Not Pic of the Day 6-17-08. All is vanity...

Talk about hostas, hostas, and more hostas! Companion plant topics should be posted in the Shade Garden forum.

Moderators: ViolaAnn, Chris_W, redcrx

Not Pic of the Day 6-17-08. All is vanity...

Postby jgh » Jun 17, 2008 10:43 am

'Harry van de Laar'

There is a fascinating piece of graphic art entitled "All is Vanity."


This is the work of a graphic artist named Charles Gilbert. As you can see, it is an optical illusion combined with a play on words. The woman sits at a piece of furniture known as a vanity, acting in vanity, while death watches from a chair.

Gilbert studied in New York and Paris and was quite famous in his own day. There is some irony in the fact that he was most famous for, and is now known almost exclusively for, this picture he created when he was only 18 years old. One could argue that the rest of his life was anticlimactic after creating his masterwork at 18. All is vanity, indeed!

But the phrase is far older than that.

"Vanity of vanities," says the Preacher, "Vanity of vanities! All is vanity."

The first part of the Book of Ecclesiastes can be translated as a depressing statement about the ultimate meaninglessness of life - or, more optimistically, as a statement about how transitory all our efforts are combined with an encouragement to keep our eyes on what is really valuable and important.

Gardening has helped me to be comfortable with both versions.

As an existentialist, I believe that life has no essential meaning other than the meaning I give it. I certainly know that at some point, in not that many years, my garden... the focus of so much of my time, effort, and life... will be bulldozed. The garden has no essential value. Only vanity could get me to haul all that horse manure!

But life has also taught me that it is not the destination, but the journey that counts. The garden has no essential value... but gardening does!

So I show off my gardens... and I take pride in them... and I know deep down that it is all vanity... but I also know that since all time and efforts are wasted, I get to choose how to waste my time and effort - and wasting it gardening is a physically and mentally healthy way to do it.

So what got me all philosophical about fame and the meaning of life?

Why... a hosta, of course! (This is a forum about hostas, remember???)

I have pictures of H. 'Harry van der Laar.' I went to the AHS online resource and found that it is not listed as a registered hosta. I googled Herr van der Laar and found that, in addition to multiple hits on his namesake hosta, there is an ornamental willow he introduced to Europe in 1979. In the plant description it refers to him as "the great Dutch hosta breeder."

I returned to the AHS site and found that he is not listed as the originator of any registered hostas.

My searches turned up no more information on this "famous" person. I did find a namesake, a young Harry van der Laar who seems to be currently involved in martial arts classes. But no references in Wikipedia or any place I could find on the web to the life of an influential Dutch plants man.

Isn't fame interesting?

I should have gone back to the source of my hosta. The Naylor catalog actually sheds some light on the issue. Their description:

(Cees Visser) Recently introduced by the Dutch Hosta Society and named in honor of Harry van de Laar, a well known Dutch plants man who has passed away and did a lot of work with nomenclature of perennials, trees, and shrubs. This is a seedling that comes from H. longipes hypoglauca x H. 'Maruba Iwa.'

Which gives some tantalizing information about the man, but presents us with a different spelling of his name! Googling the Naylor spelling of his name provides no new information, but does show how many people steal their online descriptions directly from the Naylor catalog... perhaps when they buy wholesale hostas from "the boyz" they feel it gives them the right to plagiarize the catalog descriptions as well.

I think the first spelling of his name, with the r in der, is correct. Some of our Dutch friends can chime in here and tell us and perhaps provide more information on the man.

In the meantime, even if all is vanity... Harry van der Laar has a pretty darn nice hosta named after him!

Hosta Registry - not registered
MyHostas -
Hosta Library -





User avatar
Posts: 5094
Joined: Oct 14, 2001 7:00 pm
Location: Plymouth, Minnesota zone 4

Not Pic of the Day 6-17-08. All is vanity...



Postby sugar » Jun 17, 2008 12:13 pm

It is 'Harry van de Laar' , Harry van de Laar was the co-founder of the Dutch Hosta Society (NHV)
User avatar
Posts: 519
Joined: Jul 18, 2006 8:20 am
Location: Belgium

Postby jgh » Jun 17, 2008 1:32 pm

thanks... I'll be changing my label on that one!
User avatar
Posts: 5094
Joined: Oct 14, 2001 7:00 pm
Location: Plymouth, Minnesota zone 4

Postby GrannyNanny » Jun 17, 2008 5:01 pm

Your image reminds me of the Victorian era series of drawings called, I think, The Dance of Death. It has the same theme, showing vain young ladies and superfine dandies cavorting around with death, a skeleton, as a partner. It's like all those skulls and crossbones on old gravestones -- they are "memento mori", which are designed to remind the passerby that this is what he or she will eventually come to, too. I prefer seeing the gardens, or working in them, which puts me in the midst of life and growing things! Jim, your musings are always fascinating. Are you collecting them for a gardener's philosophy book? I hope so! Phyllis
User avatar
Posts: 3243
Joined: Oct 15, 2001 7:00 pm
Location: Roseville MN (Zone 4a)

Postby thy » Jun 17, 2008 5:39 pm

Jim... thank you for your philosophical reflections, love them and I agree with Phyllis.. save them and let us give them to people who might understand... at least one day :wink:

..der Laar... have to be German

So why does Marco Fransen and Jan van den Top sell it as ..der Laar ?

Sugar will probably say it is becaurse they are Dutch.. just like i would say about Swedes and German people :wink:

or someone from an other town :oops: ... depending on the culture I think :wink:
Against stupidity the gods themselves struggle in vain.
E-mail for pics
User avatar
Posts: 9032
Joined: Sep 23, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: Denmark - 7B/8A Lat. 55,23
USDA Zone: 7


Postby thehostagourmet » Jun 17, 2008 6:53 pm

Jim, you didn't listen to Sister Mary Holy Card, or maybe you did, and that's the problem.

The Book of Ecclesiastes, if my memory serves, was the first time belief in an afterlife appears in Jewish tradition. Always choose the optimism when given a choice.

"Life has no essential meaning other than the meaning I give it. " This is a strange way of saying you were given a free will. "It is not the destination, but the journey that counts", is quite true on one hand, because if you make a mess of the journey, you won't like the destination for sure. On the other hand, any endeavor without a goal is bound to have you floundering. The keys are hope and faith. Both of these are lifelines of every gardener and farmer. Otherwise, why plant? Life can be hell right here on earth without those.

Lastly, charity/love is why "The garden has no essential value... but gardening does!" is wrong, unless you look at it without considering the beneficial results of your labors upon others. The results of those labors may result in some simple vanity, but unlike the ancient Greeks, I don't believe this to be the greatest of our sins, at this level at least. The result, sometimes termed a labor of love, can spread that love to others.

Out of philosophy class now, you are educating this poor old Hungarian in art. That is a dynamite picture by Charles Gilbert. In what medium was it done? Pencil, paint? I don't know enough about art to tell.

I love your musings on Hostas as well. Keep them coming.
Posts: 669
Joined: Mar 10, 2003 9:38 am
Location: Western NY, Zone 5
USDA Zone: 5b

Postby addieotto » Jun 17, 2008 8:54 pm

Jim I love your posts. :D :D :D

Please keep this response on file and apply to all future NPOTD posts... (because I feel like I'm repeating myself :-? :-? regularly)

Agreed with the comment that if you collected all of these in a book, you'd have a bestseller!
My hosta blog:
User avatar
Posts: 192
Joined: Jun 18, 2006 6:57 pm
Location: Southern NJ Lat: 39° 47' 17.916" Lon: -74° 59' 13.56"

Postby jgh » Jun 17, 2008 10:34 pm

thanks, all, for your comments. Though they may seem casual, I actually invest some serious time and effort in these posts. Your replies provide needed encouragement... one has to question doing something that gets 150 or 200 views but no one wants to comment.

so... thank you!

Sugar - thanks for the spelling correction... but Pia's point is well taken - Dutch sellers spelling it with the 'r'???

Phyllis - :D

Pia - in my family, we say things like "that's his German talking..." or "remember - he's Polish!" Good to know these kind of comments work across all borders! One of my favorite movie lines is from Yellow Submarine, where one of the characters, talking about a Blue Meany, says "Bluish??? Funny... he doesn't look Bluish!"

Sue - thanks for your continuing "fan letters." They do matter!

And George - thanks for the thoughtful reply. I am non-religious and actively agnostic, but I'm always pleased with an exchange of ideas.

I stumbled on something in Ecclesiastes while excerpting a passage to read at my father-in-law's gravesite that intrigued me greatly. I was looking for the passage on "a time for every purpose under heaven." Most of us are familiar with that part... if not from church, then from the Byrds "Turn, Turn, Turn" version.

But I'd never gone on to read the next part of that passage... it is fascinating! As you say, it does make reference to a life-after-death. But it also says, in my interpretation, that we really can't understand the mind of God clearly. "So what are we to do?" the prophet asks. He answers himself, saying that about the best we can do is eat and drink and enjoy the gifts of life from God and live our lives as straightforward as we can - and then leave the afterlife to God. Not "eat, drink, and be merry" but "eat, drink, and be grateful for what is here in front of you." I like that a lot!

thanks again, all of you who are following my mental meanderings!
User avatar
Posts: 5094
Joined: Oct 14, 2001 7:00 pm
Location: Plymouth, Minnesota zone 4

Postby fenceberry » Jun 17, 2008 11:04 pm

I would not miss one of your NPOTD posts. Sorry I've just looked and not remarked but honestly, I log on from work to read them because I can't wait to get home!

I also loved your China report and thought of you and your family when we heard the horrible news of the quake there.

I hope you'll continue writing even when Hank starts his POTD posts again. Thanks so much for sharing.
Posts: 236
Joined: Sep 03, 2005 9:22 pm
Location: Omaha, NE

Postby hagranger » Jun 17, 2008 11:10 pm

I garden therefore I am!

Seize the Spade!

Hoe like there is no tomorrow!

Jim, have you read the book: "My Summer in a Garden" by Charles Dudley Warner?

Fascinating ... Henry Ward Beecher wrote the introduction and it was published by Fields, Osgood and Company in 1870. It is written in the language of the day and there is a sense of humor about it and how his poor wife is dealt with throughout ...

I received a first edition (not worth anything except to me) from a research libriarian friend of mine.

And he writes of a visit by President Ulysses S. Grant ...

Warner's missives and observations bring yours to mind ... and always a smile.

A day without laughter AND gardening is a day wasted ... oh ... and be kind to your children ... they will choose your nursing home!
User avatar
Posts: 5134
Joined: Oct 21, 2001 7:00 pm
Location: Zone 5 Mid-Michigan

Postby Chris_W » Jun 17, 2008 11:47 pm

Hi Jim,

I'm still reading and enjoying your posts. You started them while my computer was in the shop for 5 days so I went back to catch up on those too.

I may not always have a witty tidbit to add, but definitely look forward to each one :D


User avatar
Posts: 8392
Joined: Oct 05, 2001 7:00 pm
Location: Cement City, MI
USDA Zone: 5

Postby renaldo75 » Jun 18, 2008 12:06 am

And I'm enjoying them thoroughly as well. I know I have a few to catch up on that were 'published' while I was at the convention. So I'm not out just yet. :wink:

I also think a collected version of your hosta musings has a lot of appeal. :)

Renaldo's Hosta List
Latitude: 40° 59' 17.6676"; Longitude: -94° 44' 28.014"
User avatar
Posts: 10306
Joined: Jul 15, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: SW Iowa Z4b

Postby Patrushka » Jun 18, 2008 12:16 am

I'm so far behind I don't know if I'll ever catch up.

When I was a teenager and would look in the mirror before walking out the door my mom used to say, "Vanity, thy name is woman." I know it's not what Shakespeare really wrote but that's what she said. My sister and I had a 40s style vanity (part of my parents' original bedroom set) when we were growing up. The mirror was very much like the one in the art work.

I really like Hosta Harry van de Laar! I'll have to wait to enlarge all of the pics because I'm at my mom's and she has dial up.

Thanks Jim. I enjoy your NPOTD when I have the chance to read it. :D
My Hosta List

Keep your face always toward the sunshine and the shadows will fall behind you.
~ Walt Whitman
User avatar
Posts: 6571
Joined: Sep 06, 2002 7:00 pm
Location: Zone 5 - Indiana
USDA Zone: 5a

Postby Pieter » Jun 18, 2008 12:35 am

Jim, I'm not one to pipe in on each and every NPOTD post, but I must admit I love your meandering, tangential thoughts and observations and how you end up making them tie into a Hosta at some point. Brilliant.

Pia, this Dutchman hates to tell you this, but, your observation
..der Laar... have to be German
is not quite correct. Family names in Holland became a necessity because of our Corsican friend N. Bonaparte (Napoleone di Buonaparte) and in those days the language and of course the grammar were quite different from what they are today. It is to be expected that over time members of any particular family will use an incorrect pronunciation and/or spelling of their family name. This also happens when the name is being used in different countries and changes in spelling become commonplace, more so in earlier days when not necessarily every family member was literate and the phonetics of the name was done by bureaucrats when registering births and deaths, and whose spelling could not be corrected by the illiterate person doing the reporting/registering.

Doing a quick Wikipedia search I found an Adolf van der Laar, a politician from the 1920's. Certainly 'van de Laar' is by far more common, but 'van der Laar' is not unheard of. And there are oodles of examples of Dutch last names that include 'der'....

And far be it from me to turn this thread into a discussion of the merits of religion, where faith gets converted to fact. The journey IS all that counts. All you have is the here and now and your heaven and hell are here and now. Anything beyond that is merely a reflection of your faith, which is all it is: faith. Not fact. I'm off my soapbox now......

"Never trust anyone who doesn't have dog hair on their clothes."

Pieter's Hosta List
User avatar
Posts: 850
Joined: May 16, 2006 8:18 am
Location: Richmond, BC @ 49°07'49.30 N Elevation: 8ft

Postby sugar » Jun 18, 2008 12:09 pm

I assure you it is Harry van de Laar

He published a book... And it clearly spells 'Harry van de Laar'

Marco and Jan are not spelling it right :D

Danny : ... delaar.htm

Jeroen :'H ... 0Laar'.htm

Cees :

User avatar
Posts: 519
Joined: Jul 18, 2006 8:20 am
Location: Belgium

Postby KLK7 » Jun 18, 2008 1:04 pm

jgh wrote:thanks, all, for your comments. Though they may seem casual, I actually invest some serious time and effort in these posts. Your replies provide needed encouragement... one has to question doing something that gets 150 or 200 views but no one wants to comment.

I read every one and love them! Thanks!
Posts: 7
Joined: Jun 08, 2008 8:16 pm

Postby largosmom » Jun 18, 2008 7:35 pm

May I add that your time and effort is reflected in the clarity of the results, which I too enjoy.

User avatar
Posts: 761
Joined: Apr 03, 2006 9:58 pm
Location: Southern VA

Postby pauhaus » Jun 18, 2008 8:06 pm

Jim, I may not comment on every NHPOD either, but really enjoy and look forward to your NHPOD posts. As Pieter wrote 'Brilliant.' Can't wait for more meanderings. All the best.
My Hosta List

“With fronds like you, who needs anemones.”
User avatar
Posts: 1200
Joined: Oct 23, 2004 10:03 pm
Location: Brighton, MI- 42° 28' 8.3964"
USDA Zone: 5b

Re: Not Pic of the Day 6-17-08. All is vanity...

Postby Eleven » Jul 11, 2016 9:53 pm

I call him Harry, pronounced the way Dobby did in the movies:
Hosta Harry Van de Laar 1.JPG

Hosta Harry Van de Laar 2.JPG

Hosta Hayy Van de Laar 3.JPG
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
Posts: 223
Joined: Apr 02, 2010 8:59 am
Location: Royal Oak, MI
USDA Zone: 6a

Return to Hosta Forum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 0 guests