At the age of 69, Nicole de Vésian’s real adventure started. Retired from a career of designing hats and linens for Hermès, she decamped to Provence to embark on her most ambitious design project: a strange and hauntingly beautiful garden that incites in anyone who sees it a sudden desire to prune shrubs into pillowy, languorous clouds.
The property was recently listed for sale by agents Emile Garcin.
Photography via Emile Garcin.
Above: A mix of textures and the play of light on carefully shaped shrubbery create a peaceful, meditative space in de Vésian’s garden, La Louve (translation: “The She Wolf”). Rather than confining boxwood to a more conventional supporting role as a hedge or as edging for flower beds, she encouraged it to become the central focus.
De Vésian moved to the village of Bonnieux in 1986, after the death of her husband. When she bought her house, the garden was dilapidated, built on a series of terraces against a hillside. On the terrace, natural elements such as stone, gravel, and wood provide a backdrop for the topiaries.
Above: The swimming pool was added after de Vésian sold the property to art dealer Judith Pillsbury.
Above: For years, gardeners have made pilgrimages to this region, the Luberon, to see de Vésian’s garden. Maria Nation is one person who returned home from France determined to rip out her perennial beds and replace them with boxwood. “Her private garden was like some cosmic thunderbolt,” Nation says. ‘It took my breath away.” Nation’s western Massachusetts garden was entirely inspired by La Louve; to read about it, see A Secret Garden: Beauty in the Berkshires.
Above: The shrubs are as well trimmed as they were in de Vésian’s day.
Updated from a post originally published June 7, 2013.