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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.

This page The richly lay­ered walled kitchen gar­den of this chateau in France’s Loire Val­ley pro­vides a lush foil for the open and vast land­scape sur­round­ing the prop­erty. Op­po­site page A grand en­trance be tting the prop­erty.

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