24 surprising plant combos

What happens when a plant biologist and a landscape artist team up to create a garden on a California hillside? Surprising plant combinations at every turn

Floral fireworks
Erin Kunkel

Floral fireworks

Landscape architect Jarrod Baumann practically skips down the steps of the sprawling hillside garden, pointing out a vibrant mix of flowers near the pool. “That’s our little nursery,” he says. The plants are extras, parked here until he dreams up a home for them elsewhere on the grounds. Baumann looks every bit the young artist—an apt comparison. “When you love plants as much as I do, you pull them out like paints, and paint the garden with them.”

Luckily, for this project he got to work with someone equally passionate. Carol Giannandrea, the property’s owner (with her husband, John), is a plant biologist with a weakness for cactus, succulents, and citrus. She hired Baumann four years ago to convert her country-style garden in Los Gatos, California, into a more modern landscape.

“I didn’t start with an overall design,” Baumann says, “but focused on one area at a time, so Carol could get to know my work.” Before long, the two were bouncing ideas off each other, Baumann scribbling his on paper napkins out in the garden. The result is a plant playground full of unexpected foliage and flower blends, garden art—and a little magic.

In the pool area, black mondo grass reaches out, spiderlike, from the base of a horsetail “fence.” Downslope from the house is a series of terraced gardens, each framed with embossed steel “wave walls.” “My crazy ideas come from everywhere—jewelry, plants, fashion,” Baumann says.

He even makes a nod to Giannandrea’s native Scotland: Along a roadside bank, a dry-stacked stone wall juts like a rocky coast into a sea of echeverias. It’s Baumann’s gift to the owners—and to anyone driving down the country road.

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