"Saint Laurent was not a gardener in any sense of the word," Cox recalls for me, "but he had a very acute eye and appreciated gardens enormously." In 1979 he was still living on and off at the nearby Villa of the Snake, where Cox recalls hazy afternoons, reclining on kilim-style cushions beneath the shade of a big pistachio tree. A long reflecting pool was planted with waterlilies and papyrus and ringed with terra cotta pots, mostly containing red geraniums. One day, Cox, Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé went over to look at the nearby Villa Majorelle, for sale as the former home of the émigré French painter Jacques Majorelle who had died there in 1962. It was "in a state of romantic abandonment" except for "a few amorous local couples hidden within the tangled mass of vegetation". The bamboo's trunks were all dead and the cacti had grown like giants. Bergé and Saint Laurent soon bought it and transformed the design and planting. Saint Laurent saw the scope for painting the many flowerpots in bright shades of yellow, sky blue and the famous cobalt blue tinged with violet, which has become linked to his name. Majorelle had pioneered this colour, le bleu Majorelle, which he had observed during his travels through Morocco. Within Morocco, his paintings are now keenly sought at local auctions.
The former garden had been a respite from Saint Laurent's work in Paris and likewise the Majorelle garden soon became the scene of memorable parties. In it, Majorelle had kept geese in one of the ponds in order to assure that necessary life-support for aesthetic prewar Frenchmen, foie gras. Cox recalls a rather different contribution by the garden's pond life. Saint Laurent once hosted a big dinner in the garden, lit with hundreds of candle lights in metal containers, during which an orchestra was hired to play for the reclining guests, but the frogs in the garden's pools maintained such a chorus of Aristophanic croaking that the music had to swell impossibly in order to drown them out. In later life the garden indeed became an "asylum", Cox confirms, for Saint Laurent, now suffering from depression, in which "he could live in a world within a world". Even in his brightest interludes he could never have imagined at first that part of his frog-haunted garden would become a global magnet.