Internship at Giverny, France
By: Alexis Anthony, Clemson Horticulture Student
The mission of Foundation Claude Monet is preserving the historic landmark that is Monet’s gardens and house. By continuing to recreate what Monet built and planted during his time, more people are intrigued to look further into Monet’s artwork and relate it to what they see in the gardens. Gardeners select plants based on the plant selection that Monet used at the time that he lived on the property. In order to better have an idea of the correct plant placement, the gardeners use paintings and photographs as guides for the flowerbeds. This correlates with their mission to preserve history and rebuild the dream that Monet had so many years ago.
My work in the garden ranged from deadheading to planting to arranging and pruning. I helped mainly in the planting of perennials (several years of flowering) and annuals (one year of flowering) and the uprooting of out of season biennials (two years of flowering). I learned about plant selection and placement techniques as well as the maintenance of a variety of plant species. I was able to relate all of these tasks back to classroom experience. During the first week of my internship, the gardeners were a little unsure about how much I could be trusted with in the garden. Like most other places I have worked; I had to prove my worth to the gardeners and that I was capable of doing little tasks before I could be allowed to do the really important tasks.
During the first few days of work, I deadheaded flowering plants. Deadheading is a process in which you cut or pick off dead flowers of a plant so that it will continue to produce more flowers. The flowers that were most in need of this action were the geraniums, iris (Iris xiphium), tulips (T. ‘Kleukenhof’), dahlias, and Canterbury bells (Campanula medium). The other interns and I continued this task throughout my internship, because plants produce flowers at different times of a season. I can relate this action to my Horticulture 2010 and 2020 class (Fall and Spring Garden Plants) with Dr. Faust. In these classes, we talk about the different cycles that plants go through and how in order to promote budding, deadheading is a necessary action for some varieties. In the Horticulture 2020 class, we held a plant sale where we grew herbaceous annuals such as petunia, verbena, and geraniums. As a student of the class, I was required to take the dead flowers off the plants so that they would keep flowering until the plant sale. I also learned herbaceous plant identification from these two classes. I found that to be very helpful when being given the task to remove plants in the flowerbeds because I would not have known what to look for without that previous knowledge.
I learned the most from my experience planting and arranging plants with the gardeners in the ‘Clos Normand’ garden. In the mornings, we would remove plants such as pansies (Viola), wallflower (Erysinum cheiri), and a variety of impatiens (Impatiens). Then we would work diligently to plant new annuals and perennials in their place. It was explained to me that we plant in a triangular pattern throughout the flowerbeds and that the colors are arranged throughout the garden based on the placement of the sun. Warmer colored flowers are up around the house, while cooler colors are places at the bottom of the ‘Clos Normand’ garden. Monet arranged the plants this way from top to bottom and then had a set color pattern in place for the plants that went from the left to the right of the garden. I learned about color selection and plant placement in my Horticulture 3080 lab (Sustainable Landscape Design), taught by Dr. Vincent. In this class, my partner and I had to create a design and color scheme that was fitting for the plants that we selected. I found my experience from that class useful in my internship because I was better able to understand how certain colors match other colors and how important it is to space plants based on their size above the soil and below the soil. In the lab, I selected plants that were very bee friendly and in the garden, I have seen that this is a very important aspect to the gardeners as well. The gardens rely highly on pollinators.
One of my favorite tasks was interacting with the public. To be able to watch their initial expressions as they walked in and saw the vast amounts of plants is an experience that put the garden into perspective for me. I did not understand how magnificent the gardens were until I arrived here. I can relate this experience back to my Horticulture 4720 Landscapes and Health class that is taught by Dr. Vincent. In that class, we discuss how landscapes have to draw people in and that they can potentially have a calming effect that makes people want to be more immersed in nature. I could see this aspect in the water garden especially, because water is associated with balance and serenity. The water garden has a path that winds around the famous lily pond and every inch of the path draws you further into the garden. I had the opportunity to arrange the lily pads in the lily pond and I watched the reaction of the public as they slowly meandered around in the shade of the willow trees. It was amazing to watch the stress leave their face and for their strides to slow as they breathed in the fresh air. I hope to take this memory with me back home, and to strive to create landscapes that calm the soul.
Throughout my experience, I discovered different strengths and weaknesses for this particular job. I have always been someone that takes direction well and that was no different here. I handled every task efficiently and I believe I worked to the best of my ability. I strived to find new tasks even when they were not assigned, and was always eager to begin the day. Over all I feel that I was a strong member of the team for the short time that I was here. Naturally, I did make mistakes but I handled criticism with grace and learned more from making those mistakes. My biggest weakness was not knowing how to speak the language. If I had been able to converse in French, I would have better been able to connect with the gardeners and I would have gained more knowledge about the gardens. Another weakness was not being as confident in my general plant and gardening knowledge. At times concerns about making mistakes held me back. With the grandeur, along with the history of the garden, I worried that my mistakes could be detrimental to the team. Even though this was a weakness, it made me ask more questions about the planting styles and I think I learned more. In effect, my weakness has contributed to my long-term strength because of knowledge I would not have otherwise gained. I am thankful for all aspects of my horticulture internship. It is my hope to continue learning how to improve upon my weaknesses and strengths to become a knowledgeable gardener.