crowds. They plant every season, so it doesn’t matter much when you visit. But if you want to avoid the swarms of people, then the fall is a great time to go.

    Reply
  6. gardeninacity

    We saw this garden in April 2011 and were completely enchanted. Even at that time it was crowded, though. We are going again in September and plan to stay in Giverny the night before, then going to the garden first thing. Your photos are great!

    Reply
  7. Gloria Ballard

    I’ve always wanted to visit Monet’s garden and hope to get there some day. This is a wonderful preview!

    Reply

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