Friday, April 20, 2012

News From Monet's Garden

I opened up the L.A. Times the other morning and could not believe that on there was a story about Monet's Garden on the front page! At first I thought my husband had somehow pasted the story in our newspaper since I had been telling him tidbits about the garden as I studied about it in my travel books in preparation for my upcoming trip. However, the story was for real. It seems Monet's Garden has hired a new head gardener and he is from Great Britain.  Maybe he will be there when I visit the garden next week. Anyway, it was an interesting story and if you like Monet's Garden work, then read on...

James Priest, head gardener of Monet's garden.

GIVERNY, France — When James Priest is asked to strike aClaude Monet pose and stroll under the famous arched trellises lining the pathway of the painter's world-renowned garden, he becomes almost giddy, his excitement melting into a grin.

"Compare me to Monet?" asks the 54-year-old gardener, standing between the lush strokes of yellow, pink and red tulips — nature's spring palette — that glow in the midday light in this preserved village 45 miles northwest of Paris.

To Priest, no compliment could be higher, and, as he quickly insists with playful charm, undeserved: "Nobody can fill his shoes. There is only one Monet."

More than a century ago, the French Impressionist created what is now one of the world's most beloved gardens, with the water lily pond and arched bridge that have been painted in countless tableaux memorializing the groundbreaking artistic movement here.

Now Priest is a bit of a groundbreaker himself: He's an Englishman who has just been appointed head gardener for this utterly French patch of land, and is only the third person ever entrusted with the master task (one being Monet himself).

"The responsibility is a great one that is not to be taken lightly, but not in a heavy way, either. It's a great pleasure," says Priest, who has gardened for prestigious French estates for some 25 years, including the Rothschild family domain outside Paris. "It's heartwarming to know I'm involved with this public love affair with Monet, and trusted to carry it on."

Even if the public knows little about the elite gardeners who keep the country's chateau and palace gardens fit for kings, "head gardeners get a reputation" within their small circle, Priest says. That's how the Claude Monet Foundation learned of Priest's green thumb and offered him the job last year. On April 1, the foundation reopened for spring displaying the work of Priest and his team of eight gardeners.

Rest of Article:,0,3544700.story

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