In recent decades many garden designers have sought to de-emphasize flowers and pay more attention to form, foliage, and structure.
Giverny’s upper garden, on the other hand, is first and foremost about flowers. There are no hedges, no ornamental grasses that I can remember, and not much in the way of plants used primarily for foliage.
To create a more flowery space, Giverny mixes annuals generously among the perennials. I noticed this also during our April visit last year, except then the annuals then were mostly pansies and forget-me-nots. The annuals, with their long bloom season, also help keep the garden colorful during lulls among the perennials.
In early September, the most noticeable annuals include Ageratum, Cosmos, Cleome, and fragrant Heliotrope. There are also Nasturtiums, of course, along the grand allee.
Commonplace Marigolds also have a place. I sometimes I feel like planting Marigolds marks me as an unsophisticated gardener, but if they have them at Giverny it must be OK.
On the primacy of flowers, Monet is a gardener after my own heart. I do grow some grasses and foliage plants, but I’m drawn to masses of flowers and the color they provide. I feel an instinctive need to plant them.
I realize that there are beautiful grasses and foliage plants, especially in fall. There are stunning gardens that rely heavily on grasses (for example, Scott’s on Rhone Street Gardens.) But with grasses, I have to make a conscious effort. It’s like pushing myself to eat carrot sticks off the appetizer tray instead of just wolfing down the chicken wings and mini-quiches. And I should add: flowers are fat and cholesterol free!
Do flowers come first for you, or do you love grasses and foliage plants just as much?