Giverny in September: Americans In The Upper Garden

American plants, that is. I’ve already written about Monet’s lower garden. In trying to write a post about the upper garden, I face a serious challenge. Namely, Judy took exactly 357 pictures, and narrowing those down to a number suitable for a single post is an impossible task.

Sunflowers, Giverny
Sunflowers at Giverny

So, I have chosen to do at least three posts, each on a different aspect of this garden. As I was struck by the prominence of North American plants at Giverny at this time of year, and in particular Sunflowers, Goldenrod, Tithonia (Mexican Sunflower), and New England Aster, that will by my focus.

Tithonia, Goldenrod, Giverny
Goldenrod and Tithonia explode like fireworks. .

By September, you get the feeling at the upper garden, also called the Clos Normande, that a fireworks explosion is shooting up and out of the rectangular beds. The Sunflowers, Tithonias, and Goldenrods are an essential part of creating this impression. (I should say, though, that I do not have the species or variety names, so I’ll just be referring to these plants generically.)

Giverny Summer

They also provide much of the yellow which is a strong presence in the garden at this season.

Clumps of goldenrods stand out in this view of the rear of the Clos Normand. That willow tree is from the lower garden across the road.

The Goldenrods are so substantial that they make a strong visual impact even from a distance, like tall golden fountains.

2013-09-05 04.52.48

The Sunflowers draw your eyes up to the sky. On the day we visited, it was hot and the heavens were a clear blue.

A straight and narrow path through mostly yellow flowers.

They also help create the straight paths bordered with yellow blooms that stretch across parts of the garden.

Tithonia, New England Aster, Giverny
Tithonia and New England Aster

The New England Aster also provides height, but adds cooler blue and purple blooms. The Tithonias contrast nicely with these purple Asters, but are in harmony with the yellow sunflowers and goldenrods.

Sunflower (looks like 'Italian White') with red dahlias and orange Tithonia.
Sunflower (looks like ‘Italian White’) with red dahlias and orange Tithonia.

Do you stake a lot of tall plants in your garden? Perhaps, like me, you have an uneasy feeling that all that staking represents a kind of failure. If we were really skilled gardeners, all our plants would just stand up on their own, or perhaps lean on other plants cleverly placed.

Aha! Sunflowers held upright with stakes and wire. If it's good enough for Giverny, it's good enough for me.
Aha! Sunflowers held upright with stake and twine. If it’s good enough for Giverny, it’s good enough for me.

Well, how do you think they keep those Goldenrods and Asters so upright at Giverny? That’s right, with stakes. Fellow stakers, hold up your heads with pride!

Are Sunflowers, Goldenrods, or Asters a big part of your summer or fall garden?

My next post – Giverny in September: The Straight And (Sometimes) Narrow.

51 Comments on “Giverny in September: Americans In The Upper Garden

  1. Wow. Gorgeous indeed!

    I haven’t staked much this year, though I have fashioned wire cages around some extra tall dahlias.

    Its been rainy steadily here in the Northwest (has to be at least 2 1/2 inches in the last 48 hours, maybe more). My dahlias have been battered by the rain and wind, but my Goldenrod (Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’) looks like it’s holding up.

    From the Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder:

    “This goldenrod cultivar features tiny, bright yellow flowers borne in dense, plume-like panicles on the ends of stiff, alternate-leaved stems typically growing 36-42″ tall.”

    Gotta be those “stiff” Fireworks stems

    • Not sure what variety they have at Giverny but the Goldenrod there is about twice the height of ‘Fireworks’. I also grow a lot of really tall plants – Cup Plant, Joe Pye Weed, etc.

  2. So Judy didn’t like the garden much then?
    You could upload lots of images to Flickr or the like; you have definately made me want ot put this garden back on my list of gardens to visit.

    • You know, I don’t really get how to use Flickr. You should go to Giverny if you get the chance. Yes, it’s crowded, but go before or after the height of the season and early or late in the day.

      • I’m not very technically minded but Flickr isn’t so difficult. You can upload a lot of images create a slide show, then add the slide show to the post. I quite often do it for bloom day posts when I might have 60 – 100 images to share. It’s free so you’ve nothing to loose by trying it.

  3. Jason, interestedly, New England Aster grow well here as well, white, red, blue. They are so pretty in fall, and I see yellow color is going well to this season!

    • New England Aster does well in cool climates, so it makes sense that it would be happy in your area. Around here these asters are generally blue, pink, or purple.

  4. What fabulous photos! I really love that view with the willow in the background – I have never seem golden rod planted so effectively before. The blue sky sets all the colours off beautifully.

    • Yes, we saw a lot of it in England, but I don’t think I saw any at Giverny – maybe because they are trying to stay with Monet’s plant palette. Though I think Monet would have liked Joe Pye if he had known about it.

  5. I too liked the sunflowers against the blue sky. It is such a happy look to the end of summer anywhere in the world. I like how much color is at this garden all through the year. It is changing too. Someday I hope to see Giverny myself, but the photos here are wonderful.

  6. Simply beautiful! For some reason, I wasn’t expecting such American-looking plants at Giverny, but what a fabulous display of these familiar plants. Narrowing down your photos to even three posts sounds like a daunting task!

    I have been hit and miss lately reading blog posts and missed your earlier ones at Giverny, but will definitely be back later to read the earlier ones. I can’t think of a better way to get inspired!

    • The good news is I won’t run out of material for posts for some time. I think Judy took about 3,000 pictures overall during our trip. Thank god for digital cameras!

    • In my experience, plants that never need staking usually do, if they are 3′ or taller. Flopping plants make my hands itch, I can’t relax or do anything else until I’ve gotten them upright.

  7. It is a testament to the beauty of the place that Judy took so many fabulous photos. I am a lazy staker… or an optimistic gardener. I believe the plants will hold themselves perfectly until they don’t, at which point I decide whether I like a lax habit, or do some remedial staking.

    • The problem with staking too early is that then you’ve got these big ugly stakes sticking out for God know’s how long. But then if you wait too long the plants may look unnatural when staked, like they are wearing a corset. It is an agonizing dilemma.

  8. Haha…glad to know I’m not the only one with mixed feelings on staking! Sadly, since i don’t have much sun, it’s a fact of life in my garden…when I get it done early enough and properly, I feel quite smug…but all too often, I do it too late and the poor plants looks awkward all season 😦

    • Yes, as I said below, it’s a choice between having your stakes stick out like sore thumbs earlier in the season or having your plants look like bound ransom hostages.

  9. Beautiful pictures! The light is gorgeous too. And now I know I’ll never be a real gardener until I start staking. 🙂

  10. I don’t purposely grow any of those plants but if they find a sunny spot and choose to grow here I don’t discourage them. You pay a price for growing goldenrod though-I don’t know how many times I’ve had to explain that it doesn’t cause hay fever.

  11. Drool, drool, drool! I have always wanted to go to Giverny. I love how full and wild the borders are. I don’t do much staking, either. I prefer to use those round grow guides that the plants grow into. But I also cut my vigorous plants back so they don’t get too tall or they flop all over everything.

    • I cut a lot of my stuff back, but it often still needs staking. Varies with the plant of course. Anyway, it’s hard not to love the unrestrained and exuberant plantings at Giverny.

  12. They are indeed part of garden; many of them blooming, have done blooming, etc. I am also a fellow-staker :-). What profusion of color though I am having the same in my garden also now :-).

  13. Wow, that is a wonderful garden, and i can relate to the 357 photos shot by Judy! I actually laughed when you said it is difficult to choose for a post. I am like that too for my last trip to a province here, so i divided them to many posts, one island at a time. In that garden, i can visualize lots of butterflies, but did you see any?

  14. How wonderful that so many of our natives grace this great garden! I’ve been very much enjoying you posts from your trip to France. Thanks for taking me along!

  15. A wonderful post Jason, and I’m so pleased you will be doing three.

    The gardens are beautiful and a pleasure to see again.

    I have lots of tall plants like hollyhocks and Lady’s bedstraw and they do stand well until a strong wind comes along and usually flattens them, then I always wish I’d staked them.xxxx

  16. Hi Jason! Sorry I’ve not been around for a while, I’m back in blog reading action now and catching up!! I’m so pleased you’re splitting the posts up as I could feast on this stuff for ever! I really want to go to Giverny so it’s great to get a virtual tour. The plants are gorgeous and I especially adore asters, what wonderful plants at this time of year. Yes I do stake tall plants up, I have bamboo canes sticking up from the ground everywhere!! The only time I feel I’ve failed though is with hyacinths as they’re not tall but are renowned for being a bit floppy. Earlier this year at the RHS plant fair in London I noticed that even the exhibitors of some of the finest hyacinths in the country had wired them up! A neater approach than my canes but never the less their wire staking made me feel a lot better!

  17. Lucky you to have so many fabulous photos to remember your trip! I know it’s easy to go overboard with photos–but that’s the beauty of digital photography! You can take as many as you want and then you have more to choose from. I think I probably took about 100 today during a botanical garden visit. I’ll look forward to your next posts about your trip!

  18. I nearly made it there this summer – on our return from Charente the plan was to stop for an afternoon, but we ran out of time, I hope next time we are passing we have a better plan!
    I loved the shot of the narrow path leading to the house bordered with yellow and red. A delight.

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