Meteorologists say that Spring starts on March 1st, whilst many gardeners and those who follow the astrological calendar will wait until the 21st to declare its arrival. But, for me, spring could come at any time, once Monet’s garden at Giverny is in bloom.
It starts with snowdrops and daffodils, and these can be seen outside the gardens, in the farmer’s fields and woodland. It’s a quiet celebration of ‘Le Printemps’ arrival. Then, bit by bit the garden takes on not just a rainbow of colour, but an absolute riot of hues.
Wander through the tunnel that traverses beneath the road, leading visitors from the main house garden to the Japanese pond, and you’ll enter a private aquatic oasis. Here, you’ll discover the serene view that Monet captured in his ‘Water Lilies‘, and it’s well worth taking a few extra moments to linger on the wisteria-covered bridge to admire the watery scene.
Scattered through the surrounding beds are pale pastel-coloured pansies, forget-me-nots, and narcissi, their varying shades of white, soft blues, and gentle pinks and violets all adding the delicacy of the pond setting.
I also adore the bamboo forest, with its mysterious swaying in the breeze and wafting leaves that wave at you as you walk by. There’s something utterly decadent about it, and it’s oh so tempting to slip between the metres-high stalks and disappear into another world. But don’t do it, there’s so much more to explore!
Back in the main house garden, is where your eye for colour will be overwhelmed. It’s hard to know where to look as the rows and rows of buds in every shade dance beneath hoop-iron arches. It’s almost like a military display, with each bed a different shade of colour; reds, oranges, yellows, and so on. Stare long enough into the beds, and the huge variety of flowers becomes more apparent.
Whether it’s Baby’s Breath or Iris’, a rose or Primrose, the blossoms from cherries or crab-apples, the flowers captivate all who wander through the extensive grounds, truly showcase the palette that Monet chose to work with. For him, this garden that he created was a constant source of inspiration and marvel, and has provided years of enjoyment for the rest of us lucky enough to visit.
Monet’s garden in bloom
For me, it’s not really ‘spring’ until Monet’s garden is in full bloom, with those bold red, orange, and yellow tulips all open, and the lingering buds of wisteria cascade from the gnarled wooden boughs over the green pond bridge. Why? Because that’s how I first met this garden, a 70th birthday treat for my Mum, and a lovely lunch that followed.
We spent a leisurely morning strolling along the carefully laid out and tended beds, leaning over to drink in the hypnotic fragrances, and capturing memories for the years and seasons ahead. Together, we sat in that gentle spring sunshine, that only in France, seems to warm you through and chases away the wintery chill without toasting your skin to a burnt offering. We sipped on crisp and chilled apple cider and ate toasted baguettes with jambon and camembert with caramelised onions and mushrooms. It was everything we’d dreamt of, and more.
When the bright and warm days of Printemps make their sleepy appearance, those garden beds sing with colour once more.
Then I know, spring is here…
Kit Smyth is a retired chef with a passion for French cuisine, Kit enjoys writing about food, cooking, and travel through her business, TheBiteLine and Instagram @TheBiteLine. Originally hailing from Australia, Kit’s dedicated to exploring both old and new ingredients, techniques and styles, and developing recipes for home cooks, she also teaches these recipes online and in-person.