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Monet's Garden at Giverny: Home

Photograph of water lilies in a pool

Claude Monet's successful garden designs came about through continual practice. As a master gardener, horticulturalist and colorist, he perfected his style of blending multitudes of flower and foliage colors, textures and shapes. His house and three-acre garden in Giverny, France became Monet's passion - a fascination that would last a lifetime. His love of nature helped to create his world-famous garden, as well as nurture his artistic style. He redesigned, adjusted and developed his garden, perfecting nature's compositions and enabling him to capture glorious moments that shaped his impressionistic art.

Monet's garden displays hundreds of thousands of annuals, biennials and perennials each year. Monet had a two-and-a-half-acre vegetable garden on a separate property.

How Did He Do It?

  • He used succession planting of colorful annuals and bulbs with perennials.
  • He planned colorful borders to bloom throughout the year.
  • Utilizing scale, he borrowed surrounding landscapes to increase the visual size of the garden.
  • He used large blocks of monochromatic colors, creating visual impact.
  • He also used complementary colors to intensify visual interest.
  • He increased atmospheric effects of sunlight and mist by using specific colors.
  • He used reflections of sky and landscape on water as a design feature and artistic inspiration.
  • In the vegetable-flower garden, he planted a quilt-like pattern of cabbage and lettuce, surrounded by pink peonies.
  • He worked, and reworked, until he was dazzled.

To improve pockets of alkaline soil, Monet added peat moss and manure to create a more favorable pH.

It takes planning to achieve your own impressionistic garden for the 21st century. First you must decide what your needs are before putting your plan into action.

  • Time of interest during the year (spring, summer, fall and/or winter)
  • Color choices for plants and foliage (consider the color of your house in this decision)
  • Time and cost restrictions
  • Plant selection and cultural requirements
  • Plant size, shape and texture variety and preference
  • Architectural elements

To help produce sparkle in the landscape, Monet planted white flowers among bright, colorful flowers. For example, in one such planting, Monet scattered white peonies among showy highlights of blue, bi-colored irises.

One of the key elements to make a strong design is repetition. Monet repeated color, plants and architectural accents, which makes a big impact as opposed to using random dots of color here and there.

""When Monet returned from painting in the garden, he would be welcomed with a riot of colorful, flowering plants growing under the "Grande Allée Tunnel". This made quite the entrance from the gate to the house. White, pink, rose or lavender penstemon and stock three feet high graced the path. Later, flowering red phlox, reaching three to five feet in height, enriched the color scheme. Flowering hollyhocks (Alcea) in soft pastels, foxgloves (Digitalis) in deep mauves and purples and larkspur (Delphinium) in many shades of blue shot color into the sky.

Make Your Own "Grande Allée"

Let's make a scaled-down version of Monet's "Grande Allée Tunnel" of shrubs and perennials. Plants that bloom in spring, summer and fall, like roses, asters, sunflowers, larkspur, bearded iris, nasturtiums, poppies and leopard's bane (Doronicum) can be used. Over the path, position three arches spaced evenly apart. The arches connect the borders, as well as raise the eye's focus up and over to either side, achieving a charming and cohesive design. Nasturtiums can be planted at each border's edge and will eventually trail into the path. Rambling roses planted to scramble up and over the arches will add to the tunnel effect. Repeat the plants on either side of the path varying their placement a bit. The repetition of the plants and colors gives a pleasing visual effect. To practice, Monet used the cut flower technique to plan his designs. He would arrange cut flowers in his hand to see how color, texture and shape could work together harmoniously.

Monet's favorite color combinations in the garden were: blue and pink; yellow and blue (gold and sapphire); red, silver and green; and blue/purple, pink and white.

Who hasn't seen Monet's famous waterlily paintings exhibiting Monet's passion for the mirrored flora and light effects on water? Although Monet's waterlily garden is well known today, it didn't exist when he first started the garden's transformation at Giverny. There was no pond, much less a water feature. His plan to dig the pond, which meant diverting water from the Ru River, met with much resistance from the locals and getting the necessary permits was quite an ordeal.

Monet considered lenten roses (Helleborus orientalis) and Barnhaven primroses, which were both planted near the pond, to be the perfect plant pairing.

Monet later added the famous foot bridge to the pond, butPhoto by Ivo Vermeulen favored the original water view to create his masterpieces.  The original Japanese wisteria grows over a 34-foot-long iron arbor, which borders the northeast edge of the waterlily pond. Flowering rhododendrons and an array of gladioli, irises and rare species of lilies add a touch of drama around the water's edge. The yellow, blue and mauve waterlilies are spread throughout, supported by glistening, flat, green lily pads. Atmospheric effects on Monet's garden were created by planting rich orange, pink, gold and bronze wallflowers and tulips together to emphasize the effect of the setting sun. There are dwarf waterlily varieties available in many flower colors and unusual leaf variations to consider when planting your pond, but one color repeated will present more of an impact when planting a small pond.

The sensation of shimmer set Monet's garden plantings apart. To achieve this effect, he combined the following five elements into a planting:

  • white flowers sprinkled throughout the garden;
  • fleecy foliage;
  • translucent blooms;
  • bi-colored flowers;
  • and iridescent plants.

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