La Louve- a stylish and very well-groomed garden

I will start as I mean to go on with these, my first steps into the world of blogging, looking out onto my garden. It is weighed down with snow which starkly highlights the more sculptural elements – the fan-shaped palm leaves, some randomly placed box balls and the tentacles of vine branches covering the terrace. This is the framework of the garden. I don’t want to dwell on this monochrome scene. Instead I am travelling south by a thousand miles and back in time four months to a very special garden with year round arresting structure in the Luberon area of southern France.

Stones and living ‘boulders’

La Louve , which means ‘the she-wolf’ nestles on the edge of the hilltop village of Bonnieux. The late Nicole de Vésian, a Hermès textile designer, created the garden after moving there in 1986. Good design can be distilled down to the same principles whether in the world of fashion or gardens. Context is all, and de Vésian clearly obeyed the maxim of ‘consult the genius of the place’ originally a line from an Alexander Pope poem. She consulted and then told the story in her own words. The garden drops away from the house in a series of terraces hewn out of the golden rock and the restricted plant palette echoes the natural garrigue of the facing hillsides. Its beauty lies in its simplicity but this is not a formal garden. The mainly evergreen subjects form a tapestry of tightly clipped shapes. These resonate with their wild counterparts that are held in domes by the harsh climate and grazing animals. Box, yew, lavender and rosemary are staple plants. The unified contours of the individual plants invite the visitor to notice the, sometimes subtle, contrasts in foliage colour and texture as if comparing swatches of fine fabric.

The garden flows into the ‘borrowed’ landscape

La Louve is arranged in asymmetrical rooms that entice you down the slope along stone paths and down stone steps. In fact, the local stone is all around you forming containers, water features, basins and benches. And just to stop things being predictable there are a few surprise elements; a quirky detail here, a flowering plant as an exception to the rule, there. A few evergreens have been cloud pruned. Others randomly left unpruned. This is high-end gardening.

and details…

An ‘agrarian’ patch of lavender

After Nicole de Vésian’s death in 1996 the garden passed through the hands of two women gardeners who maintained it according to the original ethos. Today the custodians of ‘La Louve’ are Sylvie and Pascal Verger who work unaided to preserve this much loved horticultural hand-me-down.

Stone all around

A 3D frieze of clipped evergreens

The swimming pool is a later addition

The author relaxes by an old stone water tank, now a plunge pool

Other key plants at La Louve

  • Bupleurum fruticosum
  • Elaeagnus x submacrophylla
  • Euonymus japonicus
  • Myrtus communis
  • Ligustrum japonicum
  • Osmanthus x burkwoodii
  • Phillyrea angustifolia
  • Lonicera nitida
  • Juniperus oxycedrus
  • Santolina chamaecyparissus

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