Great gardens come in many shapes and sizes, but they all share an awareness of space and form. A formal French Renaissance garden may have little in common with the secret, enclosed garden of a Moroccan villa, but both have a way of beckoning the beholder, bidding them to discover a new, almost mysterious world of sensory delights. In his atelier outside of Brion, just south of Poitiers, garden architect Bernard Joly creates magnificent steel structures that help bring shape and form to a garden and provide those special spaces. There are pergolas and pavilions, tunnels, trellises and aptly named gloriettes—all ready to be festooned with flowers and plants, or to stand proudly on their own, so handsome are they.

“What we produce structures the space of a garden and gives it rhythm and form,” explains Joly, a skilled metalworker who started his garden venture almost accidentally 20 years ago when a local antique dealer asked him to create some wrought ironwork for his garden. Once Joly completed that assignment, other orders began to flood in. Joly now works with a team of artisans hand-making his garden creations. Most of the structures are unique; others derive from classic designs that Joly has resurrected from his extensive collection of blueprints belonging to 18th- and 19th-century ironworks specializing in garden designs. Joly adapts and updates the historic designs, using special zinc-galvanized steel to insure longevity. “Beautiful gardens are long-term investments,” says Joly, “so we aim to make something that will be around to delight future generations.”

Pied Barraud, Brion, website

Originally published in the December 2010 issue of France Today