prendre le pouls du terrain sur lequel il va raconter son histoire de jardinier, aller le plus loin possible mais dans le sens du poil : en un mot, « être juste ». Les jardins sont pour lui des endroits d’équilibre, à rebours d’un monde épris d’immédiateté.Des bastions de résistance au temps : gens pressés de voir grandir leurs jardins s’abstenir. Et un univers où la notion de valeur a peu de prise : « Un jardin, ce n’est pas quelque chose que l’on met au coffre et ça ne rapporte rien, même si du point de vue patrimonial, c’est toujours un plus ! ». Dans son Panthéon des plus beaux jardins du monde, il y a Ninfa, près de Rome - des rosiers qui courent à travers des ruines, la « quintessence du romantisme revue par un Anglais ». Et Amber dans le Rajasthan, un jardin qui se transforme en île au moment de la mousson. Louis Benech est capable d’entendre un jardin tousser ou lui dire qu’il est heureux . Si le petit Prince de Saint-Exupéry engageait un jardinier pour sa rose, ce pourrait être lui.
Design me a garden...
Louis Benech’s fans read like a Who’s Who of aristocrats and business leaders, all of whom sharing the same passion for poetic gardens. He recently won a competition to design a copse at the Château de Versailles. A book featuring some of his most beautiful gardens was just published*, with a preface penned by academic Erik Orsenna.
hether adorning a Moroccan riad or a Provençal house, his gardens are instantly recognisable - never "loud", they blend in seamlessly with their environment. However, this discrete designer also knows when to say no if asked to do something against nature. There is only one golden rule - create things that are easy to look after, because people, he explains, are not always born gardeners: "In France, little boys want to grow up to be mechanics. But as soon as it comes to getting down on your knees and doing some weeding, everyone
the garden - a place of balance standing the test of time
Dans la main de Louis Benech, des fleurs du rare Tecoma garocha. Ci-contre à droite, l’allée de gazon du « jardin des nuages » à Villandry. Louis Benech holding flowers from the rare tecoma garrocha. Opposite: the grass path through the «cloud garden» in villandry.
scarpers!" Perennial grasses are more his cup of tea nowadays - such as miscanthus, which looks like a delicate and stylish type of maize, because in addition to being graceful they are very low maintenance. Exotic plants have had their moment of glory and are going slightly out of fashion, due to the considerable renewed interest in natural vegetation. His favourite trees and plants include the "phillyrea latifolia", a French cousin of the olive tree which looks like an enormous broccoli, simply oozes charm and stands up well against the cold. He works out what people really want and sounds out the terrain on which he will be weaving his gardening magic, always pushing the boundaries but never going against the grain. In short, he seeks to strike the right balance. In his opinion, gardens are places of balance, in stark contrast to today’s world where everything is "right now". Strongholds built to stand the test of time: people in a hurry to see their gardens grow at the speed of light should refrain. Today’s world - a place where the notion of value has eroded. "A garden is not something that should be locked away like money to earn interest, although gardens are always an asset!" His hall of fame of the world’s most beautiful gardens includes Ninfa near Rome - with rosebushes snaking their way through the ruins, "the quintessence of romanticism through an Englishman’s eyes", and Amber in Rajasthan, a garden that is transformed into an island during the monsoon season. Louis Benech can listen to a garden and hear if it is poorly or happy. If Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince ever wanted to hire a gardener for his rose, it would be him.
"Douze jardins en France" by Eric Jansen, photos Éric Sander (éditions Gourcuf)
© Eric Sander
© Eric Sander