In 1911 Eloise Butler wrote “I sometimes think, if I have any mission in this world, it is to teach the decorative value of common weeds. A weed is simply a plant out of place.” This helps explain why Miss Butler brought into the Garden such plants as Butter & Eggs, Chicory, Dame’s Rocket, Purple Loosestrife and Tansy; some of these were considered invasive in her day. In Monet’s Garden at Giverny he used a number of plants that we commonly call ‘weeds’ which Eloise Butler also used tin her ‘Wild Botanic Garden’, and during the same time period.
Here are some weedy plants Monet used, all of which Eloise also used: Canary Reed Grass - for its tallness and texture; Sweet (Dame’s) Rocket - to contrast with his irises that dominate the garden in May; Water Smartweed - color for the water edge; Purple Loosestrife - for tall background color with the Dahlias; Canada Goldenrod - for Autumn yellow; Virginia Creeper - to obscure tall structures and provide Autumn red; Yellow Flag Iris - for color contrast at the pond edge. All of these plants we now consider invasive. Common Mullein was used to underplant the clematis arches and brought in for the tall stalks and color, then left to re-seed where they fell.
If any visitors were surprised by his use of common plants mixed with the more exotic, it was only because they were familiar with the formal gardens that were recommended before the turn of the century. Monet preferred a more wild look although his garden is less wild today than in his time - visitors now expect to see LOTS of color and to see it when they visit - no matter the month. The use of wild plants in a non-formal setting was just what Eloise Butler was doing, but even more informally.
Eloise Butler wrote: “The site of the Wild Garden was chosen particularly on account of the tamarack swamp and adjacent meadows which contained several interesting or beautiful plants that were not to be found elsewhere in the vicinity of Minneapolis.”
Monet picked the site at Giverny for its site - along a swath of the River Epte with limestone bluffs in the background, that would give him what his painter’s eye wanted, plus a plant garden and a water garden.
In 1933 Eloise Butler would be fatally stricken on the way to her garden. Monet died at his house in his garden in 1926.
Giverny is closed Nov. through March just like the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden. A good book is Vivian Russell’s “Monet’s Garden - Through the Seasons at Giverny”.
A stand of tall Common Mullein"