Claude Monet House and Gardens are located 80 km west from Paris France in the village of Giverny, 4 km from the town of Vernon.
There are two parts in Monet’s garden: a flower garden called Clos Normand in front of the house and a Japanese inspired water garden on the other side of the road.
The two parts of Monet’s garden contrast and complement one another.
The Clos Normand
When Monet and his family settled in Giverny in 1883 the piece of land sloping gently down from the house to the road was planted with an orchard and enclosed by high stone walls. A central alley bordered with pines separated it into two parts. Monet had the pines cut down, keeping only the two yews closest to the house to please Alice. From this Clos Normand of about one hectare, Monet made a garden full of perspectives, symmetries and colors.
The land is divided into flowerbeds where flower clumps of different heights create volume. Fruit trees or ornamental trees dominate the climbing roses, the long-stemmed hollyhocks and the colored banks of annuals. Monet mixed the simplest flowers (daisies and poppies) with the most rare varieties.
The central alley is covered over by iron arches on which climbing roses grow. Other rose trees cover the balustrade along the house. At the end of the summer nasturtiums invade the soil in the central alley.
Claude Monet did not like organized nor constrained gardens. He married flowers according to their colors and left them to grow rather freely.
With the passing years he developed a passion for botany, exchanging plants with his friends Clemenceau and Caillebotte. Always on the look-out for rare varieties, he bought young plants at great expense. “All my money goes into my garden,” he said. But also: “I am in raptures.”
Nowadays, 100, 000 plants replaced each year, both annuals and perennials.
The water garden
In 1893, ten years after his arrival at Giverny, Monet bought the piece of land neighboring his property on the other side of the railway. It was crossed by a small brook, the Ru, which is a diversion of the Epte, a tributary of the Seine River. With the support of the prefecture, Monet had the first small pond dug; even though his peasant neighbours were opposed. They were afraid that his strange plants would poison the water.
Later on the pond would be enlarged to its present day size. The water garden is full of asymmetries and curves. It is inspired by the Japanese gardens that Monet knew from the prints he collected avidly.
To get to the water garden you go through an underground passage (at the time of Monet it was necessary to cross the railway and the road). You will step on the Japanese bridge and explore all the hidden recesses of the water garden.
In this water garden you will find the famous Japanese bridge covered with wisterias, other smaller bridges, weeping willows, a bamboo wood and above all the famous nympheas which bloom all summer long. The pond and the surrounding vegetation form an enclosure separated from the surrounding countryside.
Never before had a painter so shaped his subjects in nature before painting them. And so he created his works twice. Monet would find his inspiration in this water garden for more than twenty years. After the Japanese bridge series, he would devote himself to the giant decorations of the Orangerie in Paris.
Always looking for mist and transparencies, Monet would dedicate himself less to flowers than to reflections in water, a kind of inverted world transfigured by the liquid element.
The Japanese bridge
Monet had it built by a local craftsman. By the time the garden was restored, the bridge was too damaged to be saved. It had to be rebuilt by a firm from Vernon. It is made of beech wood.
The wisterias were planted by Monet.
Restoring Monet’s house and garden
After Claude Monet’s death in 1926, his son Michel inherited the house and garden of Giverny. He did not live there and it was Monet’s step-daughter Blanche who took care of the property. Unfortunately after the WWII the house and garden were neglected. In 1966 Michel Monet made the Academie des Beaux-Arts his heir.
In 1977 Gérald van der Kemp was appointed Curator at Giverny. André Devillers, who had the opportunity to go with Georges Truffaut – a distinguished gardener often invited to Monet’s table – helped him reconstruct the garden as it was by the time of the master. Many contemporaries of Monet testified also.
Almost ten years were necessary to restore the garden and the house their former magnificence. Not much was left. The greenhouse panes and the windows in the house were reduced to shards after the bombings. Floors and ceiling beams had rotted away, a staircase had collapsed. Three trees were even growing in the big studio.
The pond had to be dug again. In the Clos normand soil was removed to find the original ground level. Then the same flower species as those discovered by Monet in his time were planted.
Thanks to generous donors, mostly from the USA ,the house was given a facelift. The ancient furniture and the Japanese prints were restored. Then the visitor areas were fitted out. The property has been open to the public since September 1980.