Eight years after the publication of Louis Benech, Douze jardins en France, the publication Louis Benech, Douze jardins ailleurs is born. This sumptuous work written by journalist Éric Jansen reveals other atmospheres, this time more exotic, and opens the doors to the most beautiful creations of the great French landscape gardener from all over the world. A colourful orchard in the New Milford, an oasis garden northwest of Ouarzazate, a steppe on the roof of a New York building… These are all living paintings between heaven and earth that reveal new facets of Louis Benech’s talent and reveal some of his secrets.
There is something enchanting about Louis Benech: whether on the side of a Swiss mountain, on a Manhattan rooftop terrace or in an oasis in Morocco, each of his gardens gives the illusion of naturalness and opens up a poetic interlude on the edge of contemplation. Subtle balance of lines, beauty of perspective, blurred effects, play of colours, shadows and transparency, undulating vegetation… all these elements harmonise so obviously with their natural and architectural environments that they go so far as to make you forget the gardener’s hand.
On the sites he has invested in the two antipodes, the landscape gardener-painter fascinates by the extent of his plant palette and his ability to combine native species with those of other regions. As in this garden in Comporta, Portugal, where he mixes local sedum sediforme with Australian Xanthorrhoea as well as Central American agaves and South African witch’s claws to recreate the atmosphere of the dunes that line the rice fields. In this other estate perched facing the sea on the Bay of Islands in New Zealand, he draws with lines of native grasses an orange garden that blazes up at sunset.
In these enchanting landscapes, Louis Benech’s magic systematically removes the ugly from view. Take for example this city garden in Barcelona, where the car park is hidden by orange tree pots and lush vegetation. Its plantings are also designed with the aim of making life easier for the occupants, by adapting to their uses or by taking care to limit the maintenance of these bubbles of greenery. Thus, this parterre of a ryad in Marrakech is covered with a lawn for its owner, Arielle Dombasle in this case, who likes to walk barefoot; in this other garden-oasis further south, in Skoura, a vegetable garden has been ideally positioned near the kitchens to facilitate the harvesting of vegetables.
By showing Louis Benech’s ability to adapt to such diverse sites and to formulate, here as elsewhere, a contemporary and unique understanding of each of these places, Éric Jansen reveals other singularities of the famous landscape gardener in this second work. Thus, while Louis Benech gained an international reputation by winning the competition for the renovation of the Tuileries garden in 1990 with Pascal Cribier and François Roubaud, his vocation had opened him up to exoticism from an early age. Autodidact, Louis Benech learned the job through practice, driven by an insatiable curiosity for the globalised world of gardens. His geography – and his memories – are composed of plant images, like a herbarium… and his attraction for other lands and his desire to travel are inseparable from his quest for plant species. How can one resist to his travel invitation?
Louis Benech, douze jardins ailleurs
Foreword by Frédéric Mitterrand
Texts by Éric Jansen
Éditions Gourcuff Gradenigo
(224 pp., 39 euros)