The more you age and the more you learn, the more you are interested in nature at its simplest,” Louis Benech told Architectural Digest in 2011. “For me gardening isn’t coming up with something new, it’s about following what is written and being inspired by that.” Reading the landscape is a practice that has been highly successful for Benech, one of France’s greatest living landscape designers. Over the past 30 years he’s designed hundreds of public and private gardens all over the world. His client list makes for impressive reading: From Philippe Starck and Yves Saint Laurent, to the Tuileries and the Quai d’orsay gardens in Paris. Then there are his grand chateau gardens in France, such as Domaine de la Balive, a Louis XVI chateau situated in the Loire Valley, south-west of Paris.
In some ways, the project is a tale of two gardens. On one side of the chateau the garden is rich, detailed and diverse, featuring wide borders over owing with foliage and ower detail. There’s a walled kitchen garden, rose gardens and a picking garden for the mistress of the house, who has a penchant for ower arranging.
The other side is completely different. It’s devoid of owers and focused purely on form, line and structure. It’s incredibly striking as a result. Stretching out, as far as the eye can see, are a series of pools, clearings and canals cut into the forest. Benech removed a lot of trees, many of which were in poor condition, in order to “make things more legible”. The result is a series of grand vistas leading the eye to the horizon, one such vista culminating in the distinctive silhouette of Orléans Cathedral.