If you love the gardens you will need to visit La Louve, in the delightful hilltop town of Bonnieux in Provence.
This exceptional garden combines garden history and culture in southern France. Nicole de Vesian had designed La Louve for herself in the mid-1990s, but she is also responsible for many gardens in this area of Southern France.
Working as a designer for Hermes, Nicole set the pace for fashion and style and had a long and prominent career in the publishing world in Paris. She retired from the fashion world in 1986. She decided to purchase a small hillside home, somewhat in ruins, in Bonnieux and taught herself garden design, which helped her to create her incredible shapes and sheared trees and shrubs. At La Louve, Nicole was inspired to shear her plants by the locally native trees and shrubs, whose mounded shapes ensured their survival in the face of drought and the desiccating and destructive winds of the Mistral. The plants she used are the same ones that grow naturally in Provence. She aligns a few unsheared plants in juxtaposition against the shaped ones or topiaries for the contrast of texture and light.
Ms. Vesian promoted heavily using the natural materials from that specific region depending heavily on the French limestone, most of it collected on site or nearby. Natural stone floors, pathways, terraces, walls, stairs, containers, fountains, basins, and benches—mostly of the sturdy local stone—unite the garden’s many spaces.
Ms. Vesian ten tips for gardeners, which she followed in creating her own garden and those of others in the region. “Use a chair to sit in a garden when planning, taking in all the views—a garden should be seen seated.“ This was her philosophy of garden making. She was never officially trained in garden design, Nicole was, nevertheless, successful at creating magical natural gardens that fit their place perfectly, simply by sensing what belonged. Created by studying the setting, the region, its plants, its light, its current life, and the centuries-old traditions. She naturally comprehended the design of a contemporary garden.
The La Louve garden is now owned by Judith Pillsbury who maintains the garden in the style of its designer. It is a private garden but visits can be arranged by rendez-vous for groups of ten or more. It is definitely worth the trouble. Visits cost 11 euros per person.