Vibrant garden retreat

Bring a lively spirit to your yard with bold lines and vivid colors

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  • Landscape designer David Feix (in blue) and homeowner Mario Trejo on the front steps

    Garden retreat with a punch

    Thomas J. Story

    Click to Enlarge

Colorful plants

To keep the garden looking good year-round, Feix relied on plants whose flowers and foliage harmonize with the paint hues. He chose largely subtropical plants with distinctive forms, textures, and colors ― including Colocasia, Delostoma roseum, Heliconia, and Tibouchina organensis. Big, bold leaves in bronze, blue, and a sea of greens play off finer feathery ones; bursts of blooms in golds, reds, and other colors occur throughout the year. "We've got a lot of things that bloom late in the year," Feix says of plants like Brugmansia 'Charles Grimaldi', Justicia brandegeeana, and kangaroo paw. "When most other gardens are going into their resting state, this one's just getting started."

Backyard retreat

With tall fences, a lush water garden, and low walls to sit on, Trejo's backyard feels worlds away from the urban scene beyond the property's boundaries. It's the perfect place to unwind at day's end ― and that's exactly the way he wanted it.

Trejo considers his garden a spiritual place where he can decompress and recharge; he meditates each morning and evening on a seat wall by the pond. "It fills me," he says. "I was looking for peace and harmony, and that's what this is."

Lessons from this garden

Stick to a single color palette for house and garden. Doing so sets a distinct mood, unifies the spaces, and maintains a consistent feel throughout the landscape.

Cluster containers carefully. In Trejo's garden, several prominent container groupings serve as accents. Feix chose pots that combine well for shape, size, or color, and filled them with the same types of plants as in the beds. "The pots look like their own garden area," Feix says. "I see them as a finishing touch."

Plant in groups or drifts. Hundreds of plant varieties fill Trejo's 1,500-square-foot backyard. To keep the design from looking spotty like confetti, Feix massed groups of a particular plant or type of plant in sweeps and drifts to give them a more substantial presence.

Info: David Feix Landscape Design, Berkeley (510/472-2702); Trejo's Design, Albany, CA (510/ 418-0823).

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