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STYLE / GARDENS : United They Stand

January 23, 1994|ROBERT SMAUS

Flowers and picket fences enjoy a symbiotic relationship: While fences protect blossoms against bikes, tykes and wandering dogs, flowers make even the most forbidding barriers appear downright friendly.

When Kris and Jim Valentine began planting their San Fernando Valley front yard five years ago, they installed a prefab picket fence and garden designer Jack Wheeler of Woodland Hills put in full-blown flower beds behind it. Each year, the curved beds get a little bigger and the lawn a little smaller. Coreopsis peek out near the bottom of the slats; Dainty Bess, Kathleen and Don Juan roses are trained to grow over the top. Inside, along with towering foxgloves and other perennials, grow several white Iceberg and salmon First Kiss roses.

At first glance, Cathy and Joel Gabik of South Pasadena seem to have planted their perennials on the wrong side of the pickets. But Cathy Gabik says the fence serves as an ideal street-side backdrop: "Delphiniums and other tall flowers look great in front of it." Though their house is only 7 years old, it was designed to blend in with the vintage homes in their historic neighborhood--and the picket fence completed the picture. Says Gabik: "Isn't it every girl's dream to live in a cottage with a picket fence and flowers?"

Along a driveway in La Jolla, Del Mar designer Linda Chisari used an existing picket fence as a backdrop as well as a prop for tall plants that might lean into the neighboring yard. The fence enables Helen and Arthur Dawson--characterized by Chisari as "consummate gardeners who spend up to 90 hours a week in the garden"--to unify perennials of many different colors, including phlomis, verbena, lavender, salvia and alstroemeria. "The fence was begging for a perennial garden," Chisari says. Its sharp verticality also complements spiky flowers and contrasts with mounded foliage--more reasons this classic combination of picket fence and flowers has endured for centuries.

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