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La Louve, a Provence Garden by Nicole de Vesian
This garden is something particularly special to me. Designed and built by Nicole de Vesian, a Hermes textile designer, La Louve has a incredible quality to it, it sits seamlessly in the surrounding landscape, yet is masterfully styled. Every time I look at a photo of the garden I become completely immersed in the tapestry of the landscape.
Nicole skilfully plays with scale, texture, volume and angles of vision to lead the eye from plane to plane, from near to far, from the most clipped plants to the free form, in a series of balanced volumes and voids. This garden is never static, and never framed to be seen from one direction only, her compositions invite both walking and sitting, discovery and meditation.
Nicole purchased La Louve (French for The She-wolf) in 1986, and created by hand this unique Provence garden. Located in Bonnieux Provence, France the garden is less then 500 sqaure meters. Built on hillside terraces, almost every plant was shaped by hand, with some tended to by nail scissors.
A strong Japanese influence is apparent, with the garden being just as much about the stone as it is about the plants. The planting however is quintessentially Provence in style, featuring Cupressus sempervirens, Cistus, Elaeagnus, Cratageus, Osmanthus, Philadelphus, Pittosporum, rosemary and lavender, Teucrium, Euphorbia, and Hypericum and so much more.
Her recurring use of natural stone and local plant species all over the property creates a holistic connection between the house, garden and surrounding landscape. Her clever use of the same materials and plants only in different formats provide a cohesive and textural landscape. Using one type of natural stone across the hillside stonewall, a hand worked retaining wall, pathways, buildings and the craved stone balls. Likewise with the plant specimens, you find one plant that has been grown naturally, softly shaped and then also formally trimmed.
This garden plays with different planes, forms and textures to avoid symmetry, creating a garden that simply melts into the surrounding landscape. Louisa Jones in her book “Gardens in Provence” describes Nicole as
“someone who had a sense of space, proportion and texture and she could apply that skill to any context.”
Art Dealer Judith Pillsbury bought the garden just before Nicole’s death in 1996. Judith regards it as her most valuable piece. She does a remarkable job of keeping the garden true to its original design, maintaining and replacing any plants or stone that dies or gets damaged. Guided tours may be arranged by appointment for groups of 10 or more.
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