Jan Coleman's San Jose backyard has had two lives. Beginning about 30 years ago, when the surrounding trees were small and the garden was sunny, Coleman used a deck in this corner of the yard for sunbathing and entertaining friends. But as time passed, the trees grew and blocked the light. Two years ago, with help from garden designer Sally Edwards, Coleman tore out the deck and reclaimed the 10- by 15-foot plot for a shady retreat bordered with flowers.
First, Coleman enriched the existing soil with 6 cubic yards of planting mix. Next, to create a casual country look, she interspersed three large fieldstones in the bed, then planted flowering perennials such as astilbe, columbine, delphinium, and hellebore among them. Abutilon, acanthus, and nandina provide a backdrop, and double impatiens and coleus add seasonal color.
An existing brown fence seemed too drab for her new garden, so Coleman painted it a vivid shade of lavender-pink. "I thought I had made a big mistake," she says. "But now I love the green foliage against the pink fence."
DESIGN: Sally Edwards Garden Consultation & Design, San Jose (408/283-0286)