Fall’s finale in Monet’s garden

by Rebecca Bricker on October 22, 2015

I was sitting on a bench in front of Monet’s house in Giverny late this afternoon. I’m usually among the last to leave when I visit here. I just can’t pull myself away.

I looked up from my camera to see a man who had stopped at my bench to survey the still-flowering grounds.

It was James Priest, the head gardener, whom you met on this blog back in May when my wind-blown canvas toppled my paints onto the walkway in front of Monet’s house.

Today, suddenly flustered by that traumatic memory, I mistakenly called him Chris (the name of a well-known local painter here). I quickly recovered and told James that I was the one whose palette nearly left an indelible Impression on the front walkway.

“I’ve come back to the scene of the crime,” I confessed.

He laughed. “Have you been losing sleep over this?”

I told him I wrote a cathartic blog post about the incident, which made him laugh harder.

We chatted about the end of the season in this painters’ garden where slips of the brush and drips of paint are kindly forgiven. In just 10 days, the gates here will close until April 1 — the annual winter respite. The gardeners will come in and rip the planting beds bare. The meandering nasturtiums that, all summer long, slowly creep from the edges to the center of the Grande Allée will be gone. The autumn profusion of dahlias quickly will become just images on tens of thousands of photo memory cards.

Soil tilled, spring bulbs will be planted, covered and tucked into their beds for a long winter’s nap. Hopefully, if the weather cooperates, they’ll spring awake on April 1. At least, hope springs eternal.

I’ve had the great fortune of seeing Monet’s garden in three seasons. James asked me which I liked best. I witnessed spring here for the first time, this year — in May. The day I arrived, the wisteria had just bloomed, draping the Japanese bridge in swags of lavender. I stood on the bridge that day with tears in my eyes. For years, I had seen Monet’s paintings of this scene, but for the first time I was experiencing its soul-stirring beauty — and the heavenly scent of it — for myself.

“Spring here took my breath away,” I told James. “But there’s something about the final frenzy of fall.” I looked around at the wild tangle of blooms that nearly choke the pathways and leap up the arbors this time of year. It’s like the frantic climax of an opera. The diva dahlias are nearly spent — but they hold on to their glorious high notes until the last breath of autumn.









And amazingly, with winter closing in, hundreds of tender dahlia buds are about to burst open.


“They’re so lovely and delicate,” I said sadly, knowing how soon the curtain will come crashing down on them.

James smiled. “Their beauty is in their innocence.”

It is no wonder this place is paradise on earth — with a master gardener whose vision allows for both spectacle and the grace notes of innocence.








Sarah McKee October 23, 2015 at 8:55 pm

Just breathtaking, Becky!

Rich and full and good for the soul.

How wonderful that you were there for it —

Love, Sally

Rebecca Bricker October 23, 2015 at 11:34 pm

Giverny is a place that’s very good for the soul. I feel so happy and inspired when I’m here. :)

Céline Berthelot October 23, 2015 at 11:18 pm

This is a very interesting article ! I love photography and gardens…
Your pictures are quite amazing ! It must be such a powerful feeling to be there, to take the time to really look at everything around you, especially during different seasons.

Thank you for sharing,

Rebecca Bricker October 23, 2015 at 11:36 pm

Celine – the gardens here change constantly through the season. A truly remarkable show, masterminded by James and his team.

Marion Salter October 24, 2015 at 8:32 pm

Monet’s garden is a must when Vicky and I come to visit. When??

Rebecca Bricker October 24, 2015 at 10:31 pm

Let’s talk – you both would love it here. :)

Dianne Bauman October 25, 2015 at 12:14 am

I, too, am totally in awe/love with Monets Gardens. Spent two weeks in the spring painting there. They let a few of us into the gardens to paint when they closed, so we had it to ourselves…I was so aware of the instant serenity that I felt. One of my most favorite trips!

Rebecca Bricker October 26, 2015 at 6:58 pm

The solitude of early morning/evening is magical. What a joy to experience it!

Sue Farrelly October 25, 2015 at 9:53 am

Beautiful pix Rebecca. I can practically smell the flowers. How lucky are you to visit over three seasons! I have been there in Autumn so I want to go in Spring next time..

Rebecca Bricker October 26, 2015 at 6:54 pm

A local resident tells me the first bloom of April is THE BEST. (Though I’m pretty fond of fall’s diva dahlias.)

Rich Nuckolls October 26, 2015 at 5:21 am

Nicely said, Rebecca. Yes, we, too, have had the pleasure of seeing Giverny in all the seasons. I LOVE Autumn there! Your photos are wonderful, too. Thanks for sharing.

Rebecca Bricker October 26, 2015 at 6:56 pm

As photographers, Rich, you and I have a different “take” from our painter friends – but the beauty of it inspires awe no matter how we choose to immortalize it. :)

Luke Tursi October 26, 2015 at 11:53 pm

Monet’s garden is on my must-see list and has been for years. I toured the NY Botanical Garden attempt to recreate the garden and it only made me long for Giverney. Your photos are brilliant. Perhaps next year.

Rebecca Bricker October 27, 2015 at 10:03 am

Thank you, Luke. Giverny is an easy trip from Paris – about an hour by train or car. There are bus tours to Giverny from Paris as well. If possible, stay for a few days and enjoy Giverny at a leisurely pace. The gardens change throughout the day. Monet designed them that way – the interplay of light and color is fascinating. You could sit at the lily pond all day and see an amazing show – the surface of that pond is like a giant mirror. Incredible!

gaya October 27, 2015 at 5:52 pm

Scented with the Bricker signature eau-de-parfums !!!

Rebecca Bricker October 27, 2015 at 6:32 pm

Best sprayed on a piece of notebook paper, I think. 😉

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