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STYLE : GARDENS : Planting Ahead

September 29, 1991|ROBERT SMAUS

Flowers don't count for much in the personal gardens of many landscape architects, who often are more concerned with design. But Robert M. Fletcher liked flowers long before he began his career, and his Pacific Palisades garden is full of them.

He starts planting in fall, right about now, and in spring his garden explodes with orange and yellow flowers--not the pink and blue blooms he plants for many of his clients. "Orange is my favorite color," Fletcher explains. Though there are yellow daffodils and pansies, and orange wallflowers, various poppies predominate: Iceland poppies, California poppies, alpine poppies and perennial poppies, plus a few without so much as a common name. Because they do most of their growing during cooler months, the poppies need less care and watering than spring-planted flowers. A few well-chosen blues and purples--Canterbury bells, Dutch irises, nicotiana, petunias and violas--round out the garden.

In summer, Fletcher lets the garden go--"I take the summer off," he says--and enjoys tough perennials and small shrubs that need little attention even during the dry time of the year. Most are permanent fixtures such as lavender, cushion bush, curry plant and ornamental grasses grown for their striking foliage.

The garden is kept private by a clever combination of trees, shrubs and vines that make a dense but very narrow and visually exciting barrier. This "roller coaster hedge," as Fletcher calls it, is only 3 feet wide and features an undulating upright rosemary (often sold as 'Tuscan Blue') and the columnar evergreen \o7 Podocarpus gracilior. \f7 Climbing the podocarpus are two orange-flowered vines, 'Orange King' bougainvillea and \o7 Tecomaria capensis\f7 . And standing out from the green foliage are the smooth, white trunks of lemon-scented gums \o7 (Eucalyptus citriodora\f7 ).

Not all of the interest in this garden comes from the plants, however. Fletcher is a collector of unusual garden ornaments, so this garden would be eye-catching even if nothing bloomed. But with a little work each fall, it turns bright yellow and orange each spring, bright enough perhaps to put these two colors back on his clients' garden palette.

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