Page 3 Profile: James Priest, gardener


Making a good impression?

Liverpudlian James Priest, 56, and a team of American volunteers are trying to restore Claude Monet’s five-acre garden at Giverny in Normandy, which receives 600,000 visitors a year, to the way it looked when Monet created his famous water lily impressions there in the late-19th century.

Everyone must be thrilled

Non. French gardeners, who have worked at Giverny since 1980, are put out by Priest’s grand vision despite his experience, which includes training at Kew Gardens and working on Baron Elie de Rothschild’s estate. “It is their garden, you are just an upstart who has come from abroad, and so what do you know,” says Priest, who has lived in France for 30 years.

Sacre Bleu!

Snails are causing an issue too. Since Priest was headhunted in 2011, masses of dead flowers and 10,000 snails have had to be removed each day.

So how will his garden grow?

Priest is “paintboxing” his flowers by arranging them in colour-coordinated blocks. This too has caused some trouble for the gardeners, who have gone about the planting “chaotically” by not sticking to his calibrated scheme. But Priest is determined to get the job done and vows to “stay as long as [he] can walk”.