Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Jewel Box Garden

I recently picked up an old book, The Jewel Box Garden by Thomas Hobbs, from Timber Press.I remembered this book having lots of beautiful images, and I wasn’t disappointed, but this time through I particularly enjoyed the author’s snarky and opinionated take on gardening, for example…

“One of the mysteries of my life is repeated every day. I drive to and from work and cannot help but notice block after block of very average-income homes that appear hopelessly un-gardeny. It is almost a case of one-upmanship to be the most unplanted, least cared for but absolutely occupied. To me it is a drive through the Valley of Death. Expensive cars, new basketball hoops, satellite television receivers and white plastic patio furniture are everywhere. I ask myself, “What do these people care about anyway?” Occasionally I’ll spot a stranded tree peony, blooming it’s heart out stoned on ugly. Or a maypole-type clothes-line bedecked with absolutely fried plastic hanging baskets. The botanical equivalent of a car crash.

What I have surmised, with a little help from Joan Rivers, is that “God Divides!” Not everyone received the bel’occhio gene (Italian meaning ‘beautiful eye’). Those of us who did are the lucky ones. We take things like sunsets for granted and get excited over the first snowdrop. We save wrapping paper because it is so beautiful, not just to save money and reuse it (well, maybe). Being blessed with what amounts to an extra gene is like having a limitless credit card to go out and treat yourself to a wonderful life. Don’t let it expire.”

And about gardening with an eye to the future …

‘Realizing a space’s potential has nothing to do with its actual size. So those who find themselves gardening in less space shouldn’t feel short-changed. Envisioning what could be is actually easier when you’re working with physical limitations.

When I garden, I am really setting up for what I hope will be, not what is presently visible. Although my body is working, my mind is months or even years down the road. It has to be. If I stayed in the present, I would never like what I saw. Dreaming while you work is one of gardening’s big payoffs. I believe it must create chemical changes in the body. Stress levels disappear, voices become whispers and sore backs don’t appear until the next day. The reward is worth any amount of effort.”

I love that… “When I garden, I am really setting up for what I hope will be, not what is presently visible.”…so true.

The talented Mr. Hobbs owns Southlands Nursery in Vancouver BC, and lucky me, we will be making a trip up to Vancouver in the next couple of months…so I plan to check it out. Other stops will include the VanDusen Botanical GardenAnd the UBC Botanical Garden. If anyone has other recommendations of garden related places to visit in Vancouver I would love to hear about them. And after a particularly horrendous dinner experience in Chinatown last time we visited we’re not taking chances this time…if you’ve got a fav Chinatown restaurant we’d love to hear about it too!


  1. Hmm, I think the internet ate my comment unless you see it twice somehow.
    I'm envious of your trip, sounds like so much fun. Luckily you'll share photos I'm sure.
    I am so thankful I do appreciate the beauty of gardens. Yesterday someone asked why you would garden ornamentals, not just food, and she described those people who like "shrubs and flowers - so sad." Here I'm thinking, how sad she doesn't understand the world of loving plants for their beauty.

  2. I've read that book too! There's a lot of inspiration to be found in there, so be sure to take lots of great pics for us!

  3. I love that future vision Hobbs describes. If I had to be content with what I see in my garden now, I'd just stop in my tracks.
    No restaurant suggestions for Vancouver, but I have a snarky, Hobbs-spirited non-suggestion for a Victoria-area garden: I found the Butchart Gardens completely boring. There's a lot of it, and it's mostly uninteresting. They feature summer beds of blazing annual color, if you know what I mean. Don't bother, if you had any thought of it.

  4. That book looks great! I might have to pick it up, just to drool over the cover!

    If your in Vancouver check out Queen Elizabeth Park

    If you like Szechuan I'd go to Chong Qing Szechuan Restaurant on Commercial Dr.

    Have a fun trip up!

  5. Love it! I'll have to check that book out.

  6. I had to go scare up my copy to find that beautiful photo. Mine's the hard cover, so the photo is inside the book, and I didn't remember the quotes either! So thanks for giving this book back to me for summer reading. Looking forward to your trip report.

  7. Megan, the internet has been hungry lately so that is entirely possible. I felt a bit that way when I was filling out the paperwork for the Master Gardener training. Like I was going to be a second-class-student because I wasn't growing food.

    Rainforest (can I call you by your first name?), no worries...I will!

    Ben, I went there years ago with my parents. I don't remember being incredibly inspired, other than the setting which I thought was pretty cool.

    Laura, that park looks like a great place to visit, thank you! And the restaurant...I checked out their menu and I'm hungry right now!

    Dirty Girl, hope you enjoy it.

    Denise, isn't it great when you rediscover a book you already own!

  8. This is one of my favorite gardening books, and after thumbing through it for the first time, it made we want to go out and make some changes. It is still a source of inspiration with great photography.

  9. AnonymousJuly 05, 2010

    Lucky you!! I hope you have a wonderful time.

    If you don't mind, I have to take issue with some of Mr. Hobbs' comments. I don't think God divides right down the line. There are too many extenuating circumstances. The front yard might look moribund but the backyard, stunning. Or maybe the husband is in Iraq and the wife is working two jobs. You just never know about people. I don't like dividing humanity into the haves and have-nots.

    Secondly, I think one of the true joys of gardening is getting to a place where we enjoy the NOW. I think I'm finally arriving simply because my garden is so full, barring a major overhaul there isn't much planning or goal setting to do. I love being at this place. There is still plenty to do with deadheading and pruning, spreading compost, etc., but I don't have to undergo these things with some future goal in mind.

    I'm probably taking Mr. Hobbs' comments too seriously. I hope you'll take my comments with a grain of salt. Except for the lucky you part!

  10. Stop by the Sticky Wicket for the best fish n Chips and a draft beer!


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Comment moderation is on (because you know: spam), I will approve and post your comment as soon as possible!