Nicole de Vesian was a fashion designer and stylist for Hermes in Paris until she retired in the 1970s. Moving to the Luberon, she created, at La Louve, one of the most beautiful and simple gardens I have ever seen, though not yet visited. Photographs of this garden moved me immensely. The simplicity of the planting, the prevailing use of green, form and shape becoming more important than colour in the hot sun of Provence, and the economy of her approach really appealed. She used what she could find around her, buying very little, but bringing a rhythmic flow to the use of clipped shrubs and finding ways to bring the rocky, dry, hilly landscape of her garden to life.
This link to a blog by Bellis Vintage contains a link to a short clip from Monty Don’s series a couple of years ago on extraordinary gardens. Take 5 with a cup of tea and savour it.
Meanwhile, back in Tostat, I have been preparing a little homage to Nicole de Vesian. Trying to stay a little faithful to her principles of economy, I have re-used plants that fell out of favour with me elsewhere in the garden, and only bought 4 small conifers. Four more than Nicole de Vesian would have bought, but there we are. So, as you can see, in the photograph below, it is all at a very baby stage.
For height, I am using Cupressus sempervirens ‘Totem Pole’ which grows to about 5m but is quite slim, and also my re-used Buxus sempervirens ‘Graham Blandy’, which is an ultra-slim pencil of box growing to about 3m, I think, but only 15cms or so wide. I had two box balls grown from tinies that we started off in Scotland, which make a big presence at the front of the seat, and I am also re-using Buxus sempervirens ‘Green Gem’ which naturally makes a ball of about 0.75m over time. Two fatter, but dwarf, conifers complete the arrangement, Chamaecyparis ‘Ellwoodii’– which might be a labelling mistake in my view, but I will take my chances. It should be about 3m high by 1m wide at full tilt. And the last is Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Blue Gem’ which will be about 2 m high and wide with a soft blue tint to the greenery.
It will look very good in time. At the moment, viewing it alongside pictures of La Louve, it is almost embarassing. But here is a quick section sketch that I did which shows where I am going. Hang onto that.
Meantime, a really lovely blog by Kirsten Honeyman, has some beautiful photographs capturing her inspiring visit to La Louve. And Louisa Jones, the garden writer, has also written a definitive record of de Vesian and her garden called ‘Nicole de Vesian: Gardens, Modern Design in Provence’. Louisa Jones also provided some of her own photographs and comments to the Mediterranean Garden Society, follow the link for those.
I know that Judith Pilsbury, who bought La Louve from de Vesian, has sold La Louve in the last couple of years, but Parcs et Jardins still feature her as the owner on their visiting page. So, I hope this means that the current owner is continuing to make the garden available to visitors occasionally. I will have to round up a group!
And I will also square off the tops of the Chamaecyparis to develop the homage further.
PS. A great Louis the Geek blogpost on Buxus sempervirens ‘Graham Blandy’ just arrived. I was hoping for something smaller! We’ll see.