Monet The Gardener

An artist’s garden is full of inspiration, and it doesn’t matter where it is in the world: there are always ideas to take home.

The great Impressionist artist Claude Monet claimed that his greatest masterpiece was his garden. He was referring, of course, to his garden at Giverny, about 50 miles from Paris, where he lived for 43 years and which is maintained today as it was in Monet’s day.

The garden comes to life in spring, when tulips and daffodils burst into bloom in a romantic palette of purples, pinks, and white, with bright spots of yellow. Tulips are planted in sweeping color blocks, a technique that carries your eye through the garden from one flower bed to the next. Peonies and roses bloom in late spring and early summer, and summer flowers keep the garden lively all the way through fall. Monet grew bright zinnias and silky-petaled pink and white cosmos. The poppies, sunflowers, cleomes, and hollyhocks he loved still bloom at Giverny today. Monet’s water-lily ponds inspired some of his most famous paintings.

The gardens near the house were thoughtfully planned for a long and lively season. He blurred the formal edges of the garden with exuberant blooms of all kinds, letting sunflowers and hollyhocks lean as they liked, and allowing nasturtiums to sprawl across paths. In summer, the flower beds were full of daisies, iris, and nicotiana. Bright red geraniums filled a flower bed just outside the back door. In late summer and fall, he depended on dahlias, asters, and Japanese anemones to keep his garden going.

Monet was himself a gardener, working to make his garden a place of beauty and inspiration, but the property is almost two acres, and he needed the help of six gardeners to keep the flowers in bloom from early spring through frost. Over the years, he became ever more passionate about the garden. He is said to have traded plants with friends, and he was eager to try the newest plants, just as gardeners are today. "All my money goes into my garden," he said. But he also said about it: "I am in raptures."