University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Perennial Publications : Book of the Month

Shocking Beauty. Thomas Hobbs. Periplus, 1999. 152pp, hardcover.

How does one stay on top of what's new in plants, and on the cutting edge of garden design? Reading books such as this one certainly help. The focus is on plants--new ones, new and bold and "shocking" combinations, and new or unusual settings or uses for them. The many beautiful color photographs illustrate this "out-of-the-box" thinking about plants, especially perennials.

Garden "whimsy" is popular now, and it gets treatment as well. In fact of the several books now out on this subject, this one seems to treat it best-- bold and humorous examples, not too mundane, yet not too avant garde or exotic-- just whimsy one could usually do at home. Often this is something out of place where it is not expected-- a necklace floating in a pond, unusual iron work hidden around a corner, old agricultural implements half buried among grasses, wooden chickens in the garden with pots of sempervivums (hens-and-chicks) nearby.

Zonal denial is the title of the chapter on what most of us gardeners do-- try and grow plants in our area that aren't or shouldn't be hardy. Often this means bringing them in in winter, yet incorporating such as tropicals in the garden during summer--again, the unexpected. High tension deals with shocking color contrasts among flowers or between them and painted objects; portable drama deals with container gardening with many novel aspects for ideas. And take Lenten Rose or Hellebores, with their flowers usually hanging down. Why not pick some and place them upright in a dish of water ,or even lon the lawn, so they can really be seen and appreciated? These are a few samples of the chapters and how topics are covered.

The author is from Vancouver, with a nursery and private garden often featured in leading magazines. Known for his garden and floral design, he often speaks to groups and hrough the media. Although west-coast based, and most of the photos coming from this region, the principles and plants still apply and can be used in most areas. It's a great book for creative garden inspiration.

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