In Giverny, France is a garden that much of the world would recognize. The water lilies of the Japanese-inspired lake and gardens inspired the man who lived there – none other than the impressionist master Claude Monet. For forty-three years from 1883 to 1926, the painter sculpted these grounds. With his own hands, he planted the wisteria that blooms still on the footbridge, and the azaleas which blaze scarlet all around the small lake.
Today, the house is a museum and the Monet gardens are meticulously maintained by a small crew of gardeners. In an ordinary year, over 700,000 visitors come during the garden’s seven-month season to see its immortalized floods of color, as many as half of those from overseas. But since March 2020, the flowers have bloomed for only the 11 master gardeners.
“It’s frustrating because the garden has its meaning when we are sharing it,” said Claire-Hélène Marron, one of the gardeners. “We put a lot of effort into making it spectacular and trying to recreate the impressionist paintings.” Marron and her coworkers are employed by Le Fondation Monet to preserve the living artwork of the Monet gardens.
Early spring, the season Monet liked to paint most, has passed unattended this year. The hyacinths and daffodils and tulips have blown, the water lily flowers have turned brown. Now in late spring, the gardens are awash with the many blues of irises, humming with bees and the sound of water. And as of Wednesday May 19th, they will come back to life with the chatter of visiting tourists.
France, which has imposed some of the most severe lockdowns in Europe with curfews and enforced travel radii, is opening up again. Restaurants and cinemas are again allowed to seat tables (outdoors only, so far!), and people can go to the cinema, walk through a museum, or see a play. Monet’s house in Giverny is allowed to welcome 200 people per hour to stroll through his rooms and gardens.