An English gardener has landed one of the most prestigious jobs in French horticulture. James Priest, 53, has been appointed head gardener at Giverny in Normandy, the former home of the Impressionist artist Claude Monet, who painted his waterlilies series there.
The appointment means that Priest, from Maghull, Merseyside, becomes a direct successor to Monet, who looked after every aspect of the garden until his death in 1926.
Priest, who qualified at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew, said: “Monet is the factor that brings everyone here. It’s an Alice in Wonderland Monet world and you have to capture the imagination of all these nationalities who visit. Monet would paint in layers and I think he made his garden in the same way.”
Mr Priest takes over from Gilbert Vahe, the head gardener who was largely responsible for restoring the garden in the late 1970s from an overgrown wilderness to its former glory.
Priest was hired initially for three years but has ended up staying for 17. He will take over on 1 June. He first saw the work of the Impressionists when he visited Paris as an 18-year-old student “I like art with emotion. I work a lot on emotions; my gardens must speak to people of all nationalities.”
Monet started to create his flower-filled garden when he moved to Giverny in 1883, refining it over 43 years. He originally planted flowers so that he could pick bunches to have something to paint indoors on rainy days.
Some of his most famous paintings were his huge canvases of the waterlilies on the small lake he had made, with its green, Japanese-style footbridge draped with wisteria in the spring.