Even if you have never made the pilgrimage to Giverny, France, it’s not hard to visualize the glory that was…is…Claude Monet’s famous garden. From the well-known water lilies and irises to the many iconic Impressionist works, this small, intimate garden on the outskirts of Paris inspired many of Monet’s masterpieces.
A recent cameo in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris reminded me of my rushed trip to Giverny many years ago. I traipsed through the garden taking in the amazing palette of colors, the pinks and yellows, fuchsias, purples and oranges. How could one NOT love the feast for the senses?
The next day I visited the Orangerie Museum in Paris where the famous water lily paintings are featured. This combo makes for a nice pairing. There are currently a few tours in Paris which focus on the many sights featured in Allen’s latest movie. The Paris Underbelly - Midnight in Paris Tour will set you back about $100, depending on the length of the tour.
According to a recent article in the New York Times, the garden (which is open to the public seven months a year and attracted more than half a million visitors in 2010) has a new head gardener. James Priest, has just taken over the reigns of perhaps the world’s most well-known cultivated plot. Mr. Priest is an Englishman, although he has lived in France for 30 years and is married to a Frenchwoman. Some say the garden has more of an English flavor, a wildness and lack of order, but Priest sidesteps the tempest in a teapot over an Anglo running a quintessentially French garden.
The French and the British love to kid each other, naming certain things as “French” or “Anglaise” to connote a distaste. A condom, for example in France is called a “capote anglaise,” whereas in England it is often referred to as a “French letter.” For his part, Priest feels the garden is beyond French or English and prefers to think of Monet’s Giverny as an artist’s garden.
It’s a demanding job, regardless of the head gardener’s country of origin, and Mr. Priest plans to rely heavily on the wisdom and experience of the gardeners who have been tending Giverny for decades. In his day, Monet could pick and choose what to paint and keep things in bloom at various stages. Today, with so many visitors, the task is to keep the garden picture perfect all the time.