The L’Occitane Garden was designed by James Basson, and built by Peter Dowle. The RHS judges awarded the L’Occitane Garden a Gold Medal, at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016.
Celebrating the 40th anniversary of beauty brand L’Occitane, garden designer James Basson, has looked back at the roots of L’Occitane, focussing on how and where the company was created. L’Occitane was started in 1976, in Haute Provence, when Oliver Baussan found an old steam distiller that had been discarded. Purchasing locally grown lavender and rosemary, Oliver Baussan used his newly acquired distiller to produce essential oils, which he then sold at the local markets.
Garden designer James Basson, lives in the south of France, he’s passionate about the local landscape and its history. In the L’Occitane Garden, James recreates the harsh beauty of Haute Provence, bringing 200 plants native to Haute Provence, to recreate a small part of the landscape and atmosphere of Haute Provence for visitors to The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016 to enjoy, transporting them to this area of France.
I caught up with garden designer James Basson at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016, to find out more about this year’s Show Garden for L’Occitane.
B: I wondered if you have a favourite area of the garden?
JB: My favourite area is probably that dead bit under the pine, because it’s the bravest bit of planting really, so that what’s I’m pleased about. And there’s probably about five different personalities that have planted it.
B: Really, you had five different planters for that area?
JB: Yes, so that makes it very restrained, but also extremely intensely calculated and worked out.
B: Last year you brought some plants, including some dried and dead plants, from your garden at home, have any of your plants this year come from your home garden?
JB: Yeah, the kids collected all the dried grass, and the leaves, and the snails. And there’s loads! The snails are called cacalaus – I don’t know how to spell that – it’s a Provençal word. These little white snails on the ground – see them?
B: Oh yes! I’ve not heard of these snails, so I don’t know how to spell cacalaus either!
JB: Here you go, take a picture – in my grubby mitt.
B: I love working hands, there’s nothing better! Do you have any plans for what’s happening to the garden afterwards?
JB: The stone is being reclaimed for re-use, as it’s reusable. The trees were being replanted in a garden, but we’re not sure it’s a good thing to do, we think they’ve just suffered too much to do what they’ve done, it’s a tough time of year to transplant them.
B: Do you have any planting combinations that you particularly enjoy.
JB: Well, I think that the plant combination is not visually interesting, it’s more the atmosphere of that area which I like. The plant combination is the Marrubium, which is this little pompom flower in the middle of the grass there. It was something that came a little bit green for me – normally it’d be a bit tougher – but in the dried grasses I thought it looked really spectacular and delicate and elegant, so I was really pleased with that.
B: The colours look perfect for the atmosphere you’ve created. I love the stonework and the curves of this enclosure, can you tell me about who built this area of your garden?
JB: The man who built that borrie has been a friend of mine for about 20 years, he’s a real artist. He is probably the youngest master I’ve ever met – he was born with the skill in his hands. He knows all the plants, he knows everything! He’s very modest, very humble, quite a brilliant man: Stefan Goron. He’s a real master, and being a Frenchman, potentially he might not have known about Chelsea, but he completely got the intense importance of every stone, so that was probably the best bit.
B: Do you have a favourite garden at The RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016 apart from yours?
JB: Yes, Cleve West’s. The first day they put the fence in I thought “Wow! That’s lovely. Trees – wow! That’s lovely! Rocks – wow! That’s lovely!” The whole thing was just extraordinary, beautiful, very elegant and lovely.
Other articles that may interest you………………..
To read about The Perfumer’s Garden in Grasse, that James Basson designed for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2015, please click here.
To find out about beautiful, important and historic gardens to visit in Surrey, Hampshire and West Sussex, please click here.