If Nicole de Vésian were to meet Edna Walling in our front garden …

I stumbled upon pictures of Nicole de Vésian’s Provencal garden La Louve a year or two ago and have been obsessed with her ever since.

When Monty Don featured her garden in his French Gardens series, well that sealed the deal.

Nicole’s garden is extraordinary to me on a number of fronts, first and foremost because she started it in her 70’s.

Having worked as a successful fashion designer in New York and Paris, La Louve was her final creation. It sits on the edge of Bonnieux, not far from Menerbes, made famous by Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence.

I bought Louisa Jones’ Modern Design in Provence (a tribute to La Louve), read it from cover to cover and have been trying to replicate little corners of the garden in Nicole’s style. I love her restrained colour palette. Green upon green. Greys upon greys. Plants heavily clipped sitting alongside others left to grow wild. The hills of Provence a beautiful backdrop for an afternoon drink. I can only imagine the scent. And that afternoon light.

Sigh …

la louvela louve

I’ve also been revisiting The Vision of Edna Wallinga book I’ve had for many years that showcases the surviving watercolour plans of this legendary Australian landscape designer. Reading it again, it strikes me that if Walling was alive today she would be a popular blogger, just as she was a popular gardening writer throughout her career, often sharing stories about her own garden. Very personal and very accessible to her readers.

Unless anyone can show me something better, I think Walling’s watercolour plans are in a league of their own. “Undeniably beautiful” as authors Trisha Dixon and Jennie Churchill state in the preface to the book. If you’re not familiar with her work and you’re interested in gardening do some investigating.

edna walling watercolour

A few months ago we discovered that a Japanese Sacred Bamboo in our little front garden had wreaked havoc in our verandah foundations. Meanwhile our low brick front fence had developed serious cracks, so much so that we could have felled it with a single push.

One thing has led to another. Monty led me to Nicole. Nicole to Edna. Edna to my Windsor and Newton watercolours.

The front fence has been removed. The verandah is a pile of concrete rubble. The Ginnala maple is stark naked but there are tiny green signs of life. We have raided a friend’s English box hedge plantation and have planted what will, in time, be a curved hedge dropping gently in height. There are a range of Australian natives mixed with French lavender, santolina and Provencal thyme.

It doesn’t look very wonderful at the moment.

It is not Provence.

But I can see it.

In my mind’s eye …

marg's watercolour in the style of Edna Walling

Can you?

You might enjoy these final lines from Edna Walling’s book.

Walling was in the forefront of the modern conservation movement. A quote from The Australian Roadside encapsulates her passion for the flora of her adopted country and its conservation. “Men show their greatness more by circumnavigating flowers and mosses then they do by sailing over them with bulldozers.”

I love that. Especially as I watch Steve mowing paths around the lawn daisies as we speak. x

Do you have your own gardening heroes? Or dreams …

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    1. Posted 12 August 2014 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      I see you have found your inner landscape designer…

      • Marg
        Posted 12 August 2014 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        It was just lovely to get the watercolours out Andrea. I felt like I’d come home. It was fun trying to copy Walling’s style. She had such a light touch and sure hand.

    2. Susan Douglas
      Posted 12 August 2014 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

      Lovely Marg, it’s inspired me to think about what to do with my front garden 🙂

      • Marg
        Posted 12 August 2014 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

        “There is nothing that exercises the imagination more than working out a garden scheme on a steep slope that looks like a tilted up table!” Edna Walling. Go for it Sue. It could be beautiful.

    3. Posted 12 August 2014 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

      Seeing it in your minds eye is so important Marg. Look forward to seeing photo’s. We visited Nicole de Vesian’s garden in 2009, for me it was the highlight of our trip. She was an amazing woman and designer. The garden was of its place and created with great originality and frugality. It had an authenticity that is rare but made it so special. I to pore over the books that feature it. She was an inspiration to me when I was designing gardens. To start a rocky steep garden like that at 70 is inspiring and exceptional hard work.

    4. Helen
      Posted 13 August 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink

      I too love your inspirations for garden design, Marg. My favourite is Derek Jarmen’s Garden, featured in a book with that title.

      • Marg
        Posted 13 August 2014 at 11:13 am | Permalink

        I just had a look Helen. Really different. Not sure it’s me. A bit too open. I like gardens that hold secrets. And hidden corners.

    5. Posted 14 August 2014 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      I am glad to hear someone has garden giddeyup. Cause mine got up and left town after the baby came. Then the winter from hell killed a few more things just to kill my once held garden enthusiasm a little more. I just wanted dirt to dig in and boy did I get some. Over ten beds. What I need is a visionary who can see me through to the other side. And help me with a bigger picture. I love love your watercolor Marg and your hopeful progress.
      Love to you and yours from me and mine,

      • Marg
        Posted 15 August 2014 at 10:16 am | Permalink

        Thanks Shalagh. Clear days and very frosty mornings here atm. I keep wandering outside and saying “Grow. Grow.” A very impatient gardener. Steve’s the one with the green thumb. He just has to look a plant and it goes “Ohh Steve, I love youuuu.”

    6. Posted 22 August 2014 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      I just got the French Gardens series from the library and am working my way through it. SO inspiring and beautiful. 🙂 How exciting to be in the dreaming stages of your new garden. I know it will be wonderful as it settles and thrives. 🙂

      • Marg
        Posted 22 August 2014 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        He’s a bit dishy isn’t he old Monty Don 😉 He has an Italian Gardens series as well which is equally beautiful. There’s a garden in that one that I’d add to my list. Go to google images and google “Ninfa”. Magical.

        • Posted 22 August 2014 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

          Oh. My. Word. That is incredible!!!

          • Marg
            Posted 22 August 2014 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

            Drop Monty into it and it’s even better lol. It’s not far from Rome.

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