Well, I've been to France once before, but I can't boast that I made it all the way to the gardens of Claude Monet (1840-19226) in Giverny. Located about 74 kilometers (45 miles) northwest of Paris in the Eure department, Monet lived and worked en plein-air in his idyllic outdoor rooms. To see his home and gardens, I'm told, is to see another side of the artist's work: in both paintings and plantings, contrasting colors mingle side by side and reflections deepen design.

Thanks to The New York Botanical Garden I feel like I've gotten a taste of what Giverny has to offer. Various artists came together to create an inspired vision of Giverny inside The Garden's Haupt Conservatory. Tony-Award winning set designer Scott Pask set a replica façade of Monet's jade-trimmed home at the beginning of a garden walk that ends at a version of the well-known Japanese footbridge. The NYBG staff flanked the pathway with an exceptional collection of hollyhocks (Alcea cvs., Zones 3-9), delphiniums (Delphinium cvs., Zones 3-7), and lupines (Lupinus spp., Zones 4-10) that lift the bed into a floral allée, while peonies (Paeonia cvs., Zones 3-8) and roses (Rosa spp., Zones 2-11) perfume the dreamscape. Whether you've been to Giverny or not, this lovely replica set is a must-see. You can even meet some famous water lilies in the Conservatory pools, the very same found in Monet's Nymphéas series, as well as rarely-displayed original works and the artist's own palette.

 You have until October 21, 2012 to catch this exhibition. Don't miss out!

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