[oqeygallery id=22]Since I mentioned it in a recent post, I thought it might be time to share my pictures and thoughts about the garden. It was one of the first gardens that I visited outside of Paris and I’ve returned over and over again.  Although my earlier trips weren’t captured on camera, I have been there every month of the year while it’s open, except for July.  I intend to fix that someday. 

The garden is always beatiful.  One October vist after a heavy frost, the naturtiums were grey mush but the colors reflected in the pond were incredible.  The garden is well funded.  The staff start hundreds of thousands of annuals every year so that there is never an empty space. They strive to be true to Monet’s artistic vision for the garden, although plant materials may be somewhat different than he might have used. I recommend that you find time to visit Museum Marmottan and the Musee d’Orsay  to see his work on the same trip when you visit this garden. The spirit of the place is somehow shared in all of Monet’s work.

Many people choose to take a train or a tour bus from Paris to see this garden and that works, but then you are on the same schedule as hundreds of other tourists.  The train stops in Vernon, over three miles away from the garden.  There is a bus that finishes the trip but the one time that I took the train, there were too many people for the bus and many people were left to find taxis and other conveyance on their own.  Rick Steve suggests that the last hours in the day have the least tourist traffic and I’ve found that to be generally good advice.  After the bus leaves to take the tourists back to the Paris-bound train.  Although packed with beauty and history, it’s a small garden; an hour or two will do it justice. Leave extra time if you want to tour inside the house (it costs more) as there are often lines.

The small town around Giverny is worth some time, too.  The Museum of American Art has pretty plantings, keeping with the theme.  And the hotel and restaraunt Baudy has a rose garden worth visiting, especially in early summer.  (Do watch out for the nettles.)  The visit was free if I ate there, if they still have it, try the omlette with rabbit and potatoes.  It’s a classic so I expect they still do.

Garden Gem in Normandy – Clos du Coudray

[oqeygallery id=21]If you want to visit Monet’s Garden when you are in France, and what garden tourist doesn’t, don’t plan to day trip out from Paris.  It’s worth the trouble to rent a car and drive to Normandy for a couple of days.  You may save enough in hotel rates to pay for the car.  But more importantly, you can also visit some of the other excellent public gardens that Normandy offers. Although it doesn’t have the same sense of art history, which is arguing apples and oranges to some extent, Clos du Coudray , in my opinion, surpasses Monet’s Garden in its horticultural importance and at least equals it in design impact.  The owners take pride in being completely organic.  It’s also a working nursery, so new discoveries are showcased next to old favorites.

Plantings are laid out in different “garden rooms”.  One of the things that I like about this garden is that the design goes far beyond the simple three parts that can be found so often in France (formal, informal and near-wild).  The rose garden is one of the best I’ve seen at integrating roses with other plantings for a long season of beauty, even in shaded spots.  It’s much more than a rose garden really.  It is the most formal of the gardens with straight paths and squared off design elements.  All of my favorites are used in one garden or another:  iris, peonies and dahlias.  And I fell in love with a birch tree, betula costata, that I’ve named Betts.  Located near a huge stand of gunnera in a shaded area, her tender, light bronze branches arching gracefully over a bed of hosta create a sunny spot. 

In the pictures, notice the loving attention to the details of color and shape, how they complement each other in the plantings.  It always amazes me that people can imagine these things and then use plants to create the vision.

Follow this link to look at the history of the garden.  There are three pictures in the middle of the page, clicking on them will take you to pictures and descriptions of the owners reconstruction of the building, the development of the garden and the extension of the garden.  It is in French but most browsers will translate for you. It’s worth looking at the pictures, in any case.