Need inspiration? Look no further. Author Thomas Hobbs is highly opinionated (as are most gardeners) and not afraid to tell you what he thinks. His main thrust is that gardeners should strive to create a garden like a “jewel box full of beautiful plant treasure.” This means that everything in your garden is intentional (those of us who sometimes like to wait and see what comes up need to clean up our acts). He recommends that you think of your garden as an exhibition space and see the whole picture from above. “Once you realize how valuable every square inch is, mediocrity becomes intolerable.”
“If you thrive on red and yellow combinations, you are reading the wrong book…red and yellow is artless and screams ‘Gas Station.'” I know what he means – what my mother used to call “a riot of color” – but it’s also true that in the hands of a master gardener, even this combination can look pretty good – here, for example.
Use perennials in containers. “Try combining a young New Zealand flax (a Phormium cultivar of your choice), a bronze Carex flagelliera and a dark-leaved dahlia such as ‘Bednall Beauty’ or ‘Ellen Houston.’ This is much more visually interesting than a green dracaena ‘spike’ (Cordyline australis), the last refuge of the truly desperate.” (emphasis mine)
This last comment prompted me to move my dracaena spike, which had been wintering indoors in a blue plastic pot (another no-no – you should only have GORGEOUS pots, and of course he is right), to a far spot in front of the fence, where it won’t trouble anyone. Instead of a spike, I planted this alocasia Amazonia ‘Polly,’ which I had admired at the Philadelphia Flower Show. I’m not sure it really works – the contrast in textures and colors is a bit off – but I’m living with it for now.
Hobbs is a big fan of succulents and advises feeding them once a month with liquid 20-20-20 fertilizer at a higher than recommended dose.
I also came away with a few plants to try. This ornamental oregano would be pretty trailing out of a pot in full sun. Diascia ‘Blackthorn Apricot’ is a South African species that does well in containers, again in full sun. In both cases you would need to plan ahead, since I’ve never seen them for sale locally, even at Merrifield.
The photographs are astounding. David McDonald is the artist in question. Just take a look here if you don’t have the book in hand.