Bold Brushes of Color in Monet's Garden

Which came first — the art or the garden? Impressionist artist, Claude Monet was first an artist. When he moved to Giverny, he became an obsessed gardener. His garden was designed not only for his enjoyment as a gardener, but as a subject for his paintings.

Monet's Gardens at Giverny have been reconstructed from his paintings, over 500 of which were based on his gardens. Pastel colors are abundant, but there are also swaths of bright yellow, orange and red. The photos shown here were taken in the May, but the garden colors and flowers change with every season.

Tulips, wallflowers and pansies provide much of the bold color in the spring gardens inside the walled gardens, named the Clos Normand, at Giverny.

One of my favorite books is The Impressionist Garden by Derek Fell. Given to me so many years ago, this well-worn book served as inspiration for my gardens as I dreamed of someday visiting the gardens in France.

After visiting Giverny in May 2009, I found the courage to try the bolder colors in my garden. I set about rearranging plants last fall and eagerly await the first results this summer. Mind you, I'll never have a Giverny, but in small vignettes through my borders, I have planted little pockets of orange, red, yellow and gold.

Not having the same space, place or climate, I look for substituting plants of the same colors, but not necessarily of the same variety or used in the same season. My spring colors are still based upon the pastel colors of purple, blue and pink. But, my summer and fall color scheme in 2010 will include colors inspired by Giverny.

I have planted a swath of bright orange and gold gaillardia at the feet of red monarda 'Jacob Kline' that is set among salvia greggii 'Bright Navajo Red' and crocosmia 'Lucifer'. Marigolds in orange and zinnias in soft golden yellow will be sown as seeds when the soil warms up in the spring. The deep green foliage of osmanthus fragrans and white oleander serve as a buffer between this vignette and another.

The deep red tulips planted at the edge of Monet's Water Garden are stunning paired with green foliage of irises, planted beneath a weeping tree. This is a color combination that I'd also like to replicate using red geum. I planted my first geum in summer 2009 and will see how well it overwintered and if it continues to be deer and rabbit resistant.

My pineapple sage, when in bloom beside the clumping bamboo, is the closest that I've come so far in achieving the red and green duo. If you don't have deer or rabbits, you can probably come up with many more possibilities!

One of the most beautiful flowering shrub displays at Giverny in May was the clustering of soft apricot-orange and bright red azaleas with a Japanese Maple. This is a combination that can be tried by studying the colors available in the rhododendron family until you get just the right colors to work with the burgundy foliage of the maple.

Native azaleas come to mind as good options for the edge of woodlands. Rhododendron austrinum (Flame Azalea) is a flashy orange-flowering native for USDA zones 6-10; part sun to shade in moist soil.

Behind this color scheme, large trees divide the bright colors from the soft, lavender panicles of wisteria growing on Monet's bridge, trellises and arbors around the pond.

Proving that not all garden color has to come from plants, this big rooster proudly holds court at the entrance to Monet's Clos Normand!

Location: Giverny, France; May 2009; Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

The Pastel Palette of Monet's Garden

Look to Monet's Gardens at Giverny, France for true cottage garden inspiration. Spring-blooming bulbs, perennials, annuals and vines are used liberally in a garden that is literally stuffed so full of flowers that no ground is visible. Pebbled garden paths add to the inviting, casual style. Soft spring colors of pink, purple, white and blue are soothing and tranquil.

Elements from these famous, but unpretentious French gardens can be translated for use at home. The plantings aren't suitable for every growing zone, but the pastel color palette provides wonderful examples of how to use shapes and heights together in random beauty.

Billowing wisteria drips over Monet's water garden, a signature plant for many of his paintings. The wisteria wraps the arched Japanese bridge as well as arbors and trellises that accent the winding paths around the water's edge. Although the fragrant wisteria sinensis is truly glorious, careful control is necessary or it will take over native plants and entire woodlands.

The dainty pink tulips, planted as bulbs in autumn, are underplanted with annuals such as pansies and self-sowing myosotis sylvatica (forget-me-nots). Since tulips bloom best during the first spring, they are often regarded as annuals and replanted each year. Tulip 'Pink Impression' is a good choice for replicating this vignette.

Purple alliums are bulbs to plant at the same time as tulips. For home gardens, a good choice is allium 'Purple Sensation' randomly arranged in a mass planting among companions. Hardy geraniums such as 'Rozanne' and Dutch iris 'Rosario' work well as perennial partners. Poppy 'Angels Choir' and nigella 'Mulberry Rose', easily sown from seed, are good annual choices for the home garden, too.

Vertical displays of blooms are evident throughout the walled gardens of the Clos Normand. Bowers of pink and white clematis scramble over arbors in Monet's gardens. Clematis 'Pink Fantasy' and 'Guernsey Cream' are candidates for recreating the look. Flowering trees and shrubs at Giverny include tamarisk, pink dogwood, lilac, and apple. Meandering plantings through meadow grass provide calm expanses beneath the orchard trees.

Colors, paths, accents and plants — there is much to inspire gardeners and artists!

Bright blooms are also used in Monet's spring color scheme around the pond and within the walled gardens. Next time...

Location: Monet's Gardens at Giverny, France. May 2009. Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Garden Inspiration: Whimsical in Wilmington

Go beyond bottle trees in your garden! If you are fascinated by glass bottles of every color and shape — be amazed by the Bottle Chapel at Airlie Gardens in Wilmington, North Carolina. The Bottle Chapel was created by area artists as a tribute to Minnie Evans, a visionary artist who was the gatekeeper at Airlie from 1949 until 1974.

Bottle Chapel, photo taken February 2009
Of course, bottle sculpture of that magnitude is typically reserved for larger places than home gardens. The chapel is a great example of bottles as mosaic materials to create images of trees, faces and butterflies. The ideas can be transferred to smaller scale objects such as garden walls.

There are other fanciful and fun ideas to inspire gardeners that won't require so much work, artistry and imagination.

Spouting fountains are usually reserved for water gardens and formal pools. Why not use a pair of heron sculptures to create the motion of water in a dry stream — until the rains come along? This idea requires a catch basin and pump (hidden under the stones) to recirculate the water.

If you have no place for hanging baskets, you can "column-ize" your containers! Take a concrete column, add a concrete planter and your garden will reach new heights. The vertical accent draws attention to the colorful winter-time flowers set against a backdrop of evergreen trees. A perfect way to foil deer and rabbits, too!

Salvage a rusty garden gate or iron headboard to use as a back to a bench. The ironwork does double-duty as a trellis for climbing vines. A concrete bench can be left to weather naturally, or stained by diluting a bit of paint with a lot of water. Inexpensive concrete "yard art" can be found at many roadside stands. A little powder, a little paint — make it look like what it ain't.

Whether you follow straight paths in formal gardens or winding paths in the many casual gardens, there are wondrous and whimsical ideas throughout Airlie.

More information on visiting the gardens and Wilmington area can be found in the itinerary that I wrote for Cool Coastal Gardens is a free download. Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Garden Plants: Best Performance in 2009

It's award season once again. The winners for the Best Plant Performance in 2009 are...

Best Perennial in a Leading Role
Salvia guarantica 'Black & Blue'

The hummingbird's choice—this salvia is planted en masse in several gardens. She fits into any color scheme, performing all summer and into autumn before the frosty curtains fall.

Best Perennial in a Supporting Role
Creeping Perennial Heliotrope 'Azure Skies'

A carpet of blooms all summer long, she supports the taller perennials. A winner every year!

Best Makeup
Coreopsis 'Red Shift'

'Red Shift' changed her makeup on a daily basis. She looked just as stunning 'au naturale' with her pale yellow face as she did with dramatic red eyeshadow. For her grand finale, she went for a rosy red complexion.

Best Costume
Agastache 'Salmon and Pink'

With such versatile attire, this star wins again! She never wilts under the sunny spotlights—she is always fresh and neat through heat and humidity.

Best Visual Effects
Benary's Giant Zinnia

Sure to be an "annual event" in my garden. She poses perfectly for every shot.

Best Foreign Perennial
Iris ensata 'Mount Fujiyama'

This exotic flower, with her slender grace, wins again!

Best Script
Agastache 'Purple Haze', Echinacea 'Prairie Splendor', Monarda 'Raspberry Wine'
This plot is never boring!

Best Sound Effects
Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed)

Buzzing with honeybees and host to Monarch Butterflies—wonderful garden music.

Best Short Subject
Eupatorium coelestinum 'Wayside' (Hardy Ageratum)

The sea of ageratum creates waves along the garden path.

Best Cinematography
buddleia 'Adonis Blue', spirea 'Neon Flash', salvia gregii 'Dark Dancer' and purple iris ensata
We close the awards with a technicolor landscape scene.

All of these plants were grown in full sun, zone 7b in North Carolina. Here's a recap of the stellar performers in 2008.

What were the 2009 best performers in your garden?

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Snow Season Falls Between Winter and Spring

What season is this? SNOW SEASON - that season between real Winter and real Spring.

The outdoor temperature isn't the only thing fluctuating. There seems to be a fluctuation in attitudes, too.

I thought the "Devil Went Down to Georgia", but he went to Alabama while Real Georgia Snow was seen as a blessing.

BUT...Everyone Is Doing It... so Southern Virginia, not wanting to miss out on the fun, put in an order for snow, too.

The folks in Upstate New York have no problem entertaining themselves with their idea of Winter Comic Relief.

Canadians, no wimps for winter, get up at the crack of dawn to see the Sunrise Shimmer. Just how cold is that?

The brave folks in Illinois take it all in stride. When life gives you snow and earthquakes, you make a Frosty Shake.

And for those expats asking "Who the hell says it doesn't snow in Italy" will find proof in the photos of a Piemonte Winter.

Meanwhile in Paris, there was Snow, But No-mageddon, and we're all happy to hear that the fashion world didn't end.

One centimeter of snow was reason enough to stay home and sing Let It Snow, Let It Blow, Let It Snow on the French Riviera.

Here at home in North Carolina, Charm ("The Gardening Greyhound") did what dogs all over the world do when it snows - the happy dance!

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Saving Seed Packets - Art and Information

Watercolor paintings of flowers, herbs and vegetables grace the seed packets from Renee's Garden. These are packets that I really hate to destroy by opening! Nonetheless, I am more excited about the contents.

Renee graciously provided kitchen herb and annual flower seeds for plants to be used in the deer taste test in my garden. We want the deer to dislike the plants so that they can be added to my deer resistant list. I will not send invitations to the rabbits, but they are party-crashers and will horn in on the taste test, too.

While the seed packets are little works of art, the back flaps contain a wealth of gardening information.

Variety and species name
Plant type and bloom season
Planting chart and instructions
Growing, thinning and transplanting notes

There is also a descriptive flap on the back of the envelope that provides a great introduction about the plant. All-in-all, there is more information packed on to these packets than I've seen anywhere. Useful information that I want to keep for my plant documentation.

Between the art and the information, I'd like to preserve these seed packets. I don't want these to end up all muddy and crumpled in my wheelbarrow or garden apron.

I think photo sleeves are a possible solution. A three-ring binder and enough sheets of photo sleeves to store all of my seed packets would be truly organized, but not very portable. A plastic recipe/index card box that can remain with my gardening gear might be a better option.

How do you store your seed packets?

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Seeds courtesy of Renee's Garden. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.

Sweethearts of the Garden

What plants make you swoon? To me, there's nothing more intoxicating than fragrance - from foliage to flowers. I tend to associate fragrance with fond memories, do you?

To appreciate fragrant foliage, the plant needs to be touched. I love to brush past lavender along pathways. The soothing smell of lavender is calming and a perfect scent to induce restful slumber. There are so many choices in lavender and it's a perfect nectar plant for honeybees.

Gathering fresh basil leaves is heavenly! When I pick basil for the kitchen, I create a bouquet to keep in a vase, just like flowers. Bury your nose in sweet basil, inhale and close your eyes - are you at an outdoor restaurant in Italy? It is easy to grow basil from seeds, or purchase seedlings in early summer to grow in pots or in the garden. Spicy Thai basil is a perfect herb to use as a filler with flowering containers, too.

Likewise, fresh mint reminds me of visits to Jerusalem and Morocco where hot, mint tea is served while bargaining for goods in the markets. I brought home teapots from both places.

On a summer day here at home in the humid south, sprigs of spearmint make a glass of ice tea even more refreshing. Since mint can run rampant in the garden, it is best grown in pots. There are many flavors of mint, too. Chocolate mint is one of my favorites to sniff, though I've not put it to any culinary uses so far.

Speaking of the south - fragrance from magnolia, osmanthus fragrans, jasmine, gardenia and ginger blossoms hang in the evening air. My fragrance garden is based on these beauties that surround our dining patio where we like to enjoy evening meals.

The blooms in my fragrance garden are most noticeable in spring and again in fall which are also perfect seasons for outdoor dining. The rest of the year, the evergreen foliage of the magnolia (tree), jasmine (vine), osmanthus (large shrub) and gardenia (medium shrub) keep the space looking lush and inviting. All prefer part-shade, moist soil and are deer and rabbit resistant, too.

Not a coincidence, those same white fragrant blooms sparkle at night, especially in the moonlight. Fragrance, beautiful blooms, moonlight... isn't that enough to make you swoon, too?

Favorite Fragrance Garden Blooms

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. Deer and rabbit resistance may vary in your garden.

Paris - The City of Love for Dogs

The City of Lights is also The City of Love. But, it's not all about lovers kissing passionately on the romantic bridges. My non-scientific observation is that Parisians really, really love their dogs. You can tell that the dogs are real sweethearts!

Dogs are literally everywhere you look - streets, shops, handbags, cars and restaurants.

While walking in the Luxembourg Gardens, an elderly lady picked up her precious pup, kissed her and placed her in her large handbag. Hair coiffed in a perky Paris style, my photo thrilled the little dog's owner.

A petite Italian Greyhound, donned in a stylish collar and coat, had her own matching blanket to lie upon while dining indoors at a fabulous cafe. As thin and trim as a runway model wearing the latest haute couture, the fabulous dog shunned my attempts at puparazzi when we passed later on the street.

Just like movie stars, dogs know when you're trying to take a photo and look away. I had to adjust my photographic maneuvers in order to capture my subjects unnoticed. With a great zoom lens and a swivel viewer, it was easy to keep my camera low as I photographed the canine companions.

Dining Dogs

Don't be fooled by the prissy pupulation. Not all of the dogs were decked out in haute couture. Most dogs, sans fancy collars, hairstyles or coats - wore standard leashes or were freely working at their owner's shops. It is clearly a culture where dogs are considered family members. They live indoors. With all of the walking on city streets and parks, the dogs must get plenty of exercise, just like their Parisian owners.

Paris is The City of Lights and The City of Love. Many Parisians wear their hearts at the end of leashes!

Working Dogs

Dogs as Beggars and Beggers

It's fun to watch dogs, shoot dogs (with a camera) and garden with dogs.

For the love of dogs everywhere, please take time to review and bookmark this list of toxic plants provided by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel.

Hot Tropics - Canna Do It?

Colocasia in bloomPineapple sage in bloom
On a cold and dreary winter day, sitting by the fireplace sipping coffee, I was inspired to a new garden design. Hot red and yellow flames gave way to images of using tropical colors in the redesign of the butterfly garden.

First of all, the butterflies use ALL of my gardens, but I've been rearranging the butterfly garden to remove pastels and pinks and surrender to hot colors.

Well-behaved clumping bamboo, tall bronze fennel and a mass of fire-engine red pineapple sage will provide the backdrop for this makeover.

The soil at the bottom is rich and deep, so I can keep a few tropicals happy with enough full sun for blooms, but not so much as to scorch the plants.

I have a surprising number of plants that I can divide or move to use in this space - ginger, calla, colocasia, and swamp sunflower. But, I want a mass planting of canna. Garish, gaudy canna!

Looking through my vacation photos of the US Botanic Garden in Washington, DC, I found the color scheme inspiration! I love the mass planting of red canna surrounded by a sea of chartreuse and orange with bits of burgundy and yellow.

The brightly painted garden tuteur reminds me of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Hmm... there is a Frenchman who sometimes sells garden-scale replicas of that monument (painted orange) in a nearby shop. Would that be too tacky? It would serve as an air-control tower for the incoming hummingbirds that circle to find a landing spot at feeders or flowers.

I'm not a canna collector, so when I saw a cheap box of 16 in the most outlandish mix of reds and yellows, I thought - why not? My project is ready to launch when spring arrives.

I think I can do hot tropics!

Words and photos by Freda Cameron, Defining Your Home, Garden and Travel. All company or product or patented names mentioned are registered trademarks/copyrights/patents owned by those respective companies or persons.
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