A stately chateau garden in the Loire Valley is a triumph of diversity, being equally exciting and nurturing, displaying the remarkable talent of landscape designer
From the chateau the lawn steps down in a series of sloped terraces to a large oval pool. Beneath this is a series of pools, linked by a graphic canal designed in the form of a Greek fret motif. “I found a similar sort of canal on old maps of the estate and I wanted to remake it, not out of respect for history or a desire to recreate what used to be here, but rather to re-establish the way things used to work, the way water used to circulate,” Benech tells Eric Jansen in the book Louis Benech: Twelve French Gardens.
While the end effect of the design is one of bold simplicity, the site required extensive sculpting in order to achieve this. “This is a marshy area, with springs everywhere, so we had to do a lot of drainage work,” Benech says. “The slopes were altered to make them more accessible to tractors and easier to mow.”
Benech is known for his focus on maintenance, an important trait in a landscape designer. “Without proper maintenance, a garden can be a wreck in two minutes,” Benech told Architectural Digest. “There are wrecks that I adore, of course, but I want my gardens to last more than two minutes … It’s best to be quiet and gentle in the design of a garden, because then you don’t need a lot of effort to keep it up.”
Designing a garden be tting a property of such scale, historic and architectural value is no mean feat. Benech has achieved this, and more, with this two-sided garden. On one side of the chateau the garden looks inwards; it’s nurturing, protected and enclosed. On the other side, the garden looks out; it’s vast, exciting and inspiring. Two of the most important roles of a garden are to provide shelter and to inspire. Great gardens, like Louis Benech’s Domaine de la Balive, do both.
For more go to louisbenech.com. Visit Georgina Reid’s website, the planthunter.com.au.