Debra Prinzing

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January 1st – a day to garden

January 1st, 2009

Enjoy this photo gallery of some of my New Year’s gardening projects, accomplished today. I’ll add a few comments with each image to explain what I did. Above: Two hyacinth bulbs from Brent and Becky Heath’s care package – I saved them to grow in these glass bulb vases in my kitchen windowsill.

The blogosphere and Twitter world have been busy today, with my friends and those whose work I admire/read writing about resolutions, garden mission statements, and more. I have really tried to tear myself away from the keyboard and screen. It’s ironic that I spend more time here at my desk – looking through the open shutters to the backyard – than I do actually touching, breathing and engaging with said yard.

So today I decided to spend time on gardening projects. I am stiff and tired. Six hours straight – pruning and deadheading, digging up, wheeling the barrow to and fro – is not my typical schedule these days. And I am determined to return to this routine (or an edited version of it) in 2009.

Because you know what? I’m feeling very happy.

At left: I finally planted this beautiful Billbergia nutans ‘Variegata’, which I am embarrassed to say I purchased in March 2008 at Western Hills Nursery in Occidental, Calif., during our post-SF Flower & Garden Show garden-gals’ field trip. Miraculously, this plant has not only endured, but seemingly thrived in a 6-inch pot all these months. It is a beautiful, strappy, striped plant and doesn’t it look nice with the Clare Dohna mosaic orb?

What’s been holding me back anyway?
Since leaving behind my cherished garden in Seattle in August 2006, and moving to what many people think is heaven on earth – Southern California – I have been fairly disengaged with my new yard. As I’ve said before, I can’t really call it a garden. It’s really just a yard filled with plants I don’t understand or particularly like. I’ve had bursts of energy now and then to try and tackle things, including hiring someone a year ago to dig up and haul to a landscaping dumpster a yard’s worth of big red lava-rock mulch that covered every surface of soil.

But my heart hasn’t been in it. My heart is so torn between my past life and my present life. Surely, I am a lucky woman. I have my family who I cherish. I have so many wonderful friendships that continue, regardless of whether I’m in Washington State, California or other places around the globe. I manage to keep writing articles about gardens and design topics that really get published by tangible publications (that’s a shocker) and so what’s the problem?

At right: Senecio cristobalensis is another survivor from the Western Hills plant-shopping excursion in March, now given a special place in my front border. What pretty leaves! It’s supposed to reach 6-ft x 6-ft so I will eventually have to relocate this fuzzy-leafed beauty. This is one of those plants I once purchased from Heronswood (I just found the original plant tag from 2001!) that never wintered over in Seattle. See? I already have a new reason to be grateful for living in Zone 10~

I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve been pondering on how to get out of my rut. And the answer is staring me right in the eye. I need to return to the garden. The one that I see if I lift my eyes away from the computer screen and look through the slats of the shutters. Sometimes we have to start moving forward even before we know the path. “Putting wheels on it,” is how my friend Stephanie would describe it. Moving anywhere is better than staying put. There’s a lot of safety at this keyboard. But I don’t want to be just an observer of other people’s gardens, homes, plants and collections. I need to have my own relationship with the land, the plants, and the wildlife that occupy my suburban backyard.  I’ll say it again:  I need to return to the garden.

Today, I did just that. And while I’m in no position to write a garden mission statement, I do have a simple goal (dare I say Resolution?) for myself. And that is to spend 1 hour a day, at least 5 days a week, in the garden. Lord knows, I waste that much time reading emails each day. I think there’s a much better use of my physical and mental energy – and that’s to get outdoors and garden.

I don’t have money to hire a landscaper to do all the things I dream of accomplishing here, but my investment of time and attention is bound to improve my environment. It’s bound to improve my emotional attitude about this place. I’ll try and use this blog to document my progress.

Above: I guess any month of the year is bulb-season here in LA. It’s just that my bulbs will have to be annuals. That’s something I will have to get used to, after investing in and planting hundreds of spring flowering bulbs back in Seattle. The hyacinths, narcissus, tulips and muscari I planted today were a surprise gift from Brent and Becky Heath. The box filled with 70 bulbs arrived a few weeks ago ~ what a treat! I planted layers of bulbs in 2 terracotta pots this afternoon. Then I sprinkled annual seeds on top of each (dwarf cosmos on one; nigella on the other). Who knows if you can pair annuals with bulbs? It’s worth a try! This is my chance to experiment, so stay tuned!

And Happy New Year to all of you. Let’s cherish what we have!

6 Responses to “January 1st – a day to garden”

  1. Susan aka Miss R. Says:

    I’m jealous. It was 12 degrees here yesterday morning. I last saw my bulbs in November and won’t see them again until late March. But, the sky was blue the air was crisp and it was a new year! You’re right. Let’s cherish what we have!

  2. Cameron (Defining Your Home Garden) Says:

    I believe that returning to the garden will heal that wound of grieving for your previous garden.

    I had to completely re-learn gardening when I moved from woodlands to full sun meadows when we built our house in 2005. The woodland deer at my previous home had plenty of food and so they allowed me to grow hostas, daylilies, hydrangeas and other wonderful, lush flowers.

    I can’t grow any of those here, but I’ve gotten outside the box that I was in to experiment with deer-resistant, full sun plants and solve other problems such as water runoff to create a rain garden and dry stream. I’m a much better gardener and know so much more by being forced to take a different approach to gardening. I’ve learned to embrace gaudy colors, too! 🙂

    Best wishes!

  3. Lorene Says:

    Ah, Joanie Mitchell nailed it “We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden”

    I was actually thinking that myself today as I got out in the backyard to survey the damage after our NW BIG FREEZE of 08. Where I pictured mayhem, death and destruction I found a few bent limbs and one very unhappy Brugmansia -but all in all, things appeared fine. Better than fine… the hellebores are budded, the little rannunculus are up and I even found a few primroses blooming under all the dead leaves I never raked last fall!

    Resilient is the word that keeps running through my head. Not a bad take away from a few blissful hours spent out back. I’m with you; time to spend more time in the dirt and less time keyboarding.
    Happy New Year dear friend, Lorene

  4. Dee/reddirtramblings Says:

    “Sometimes we have to start moving forward even before we know the path.” Amen to that, Sister. friend. Whenever I feel any trouble coming on, and the weather is fine outdoors, I just dig in, and before I know it, whether everything is “just right” or not, I feel better.

    I’m sorry you had to leave your former garden. It will be sad someday when I leave, but still, I plan to plant and dig wherever and whenever. My hands itch or it, ya know?

    Love you, Dee

  5. Eleanor at OutOfDoors Says:

    Oh, but there’s a ton of lovely bulbs that naturalize in Southern California! has some ideas for more unusual selections, but snowdrops and narcissus are perfectly happy in my sister’s San Diego garden. My current favorites are Muscari macrocarpum (smells fantastic) and the pheasants-eye narcissus. Love sowing over bulbs…have you tried the bush morning glory? I’m pairing it with sparaxis this year…

  6. Shirley A. Carlton Says:

    Have a lovely day.

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