N1. The Leonie Cornelius & L'OCCITANE Gardening Times

Award-winning Garden Designer, Leonie Cornelius shares her gardening tips inspired by Provence and Leonie’s favourite L’OCCITANE products.

Leonie Cornelius is an award winning garden designer, based in Sligo (Ireland), writer and founder of design company waė. Leonie’s work focuses on creating a strong connection between wild nature and each other through lasting and wildly beautiful designs and collaborations to make life more joyful every day.

All photos by: Colin Gillen

On this first edition, you will learn how to create a L’OCCITANE inspired blossom garden starting with an Almond Tree because…

The Almond Tree is your hero tree!
The Almond tree (Prunus dulcis) is one such tree, which can become a star of your blossom garden. This tree has a rich scent of nectar and an abundance of blossoms that will draw our insect friends into our gardens. It’s also this splendor in bloom which makes these trees so rewarding from a design perspective.

The real almond tree is the tree that is used in the amazing L’Occitane almond range and is native to Iran, but is widely cultivated in many other places-especially the Mediterranean.  It thrives in sunny locations and is somewhat frost tender so in cooler climates will need to be located in a sheltered spot with direct sun. Asides from this it’s an incredibly easy tree with a lovely shape and gorgeous lush foliage after the blossoms fall. With the right conditions, you may even get some delicious almonds to use in your cooking and beauty.

The precious Almond and it's beauty

While many of us don’t think twice when we pick up a bag of almonds or almond flour, these trees are treasure troves of goodness. The edible and medicinal harvested nuts are packed full of vitamin E and are highly antioxidant, making it a perfect choice both for eating as well as beauty products. Including almonds in your daily diet and beauty routine is said to have many benefits including anti-ageing properties due to its high Vitamin E content which helps to protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals- making the almond a perfect anti-ageing treatment.

It is no wonder so that the precious almond has made its way into many beauty products and the L’Occitane Almond range is packed full of gorgeous almonds grown indigenously in the south of France. One of the things I love the most about the Almond range is that the almonds which go into the L’Occitane almond range come from local producers in the South of France meaning that the almond tree, which had long been forgotten in the region for favour of Olives, is once again becoming a familiar element of the Provençal landscape. In this way of a product which was inspired by this rich natural landscape gives back to the wild landscape again. A wonderful organic cycle.

Leonie’s Almond Top Picks


"This is my all-time favourite shower oil. The scent is incredible and it makes your skin super soft."



"This new scrub has a really natural and soft scent. I love to mix it with the almond shower oil and use it for scrubbing my hands right now; they get so dry with the gloves and hand sanitizer and nothing rejuvenates like this."



"I have a really sensitive scalp and this shampoo and conditioner are a real find. Super gentle, amazing soft results and they smell absolutely divine! Like almond, apple blossom and fresh air."


Almond Ingredient

We are committed to sourcing almonds from local producers in the South of France so that the almond tree, which had long been neglected in favour of the olive tree, can again become a familiar element of the Provençal landscape.

Meet Leonie Cornelius

Welcome to the first of my L’Occitane Garden series where I explore how to bring a little happy design magic of the Provence into your gardens wherever you may be. Right now, with everything happening in our world I really think we all need beauty, green and a deeper connection to the wild more than ever and in this series I hope you will find some joy and inspiration for your own garden space and your beauty routine every day.

Follow Leonie on Instagram for more Home and Garden designs!


Create your own L’Occitane inspired blossom garden

"I bet you’re dreaming of scented blossoms now - I certainly am! If you love the ideas of designing a part of your garden around the idea of blossoming beauties like the almond - or even just including some decadent blooms for Spring - here’s some ideas for creating a Provençal L’Occitane inspired blossom garden right here." - Leonie Cornelius

A hero tree aims to be the stunning focal point of your scheme and can become a central visual feast for the eyes (and the table if you’re lucky). I love the idea of falling in love with a tree and allowing it to take center stage. A perfect choice would be the almond tree with its soft petals and honey scent and gorgeous velvety, leafy green. These trees also have a good autumn colour, which is a huge bonus later in the year.  If you have your hero tree sorted then everything else can follow. Colour, size, texture- the hero tree is the core of the concept.

TIP 2: Follow through on your blossom concept

Now that you’ve started with the idea of a blossom garden-, commit! Think romance in flower, frothiness and confetti blooms. If you want to add some additional trees to really embrace the blossom concept think about a variety of blossom shapes. Maybe add some trees with frothy star shapes such as the Magnolia stellata (see image). 

ALTERNATIVE: If you only have a small balcony to work with then a wonderful tree is the Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-Mai’ - a gorgeous little miniature tree which is ideal for the container (see image). 

TIP 3: Add some blossom shrubs

When it comes to flowers the May/June flowering Cornus kousa var. chinensis is super floriferous and has stunning autumn colour too while Philalelphus shrubs bring the most divine scent to the garden - like bubblegum jasmine! I adore the varieties ‘Viginal’ and the smaller ‘Snowbelle' which is ideal for planters and balconies. Smaller shrubs for blossom include the romantic Chaenomeles speciosa 'Moerloosei' and if it’s scent you’re after, the evergreen Choisya × dewitteana 'Aztec Pearl’ is a super choice as it smells like orange blossom!
One of my all-time favourites are the pop-pom flowers of the Hydrangea (see image). It doesn’t get much more romantic than this shade loving shrub and Hydrangea macrophylla 'Early Rosa’ and  Hydrangea macrophylla 'Blushing Bride' are two great choices. In sunnier areas the combination of frothy Stipa tenuissima grasses teamed with baby’s breath- Gypsophila 'Rosenschleier' and Achillea filipendulina 'Cloth of Gold’ picks up on the soft feel as well as adding little cheery L’Occitane yellow and looks almost like the gorgeous Immortelle, which goes into many of the gorgeous L’Occitane products.

TIP 4: Add some structure and texture

Now that we have an abundance of blooms the scheme will want to be pulled together with structure and texture. The addition of some evergreen accents under the trees and shrubs will be a good start. When it comes to sunnier areas creeping Rosemary (Rosmarinus prostatus) is hard to beat. This shrub truly works with everything and is perfectly Provençal in feel- my all-time favourite sun loving ground cover- and that scent!

For shade loving ground covering under the trees, how about adding some evergreen fern texture? Polystichum and Blechnum varieties are good starting points and for unusual red accents try Blechnum brasiliense ‘Volcano’. For a lush evergreen creeping groundcover Vinca minor f. alba 'Gertrude Jekyll’ is a wonderful choice and very easy to maintain and little accent areas of Epimedium grandiflorum 'Lilafee' echo the blossom feel of the trees in more shaded areas in the most delicate way.

The final touch here is my favourite grass for growing in shade and light sun- the Hakonechloa macra- a stunning arching soft grass, which grows in mounds and softens a scheme perfectly- pulling it all together in a rich, emerald green.

For smaller containers nothing beats lots of evergreen Saxifraga urbium-the tiny star like flowers are as frothy as they are delicate-top choice for balcony containers (see image). 

TIP 5: Don’t forget bulbs and vertical plants

To make the most of the blossom season think about adding masses of spring bulbs. I adore the soft scent and look of white hyacinths such as the Hyacinthus orientalis 'Carnegie' (see image) teamed with white crocus in early spring and daffodils such as the richly scented Narcissus 'Erlicheer', Narcissus 'Ice King' and Narcissus 'Bridal Crown' are all wonderfully ruffled and almost pom-pom in shape.
In vertical accents the climbing Trachelospermum jasminoides is always a good bet in sunny spots with its amazing scent and endless flowers and the Jasminum officinale is unbeatable for scent in a container on the warm balcony. The vigorous evergreen Clematis 'Apple Blossom’ is scented and a great choice beside a door or window and finally- nothing beats the Wisteria sinensis (see image) for decadent frothy lilac blooms.