La Louve a Remarkable Garden and Green Oasis in Bonnieux
It rains a lot in Normandy. So, two residents of northern France to deciding to spend their retirement years in Provence would hardly be considered unusual.
Sylvie and Pascal Verger were searching for a village house with a garden for their relocation from Honfleur. However, the trigger for their real estate transaction in the Luberon was the photo of a garden. It was the same garden that they had discovered long ago in books and magazines.
Pascal Verger shared the following,
“Devenir propriétaire du jardin de la Louve est un rêve inespéré.”
Becoming the owners of la Louvre was an unexpected dream.
The house and its remarkable garden — la Louve (she-wolf) — are tucked against the rocky hillside in Bonnieux. The garden is a private paradise hidden from the street and protected from the biting Mistral wind from the North.
Bonnieux is one of those magical places in Provence. The village streets and alleyways climb, in some cases steeply, up the side of a hill. The benefit of this slope side location is that many buildings have sweeping views of the pastoral Luberon Valley. The bonus perhaps is that the walk up to the church, at the very top, will allow you to justify that extra glass of local rosé.
The Vergers purchased La Louve, in November 2014, from Judith Pillsbury (an art dealer from Paris). However, the visionary for this Jardin Remarkable was Nicole de Vésian a stylist at the luxury brand Hermès. De Vésian purchased the south-west facing parcel in 1986 and launched into her retirement project – the creation of a unique garden with its unobstructed view of the Luberon.
Garden Design of la Louvre
Nicole de Vésian’s vision was a garden that would be green all year using only native Mediterranean plants. Due to its position on the hillside, the garden is built on a series of terraces. La Louve is a bit like a Hermès scarf, at first it appears like a beautiful design then you begin to see the details. De Vésian converted the overgrown garden of an old village house into a work of art. La Louve is a tapestry in shades of green and grey. She used umbrella pine, fig, olive and cypress trees to give the garden height and dimension. Working with green plants, stone and metal, de Vésian created a garden that is a statement in elegance.
There are very few flowers in the garden. Rosemary has tiny white-blue flowers in the winter. The olive trees produce a little white flower in the spring. Perhaps the flashiest is the lavender when it is in full bloom in June and early July. However, de Vésian’s design was not based around flowers, but rather how the elements of Provence came together in a structured pattern. Some of the trees and bushes are tightly sculpted while others grow untamed. La Louve is a contemplative space where you can relax in an alcove and meditate with the view of the Luberon in the distance.
The Garden Today
When the Vergers first arrived at la Louvre, both house and garden needed a refresh. With backgrounds in property management (Pascal) and fine art (Sylvie), this couple had the right experience to take on a significant project. The house required a full renovation. The garden was tired, and most the plants needed replacement. All the work in the garden is in keeping with the original de Vésian plan.
“We have some photographs of the garden of the time of Nicole de Vésian. The original design is so strong that of course, even if we change a large number of plants, the spirit of the garden of Nicole remains intact.”
The Vergers continue de Vésian’s vision with their daily (and constant) work in the garden, where they do all the work themselves. “Le jardin de la Louve est avant tout une oeuvre d’art vivante.” The Louve garden is above all a work of living art, is how the Vergers describe their garden.
What is required to maintain the Jardin Remarquable status?
Every five years, an application for renewal of this status is made to the Ministry. The classification of the garden of the Louve was last renewed in February 2012. The application for renewal will be filed before February 2018.
In addition to the paperwork, these gardens must be open for public visits several days each year. The exact schedule of openings is determined by the gardens’ owners.
Practical Information for Visiting la Louvre
Driving in Bonnieux is a skill that has been perfected by locals. The narrow village streets are barely designed for one-way traffic, and many routes are only for residents’ access. Our advice is to park your car in one of the large public parking lots and walk to the Louve. Find the pharmacy in the village, on the main plaza, and take the road to the left, you will find la Louvre about 50m down that street. There is a sign outside the Vergers front entry and the Jardin Remarkable emblem. However, that is all you see. There is little indication of the green magic located behind the stone walls.
The garden is open to the public on select days (from mid-April until late September). Please book your visit in advance (contact information is below). There is a small fee to visit, but you are welcome to enjoy the view.
Le Jardin de la Louve: Sadly, this garden in Bonniuex is now permanently closed.
Image credits: Photos (1-6 and the garden plan) were provided by and published with the permission of Mme & M. Verger