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
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.
Contrast shapes. Pair mounding and spiky plants, such as catmint with phormiums, then tuck in plants with fine leaves to add texture.
Expand your palette. “Because there’s so much green in the natural landscape, I add foliage for contrast—blue, burgundy, orange, and chartreuse,” Baumann says. To lighten shaded areas, use plants with variegated leaves.
Make your own art. To build his wave walls, which hide existing concrete retaining walls, Baumann sketched the waves on sheets of plywood, then took the numbered panels to a metal fabricator.