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Helping you reach your Provence style garden’s full potential

October 15, 2017

The garden of La Louve perches on the very edge of the hilltop town of Bonnieux, facing undulating hills of garrigue woodland.   Entering through a dark doorway from the narrow village street, the Provençal light is at first dazzling but from the shade of the terrace, the green of the garden blends seamlessly into the surrounding landscape.

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Outdoor French Provencal garden

Nicole de Vésian, a former textile designer for Hermès, bought the property in 1986 when she was 69 years old and spent the next 10 years creating this garden that is so full of form and texture.

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Outdoor limestone patio with a wall cladding next to an infinite pool

Inspired by the mounds of wind-pruned plants in the surrounding countryside, De Vésian clipped shrubs into organic forms to mimic the curved forms of the hills and trees. Other plants were chosen for their naturally rounded form or were left unpruned in exuberant contrast to their clipped neighbours.

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Beautiful outdoor landscaping

The garden belongs to the Provençal landscape and the boundaries between garrigue and garden are blurred, the same plants being found both within and without the garden.  Pinus pinea, arbutus, cupressus, Pistacia lenticus, cistus, rosemary and lavender; these are locally-found shrubs and trees which survive the drought, extreme temperatures and mistral winds common to this part of France.

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Old stone trough , built many years ago to collect rainwater has been made into a small outdoor sink

De Vésian’s talent as a textile designer is very present in her garden. The low evergreens with their contrasting colours, from freshly sprouting green to silvery grey and the leaf textures from brilliant shine to soft felt, create a natural tapestry of plants.  This love of texture is also found in her use of hard materials.  By using the local stone, the colour of the paths and terraces complement the stone of the house and reinforce the sense of belonging to the local landscape.limestone-trough-stone-old-hand-carved-french-coutry-side

Groups of clipped plants contrast and complement each other in form, texture, colour and height. This careful use of texture continues in the dry stone paving, walls and gravel.limestone-wall-cladding

Rounded shrubs mimic the mounded forms of the woodland and distant hills and the twining joints of the simple metal handrail are an unobtrusive but beautiful detail.

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Antique limestone wall fountain

Leaning into the side of the hill, three garden terraces descend towards the valley floor. Though filled with topiary, this is no formal French garden, and the paths meander rather than following straight axes.limestone-stone-patio-path-french-country-side

Neighbours and friends, knowing of Nicole de Vésian’s love of stones and boulders, brought as gifts unusual or beautiful pieces of rock found in the surrounding fields or woods.  These sculptural stones have been carefully placed around the garden.beautiful-french-home-backyard-limestone-troughs-pot

The old stone water tank, built many years ago to collect rainwater for the irrigation of olive trees, has been made into a small plunge pool. On the lowest terrace a lavender parterre is planted in rows. A stone seat with views of the garrigue woodland is flanked by four clipped cypress trees.french-provence-nature-outdoor-garden  Legend has it that the trees were languishing in a nursery with their tops broken and that De Vésian decided to just buy them at a discount and just clip them horizontally.  Their strong silhouettes are brought into relief by the soft shapes of the woodland trees beyond and mirrored by the spires of naturally occurring cypresses.limestone-pot-outdoor-garden-backyard-french-country-side

The tall dry-stone retaining wall is made with both cut blocks and naturally shaped stones.  At its base sits a simple bench made from a rough-cut wooden board and stone blocks.  Nothing jars with the native landscape.limestone-trough-sink-stone-french-country-side-outdoor-garden

Since Nicole de Vésian’s death, the garden has passed through the hands of two women owner-gardeners who both have said that they see themselves as curators of this living work of art and maintain it for their own pleasure and that of their grateful visitors.limestone-stone-patio-outdoor-garden-french-country-side-style-louvre

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