Entries Categorized as 'Flower'

A Carpet of Flowers

August 1, 2011

giverny-pelargoniumThis is one of the most impressive flower beds at Giverny: a vibrant combination of pink and red pelargoniums displayed on oval patterns, just in front of Claude Monet’s house. They look very much like carpets of flowers at the foot of the facade.
Pelargoniums, known until recently as geraniums, are the most popular Summer flowers in France. They were my grand mother’s favorite on her windows. No wonder, they are so resistant, easy to grow, long flowering and colorful!
Pelargoniums are commonly used in pots, it is a nice change to plant them in the garden where their rich tones flame in sunny spots.
In Monet’s gardens, they make their come back every year in May just after the last tulips. According to the mood of the gardener, they are planted either by color – an entirely red border and a fully pink one side by side – or mixed like this year. I prefer the latter option. It looks less formal, and more ‘painted’.
A border of pelargoniums in Monet’s garden? It doesn’t sound very exciting. Actually, it is daring. This red and pink carpet surprises many visitors, astonished to encounter such a low and formal flower bed at last, after so many unusual, overgrown mixed borders.
The explanation is the need of contrast. In late Summer, when huge flowers overwhelm visitors meandering along, it is nice to have a corner where you can breath, see in the distance. After the wood, the clearance.
Contrast, one of Monet’s favorite painting trick.

Sensitive Water Lilies

July 3, 2011

white-nympheaWater lilies are sensitive to cold. When the night is overcast and mild, they are all open in the morning. But if the night is clear, they close and need several hours of sunshine to open again.

They like a warm water not only to open, but also to bloom. On Monet’s pond, water lilies are gorgeous during heat waves, they become scarce during rainy and cool periods.

This is true for a big pond like Giverny. For gardeners who would like to grow water lilies in a wash basin, it is wise to look for a partly shaded spot. In direct sunshine, the water of a small container becomes very warm. If some like it hot, it is not the case of water lilies.

Time for Water Lilies

August 1, 2010

Water lilies are summer flowers.

 They like a warm water and a lot of sunshine.

In Monet’s garden at Giverny, the Nympheas that grace the pond are at their peak.

 Their crowns of pale petals reflect in the changing colors of the surface, creating harmonies that inspire the many painters visiting the gardens.

Yellow Fields

May 22, 2010

Every year in May, the yellow fields scattered all around in the countryside of Normandy intrigue visitors.

– What are they? they keep asking, struck by the vibrant color. No other crop induces so many questions.

– Rapeseed fields, I answer, trying to speak as distinctly as possible.

When visitors of Giverny come from a region of the world where rapeseed is unknown, they frown. They don’t want to believe that this is the real name of the plant. I must be wrong. They ask me to repeat.

I explain all what is done with rapeseed, oil, the green gasoline we call diester, and food for the cattle. I would so much prefer to answer, well, it is mustard for the french fries, you know! I long for next month, when the rapeseed will be blown, and the flax in blossom.

– What are the pale blue fields? people will ask, and they will be only too happy to see where their linen come from.

Giverny: zone 8

May 7, 2010

American visitors to Giverny often ask to which agricultural zone Giverny belongs.  A puzzling question indeed, as these zones aren’t commonly used in France!

 Asking about the coldest temperature in Winter doesn’t help a lot, because the Frenchs count in Celsius, not in Farenheit.

I finally found the answer: Giverny is in zone 8.

During the coldest night of the last Winter, temperatures reached -13°C, that is to say 8°F. This is OK for many plants, trees and bushes, except the most fragile.

 Some flowers even need frost to understand that it is Winter, and then Spring. If tulips, for instance, don’t get all the cold they need, they will sulk and refuse to bloom the next Spring!

Whimsical Life

April 21, 2010

It has been sunny and dry lately at Giverny. So, when the gardeners start watering in Monet’s gardens, it sounds like a relief not only for flowers.

 All sorts of tiny little creatures start moving again, as long as the leaves are wet enough to slide on them.

I admired this cute little pink snail and its incredible sense of balance on the edge of a tulip leaf.

Cute, but certainly greedy too! Isn’t it a shame to feed oneself on Monet’s flowers?

Lavender Dream

July 19, 2009

A purple bush rose frames the big window of Monet’s first studio at Giverny.

Purple roses are not very common, nor look very natural, but they provide a strong impact. This one has a sweet name: lavender dream. It is lovely in springtime when it flowers in numerous small simple roses.

It is too late now for roses, but it is the right time to see -and smell- lavender in bloom at Giverny, as a slight reminiscence to Provence. It perfumes the air, together with phlox and lilies.

Being a Bee

June 5, 2009

Dancing in the air.


Landing on petals.

Smelling the heavy scents of flowers.

Rolling in stamens.

Living on nectar.


To be or not to be a bee.


May 2, 2009

What would be Spring without tulips? They illuminate April in Monet’s garden at Giverny.

According to the head gardener, the  list of the varieties displayed in the garden is very long: several hundreds of types of tulips make the Clos Normand sort of a flower show.

It is unbelievable how different the tulips can be. Their colors range from pure white to almost black red, from light pink to deep purple, from pale yellow to bright orange. They can be ridiculously tiny, or incredibly tall. Some are classically round shaped, other ones look like stars, or are as twisted as a flame. The parrot tulips seem tightly shut jaws.

But all of them have this silky quality of petals that reminds of the shine of skin, enhanced by dew in the morning sunshine.

Scented Beauties

February 17, 2009

Aren’t you tired of winter? We all look forward to spring. In Monet’s garden sprouts of flowers are coming out, while the gardeners are busy planting the pansies.

This is the way they will look in early April. Hyacinths will be already in full bloom and full scent, their delicate perfume recognizable steps away. At Giverny they greet the visitors right at the entrance to the garden.

Their pink combines perfectly with the mauve pansies flowering at the same time. All together they make a bunch of spring.

Wild Rose

November 14, 2008

Now that all the wild roses are spent, their lovely berries shine in the morning mist.

The dog roses grow everywhere in the area of Giverny, on road sides, on the bushy hills, turning the countryside into a giant garden when they are in bloom in springtime.

Modern Flower

July 16, 2008

At Monet’s time, only white water lilies grew wild in France.

They were hardy flowers, able to stand cold and frost, whereas pink or yellow water lilies were of exotic origin and needed a warm greenhouse to spend the winter.

When Monet created his water garden at Giverny and imagined a pond with floating islands of colorful nympheas, these flowers where very modern.

By the end of the nineteen century a man called Bory Latour-Marliac had the idea of cross fertilizing hardy white water lilies with exotic ones. He was successful and obtained a full palette of hardy waterlilies. In 1889, the year of the Eiffel tower, Latour-Marliac exhibited his new creations at the Universal Exhibition in Paris, where Monet saw them. Four years before he had his pond dug he conceived the idea of it by seeing the beautiful water flowers.

Would Latour-Marliac not have created  his flowers, Monet would probably not have painted his Nympheas masterpieces.

To be an ant

June 22, 2008

Sometimes when I watch flowers in Claude Monet’s gardens at Giverny, I wonder what it can be like to be an ant.

It must be incredible to be able to walk in or on a flower, among these petals that look like candy.

Does an ant feel vertigo?

At the same time distances are so, so long when you are so tiny. And so many decisions have to be made all the time. Will this ant go on this way or go back to find another path?


June 9, 2008

Claude Monet liked poppies, red poppies in the fields and pink poppies in his garden at Giverny.

His painting of his wife and son walking in a meadow full of poppies is one of the most famous of musée d’Orsay in Paris.

All the poppies are currently in bloom in his flower garden at Giverny, tiny or enormous, scarlet or pink, orange, yellow, some one color, some two. The pink and purple poppies are spectacular.

Monet preferred one color flowers but he also used two color flowers just as he could take two colors with his brush on his palette and put them in one gesture on the canvas.

Lily of the Valley

May 1, 2008

Just in time for May 1st, the lily of the valley is blooming in Monet’s water garden at Giverny.  It is a shy flower that likes to hide but its scent betrays it.

In France the tradition is to give a sprig of lily of the valley on May 1st to the ones you love to bring them luck.

Here is my sprig for you, be lucky all year round!