Interview with the talented landscaper Louis Benech

Interview with the talented landscaper Louis Benech

Louis Benech, the landscaper of large French gardens such as the Tuileries, Villandry and even soon Versailles, gave us a little time to go back on his journey and give us some tips for a successful garden.

How would you define your style?

It is a question that is difficult to answer ... I am a bit like a chameleon and never realize the same thing since everything depends on the place, its context, its geography. If harmony with the architectural and natural environment of the place is essential, if the balance between full and empty spaces, the search for the right proportions, the right perspective, guide me, another aspect is for me very important: the question of maintenance. Who will take care of the garden? How much time and what means will he have? The objective common to all my projects and to which I hold a lot, even if it may seem idealistic, is that the gardens that I create are places of peace, serenity, joy; let those who live in, rub shoulders with or frequent them feel good and happy. They say that my gardens are poetic, I would rather speak of sweetness ... with style!

How do you work on large-scale gardens like the Tuileries, Villandry or soon Versailles?

It is very impressive… Walking in the footsteps of Le Nôtre, Russell Page and the great landscapers is frightening. But a garden is a living space, it is aging, it needs to be taken care of. The idea is above all not to destroy but rather to restore, repair, or even "lift". It is necessary to take the time to study the context, to excavate the grounds, to make the inventory of fixtures of plantations and trees, to find the old plans, to understand the history of the place, the way in which the perspectives were designed ... This work is an essential prerequisite to stay in continuity with the great creators who are at the origin of these gardens. It's exciting ! And then my watchword is reversibility. I always prefer to work in light work, one day leaving the possibility of going back with another approach. It is extremely rare that I "build" something mineral. To the durability of these objects, much greater than that of the tree, I prefer the ephemeral of the living.

You have also worked for many personalities like Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint-Laurent, Diane von Furstenberg or Christian Louboutin, how do you explain these links with fashion?

These are simply the hazards of life ... I have great pleasure working for friends whose engine is creative, however, I also experience great joys without talented interlocutors, working for a children's hospital or a retirement home.

What advice would you give to individuals who wish to develop their garden?

There is no rule to approach the garden, except that of prudence and humility. Of course, there is the central question of maintenance: depending on the time and the means available, it is better not to favor annual plants but on the contrary perennial plants for example. And most importantly: don't be held back by anything. We all make mistakes, but let it be said: there is no need to be a polytechnician to grow a tree.

What address do you recommend they visit?

The domain of Chaumont-sur-Loire and its superb Garden Festival which each year is dazzling with creativity and diversity. I am not always in phase when humor is too seriously observed, but it is guilty. And to meet outstanding nurserymen and passionate craftsmen, I obviously recommend the Courson plants days. There are a thousand and one exciting events around the gardens, the list is almost endless…

A word on your next projects?

I can tell you about the vegetable garden of Château La Coste in Provence. It is in full construction because we are putting it in place ... There will be as many non-frozen figures as cropping patterns. There are also the gardens of the Hermès workshops in Pantin with three extremely different gardens: an Indo-Persian garden, a savannah and a subtropical garden. Planting is underway. And then there is of course the redevelopment of the Water Theater grove in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles. The construction should start by the end of May. I am associated with the artist Jean-Michel Othoniel, who creates the fountains. We are going to carry out a project where perspective troubles and recurrences of rhythms will evoke the work of Le Nôtre, suggesting the dimensions of the disappeared thicket. The idea is to offer a dancing walk punctuated by stops in the shade of holm oaks, before reaching a large clearing of light and water. The idea is also that in the magnificence of this mythical land the dances of Jean-Michel Othoniel perpetuate the taste of childhood that the sovereign creator had instilled.