Monday, July 28, 2014

Today's Bouquet Travel Impressions: Claude Monet's Garden at Giverny

Claude Montet in his garden, 1921
I think my version of heaven looks a lot like this!
I am following Nature without being able to grasp her.
I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.

In the Garden, 1895,
Collection E. G
. Buehrle, Zürich
I think without my love of art, I perhaps would not have become a gardener or floral designer in my third life career; following that of a mother and art curator. This summer on my first family trip to Europe, I got to finally visit "the" garden that was the source of inspiration for many of the paintings of the great Impressionist painter Claude Monet. Monet's garden and lily pond at his country house in Giverny, France, has been a continuous source of inspiration to creativity, art research and gardening throughout my life.

Visiting Monet's vibrant gardens and lily pond at Giverny, has been a dreamy personal goal and on my bucket list, since I was a young art history student who could never afford such travel.  Experiencing this fantasia of flowers for the first time in June--when blossoms were exploding with color--was simply, wondrous.  The garden's vast variety of flowers seemed as etheral in their vitality as the ones that Monet immortalized in his Impressionist paintings.

Located half way between, Rouen and Paris, is the small country town Giverny, where Claude Monet spent 43 years cultivating and composing this magnificent garden and lily pond that was the subject of the beauty, poetry and prose of his many painting that now hang has in the finest museums of the world.

 I ‘m extremely busy with my garden; it’s such a joy to me and…I am in raptures at the wonders of nature.
Agapanthus, between 1914 and 1926, Museum of Modern Art, New York

It is well documented that Monet had a deep love and connection to his garden and sought inspiration from its beauty. Monet first rented his pink stucco one-room wide country home in 1883; and finally purchasing it in 1890 with the considerable success of the sales from his paintings of the 1870s that were the hallmark of the revolutionary art movement,  known as Impressionism.
 The Impressionist artists moved away from realism to a style that tried to capture fleeting and momentary light through short brush strokes side by side.  Over the years, Monet transformed his simple country garden typical for the Normand region--with a kitchen garden and an orchard of apple trees-- into a garden with wild vitality like that of his impressionist brushstrokes in one of his landscape paintings. He also added a lily pond that reflected the interest and fashion of Japanese prints that influence many artists of the time. This addition seems to balance the vitality and vibrancy of his more traditional flower garden with the pond's viscus, quite and more contemplative space that is reflective of a deeper more mysterious quality evident in many of Monet's late paintings.

Water Lilies, c. 1915, Musée Marmottan Monet

From a gardeners perspective, it just doesn't get much better. In fact, I think this is what my version of heaven may look like; as it is an explosion of color with wild energizing abundance that is simply joyful. Monet was a master gardener carefully composing his garden over many years to reflect the spontenaiety and naturalness just, as he depicted in his plein air paintings-- that we know were carefully planned and usually sketched in nature only to finish the painting in the studio. Every color and variety of flower was composed for contrast and pop like  brushstrokes in his paintings. In his garden planning, exploration was encourage by the soft gravel paths and flower arches throughout his garden. I enjoyed too the exotic beauty of his lily pond, but the untamed vitality, abundance of color and variety of his flower garden filled my heart. I think Monet and I are kindered garden spirits as we share the unbridled love of color, wild vitality, and joyful abundance in our garden aesthetics.

After our visit to  Monet's country house, garden and lily pond, we toured  the small town of Giverny. We ended our visit in the old church yard where Monet was laid to rest. Monet left his country home and garden to his son Michael, who gave it to the French Academy of Arts in 1966, and after 10 years of restoration, it opened to the public in 1980. Giverny was a place of inspiration and solace for Monet, and  each season, his garden continues to serve as a vibrant bouquet that continues to inspire and provide joy. It is no wonder why it is one of the most celebrated gardens in the history of art and gardening.


Monday, July 21, 2014

Today's Bouquet Travel Take-Always from Versailles Summer 2014:

Eye-Dazzling Elegance on a Grand Scale

One thing Louis the XIV knew how to do was go BIG.   The court of Versailles was the center of political power in France from 1682, when Louis XIV moved from Paris, until the royal family was forced to return to the capital in October 1789 after the beginning of the French Revolution. Versailles is therefore famous not only as a building, but as a symbol of the system of absolute monarchy of the Ancien Régime.  The gardens of Versailles are celebrated for their timeless formal elegance on a grand scale.
Gardens and palace of Versailles in 1746, by the abbot Delagrive
Today Versailles is an icon for elegance, grandeur and opulence with interior and exterior rooms of the the palace brimming with eye-dazzling and awe inspiring ornate baroque elements that can still work today on any scale in your home or garden.

A few obvious take-aways from my visit:

1.  Florals are Fabulous

2. Spice it up with Citrus

2.   Magnetism of Garden Sculpture

3.  Power of Water Features

4.  Beautiful Boxwoods

5. Key Take-Away: Garden Maintenance is Everything
Timeless design through impeccable maintenance. In any garden no mater the scale or type--formal or organic--the garden must be properly maintained, or  it will loose its form over time.