Monday, September 1, 2014

Monet's garden

The first time I went to Monet's garden in Giverny, it rained - all day! Since then I have taken up painting and so I wanted to see the garden again, as an artist rather than just a horticulturalist. This time the weather was kind and my visit, with my painting friend Jim was on a lovely sunny day. The trip from Paris is a little tricky requiring a Metro ride, an hour's train journey, a shuttle bus, a walk into the village and then queuing for the entrance. And so it was lunchtime by the time we were lined up for tickets along with what seemed like hundreds of other eager tourists. But our luck was in and one of the staff opened another entrance, split the line and we ended up almost at the front!

The Grande Allee as Monet saw it in 1920

The Grande Allee in 2014
The garden is quite a riot of colour, laid out in a very geometric way with long borders packed with perennials, roses and annuals. By modern standards there are few colour schemes or themes. One can only assume that this is what Monet needed to inspire his painting. Gladioli jostle with dahlias, marigolds and nicotiana in a blaze of colour. In particular I loved the the central double borders with the nasturtiums spreading out in undulating carpets from either side. These have been a tradition since Monet's time. Earlier in the year there would have been colour from tulips, iris and roses, all favourites of Monet.

Just outside his pink and green painted house there are beds of pelargoniums in a most unattractive mix of pink and scarlet and I wonder if these are truly authentic? His paintings show beds of red blooms. But who am I to question!

A tunnel under the road leads to the second half of Monet's garden, the lake with the waterlilies that he spent so many hours painting in his later life. It's a captivating sight and almost impossible to capture with a camera - maybe I can understand Monet's frustration and I haven't even picked up a brush!

The Japanese bridge painted by Monet 1897-1899

The poolside plantings again include an odd but ecclectic mix of perennials, shrubs and bedding plants. As a garden designer I cannot see the value of odd Busy Lizzies  and rudbeckias popped in amongst everything else. If this is authentic OK but sad if its just done to enhance the tourist value. 

Moored under the trees are two old boats. I doubt these survive from Monet's time but its whimsical to imagine the great man floating in a similar boat in the centre of his pond as he tried to capture his much loved waterlilies. Monet died in 1926 and his garden drifted into neglect for over 50 years before it was restored and opened to the public in 1980. Its worth a visit if you are ever in the area.  If you are a painter you will appreciate it as the garden that inspired over 500 paintings. If just a gardener you will love it just as Monet did.


  1. The garden still looks stunning and greatly echoes Monet's legacy, even if perhaps some areas are no longer authentic. We haven't been and we ought to really...

    1. Yes - put it on your 'must visit' list! Worth the trek! See the comment below and check out the Independent article re authenticity.

  2. Thank you so much for this post! It was interesting to compare how this garden looks now and how it looked in May when I visited it ( and
    The same as you, I should admit that some color combinations didn't please my eye, but all in all the garden is great. I read an article about the effort of the new head gardener to restore the place to something closer to what Monet intended to create at Giverny. The link to that article:
    Thanks again!

    1. Many thanks for your comments and the link – interesting article although I have to say I saw little change since I was there three years ago. I should have made the effort and tried to get the opportunity to speak to the Head Gardener. Your pictures are fantastic! Just love them. Must try next time to go in early summer.