Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Gardening like Monet?

Many years ago, I spent a Sunday afternoon at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, admiring a visiting exhibit by one of my all-time favorite masters, Claude Monet. From what I’ve learned, Monet noticed the village of Giverny, in northern France and on the bank of the River Seine, while on a train. He immediately knew he wanted to live there, and after saving enough money, purchased a house and land. It was there that he created the spectacular gardens that were the subject of many of his later paintings, and some of his most memorable works. As I left the gallery that day, I stopped in the gift shop and purchased a children’s book called Linnea in Monet’s Garden, and a small, cloth doll modeled after the main character in the book. Both were to be a treat for my daughter, Laura.

I’m not sure what ever happened to the book or the doll, but my memories of Monet’s garden paintings remain vivid. The tranquil scenes, and his use of color and bold brushstrokes have always been inspirational to me. It was, perhaps, with Monet's Giverny gardens in mind that we set out to build our own perennial garden in the back yard. Its main shape has been present for quite awhile, as has an arbor, covered with flourishing roses, and a flagstone walkway, but we’ve finally begun to polish the garden off. We’ve added and amended soil, and lined the garden edges with stones that we have gathered from all over the property. Over the last few days we have planted 20 flowering plants, thanks to generous birthday gifts to Pat from our children and her mom, and have added a healthy layer of mulch. It will require several years, and probably double the amount of plants before everything matures and fills in, but we’ve got a good start. The garden will be beautiful, and it will be a treat to watch it grow and develop.

The Waterlily Pond, by Claude Monet. (Public domain image.)

The last plant was put in its place last night, and because it is close to 6 feet high and very thin, I thought I would attach a tall, wooden stake for support to the nearby retaining wall that faces the pond. I carefully positioned it so it was vertical, and pounded the first nail through the cedar into the wall. Then, just as I was going to strike a second nail, I found myself inside of a swarm of angry bees. Evidently, my pounding caused an unwelcome vibration in the wall, about two feet below the new plant, and the bees’ peaceful existence was disrupted. I must have looked like one of those cartoon characters, running from a swarm of bees with legs spinning, arms flailing, and (almost) screaming obscenities at the little honeys! My hammer, nails and pride went flying as I was chased out of Linnea’s Garden.

Luckily, I only got three bee stings, one on my shoulder and two behind my knee. Nevertheless, I was sore and quite exhausted from the ordeal. Some baking soda paste on the stings and a cold washcloth on my forehead, and I was ready to return to the garden. Treading lightly and keeping my eyes and ears open, I tied up the plant and then skedaddled out of the area, leaving the bees and wall alone. Until another day.


CousinK said...

Oh dear..... OUCH !!
But what a beautiful garden you are creating. Not only will you enjoy it but it is a lovely tribute to wonderful Monet. Just think what influence artists can have!

Jamie said...

Bummer about the bee stings! The garden sounds really nice.

Laura said...

So you were stung FOUR times in 3 days?! Stay away from those things!

And guess what I just unpacked from one of our moving boxes? Little Linnea from Monet's Garden- I still have the doll...