Giverny In September: Look, Ma, No Hedges!

So let’s talk about the structure of the upper garden, the Clos Normande, at Giverny. Giverny has no hedges, clipped or otherwise, but that doesn’t mean it is an amorphous blob. It has paths, arches, trees, walls, and of course Monet’s house. There is structure beneath all that exuberant color and greenery.

Monet's house
Monet’s house


Monet's house, climging roses, Giverny
Climbing roses in front of Monet’s house

The structure begins with the house, which forms the north side of the upper garden. The house is covered with climbing roses on trellises, though these were mostly not blooming during our visit. It is painted soft pink and a pleasant blue-green, which sounds weird but which echoes colors found in the garden and looks entirely harmonious.

Giverny grand allee
The grand allee seen from the house.


Nasturtiums Giverny
Nasturtiums along the grand allee

Then there is the grand allee,  a wide path that forms a central north-south axis for the garden. Long and narrow rectangular flower beds border the alee on either side. Nasturtiums are planted along both edges, and sometimes they meet in the middle.

Path between two rectangular beds.


A bit of lawn and a nice bench to rest on.

Smaller rectangular beds lie on either side of the ones that border the grand allee. However, they are not placed symmetrically, so where on one side they lie north-south, they may be east-west on the corresponding spot on the other side of the allee. There are also small lawns placed asymmetrically on both sides of the garden. Of course, I should say that by summer, there is so much plant growth that you cannot see the smaller paths unless you are right on top of one.

Giverny morning glory
Morning Glory


Giverny vine


Giverny arch

The grand allee also has arches covered with climbing roses. And throughout the garden there are arches, tuteurs and other structures covered with climbers – roses, clematis, morning glory, and more – some of them still blooming in early September when we were there.

Giverny shrubs
The two big evergreens and a grassy area full of shrubs and small trees.

And we can’t forget the trees and other woody plants. At the north end of the grand allee, there are two hoary old evergreen trees (cedars, maybe?). Apparently when Monet moved they lined the whole allee. Reportedly he quarrelled with his wife – he wanted them to go, she wanted to keep them. Eventually he removed all but two.

Giverny standard rose
Standard rose

Scattered throughout the grassy parts of the garden are smaller flowering trees and shrubs – cherry, apple, laburnum, viburnum, Japanese maple, and more. Larger trees include chestnuts, lime trees, and sycamores. There are also many roses grown as standards, which have a substantial visual impact.

apple tree fence, Giverny
Apple tree fence

Finally, there is a wall along the southern edge of the garden, along the road that divides the upper garden from the lower. The wall is painted xxx. And there is a fence made from living apple trees, which flowers and bears fruit.

Do you have hedges in your garden? What is your favorite structural garden element?

41 Comments on “Giverny In September: Look, Ma, No Hedges!

    • I’ve always wanted nasturtiums, just discouraged by failure with them years ago. I meant to try them this year in my containers but didn’t. Maybe next year …

  1. I realy must try to see this garden, I don’t really understand how it fits together, even from your excellent posts. I love pergolas, places to sit in filtered light on a hot day. I love lots of kinds of hedging, the most obvious in my garden are bay, photinia and lavender.

  2. It’s all too lovely! The colours of the house really do complement the plants. And those rose arches must be fantastic ehen in full bloom. Monet certainly had good taste. (I love his paintings too). I’m not keen on hedges, simply because of the maintenance involved. But I do like a natural looking boundary so in our garden it’s the only option in places.

  3. I like hedges and have used them in the past but they don’t “fit” with the current (and final) garden. Cathy is right, they are high maintence for most of us, but In England and Normandy, France (much further north than SC) they require pruning only once a year (in autumn).

  4. This is one of many gardens on my bucket list. I enjoyed your tour. I will admit that I really dislike hedges in my garden. It doesn’t fit with our garden style but I also hate pruning! Over the years I have been removing the hedges that the builder put in the landscape. Some require pruning 3-4 times a year. .

    • Digging out old foundation shrubs can be a lot of work, the roots get really thick. I’ve gotten to the point now where I just cut them down close to ground level.

  5. Such an interesting post, seeing the pictures and your descriptions give me a better idea about what it would be like to visit. Certainly don’t need hedges in this case.

  6. I just love the grand allee. Sigh. I fondly remember the apple tree fence and, even in college, feeling motivated to try to create one! (It hasn’t happened yet.)

  7. I really enjoyed this post Jason – your words and pictures certainly set the scene. Gardening on such a scale is way beyond my imagination!
    There is plenty to take away that could easily be transferred to a smaller garden, although in my mind no hedges would only work on a grand scale.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • I have taken some lessons from this garden that I think I can apply, though perhaps .less so regarding garden structure. As you say, it is hard to comprehend gardening on this scale. But we can still dream!

  8. Oh my…the Grand allee stole the show for sure. I have hedges growing in front of our railings to give a little privacy…..but I’d love a yew hedge which are expensive and slow growing.xxxx

    • I have a huge old Japanese Yew, but just one, it doesn’t make a hedge. I have a mixed hedge on one side of the back garden to mark the border with the neighbors there, but that’s it. The grand allee really is breathtaking.

    • There are definitely lots of arches and related structures. But I think this was the only garden we visited on our trip without hedges.

  9. great photos of Monet’s house. The arches were great but the thing that stood out for me was the green front door

      • That’s a famous quote by Monet. I don’t think he was quite as bad off as Van Gogh, but he had his moments. He also said “I am very depressed and deeply disgusted with painting. It is really a continual torture.”

  10. How beautiful, especially your photo of the blue green trellis against the sky. When I exhibited at Winterthur we bought paint that color and painted all the furniture we took. I didn’t realize it came from Giverny.

  11. I have hedges. They are not high maintenance in our climate generally if one does not want that razor cut look. I like the Grand Allee and have seen it done more with large trees, but the herbaceous look of the one at Giverny is beautiful I have seen photos at different times of year where it really makes a statement in each season. I like the color of the house. His landscape was his art as much as his paintings.

  12. I love a nice hedge too! But this garden has so many geometric shapes and straight paths that it doesn’t really need a hedge. I never noticed they were missing until you pointed it out.
    I need to do a little poking around this winter and figure out how this garden all goes together. Your pictures show a side that I never knew about, all the wildness and overflowing plants are totally different than the wisteria bridge and neat iris beds that I’m used to seeing.

  13. That second shot of his house with the blue green door and climbing roses is out of this world! It makes me want to add color to my door. In many ways his house melts right into the garden! And the Nasturtiums along the grand allele is such a lovely choice! Your photos capture the amazing layers of his garden. Such a spectacular site!!!

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