In full flower

Teri Condon’s garden (photo by Ken Garcens and Terry Decker).

Teri Condon’s garden (photo by Ken Garcens and Terry Decker).

Garden Conservancy’s 2013 Open Days program

Some of the finest public gardens were actually started as private labors of love. Perhaps the best-known example is Claude Monet’s garden at Giverny. He created it to provide subject matter to paint, but also because he’d developed a passion for botany over the years.

It has been written of Monet that he didn’t like his garden organized or constrained. He planted flowers together by color, mixing the simple varieties with the rare, and left them to grow wild together. He exchanged plants with friends like the painter Gustave Caillebotte, and was always on the lookout for unusual varieties to buy, sparing no expense when he found something special. “All my money goes into my garden,” he said.

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Monet’s influence in the village of Giverny was such that he was allowed to divert the Ru, a tributary of the Seine River, to flow through his property to enlarge the pond that he planted with water lilies. His neighbors at the time were opposed to the diversion of the river, afraid the exotic plants would poison the water supply; but generations since have been the beneficiaries of Monet’s actions in the enjoyment of the water-lily paintings that were created as a result, and in visiting the now-public gardens of Giverny.

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