An inspiration for Monet and his waterlilies

Here we are (Me, Michel and François to the right) at the confluence, the conflux, of the Lot and Garonne Rivers. The sound of water crashing and engaging was rather spectacular.

Three weeks ago, Michel and I crossed France to the new home of one of Michel’s daughters, Clarisse. She has moved to a region north of Toulouse that I didn’t know at all, the Lot-et-Garonne. It was fascinating to be guided by Clarisse and her husband, François, to discover tiny pockets of this area of France. One of the outings that has stayed with me was a visit to the village of Le Temple-sur-Lot, to a water-lily nursery. A water-lily garden. Le Jardin des Nenuphars. For some reason, it had never occurred to me that there exist nurseries dedicated exclusively to the propagation of water-lilies. On a warm summer’s day, before the sweltering heat kicked in, it was a real treat to meander the three acres of grounds, circumnavigating small lakes, pausing for shade in the tall bamboo groves, watching the swans feeding with their cygnets, and discovering the process of lilies as they grow. Such outstanding colours!  This establishment has apparently been awarded ‘Remarkable Garden’ status, plus it is the oldest water plant nursery in the world!

These gardens were established in 1875 by a local man, Joseph Bory Latour-Marliac, a lawyer and horticulturist. Before he set up the nursery for the propagation, cultivation and marketing of water lilies and lotuses, Latour-Mauriac taught himself how to hybridise the lilies and to this day his methods remain a secret. Today, the gardens boast over 250 species of water-lily.  Back in the 1870s, in Europe there existed only the white water lily, the Nymphaea alba. Through his experimentation and botanical expertise Latour-Mauriac crossed the white flower with tropical lilies and with wild examples from America and Asia. He created a collection of hardy lilies with a palette that ranged from a rich yellow to fuchsia and on to a deep dark red.  Word spread, people took an interest.

In 1889, Latour-Mauriac was invited to display his lilies at the Exposition Universelle in Paris. Here the presentations of his hybrids caused a sensation. His plants were displayed at the water gardens at the Trocadéro. (From this point you could see across the Seine to the newly-constructed Eiffel Tower in the background.)  

The present Trocadéro Gardens covers an area of almost 94,000 square metres. It was created for the 1937 Exposition Universelle des Arts et Technique dans la Vie Moderne. The architect who designed this extraordinary refurbishment was Roger-Henri Expert.

Before that, the gardens Monet would have visited, wandered about, collecting ideas and inspiration and where….

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