Visit our Colorado State Extension office for more news, tools and resources.

Close Icon
Arapahoe County Extension provides trusted, practical education to help you solve problems, develop skills and build a better future.

Monet’s Garden a la Rocky Mountain Style

By Kathi Thistlethwaite, Colorado Master Gardener

Monet’s irises, Photo: Mark Craft

What would Impressionist painter Claude Monet’s flower garden in Giverny, France have looked like if he lived in the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains? We do not know. What we do know is his choice of flowers was based on color, bloom time, light and climate. Applying these principles rather than copying the exact cultivars for beds, borders, containers or entire landscapes can add a sense of artistry to urban surroundings.

Giverny lies in northern France on the Seine River, 47 miles northwest of Paris and 112 miles from the English Channel. European countries have European Hardiness Zones1. The location and climate of Giverny equates to USDA Hardiness Zone 8, similar to the coastal areas of the southeast United States. Zone 8 winters allow for nice displays of textures and color, but the Denver area is Zone 5b, giving us colder, longer winters with winter interest provided by woody plants rather than specific flowers.

Photo: Fondation Claude Monet

Monet used what he called “paint box gardens,” raised beds measuring 5 feet x 2.5 feet. In these beds he experimented with color and how light played off the flowers. Some of the paint boxes were monochromatic while others combined colors. One constant was his use of small flowers such as anemones, which also added shimmer and movement. He used white or yellow flowers for contrast in many of his color schemes, including his favorites yellow and blue; red, silver and green; and blue/purple, pink and white. The white he sought to incorporate also came from bi-colored varieties such as his beloved iris and columbine. Many of the plants Monet used were native to Europe and some from Asia, the Asian varieties being the anchor of his water garden.

Coreopsis, Photo: Martha Kirk

Choosing waterwise native cultivars such as yarrow, delphinium and penstemon will help create a garden able to withstand our sometimes-hostile climate while tapping into the creativity inspired by Monet. This link is a great place to start for plant choice and information.

Monet did not like organized or constrained gardens. He allowed flowers to grow naturally, akin to his impressionistic style of painting. Photo: Clemson University

Repetition of color, form and texture; spaces of different flowers in the same or complementary colors; generous use of plants; succession planting; and allowing the flowers to grow according to their individual habits are the elements of Monet’s Garden, immortalized in his paintings. Substituting suitable plant choices for the Front Range, coupled with these elements, give regional gardeners an opportunity to bring a little Giverny home to Colorado. As every gardener is aware, gardens are constantly being tweaked.

Bon Jardinage!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *