Jean-Marie Avisard will be replacing the legendary Gilbert Vahé as head gardener at Giverny, the home of Claude Monet. The job will include keeping the beautiful gardens, which inspired so much of Monet’s work, in pristine condition. This includes the flowerbeds, water garden, and lily ponds and it is no easy task.
Jean Marie Avisard, the new head gardener of the Giverny gardens - © Autour de Overblog
Gilbert Vahé has been in charge of the gardens since the project was first conceived back in 1977. He then retired in 2011 and was replaced by British gardener James Priest. In 2017, Vahé came out of retirement to once again take the reins over the garden. Now, it seems like he is done for good and is handing over the title to Avisard.
Giverny is now open to the public as a museum dedicated to Claude Monet and the gardens are the main attraction. In an interview, Jean-Marie spoke about how he feels about his new position and what he has learnt about the gardens from working there for the past 30 years.
The gardens at Giverny, Claude Monet's house - © Wikimedia Commons
Jean-Marie Avisard was born in Pont-Audemer, in the Normandy region, and grew up in Corneville-sur-Risle, just next door. He started working at the Giverny gardens in 1988 and has been working on their maintenance ever since. From childhood, his dream was to be a gardener and he made his debut at the Château de Tournebut in Aubevoye.
Avisard admitted that he never gave much thought to the idea of becoming head gardener at Giverny. It wasn’t until James Priest left and Vahé came back on the scene that he thought, “why not?" He applied for the position and got it – the rest is history.
Working in the Giverny Gardens
Avisard said that the gardens do not follow any particular standard. This means that training and qualifications will only get you so far. In order to really understand the spirit of the gardens it takes years of experience. Gilbert Vahé helped him to understand the specificities of the garden while they worked together. It is not just the plants, but the Japanese Bridge, the water and the atmosphere.
Now that Avisard is in charge, he has the opportunity to shake things up in the gardens and introduce some new designs. However, he has said that he is not going to implement any radical changes any time soon. He will, though, be introducing lots of new plants and flowers for next season, so the garden will be looking even more colourful than ever.
People walking across the Japanese Bridge in the garden
What Would Monet Think of his Garden Now?
When it comes to the late, great Monet, Avisard is convinced that he would love what they had done with his garden. Avisard quipped that Monet would love the gardens so long as he came to visit on a day they were closed to the public. The gardens are often over-flowing with visitors, all eager to admire the stunning landscapes on display.
Avisard also mentioned that he would ask Monet a million questions if he were able to. He would want to know if the artist approved of their choice of flowers for the garden and the changes they have made.
Is the Garden Ready for 2018?
Avisard says yes. The gardens have had a few setbacks because of the weather and frosty periods but those obstacles have all been surmounted. The place has been cleaned up, fresh gravel has been laid in the alleys of the garden and they are ready to open up to the public. This season is open from March 23 through to November 1 from 9:30am until 6pm. Tickets can be found here.
If you have an eye for landscaping and want to spend time meandering through the stunning gardens at Giverny, get in touch with us. We can weave a visit to this attraction into your vacation itinerary so you don’t miss anything out as you travel through France.
Alternatively, we can recommend other fantastic gardens, including those at the Château de Villandry in the Loire Valley or Château de Brécy in Normandy. There is also an artistic garden festival in Chaumont you might want to check out. Travellers will easily be able to spend an entire day meandering through the gardens in Chaumont without getting bored. Finally, if you happen to be in the French Riviera, we can set you up with a tour through some of the exotic gardens in this region.