Gardener takes on Monet’s masterpiece

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 famous waterlilies series there.

The appointment means that Mr Priest, from Maghull, Merseyside, becomes a direct successor to Monet himself, who looked after every aspect of his world famous garden until his death in 1926.

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Mr 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 different nationalities who visit.

“Monet would paint in layers and I think he made his garden in the same way,” he said.

Mr Priest was hired initially for three years but ended up staying for 17 years.

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He said he first saw the work of the Impressionist painters when he visited Paris as an 18-year-old student, adding: “I like art with emotion.

“I work a lot on emotions; my gardens must speak to people of all nationalities.”

He will take over the running of the garden on June 1.

Monet started to create his flower-filled garden when he moved to Giverny in 1883, refining it over 43 years until his death there in 1926.

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 at Giverny, with its green, Japanese-style footbridge draped with wisteria in the spring.

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