Claude Monet was never tired of painting his water lilies, because they are ever changing. They open, they close, they float on a mirror that reflects the clouds passing, the sun getting higher and lower in the sky. Monet painted his water lilies relentlessly, almost 300 times.
It is a question that visitors I guide through the gardens ask regularly: “Do you ever get tired of it?” No, never. How could one get tired of beauty?
As early as 7 o’clock in the morning, the fairies are at work in Monet’s gardens. Young volunteers carefully take away the wilted flowers to keep the garden full of beautiful blossoms. Climbing roses are reached thanks to secateurs with long handles that need some practice and a lot of attention. The volunteers also have many other tasks to do. Here is Hillary Bernhardt, who was kind enough to answer a few questions:
Do you like this work?
Yes, very much. It’s very special to be able to work in Monet’s garden for a month. I have the opportunity to see how the flowers change in the garden as we take certain flowers out and put new ones in or as new ones pop out of the ground. I feel lucky to be able to soak in the garden’s beauty each day. Additionally, I love the opportunity to visit the garden after hours. It is sometimes challenging to be working outside all day, but I am thankful for the opportunity.
What made you want to apply?
I knew previous students from Davidson College who had completed the internship and they had all loved the experience. It’s a great way to practice speaking the French language, experience French culture, and explore the region on weekends. It’s also an excellent way to reflect on one’s life and journey thus far. As I’m working in the garden or going on bike rides in the area, I have the space to think about what has been meaningful in my life so far and what I would like to do in the future.
How is the atmosphere?
Working in the garden is fun! I enjoy talking to the tourists, especially when I’m able to practice French with them. Many of them ask me for the names of the flowers, but usually they know more of the names than I do! Also it has been enjoyable getting to know the professional gardeners, who really make the magic happen in the garden. I’ve enjoyed joking around with them as I have gotten to know them better.
Over the main alley that crosses Monet’s garden, the climbing roses display their tender colors in June.
Their pink and red match the pretty colors of the annual poppies scattered everywhere in the flower beds.
(click to enlarge)
I hope I will live long enough to experience the time when computers will manage to send fragrances. It would be so nice to be able to share the scents of Giverny. The roses are in full bloom, and their delicate perfume fills in the air. In the water garden, it mingles with the sweet scent of honey suckle, creating a very girly combination, the kind of fragrance I loved to wear as a teenager. I wonder if the teenagers of today still like it. But I see everyday how ladies love smelling flowers. To get most of a peony or an iris, the best is to put one’s nose in the petals. It is so good it gets addictive. Is this a feminine gesture, as a female visitor suggested it to me? I remember a photo of Georges Clemenceau smelling a rose. The Tiger himself! With such an example, gentlemen should feel free to indulge in this pleasure.