Thursday, May 31, 2012

My Top Ten List... Books 7 and 8

I have to admit that I’d never heard of Thomas Hobbs… florist, garden designer, television host and now plant breeder… until I discovered his second book: The Jewel Box Garden in a specialty bookshop.  The Jewel Box Garden led me to his first book, Shocking Beauty, which led me to his website.
Thomas’ books read like conversations with a good friend… a little disjointed, a little bitchy, very personal and totally honest.  They encourage us to draw inspiration from the grandest and most fantastical of gardens, stage theatrical scenes (with plants, of course) and only plant what we absolutely love.  As Thomas suggests “Non-contributors are a waste of money and space.”  Why spend energy caring for a ho-hum plant just because it’s what you think you “should” be growing?  Branch out (pun intended)!  Your garden should reflect your personality.
Thomas started breeding his own Daylilies to capture all his favorite elements of the plant.
His first introduction 'Connie Casserole'
is an unusual warm and citrusy color with ruffly, crimped petals.
I’m not sure if Thomas and I share a lot of personal traits, but I certainly appreciate his preferences in the garden, including
the idea of haziness;
  • Thomas uses ornamental grasses and more ethereal plants to create a fuzziness throughout the garden.
  • Sunlight and dew heighten the romance of the haze.
visual tension;
  • Thomas often accomplishes tension with dramatic foliage in electric colors, colors that seem slightly “off” or just on the edge of another… lime-yellow, almost-purple red, misty blue-gray… or with sharp variegation.
Naturally-occuring technicolor!
This Barberry and Spirea both contrast and complement one another.
The emerging Spirea blossoms mirror the rosy tones of the Barberry foliage.
'Coral Drift' Rose in the foreground with 'Spilled Wine' Weigela
and a bright chartreuse Thuja.
portable gardens;
  • Thomas was a florist before he moved into garden design, and both his containers and the way he clusters them are stunning.
  • I’m beginning to use more pots and planters out in my garden.  It’s a great way to add small shrubs to some of the more established areas.
  • Plus I like that containers bring shorter shrubs closer to eye level.
and tightly planted beds and pots.
  • Thomas belongs to the “no bare ground” school of gardening, which is beautiful, but can make for very high maintenance.
A small, weeping Loropetalum, pinky, variegated Barberry
and bronzy Physocarpus blend together in a blur of burgundy and red!
Well, no guts, no glory!

Thomas is up in Vancouver, and the mild climate allows him to grow so many interesting plants.  He especially likes varieties of Coleus, Canna, ornamental grasses, Sedum, Sempervivum and Echeveria that are barely hardy in the Pacific Northwest and would never survive our erratic winters in Central Virginia.
It also means I probably won’t have a chance to visit his Southlands Nursery any time soon.  But Shocking Beauty and The Jewel Box Garden continue to inspire me to push limits in my own garden.

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