When I say Claude Monet, you probably think: Impressionist paintings. But what you should think is: gardens. Monet is famed for his soft paintings of nature, so it’s no surprise he had an incredible garden. And it’s open to the public from April until the end of October.
Today the house and its extensive gardens are a must for garden enthusiasts, and you can also enter his house and see his art studio and paintings. Monet moved his family out to Giverny, 45 miles north-west of Paris, in 1883 and spent the rest of his life there. You will find the vibrant colours and stunning planting schemes that occupied his painting for over 20 years.
Ten years after living at Giverny, Monet bought an adjoining piece of land where he created the lily pond. With its Japanese bridge, it became the subject of so many of his famous paintings. He was inspired by the gardens depicted in Japanese prints, which he collected avidly. The wisteria covering the bridge and the willow trees and azaleas around the pond are a breath-taking sight in summer.
After Monet’s death in 1926, the house and gardens were inherited by his son Michel, whose wife Blanche looked after them. But by the end of the Second World War, the property and gardens had become neglected. Michel bequeathed the house and gardens to the Academie des Beaux-Arts (Fine Art Academy) in 1966 and a programme of restoration was undertaken. It took almost 10 years to bring the house and gardens back to their former glory – today they attract over half a million visitors a year from all over the world.
Monet was a passionate horticulturalist and collected books on botany. Even though he hired several gardeners, he remained an architect and would write daily instructions for them with precise designs and planting schemes.
He also spent a lot of money buying plants and looking out for rare varieties, including many from South America. He once said: “All my money goes into my garden. I am in raptures”.
The gently sloping area in front of the house – known as the Clos Normand – is about one hectare in size and is planted in rows of different colour schemes. Roses adorn the arches over the wide central pathway as well as covering the balustrade of the house.
In spring there is a profusion of flowering bulbs in dozens of varieties and colours throughout the garden.
Monet didn’t like organised or controlled gardens, so he planted flowers and shrubs according to colour and left them to grow without restraint. Grassed areas near the orchard are naturalised with bulbs, bounded by espaliered apple trees and under-planted with bluebells.
Giverny is a wonderfully atmospheric garden to visit and see the plants and nature that inspired Monet’s impressionism. Find out more at giverny.org.