Is there an ideal time to visit Claude Monet’s gardens at Giverny? You’d have to visit them every season (when the foundation is open between April and November) and admire the different varieties of flowers one after the other.
I visited at the end of June and was literally enchanted by the place. I had vague memories of it, having been there when I was very young, and I was taken aback by the beauty of the place and the explosion of colors on display.
The gardens of Giverny, Claude Monet's other masterpiece
Is this any surprise from a painter who offered the world his vision of nature through some of the most beautiful paintings in existence? Claude Monet grew up in Normandy and bought this large, imposing building, which at the time was an old wine press and did not yet have its distinctive pink and green colors. The gardens are the painter’s own work, and being a passionate gardener, he created a real source of inspiration for himself. He knew exactly what he wanted (he even subscribed to Country Life magazine) and sometimes behaved like a tyrant with his family members, so much so that the gardens were his preserve.
It was Gerald Van der Kemp, director of Giverny and a Versailles alumnus, who subsequently restored the estate, not exactly as it was then, but more to recreate the same atmosphere. The flower beds, however, have been reconstructed from Claude Monet’s own records of seed orders. They include magnificent poppies, columbines, anemones, cosmos and roses. All these flowers give the impression of strolling through a wild meadow, where nature is subtly tamed.
An inspiring place for many painters
For not only did the gardens of Giverny nourish the painter’s imagination, they were also, in a way, one of his studios. But it wasn’t just Monet who was inspired by the gardens: Giverny was also a meeting place for many French and foreign painters. Monet welcomed Cézanne and the American John Singer Sargent (whom I love almost as much as Mary Cassatt). Suffice to say, I like everything about Giverny.
It’s a delight to stroll through the flower-lined avenues, to savor the abundance of colors, to stop and take pictures in front of that famous central avenue structured by the famous arches… Giverny also has a particular light that Monet sought out, so take a stroll there at the end of a summer’s day to appreciate it, you won’t be disappointed.
The famous water-lily pond
For first-time visitors, the gardens are split in two by the village road, with a second section featuring the Japanese garden and its famous bridges, which have been depicted on the master’s paintings exhibited around the world. But the main attraction on this side of the road is the water-lily pond. This was created by diverting a stream in the village, and contrary to what you might think, it’s by no means natural. On the way back to the main house, you’ll come across the first gardens and can enter Claude Monet’s elegantly simple house.
Monet’s gardens have a very romantic, airy, bucolic meadow feel, like sour sweets. Everything here is a pleasure for the senses, and evokes strong emotions.
For flower lovers, discover the Giverny flowering calendar here, a wonderful idea from the foundation for all garden lovers. Check out the foundation’s website, which is really well done (a few more photos wouldn’t have gone amiss) and describes the flowers, plants and trees to be admired according to the season. A map is also available here to give you an idea of the layout.
If you can, don’t hesitate for a second to visit this wonderful place. And if you’d like to find out more about Claude Monet’s house, I’ll see you on the blog very soon.