Saturday, August 27, 2016

Tom's place

Southlands Nursery's Thomas Hobbs likes to combine unusual objects. Here, a classical statue overlooks a table of fresh new pansies ready for fall planting.
Hobbs plays with putting together unusual colours and textures. Coleus and mini pots of grasses are an interesting contrast.

The local media sometimes describe Thomas Hobbs as an "internationally renowned florist," thanks to his appearances in Martha Stewart Living and magazines like House Beautiful and Better Homes and Gardens. 

But to me, he's the boss at Southlands Nursery, the place I'm most likely to go when I need plants. It's a pleasant 30-minute walk from my house, in a country-like setting traditionally devoted to horses and stables (mansions are taking over). But I have to be careful not to buy much when I'm on foot -- it's uphill all the way home.

When John and I drove into Southlands on Friday to buy some boxwood bushes, the first thing I saw was the internationally renowned florist himself, shirtless in the blazing heat, aiming a hose at some plants. Hobbs interacts with customers just like his staff, although I've noticed his advice sometimes comes with a certain hauteur.

But his nursery, and the artistic sensibility that created it, are amazing. His two books, Shocking Beauty and The Jewel Box Garden, illustrate what he's all about -- playing with unusual combinations of colours, shapes, sizes and textures to stop the eye and shake up the ordinary. Lime, plum and hot pink? Why not?

He often combines plants with antique-looking objects or classical statuary, but sometimes it's something modern -- intensely coloured glass ornaments or paper lanterns perhaps. He creates little settings all over the nursery -- a bench with statues on either side, surrounded by plants, for example, or an old-fashioned clock above grey shelves of cacti. Nothing is static. One year a section of the nursery was devoted to oriental poppies of unusual hues; the next year it was day lilies; now it's statues of cows and dogs.

The nursery is open year-round, although the outdoor displays are smaller in the winter. But the indoors is always full of plants and always beautiful. When it's cold outside and the orchids are blooming among the statues in the moist warm air, it's like having a tropical retreat just half an hour from my house.

Statues, pots, palms and orchids. Notice the similar colours of the different objects. 

More of the orchid display. The nursery building  feels like a tropical retreat in the winter. 

Classical shapes and statues combined with greenery are a Hobbs specialty.

Shelves of cacti with an old-fashioned clock.

I've never seen cows here before, but they look comfortable amid the grasses. 

Two dogs guard something classical looking. I hope it isn't the gravestone of a beloved owner. 

A little outdoor scene -- an ornate bench with a statue, an urn, a plum coloured bush and a white hydrangea. 

One of the tables of colourful plants for sale -- these are coneflowers.

What a lush combination of  plum and pink colours in this display! Notice the orange plant pots.

Tall thin grass heads contrast with the low-growing flowers below.

Another outdoor table of colour.

Lime green and dark leaves create an interesting contrast in this display.

I don't know what this little tree is, but it looked amazingly healthy and beautiful in a room of ornaments.

Hobbs doesn't restrict himself to the antique and traditional; here is a pot of brightly coloured glass objects that livens up a section of the nursery. 

Here, paper lanterns reflect the colours of some of the plants and merchandise below.

And, your first view of the nursery when you drive in. The classical urn amid a variety of shapes and colours is a hint of what to expect. 


  1. I will have to give this place a the whimsical aspect!

  2. Yes, I thought of you when I was there. I think an artist like you would really enjoy it.