Any advice about the best month to visit Monet's gardens other than July and August? I can schedule my trip for May, June, or late September. Which month will give me the most "bang for the buck?"
I vote for May or June at the latest, even though it may be too early for the famous waterlilies in May! I visited Giverny early in May when France had an earlier than usual spring and everything was in full bloom, including the famous chestnut trees (except for the above mentioned you-know-whats). They had roses everywhere, tree roses, trellises and lots of other flowers. All the tall stuff was underplanted with short flowers, everything blooming. They must have gardeners go in there at the crack of dawn to pick of the dead blossoms - the gardens were fabulous, very well-kept, the large old weeping willows were hanging over the walks and water with their spring green leaves, there were strategic benches placed around the walks - for me it was a peak experience. If you go in May, look up the holidays - May 1 and May 8 are holidays for sure and then there are Ascension Day and Pentecost (always a Sunday and Monday), which are also holidays. I went the day after a holiday and there were smaller crowds than usual. By the way, I took a tour (minibus from Paris) but next trip I wont. Rick Steve's book and this forum can advise you on how to get there on your own. Much cheaper and you have more time.
I would choose May too. I have been to Giverny in late September and it was wonderful but would have preferred seeing it in full bloom in the spring. I agree, it is easy to get to using the instructions in Rick's book.
We were there in the first week of May last year and were not disappointed. The gardens were all in bloom and gorgeous. We used a tip from Rick's Paris book and purchased our tickets at a FNAC store in Paris before we took the train to Vernon. We walked to the front of the line and held up our tickets. They waved us right in. The line is to purchase tickets, so if you have them before hand you do not have to wait.
We were there in late May 2010 and it was great. If anything Rick undersells this place, it was fantastic! We arrived around 2pm and it was somewhat, but not too, crowded.