Dreaming Of My Very Own Monet

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(public domain photo of Monet painting from Wikimedia)
Not a painting, of course.  Monet had one hand on a paint brush and the other on a trowel, so to own a Monet garden is more likely than owning a $72,000,000 painting.  Well, not Monet really--he's not available to run over with his trowel and fix my pelargoniums--all we have are what people best-guess about Monet's gardening techniques.

 A NYT artcle by William Grimes found here gives a run down on How Claude Did It.  I quote the two key bits of the article: 

"It is well known that Monet loved certain effects, like low underplanting with taller flowers thrusting overhead; translucent petals to transmit the diffuse light of the Seine Valley; bold color combinations with strong contrasts; and the stippling effect known to the Impressionists as “shimmer,” which he created in the garden by scattering white flowers."

Can  I have my very own Monet?   Let's run down the list. 

"low underplanting with taller flowers"   Like Hollyhocks in a bed of nasturtium?  Cannas in a bed of marigolds?  The closest I can manage at the moment is Calandrinia Cistanthe grandiflora, with the  low/tall effect all in the same plant.
Calandrinia grandiflora

"...translucent petals..."  Check...although, are not petals always translucent?  And the "diffuse light of the Seine valley" is there.  Here is the dazzling pinkish glare of the LA basin.
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"bold color combinations with strong contrasts".  Check.  I'm hopeless at subtle. 
Tagetes lemoni with Bouganvillea 
A to-do list at  the end of the article:
 
• "Create a sense of profusion and drama by massing flowers, grasses and foliage."
This means:  stop it with the the one-of-everything Personal Botanical Garden stuff, okay?  Okay, I'm trying...but it's tough.  A fail on that one.  PBG!
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• "Avoid variegated foliage, but use lots of bicolor flowers."  The bicolor flowers I do. But avoid variegated foliage--are you nuts?!?
Yucca
• "Make abundant use of roses. Climbing roses can be trained over arches to add drama to paths. Rose standards can be placed singly, surrounded by flowers in contrasting colors."  Now you're talking!  Check. 
Rosa 'Secret Garden Musk Climber'

 • "Create contrast by grouping complementary colors together (violet and yellow, or red and green, for example)."  Gardening 101, there.  I've finally got that one figured out (mostly).
former lawn

• "Weave smaller-bloomed, airy white flowers into spring palettes of blue, purple and pink or summer palettes of red, orange and yellow to create a shimmering effect."  Huh...airy white flowers?  Is there such a thing?  Baby's Breath?  Invasive and therefore outlawed here.  Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost'?  Pricey and iffy.  Uhh...Chamelaucium is too big, and besides they both died and I yanked them out.  The dwarf Shasta daisies provide sparkle though they are not  exactly airy.  Does that count?  In the meantime, I'll keep looking.
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• Use lots of low-growing trailing plants, like nasturtiums, along borders.  More Gardening 101.  Check.
Rhodolia

•" Remember that green is a color, too. Take advantage of the gradations of green in foliage." But no variegation?!?  I do have a variety of greens, (and bronzes, and reds, and blues) so I'll check that one.
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• "Plant hot colors where they can catch the evening sun."  Oh yeah baby!  Check, check, check!
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• "Put different sizes and textures of blooms close together, and put flowers with translucent petals in spots where the sunlight will shine through."  Back to Gardening 101 again.  Check.
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• "Plant local wildflowers along borders for a more natural look."  Thank goodness for California poppies.  And the sun shines through, too.  Check!
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• "Use soft colors like blue, purple and violet near water."  Okay, never thought of that one.   Oh, wait, maybe I did--the hydrangea by the pond.  Check!
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• "Create a lace-curtain effect by intertwining vines with different-colored flowers on trellises and fences."   Easy peasy when you want one of every Clematis.  
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So many checks, but my garden ain't Giverny.  What about Monet's amazing arched Japanese bridge, painted apple green, dripping with Wisteria?  That to me is what "Giverny" means.  That bridge, and water lilies in ponds ringed with luxuriant curtains of willow.  Giverny is more than just plants--there is structure, a sense of place, so much more.  
Monet was said to like the reflections of the lilies in the water as much as the water lilies themselves...would he like LA light on koi-rippled water?
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Here, there is no money and no space for an amazing bridge.  Willow have invasive roots and are water hogs; our koi simply ate the water lilies.  I don't have my very own Monet.  
 When will my garden ever look this good? Ha ha ha!
wiki commons photo credit mbarry, from wikipedia, open source photo
(wikipedia public domain photo by mberry)

Hopefully some day something one tenth as magical.  I will keep working at it.  Just please don't tell me to get rid of the variegation.   

With the passing years [Monet] 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."  
-- from the Giverny web site.

"All my money goes into my garden", he said.  "I am in raptures."

Check!

But darn it, Claude, variegation is good!  
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Comments

  1. Wonderful post! Lot's of great info there, and anything that reminds me to take another look at the Giverny garden is a good thing.

    I love the wide shot of your garden (showing the path). IMO you don't post enough of those. To be fair, I don't either. :-)

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    1. Thanks Alan. We all need to look at Giverny more. And Hidcote, and Filoli, and...

      I will try more wide shots. Need different lens, I think.

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  2. This post is right up my alley...this is perfect post...I am an aspiring artist of oil ,watercolor and multimedia....are you? the photos amazing as usual you have a great eye.....yes many artists took nature as it was...but Monet had a special relationship with his own creation....thank you...I will read this again more carefully....I have a brother in Cambria .....Love your blog!....

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    1. Thanks Sharon, you are very kind! I have zero artistic talent, unfortunately. The camera does all the work. :(

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  3. The Koi photo is so abstract you should blow it up and frame...

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    1. Interesting idea, Sharon, thanks! I will look into that.

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  4. Entertaining post! Must make an effort to visit Monet's garden next time we are in Paris. Love your run down of to do lists, and cannot resist the use of variegated foliage here either!

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    1. Thanks M&G. Would really enjoy a blog post of yours on Giverny (hint, hint). :)

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  5. Love the bit about the one-of-everything Personal Botanical Garden stuff. I suffer from that too. I don't think there's a cure for it either.

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  6. Monet would like LA light even better, like your lack of winter! That view in the 8th (?) image, with the flagstone pavers and all the greens, spotted with roses in back and a hydrangea in front, would elicit an "ooh la la" I'm sure.

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    1. Thanks Desert! He would indeed love the light here.

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  7. Photo of the path and cypresses -- Monet would want to paint that!

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  8. great post...love it <3
    sure Monet would have loved koi reflections...I´ve been to Giverny some years ago...still a magic place!
    by the way...what kind of camera does all this amazing work for you?

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