Combine eclectic elements to make an adventurous backyard

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Bob and Linda Shelby’s backyard doesn’t evoke one particular place so much as it does a celebration of adventure. It boldly combines elements such as Roman columns, Indonesian furniture, Asian lanterns, and a fire bowl from the Philippines. The plants are an eclectic mix too: Italian cypress, kangaroo paws from Australia, timber bamboo from Asia, tropical bananas, and angel’s trumpet ( Brugmansia) mingle with existing English walnut trees. “It’s an exuberant clash of cultures,” Bob says. “Noisy but wonderful.”

Though the Shelbys enjoy the garden’s theatrical quality, they also admire its practicality. Cast-concrete columns throughout, for instance, aren’t just for show. Short ones provide seating. Medium-size ones are the right height for setting down cocktail glasses or hors d’oeuvres, and tall columns are strong enough to support the heavy arbor.

The garden is ideal for entertaining. After dark, it’s even more magical. The heavily shellacked paper lanterns add a pretty amber glow, and strands of white Christmas lights stuffed into Chinese baskets add sparkle.

“It’s hard to remember you’re in San Jose in this garden,” says Bob. “You could be anywhere. Being in the garden feels like a journey.”

DESIGN: Cevan Forristt, Cevan Forristt Landscape Design, San Jose (408/297-8538)

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