How To Create A French Country-Inspired Garden
Just north of the U.S. border in South Langley, British Columbia, is the spectacular 8.1-hectare farm owned by visionary gardener, Thomas Hobbs. Bell’Occhio (or beautiful eye), is influenced — “no, copied,” Tom corrects — by La Louve, the revered Bonnieux garden in Provence belonging to Nicole de Vésian, the late Hermès design director.
One half of Vancouver’s Southlands Nursery, which he runs with partner Brent Beattie, Tom has written two books, Shocking Beauty and The Jewel Box Garden, and his work has been featured in Martha Stewart Living magazine. Here, he shares a look at his French country-inspired garden in all its glory.
Taffy, Tom and Brent’s mixed breed rescue dog, wends her way up stone steps bordered by a large, silvery cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), peach David Austin ‘Carding Mill’ roses and the purply spikes of Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant.’
At the shady end of the man-made lake, spiky Acorus gramineus blends naturally into the landscape.
The raised beds are vegetable gardens. Tuteurs (tower-style garden accents) from Southlands Nursery add height and visual interest. The purple is lavender ‘Hidcote’ (left) layered with purple-flowered Nepeta, and catmint, beside it.
The shingled house is understated yet chic. “We used peach shale gravel everywhere, truckloads of it, and had it shipped in from Alberta because the gravel around here is a boring, dreary grey,” he says. “The peach is a warm Provençal color.”
Heavy, zinc containers from RH Restoration Hardware are a go-to. “I just love them! Isn’t it funny that I sell thousands of containers, but I like these best?” says Tom. “They’re filled with Fatsia japonica ‘Camouflage,’ which has a wonderful two-toned lime green foliage.”
Tom’s verdigris “dream greenhouse” is the 17th one built for him by BC Greenhouse Builders. It houses a selection of orchids. “They’re one of my passions,” he enthuses.
The house sign inside the greenhouse is an architectural fragment Tom bought online from an antiques auction in Texas. Tree ferns sprout in an antique English planter.
Tom and Brent pick up old-school brass nozzles at shops and sales; the collection lines a sill in the greenhouse.
Giant steel-strap rolling spheres from Detroit Garden Works are movable artworks that turn the lawn into a playful, surreal vista.
Tom lined the pool in glass tiles to give it an inky hue. Pre-existing cedars are a backdrop to all-white ‘Blushing Bride’ hydrangeas that edge the patio around the pool. Instead of olive trees, he opted for weeping silver-leafed pear in the planters.
“I was just obsessed from birth. I knew right away what I wanted to do,” says Tom of his gardening calling. He’s seen here with one of his beloved cymbidium orchids.