Updated on 1 December 2020
Reading time: 5 minutes
The Fondation Claude Monet (Monet’s house and gardens) in Giverny may have had to close earlier than usual this year due to the Covid-19 global pandemic, but it’s business as usual for the people who work there! We were lucky enough to be invited behind the scenes one crisp November afternoon to see how the gardens were getting on…
A chat with head gardener Jean-Marie Avisard
Hello Jean-Marie! Well, this year has been a bit different, to say the least! Can you tell us how you and your team have had to adapt your work in 2020?
Hello! Yes, it’s been a bit of a challenge! But we’re now used to making sure we don’t work too close together – we now work at least a few metres away from one another. That said, sometimes we work up to 50 metres away from each other because the gardens are so large! All of our full-time gardeners are still here, but it is no longer possible for us to have volunteers or interns, so we have had to adapt. We’re making sure that everyone has his/her own space to work and is protected. Making orders was definitely more complicated at the start. Delivery companies were finding it hard to deliver goods, suppliers were finding it difficult to get goods to the wholesalers, some plants had to be substituted or simply couldn’t be delivered – we’ve just had to adapt.
How has the global pandemic affected the gardens?
It hasn’t affected them too much – we always manage to make it work. In fact, I would say that the global pandemic has had an indirect positive effect on the gardens! The geraniums, which normally get trampled on a bit by visitors, were in fine form this year, and the carnations were also superb – they’re usually changed every two weeks! The irises along the concrete walkways weren’t damaged either. And never before have we had such beautiful lavender! Usually it gets pruned regularly or bits get broken off it, so having visitors basically means it doesn’t florish as much. I guess you could say we’ve been lucky enough to experience the garden as it might have looked in Monet’s day!
Then from a purely horticultural perspective, everything’s gone very well. We’ve had a great year thanks to the weather – the winter was very mild, with temperatures above average. And, with all the experience we’ve gained over the seasons, we’ve come to understand certain things a lot better and ‘grow.’ We had magnificent pelargoniums and roses. The azaleas, tulips and irises were superb too. The only negative point was a problem with earth fleas – also called crucifer flea beetles – which attacked our nasturtiums and cleomes. Fortunately, heavy showers combined with a special concoction of elderberry leaves and wormwood got rid of them. That was definitely one of our main concerns this year!
What has been happening this month (November) in the gardens?
So far this month, we’ve stripped the central aisle – pulling out the dahlias tubers and non-hardy plants – and started the digging. We’ve also started work on the flowerbeds at the bottom of the Clos Normand garden, next to the road, because they tend to freeze over when it’s very cold. We’ve already started planting the first lot of Eremurus bulbs too! In the water garden, another team has been trimming all the lily pads so that they don’t go rotten in the pond. All the plants that will flower in the spring – the pansies, wallflowers, etc. – are ready planted in the tunnels. Then all of the bulbs are sitting ready in the shed so they can be be planted once we’ve finished all the digging. Any plants that are frost-resistant and that we want to reuse next year will be repotted and stored in the greenhouses. Time is flying by, so we’ll be into spring in no time!
Have there been any big changes this year that visitors might not know about?
Well, the gardens started blooming earlier than usual this year because of the mild winter. The daffodils came out very early, then all of the splendid pink tulips and forget-me-nots started coming out in front of the house. Lots of new roses were planted in the spring, so it will look absolutely beautiful next year, just in time for the visitor season! We pruned all of the roses on the central walkway so they’ll also look magnificent. The other big news is that we have created a large lawn which is on the left when you come out of the tunnel into the water garden – it really helps give a feeling of space and airiness, whereas it was a bit stuffy and dark before.
You and your team had been working tirelessly since November 2019 to get the gardens ready for this year’s visitor season. How did you feel about not being able to show visitors the fruits of your labour?
It was a bit frustrating because our aim is to show visitors everything we’ve done so they can enjoy the our beautiful gardens! Obviously it’s not been for nothing, but it was a bit frustrating. It was particularly hard on 1 April, the day we should have reopened to the public. Then the whole spring season went by without us being able to show our beautiful gardens to anyone! Of course, we do like having the gardens to ourselves, but after a while, once the gardens are ready, we also like visitors to come back and enjoy them! We can’t wait to welcome visitors from France and all over the world back to the Fondation Claude Monet next year, once it’s safe to travel again.
Thank you very much Jean-Marie, we can’t wait either!
Fondation Claude Monet
84 rue Claude Monet, 27620 Giverny
Thursday 1 April 2021
Children over 7 and students: €5.50
Children under 7 (excluding school groups): Free