Gardens of Awe and Folly

by Ariane ~ March 6, 2016


I’m not used to reviewing books on this blog, but I need to make an exception for the newly published Gardens of Awe and Folly by Vivian Swift (Bloomsbury). It is the kind of book that puts a smile on your face when you look at it on the coffee table. The book that you want to re-read as soon as you’ve finished it. Humorous, imaginative, poetic, tender, insightful, and absolutely beautiful because of the many lovely watercolors by the author.

Vivian Swift made her very personal selection of gardens that matter to her and tells stories about them. As she puts it, “If all you ask of a garden is What?, then all you’ll probably get in reply is a planting list. But ask, instead, Why? How? When? and, most of all, Who? and then you’re in for a nice, long conversation. This book is a collection of the conversations I’ve had with nine gardens that had a lot to say.”

For an idea of chapter one, you can have a look at Vivian Swift’s blog. You will see how much she loves Paris… If you browse to older posts, you will learn more about Vivian’s next project: a book on Giverny, especially on how to paint Giverny. She makes it sound so easy and fun!


Winter Time

by Ariane ~ February 20, 2016


This is not the winter we are having at Giverny this year. The last time Monet’s water lily pond looked that way was in 2012.

It was so beautiful then! I roamed in the gorgeous yet closed garden and couldn’t look and shoot enough.

The landscape turned white is not that frequent at Giverny. Although we do get a few flakes every winter and a few nights of frost, generally the weather is more humid than cold. It is overcast, it rains, but not cats and dogs, only kittens and puppies, you know.

Patience. All this will soon be over. Fondation Claude Monet opens rain or shine on March 25, 2016, and the seven-month flower show wil be more beautiful than ever.

Giverny’s Weekly Mass

by Ariane ~ January 29, 2016


Once a week, on Thursdays at 6.00 pm, a mass is celebrated in the church of Giverny. Everybody is most welcome, especially tourists, even if they are not Catholics, even if they don’t speak French, as long as they are respectful.

Expect locals to smile at you with some curiosity in the eyes. They are eager to know who you are and where you are from, but won’t ask.

The mass starts soon after the old bells stop chiming. There are two of them, a little one that has a high sound and a big one that is lower.

If you are like me, you will prefer not to sit on the first row of chairs, to mimic the faithfuls who know when to stand up or sit down. It feels good to be among them, because churches are not monuments only. Their stones retain all the faith of the humans who built them and prayed in them. The parishioners of today are their beating heart.

A Bakery at Giverny

by Ariane ~ January 15, 2016

bakery-givernyThis is big and good news at Giverny: a bakery has opened! It is located in the main street rue Claude Monet in the direction to the church on number 73 Bis.
The last one closed decades ago, so it is a joy to see a bakery again in this little village of 500 inhabitants.
Nothing means life in a village more than a bakery and a school.
The bakery’s name, Au coin du pain’tre, is a pun. Au coin du pain would mean To the Bread’s Corner, but with an additional ‘tre ‘ it reads To the Painter’s corner, an allusion to the painting destiny of Giverny. Logically, the shop sign is in the shape of a palette. Artisan boulanger means that breads and pastries are home made.

When the museums are open, so is also the bakery, 7 days a week from 7.00 am to 8.00 pm. The bakery is established in a lofty shop that used to be successively a garage for renting 2CV cars, an antiques shop, and lately a restaurant. There is room enough for tables and a nice walled terrace, where the Coin du pain’tre also serves light meals.

Christmas Time

by Ariane ~ December 24, 2015


Next to the former railway station of Giverny-Limetz now converted into a ‘salle des fetes’ (community hall), the big fir tree proudly sports Christmas light garlands.

In winter, simplicity and peacefulness reign in the little village of Claude Monet, inhabited by 500 persons only.

631 000 visitors flocked to the water lily pond in 2015, from late March to early November.  Now that they have gone, it is like night after day, a time for relaxing and dreaming.

The Christmas tree shines for the Givernois (inhabitants of Giverny) and for the passersby driving on the Chemin du Roy.

Giverny on a November Sunday

by Ariane ~ November 22, 2015


Giverny was very peaceful but not totally desert this afternoon, due to a reasonably sunny Sunday.
The shutters on Monet’s house are locked for the winter.
Although it is not possible to enter any museum or garden, although cafés, restaurants and gift shops are closed, the village itself seems to attract people looking for a nice stroll.
Along the streets the flower beds continue to provide some flowers like sages, fuchsias, roses and dahlias.
They will resist until frost, or until the gardeners decide to pull them out.
One day, in the next months, they will be changed for spring flowers.

Last Fire on the Water

by Ariane ~ November 2, 2015

autumn-giverny Monet’s gardens are closed for the winter since this morning.

In the water garden, the show goes on for nobody except for the black birds and finches, still singing occasionally in the branches.

I wonder if the carps in the pond can see the gorgeous colors of the sweet gums over them.

Reopening of Giverny on March 26th, 2016 with a brand new spring garden in pale pinks and fresh greens.

Giverny 365 Photos

by Ariane ~ October 19, 2015


perpetual-calendarHere is my new perpetual calendar featuring Monet’s house and gardens at Giverny.

I have carefully selected my best photos among thousands of pictures I’ve taken over the past years in the famous painter’s gardens.

The shots follow the seasons. Page after page, day after day, you see how spring arrives and settles, gets to its glory, turns into summer and its plenty, until autumn comes with more flowers than ever and fabulous colors reflecting into the pond.

Winter has unexpected delights to offer, for instance the garden covered with snow, the frozen pond, or gorgeous sunrises over the Seine.

To make sure the new picture is a new surprise every day, landscape views alternate with flowers close ups, streets of Giverny with details of the house decoration, and more.

Each picture has a caption in English and in French.

The calendar has been designed and printed in France by a nature-friendly manufacturer.

The size is 15×12 cm, (4.7′ x 5.9′) including a white stripe at the bottom for your notes.

The price is  19 euros. I am happy to ship worlwide for an extra cost of 3.5 euros. For instance, total cost for the United States is 25 US$, or 17 £ for Great Britain, or 34 CAD, shipment included.

To order, just leave a comment and I will get in touch with you. Imagine this little window with lovely garden pics next to your computer or on your kitchen counter or anywhere else, like a breeze of fresh air…

Flowered Letters

by Ariane ~ October 4, 2015


At Giverny in Rue Claude Monet, one of the mail boxes to send letters and postcards is located amid flowers.

In October, the helianthus are big enough to reach the height of the mail box.

Their yellow hues match the  official color of La Poste boxes.

Having to  make your way through the flowers to post your mail makes paying the bills just a little more fun.

Flower Border

by Ariane ~ September 16, 2015

flower-borderIn Monet’s flower garden at Giverny, a beautiful  border covers the feet of the espaliered apple trees.

These colorful cushions are made of begonias boliviensis, whose lovely leaves resemble angel wings, combined with pink begonias semperflorens, four o’clock plants and polka dot plants.

The latter is often used in planters but it is also a very nice ground cover, that brings color and doesn’t need deadheading.

According to a keen gardener I met, polka plants are ‘the best thing since sliced bread’.  It was the first time I ever heard this funny expression that doesn’t translate into French. Well, you can translate word for word, but it is not a colloquialism and I can’t think of any equivalent.

This is great with foreign languages: you keep learning as long as you talk with native speakers, and sometimes you remember how it felt when you were six and wouldn’t understand exactly what people meant.

And this is what I find so great with my job: sharing with avid gardeners, speaking foreign languages, meeting wonderful people, and walking daily in the little Eden designed by Monet. All this combines like the flowers in the flower bed and makes my life happy and colorful. Thank you to you all.

Hair, air, heir

by Ariane ~ August 9, 2015


A flower hedge at the edge of Monet’s garden

For a French tongue, pronouncing the English words starting with an h is not that easy. The French language doesn’t have this sound, thence it is a special effort to say these words right. I do my utmost. I apply myself. I concentrate. I don’t mix up edges and hedges, ear and hear.

Today however, at the end of my tour in Monet’s garden, a gentleman came to me. He told me that there is a word that comes several times in my commentary that I didn’t say right: heir. Monet’s heir, his son Michel. As a lawyer, he explained, it is a word he knows only too well. It is not like the hair, but like the air.

Wow.  Isn’t it disconcerting? I expected exactly the contrary, that I had forgotten the h. I was very grateful, because it was done with kindness. It felt like receiving a little gift.

My English has improved a lot since school, thanks to the native speakers I meet every day. But very few take the trouble to correct me. I suppose a certain quantity of mistakes is acceptable, just like for you when reading this blog. I’ve improved because I paid attention to the right phrases, grammar, or pronunciation of my interlocutors. But I never realized this very mistake, although lots of visitors have asked me about Monet’s heirs. Because it is not relevant in French, I didn’t notice that the h was missing.


by Ariane ~ August 2, 2015


When there is no wind at all, the water lilies painted by Monet at Giverny seem to be floating in the air.

The surface of the pond is such a perfect mirror that the water turns invisible.

The rafts of water lilies resemble flying carpets en route for a long trip to mysterious countries.

Water Lily’s Beauty

by Ariane ~ June 30, 2015


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?

The Fairies of the Garden

by Ariane ~ June 17, 2015


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.

The Rose Arches

by Ariane ~ June 13, 2015


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)