Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Jewel Box Garden, by Thomas Hobbs. Timber Press, 2004

‘The Jewel Box Garden’ is not your average gardening book. You’ll find no advice on composting or dealing with insects; this book is strictly about the aesthetics of gardening. Far more picture than text, it’s a book of inspiration, not instruction. The book is filled with vignettes of plants that are jewels on their own, and are supported by being used in combo with other plants and with planters, statues and other hardscaping. His theme is that you want to create beauty in the garden, and not copy what everyone else is doing. I can’t argue with that.

Hobbs lives, designs and gardens in Vancouver, B.C., so his palette of plants is much more extensive than what most of us have, and he’s pushed the it even further by using hot weather plants that he takes inside every winter. That’s more work than most of us want to do, but we can achieve the same effect with hardier plants. Hardy sedums and sempervivums can stand in for tender echevarias; there *are* hardy bamboos (and they are less apt to spread aggressively than the tropical varieties), hardy ferns, hardy variegated plants and hardy plants with dark, almost black foliage.

The photos are beautiful, but the text may be off-putting to some readers. Hobbs is snarky about the people whose gardens he doesn’t like, and if you have that sort of garden you’re apt to be insulted. Ignore those bits, though, and allow yourself to get caught up in his enthusiasm for what he’s doing.

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