How it all began


Eric Ossart was born in Beauvais France, in 1960, and lived in Morocco until age 18. In 1981 he qualified as a horticultural engineer with the Institut de Genech (Lille, France) then in 1985 obtained his higher national diploma from the Ecole Nationale Supérieure du Paysage de Versailles (ENSP, national school of landscape architecture).

Arnaud Maurières was born in Montauban and lived in the Paris region until age 17. Passionate about plants and orchids in particular, he worked as a student for French orchid specialists, Etablissements Marcelet Lecoufle (Boissy-Saint-Léger) the while pursuing his studies at Toulouse University. In 1983 he was the French winner of the Philips Young Scientist of the year award. A year later he won the Philips international contest for his research on the in-vitro propagation of wild Mediterranean orchids. Also in 1983, he founded the Conservatoire Botanique du Couserans (Ariège, France) dedicated to the research and conservation of the wild flowers of the Pyrenees.

In 1986 Eric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières together founded the Domaine Horticole de la Bellongue, in Ariège: a centre specialising in the cultivation of rare plants (aquatic plants, botanical begonias and Canary Island flora). Three years later they sold their plant collections and moved to Paris to set up their landscape and events agency.


Arnaud Maurières, winner of the 16th international Philips competition for young scientists and inventors, receives his award from Prof. Dr. V. Belevitch. Eindhoven, The Netherlands.


Second edition of the mail order catalogue of the Domaine Horticole de la Bellongue (Ariège). Featured on the cover are flowering begonias from a collection comprising some 200 species and cultivars.


Ossart & Maurières’ first publication: a special edition of the French magazine Vivre au Jardin featuring water gardens and aquatic plants, which were another particular strength of Domaine Horticole de la Bellongue.

The Blois years


In 1989, Ossart and Maurière joined French Minister of Culture Jack Lang’s team as members of the Architecture and Urban Planning workshop set up in the French city of Blois by Patrick Bouchain. This gave them the opportunity to develop an entirely new approach to urban flower gardens, including a modern take on the classic rose garden. Well-behaved ornamentals left over from the 19th century were replaced by mixed plantings of flowers, grasses and vegetables that broke up the monotony of urban flowerbeds. The city became home to an exuberant display of plants that changed with the seasons, their colours, textures and shapes creating a constantly shifting pattern of greenery. In 1997 Ossart & Maurières described their new approach in Jardins Nomades, Tapis de Fleurs, a work that is now a reference for the creation of urban flower gardens throughout mainland France.


The Médicis roundabout vegetable garden in Blois. Located in the heart of a sensitive area, this was the first in a series of urban flower gardening projects that within just a few years transformed the city of Bois and served as a model for towns and cities throughout France.


Pages Paysages landscape magazine publishes a feature article on Ossart & Maurières’ first community gardening project: the Roseraie de l’Evêché in Blois (Blois), a blend of classic and modern roses that combine to create a garden filled with colour and fragrance.


Within eleven years, the Blois pilot project had been widely emulated and the results extensively published. French company Royalfleur was one of the many seed suppliers who sought advice from Ossart & Maurières on new varieties to include in their seed catalogues.

Chaumont-sur-Loire International Garden festival


In 1993 Jean Paul Pigeat’s newly founded Chaumont-sur-Loire International Garden Festival appointed Eric Ossart as its landscape artist. For the next five years, he and Maurières applied their new principles of flower gardening to private gardens featured in the Festival. Examples include: Jardin de Paradis (“garden of paradise” designed with Algerian artist Rachid Koraïchi and Syrian-American poetess Etel Adnan), Théâtre de Graminées (“theatre of grasses” designed with American theatre director Robert Wilson); and Jardin de Gabion (a garden based on a concept borrowed from civil engineering).


Robert Wilson and Eric Ossart, pictured in the grassland garden they created for the third International Chaumont-sur-Loire Garden Festival.


The Manuel des Jardins de Chaumont (Chaumont Garden Manual): co-written by Jean-Paul Pigeat and Eric Ossart following four years of experimental works.


Original drawing by Rachid Koraïchi that served as the basis for the Jardin de Paradis garden jointly created by Ossart & Maurières and Etel Adnan for the sixth garden festival.

A school, plant festivals and projects centred on the Mediterranean …


In the years 1993-1996, following his meeting with Brazilian landscape architect, Roberto Burle Marx, Arnaud Maurières founded and served as Director of the Ecole Méditerranéenne des Jardins et du Paysage (Mediterranean landscape and garden school in Grasse, on the French Riviera). In 1997 he was appointed marketing and sales director of Groupe Delbard, a position he held until 2000 when he took over artistic direction of the Art du Jardin flower show in Paris, working under the aegis of the show’s creator, Aude de Thuin, who remained at the helm until 2003. He and Maurières meanwhile acted in an advisory capacity to a variety of urban planning committees. They also designed privately owned gardens throughout the Mediterranean region, in Tunisia, Egypt, the Lebanon and Syria. The year 2000 was marked by the release of their book Jardiniers de Paradis, which was published by Editions du Chêne in several languages. Eight years later, the book’s modern take on the traditional Mediterranean “paradise” garden served as inspiration for Frédéric Wilner’s film, Jardin d’Eden (France 3, Des Racines et des Ailes documentary series).


Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, pictured here with Arnaud Maurières in the Jardin des Colombières, Menton, Côte d’Azur, where he stayed for a week as the guest of Jacques Leehnardt and Arnaud Maurières – a visit that paved the way for the foundation of the Grasse school.


The curriculum of the Ecole Méditerranéenne des Jardins et du Paysage sought to reconcile the practical side of horticulture with the rather more creative process of landscaping.


The rose garden specially created for the Franco-Syrian pavilion won first prize at the Damascus International Flower Show (Syria) and marked the conclusion of the landscapers’ advisory work for the Damascus Governorate that sought to reinvent the old city centre.


In 1996 the Chaumont Festival inspired Ossart & Maurières to create the Jardin des Paradis, an experimental garden in Cordes-sur-Ciel (Tarn department) that led to a series of commissions to create other thematic gardens. Four years later their design for the Mission 2000 public works programme, directed by Jean-Jacques Aillagon, won first prize in the competition to create a modern take on the medieval garden in the heart of Paris. Set in the city’s ancient Square de Cluny amid Haussmann-style buildings, the garden of the National Museum of the Middle Ages is a resolutely modern interpretation of the mille-fleurs tapestry designs that embellished medieval poems and romances.

It is now one of the capital’s most visited gardens and was created entirely from scratch, as recorded in Sylvaine Dampierre’s film Le Jardin de la Licorne (“the garden of the unicorn”) – a documentary made for Paris’ Forum des Images video library, retracing the garden’s genesis from start to finish. Other Ossart & Maurières gardens soon followed, among them the rose garden in the Parc Floral de la Source (Orléans, Loiret department); the Jardin de l’Alchimiste (Eygalières-en-Provence, Bouches-du-Rhône department); the Jardin de la Noria (Saint-Quentin la Poterie, Gard department); and the Verger de Déduit (Anglards-de-Salers, Cantal department).


The Jardin des Paradis, located in an unspoilt natural area in the heart of the medieval city of Cordes-sur-Ciel (Tarn), features themed arrangements of flowers and vegetable plots that change from one year to the next.


The garden of the National Museum of the Middle Ages, officially opened to the public on 12 September 2000, following 12 months’ preliminary studies and a further year of works. Pictured here is the Grand Opening Invitation.


Exhibition of concrete sculptures in the Jardin de la Noria, Saint-Quentin-la-Poterie (Gard department): Ossart & Maurières’ contemporary take on the Généralife Gardens in Granada, featuring garden structures made exclusively of ochre-coloured concrete.

The Moroccan experience


In 2003, Ossart & Maurières moved to Taroudant in southern Morocco. Over the next ten years they designed projects combining the construction of rammed earth houses with the creation of dry-climate gardens capable of withstanding extreme weather. They began by restoring houses and landscaping patios in the medina, then launched into the building of rammed earth houses outside the city walls. For their first client, the former empress of Iran Farah Pahlavi, they designed a pavilioned garden inspired by the famous Fin Garden in Kashan, Iran. The following year, they were commissioned by Chilean painter Claudio Bravo to landscape the vast patio spaces of his newly acquired property at the foot of the Atlas Mountains.


Ossart and Maurières with HM Farah Pahlavi on a visit to Dar al Hossoun, just a few hundred metres from the property they designed for the empress in Ouled Bounouna.


Dar al Hossoun makes the front page of The World of Interiors. Now a garden lodge, the property’s innovative combination of minimalist, rammed earth architecture and exuberant dry gardens attracts garden lovers from all over the world.


Photo of the filming of Chasseurs de Graines pour Jardins Fous: Sarah Amrouni’s thoughtful and sensitive documentary that follows Eric and Arnaud’s quest to find new plants for their gardens and the people they meet along the way.

In 2005, Ossart & Maurières designed a place of their own:  Dar al Hossoun, a modern, minimalist house that became the model for their many other design projects – some 15 in all over the course of 12 years. The earth used for the construction of the buildings and surrounding walls was sourced directly from the building site, leaving pits that were transformed into water pools and sunken gardens, as at Dar al Hossoun, with its own unique microclimate. In 2014 Sarah Amrouni made a film about Ossart & Maurières’ new gardens for TF1 and Ushuaia TV. Called Chasseurs de Graines pour Jardins Fous (“hunting for seeds for crazy gardens”) it follows Eric and Arnaud on their quest to gather seeds for their new plantings from the driest places on earth.


In 2008 Eric and Arnaud’s hunt for new plants took them to the arid zones of Mexico. So began a love affair with Mexico that led them to acquire a stretch of wilderness in Los Garambullos near the town of San-Miguel-de-Allende. Perched at nearly 2000 metres on the Mexican Altiplano, Los Garambullos lies in a protected area largely untouched by humans. For Ossart & Maurières it was the ideal location for their first Mexican design project: a stone house built of readily available materials, set in a low-water garden that takes its cue from their other gardening innovations. The result is a house that blends perfectly with its environment, not least thanks to the exuberant, seemingly planted-by-nature garden that surrounds it. The rationale was to select plants that are adapted to their environment, so creating a garden that can survive long periods of drought with little or no extra water. The same principle can be applied to gardens everywhere, breaking with English conventions for the sake of a more responsible but less demanding aesthetic approach that combines the pleasures of gardening with the discovery of new plants and new ideas. Guidelines on the implementation of that approach are given in Ossart & Maurières book, Eloge de l’Aridité (“in praise of arid lands”) published in 2016.


Fashion shoot at Los Garambullos for Mexico’s leading fashion magazine Revista 192. The property soon became an iconic symbol of modern-day Mexico and is now a popular film and photo shoot location.


A few months before the publication of Eloge de l’Aridité, the French daily newspaper Libération devoted a double-page spread to Ossart & Maurières’ arid garden designs and the challenges facing gardeners who undertake to reconcile garden aesthetics with local ecology.


Eric and Arnaud’s own garden on the shores of Lake Chapala, Mexico. Said by National Geographic to have some of the best weather in the world, Lake Chapala was the ideal site for a contemporary botanical garden inspired by the works of Brazilian landscape architect Burle Marx and his Sri Lankan counterpart Geoffrey Bawa.

Travels further afield


Since 2011 Eric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières have divided their time between Europe, North Africa, Mexico and other countries where they are commissioned to create gardens and houses in harmony with the environment. By no means confined to arid lands, their exemplary designs extend across the globe – to Portugal, Florida and other places where the soil, vegetation and climate demand a site-specific solution. Ossart and Maurières are always happy to share their passion with other garden lovers, and have participated in symposiums and exhibitions in the USA, Australia, England and Japan. Their latest book, Tout est Jardin, presents all of their works to-date, and was published in March 2017 by Les Editions Ulmer to coincide with the mounting of a photo fresco of their gardens at the Laurent Le Bon JARDIN Exhibition at the Grand Palais, Paris.


As featured in Paris Match magazine: a “bouquet of landscape architects sowing the seeds of French style throughout the world: Erik Borja, Pascal Cribier, Louis Benech, Patrick Blanc, Jean Mus, Eric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières.”


Ossart & Maurières’ Moroccan garden was specially created for the Gardening World Cup near Nagasaki (Japan) and won them a silver medal. The ceramics are part of a collection they designed for their houses and gardens in Morocco and are available in Europe from Belgian architect and designer Agnès Emery.


A day spent with friends enjoying the garden of the Villa Oasis in Marrakech. Surrounding Pierre Bergé are designer Constance Guiset, the garden’s designer Madison Cox, Laurent Le Bon, president of the Picasso Museum, Jack and Monique Lang, Björn Dalstrom, director of the Majorelle Museums, and Yves Saint Laurent.


Ossart & Maurières have designed more than one hundred gardens in France, Spain, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Mexico and Japan. Their works have featured in virtually all of the leading international journals and magazines.