He puts a great deal of thought into the colour scheme; finding exactly the right shade for plants is key. “If they’re wrong,” he says, “I just pull them out in full bloom; otherwise they wreck the whole design.” Favourite plants include flowering maples (Abutilon spp.), diascias, bearded irises and ginger lilies (Hedychium spp.), as well as peach-toned daylilies he’s hybridized himself. Apart from a framework of rich foliage, Thomas relies on acid-green flowers as effective foils for his orange-toned palette, from the towering blooms of Euphorbia characias to the massed, fragrant flowers of tobacco plant (Nicotiana langsdorffii).
Set among the gardens are paths, terraces, an ornamental pool and a hot tub, all featuring Brent’s exquisite slate tile designs. The grey, blue, green and lavender slate, in turn, forms the perfect colour backdrop for the crux of Thomas’s garden design—his signature containers of succulents, often accessorized with chunks of slag glass, seashells or coral. In The Jewel Box Garden, Thomas calls succulents “the epicentre of a new botanical quake of creativity.” He writes about creating “echeveria pizzas” in low terracotta dishes and saucers, incorporating colourful cultivars of this tender Mexican succulent, some with the typical blue-grey rosette form of Echeveria glauca, others with frilly or blistered leaves in rose or black.
Though hardy perennials are left in their pots year-round, he and Brent move tender succulents into a greenhouse for winter. “I like to mix hardy succulents like hens and chicks (Sempervivum) and stonecrop (Sedum) with tender ones such as echeveria, haworthia, kalanchoe and aeonium so my pots aren’t empty all winter,” says Thomas. Most are common, easy-to-find varieties (including some he discovers languishing in big-box stores), but “you have to have a few jewels that you lug in for the winter, coddle and use again year after year.” (See the next page for Thomas’s favourites.)
When asked to describe his design philosophy, Thomas answers simply: “Put beauty everywhere.” From the succulent treasures in elegant clay pots to the textural grasses, New Zealand flax (Phormium spp.) and cannas framing the view of the city’s skyline, the gardens at Casa Triangulo are merely the philosopher’s proof.