Design an exotic backyard

A passionate collector transforms her outdoor space into a gallery of worldly treasures. Use her tips to create your own global statement

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Kuemmerle finds creative outlets as her landscape evolves. "My garden inspires me when things happen that I wasn't expecting," she says. Last year, for instance, a prominent 5-foot-tall shrub froze and dropped its leaves to reveal a striking branch structure. Instead of pulling it out right away, she celebrated the beauty of its form by gluing on aqua glitter and treating it as a temporary art installation. Now the shrub's seedlings are popping up. "A garden is a living work of art," Kuemmerle says ― the best kind of art there is.


Armed with a degree in fine art from California College of the Arts, landscape designer Vanessa Kuemmerle founded Vee Horticulture 11 years ago. She thinks of her work as designing with a "living palette." Two secrets to her style:

Don't be a plant snob Kuemmerle shops everywhere for plants and accessories, including Longs Drugs and the Home Depot, as well as San Francisco Bay Area botanical gardens and specialty stores. Her favorite go-to place for plant inspiration, pots, sculptures, and more is the Dry Garden in Oakland (510/547-3564). For a good selection of containers, she likes Pottery & Beyond in Emeryville; 510/428-1881. For recycled furniture and accessories, she visits Berkeley's Ohmega Salvage; 510/204-0767, and Urban Ore; 510/841-7283.

Play with scale Use big-leafed plants up front with small-leafed ones in back. And layer the plantings to emphasize a bed's depth rather than its boundaries. "Densely layered plants give my garden an Alice in Wonderland feel ― everything is jumbo," Kuemmerle says.

INFO: Vanessa Kuemmerle, Vee Horticulture; 510/653-7667, Berkeley.



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