James Priest, an Englishman, is the new caretaker of Monet's garden in France
The great Impressionist artist Claude Monet wrote "My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece." Anyone who has visited his home at Giverny in France could not doubt the sincerity of that statement. His paintings of scenes from his garden are amongst the most popular Impressionist works. It was here that Monet painted the water lily series that hangs in the Musee de L'Orangerie in Paris.
I was delighted to read last week an article in the New York Times called "Keeping Abloom the Inspiration for Masterpieces" about the new caretaker of Monet's garden. (Read the article here.) I was so interested to learn about this man and his thoughts on the magnitude of his responsibility and the careful and thoughtful way he is going to take this on.
Can you imagine being caretaker of a garden that inspired paintings like these?
When asked if the gardens with their wild profusion of flowers reflect more of an English style than the formal, symmetrical style of French gardens, he answerd "It is a unique garden, neither French nor English. It's an artist's garden, a dreamer's garden."
James Priest says that figuring out what was once in the garden is not easy. But he says that "to some extent the garden is successful if it captures the essence of Impressionism -- its bright colors and a feeling of gaiety."
The Japanese Foot Bridge and the Lagoon at Giverny
I began to think about the caretakers of famous gardens and what their lives must be like. James Priest says that he will study the garden for at least a year and talk to the gardeners who have tended to it before making any changes. "We have gardeners who have been here 25, 28 years. They need to be respected. The success the garden has had so far is theirs, and I need to understand why they did what they did." An inspired plantsman like James Priest will definitely have a challenging but hopefully satisfying job ahead of him.
I thought about some of the famous gardens I have seen and the enormity of keeping the essence of those gardens alive. The head gardeners or caretakers of these gardens must be passionate about their responsibility and have the ability to combine art and nature to maintain as best they can the original vision of that property. They are the caretakers of a paradise that we all get to enjoy.
The White Garden at Sissinghurst in England
Hidcote Garden in England
I hope the caretakers feel the "joie de vivre" that so many of these gardens express. Yes, their responsibility is large, but to be surrounded by this kind of beauty must bring them great happiness.
I love this quote from Henry Mitchell's book "One Man's Garden,"
"To sum up enormous wisdom for you in a sentence, the formula is simple: grow the most beautiful flowers you have ever seen or heard of, going through the year."
For those who love the garden, this sounds like a formula for happiness.
Top photo from NY Times