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Our Lady Collegiate church in Vernon
A whole site dedicated to this monumeent (in English)
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Vernon half-timbered houses
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Vernon Giverny Website auf deutsch

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The Old Mill in Vernon
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Monet's house and garden at Giverny
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The XIIth c. castle keep in Vernon
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Visits, indeed, but there are so many other things to do in Vernon
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Walking and cycling around Vernon
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Museums in Vernon (paintings by Monet) and Giverny
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A walk in the streets of Giverny
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The water lily pond at Giverny
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Tourelles castle in Vernon
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The making of Claude Monet's garden




" Monet's garden is regarded as one of his masterpieces, the appealing embodiment of nature that is adapted to the work of a painter of light. " Clemenceau. (French Prime Minister during World War I and very close friend of Monet's.)

When Monet arrived in Giverny in 1883, the garden was very different from what it is now.
The water garden, across the road (a railway line, at the time), did not exist : Monet bought the plot of pasture land in 1893.



Le Clos normand (The Norman garden)

As to the garden in front of the house, called Le Clos Normand (the Norman Enclosure) it was an orchard with a few flowerbeds here and there and two long borders leading to the bottom of the garden.
Monet decided to turn it into a flower garden, which was a new concept at the time except around palaces and mansions where ornamental gardens had existed for centuries. The idea of a garden that would yield neither fruit nor vegetables was ill-regarded and Monet's decision is one of the earliest indications of a new way to consider gardens at the second half of the 19th century.
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Claude Monet did not like artificial gardens, with fake rocks and waterfalls, giant cement toadstools at the foot of the trees, columns, trees pruned into unnatural shapes - cones or cubes or ( as Jean-Pierre Hoschedé, Alice's last son, humorously noted") "in the shape of a 'coq gaulois' (i.e. a Gallic cock, the French cockerel emblem of the French fighting spirit)".
The alleys of Monet's garden are straight and the whole pattern is neat, but flowers and coloured bushes seem to have overgrown everything.


 

When he arrived, the orchard was surrounded by high walls that Monet had immediately lowered so as to have a better view of the hills and the Seine valley, the shades of which were an enchantment to him.

The main alley was lined with spruce trees and cypresses, which Monet did not like: he wanted to have them felled. But as Alice did not approve of it, they came to an agreement: he kept the two yew-trees close to the house, just to please Alice. The cypresses were replaced by metal arches spanning the alley - soon covered with roses; and the spruces were reduced in height, becoming mere supports for more roses before being hewn down a few years later.

On each side of the alley, Monet organized the former orchard differently: on one side, oriental cherry trees and Japanese crab-trees took the place of the old apple trees, on the other side, the ground was divided into various flowerbeds with mixed borders.


 

At first, Monet and his family did most of the gardening themselves. He wrote "We all started working in the garden. I used to dig the ground, plant, hoe up the weeds myself; at night, the children would water the plants. As my financial circumstances were improving, I kept extending the garden."
Later, when his reputation and income had grown, he built several greenhouses, the first one in 1892 and hired up to seven gardeners.

Monet would choose the plants himself, in France but also in England.
Additionally, he used to receive lots of flower catalogues and was in personal and friendly contact with the greatest horticulturists of the time, especially Georges Truffaut .
His friends were asked to collect information about flowers and bring back new specimens from their journeys. For instance, here is a letter to his friend Caillebote "Here is the name of the Japanese plant that was sent to me from Belgium.: Crythrochaete. See Mr Godefroy about it and give me information on how to grow it."



The Clos Normard is a celebration of 100,000 plants replaced each year and 100,000 perennials. Monet dared to mix the simplest flowers with the rarest varieties.
Monet did not like very much double flowers , he preferred single ones. As in his painting in which he never used black, Monet disliked dark-coloured flowers, and, as he wanted the garden to in bloom all around the year, he mixed perennials and annuals.

Granted some flowers are not found in Giverny, e.g; sweet williams, African marigolds, speedwells, Indian shots and others, but the list of those that can be found in the gardens is indeed very long. (See the list of flowers in next page)

 


The Water garden and the pond


In 1893, Monet bought a piece of land on the other side of the railway line and he had an arm of the Epte river diverted there and with the agreement and the support of the regional authorities, Monet had at first a small pond dug in spite of his peasant neighbours' opposition: they were afraid that his strange plants might poison the water.

 

As a 1893 letter proves it, he knew already at the time that this would not simply be a garden for his pleasure but also a place where he would find renewed inspiration for his art.

Of course he had to wait a few years before the vegetation had grown enough to enable him to paint there almost exclusively, but as early as 1895 he could start painting the pond and the Japanese bridge.


n 1901 he bought another plot of ground to enlarge the pond and the garden to its present size and, as in the Clos Normand, ordered plants and flowers from all over the world. Contrary to the Clos Normand, the design of which is fairly straight and regular, this water garden is full of asymmetries and curves. It is inspired by the Japanese gardens that Monet knew from the prints which he collected.


Much later, Monet described his garden as follows: "It is a pond that I created about fifteen years ago,. It is about 200 metres in circumference and it is fed by an arm of the river Epte. It is bordered with irises and various aquatic plants in a background made up of different trees, mostly poplars and willows, especially several weeping willows. This is the very place where I have already painted the Water Lilies with a Japanese-looking bridge."

The greens shimmer as weeping willows are mirrored in the rich shades of the pond. There you can feel the presence of Monet and you begin to understanding his art. The water garden was an endless source of inspiration for the painter: at first he gave the landscape an important place in his canvasses (the pond, the bridge, the trees) but it gradually disappeared and there only remained the water lilies and coloured reflections in the water.

 

When he wrote the following lines, Proust was also thinking of Monets' research of colour:

"If I some day can see Mr Monet's garden, I feel that, within a garden full of tones and colours rather than flowers, I shall see a garden that is likely to be less a florist's garden than a colourist's, so to speak, with flowers arranged together in a way that is not exactly nature's, since it was planted so that only the flowers with matching colours would bloom at the same time in an infinite harmony of blue or pink, flowers that the painter's mighty will has deprived, in a sense, of everything that is not colour."


 


Other pages about Claude Monet's garden and Giverny :
Giverny, where crossbreeding takes place
List of plants and flowers
Calendar of flowering times

Monet, the Seine and Normandy
Monet and the villagers

Have you heard about another Monet garden... in Japan? Visit it here.
What about 'Giverny in the USA'? Have a look at it

Giverny: an American colony : the history of the artists who came to Giverny in Monet's time

To end your visit in the village, why not a short walk in the hills above Giverny ?