Debra Prinzing

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Behind the scenes with Garden Design

June 23rd, 2010

A pretty stunning aloe-as-sculpture in one of Joseph Marek's gardens.

Scott Shrader turned an ancient millstone into a succulent planter

Garden Scouting: It sounds so luxurious, doesn’t it?

Spending four days scouting some of the most beautiful and unique residential landscapes in and around Los Angeles! 

I do it all the time – visit and tour gardens that might just make it onto the pages of the magazines and newspapers to which I contribute. And yet, achieving the “get” is not always that luxurious. It’s fun and rewarding. But also hard work. 

Successful garden scouting requires lots of telephone calls to set up appointments. It means I have to lean on my personal connections to cajole invitations from reclusive garden owners or rock star designers. And it demands that I put way too many miles on my Volvo odometer. A lot! (Thank goodness for NPR.) 

Most of all, this job means being extremely open to everything I see, while also keeping out a discerning eye for that magical glimpse of a perfect story. 

It’s alot like being on a treasure hunt when you don’t know the ending, but I wouldn’t have it any other way! 

Jenny Andrews, executive editor for Garden Design, one of the magazines for which I am contributing editor, was in Los Angeles a few weeks ago for a four-day scouting marathon. As she put it, it felt like we were college roommates for four days . . . probably because Jenny ended up staying with me for most of the time. She got to experience the craziness of the Prinzing-Brooks household with kids, dog, schedules, and more. And, we put 700 miles on my car in four days. We were both exhausted by the end. 

But oh goodness, the gardens. Thanks to many of the talented designers and landscape architects who are friends of the magazine, we were invited to see some amazing places. Here is a sneak peek. You never know. I can’t make any promises, but you may see these properties show up in the pages of Garden Design in the coming year! 

I'm on the left with Jenny Andrews (center) and writer Susan Heeger (right). We attended a summer soiree in the garden of Los Angeles interior designer Susanne Rheinstein and her husband Frederic - as a celebration of Garden Conservancy's 10 years of Open Days in LA.

In the kitchen garden at Susanne Rheinstein's Los Angeles property, this ancient urn lends scale and is a dramatic focal point.

If any of you read Garden Design’s Hollywood Issue this past March, you will understand why we’re already on the lookout for cool celebrity gardens to feature in 2011.

Under the oak tree in Rachel and Andrew's garden - I love that Joel and Ryan built the deck to encompass the tree so it serves as a living umbrella above the chaises.

I can promise you that we’ve already photographed an amazing garden owned by an Emmy-award-winning actress in the Brentwood area of Los Angeles. But the search continues. One of the gardens we visited earlier this month is owned by “Brothers and Sisters” actress Rachel Griffiths and her artist-husband Andrew Taylor. This Aussie couple has three precocious children and an Australian-Mediterranean landscape in the hills above Los Angeles. Designed by Joel Lichtenwalter and Ryan Gates of Grow Outdoor Design, the drought-tolerant, kid-friendly garden suits Rachel and Andrew’s indoor-outdoor lifestyle.

The garden also reflects their visual sensibilities in plant, material and furniture choices. The two have collaborated with Joel and Ryan to create places to dine, converse, swim, relax, grow edibles, swing from a rope and play in the sand. With three young children, it’s no surprise that this is a hands-on landscape (kids are free to roam and explore, dig and run). We loved meeting this energetic family and were inspired by their garden. I don’t want to give it all away, but here’s one pic to give you a sense of the style-plus-sustainability that clients and designers have achieved. A big thank-you to their son Banjo who sent Jenny and me off with all sorts of greens, blueberries and flowers that he harvested on the spot and shared with us. What a cutie!

The next day, Jenny and I headed out to hang with landscape architect-friend Joseph Marek. Joseph and his partner John Bernatz’s “Stucco Studio” in their Santa Monica backyard is featured as the very first chapter of Bill Wright’s and my book, Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways and they have been good friend to us. I’ve been dying to take Jenny to see some of his landscapes. We visited three Joseph Marek Landscape Architecture projects and here are a few pics to show you his talent and his artful plantsmanship. 

A classical urn-turned-bubbling water feature in a semiformal landscape in LA's Hancock Park neighborhood. Joseph lightened the mood of what could have been super formal by using a lime green and turquoise palette in furniture cushions and this urn. Love the cycads on either side of this scene.

A new custom gate enters a Santa Monica garden. Joseph based his design on the original 1920s ironwork elsewhere on the property of this Spanish Colonial Revival house.

A stunning plant combination spotted at a Joseph Marek-designed garden in Pacific Palisades. It's feather grass with the smooth agave. Strong and soft textures together - just gorgeous!

After all our garden touring, we had to embrace some retail therapy. So I took Jenny to Pot-ted, a cool store that I frequent (all too frequently). 

 Garden Design featured Pot-ted several years back when Annette Gutierrez, a former screenwriter, and Mary Gary, a set designer, pooled their energies and came up with the kind of cool, urban garden shop everyone yearns to have in their own neighborhood. 

Pot-ted is more than a retail store, though. It’s now a product design incubator that’s turning out some exciting offerings for the home and garden. 

Here are a few cool new items we spotted at Potted

Okay, we're all anti-lawn here in LA, so if you must have some turf, how about a faux-grass outdoor pillow on your retro-style iron mesh armchair?

Pot-ted's awesome circle pots are ceramic-glazed hanging planters, complete with stainless steel cable and a drainage hole. These take you back to the 60s, but way better. I love them for succulents and tillandsias.

Yes, I know I am obsessed with these orbs and have written about them before. Check them out on Potted’s web site!

Jenny also scouted gardens with Laura Morton of Laura Morton Landscape Design and Barry Campion of Campion Walker Garden Design – and unfortunately, I was doing some Mom stuff then so couldn’t accompany them. I’m sure you’ll see those scouting pics in the future.

For now, I’ve got to start pulling together my scouting notes and burn a CD of pics to mail to Jenny.  

4 Responses to “Behind the scenes with Garden Design”

  1. Susan Says:

    Oh, I miss that kind of fun! I wish I could have ridden along on your scouting travels. Jenny is very nice, and can easily imagine what a great time you both had.

  2. debra Says:

    Hey Susan, remember how much fun we had that day in Seattle, scouting gardens for Better Homes & Gardens SIP titles…..with equal fervor?

  3. Pam/Digging Says:

    McDreamy eggs! Too funny. Thanks for sharing the adventure with us. I really enjoyed the celebrity garden issue of Garden Design recently and would love to see more of Tin House Farm.

    Would also like to see Garden Design venture away from CA from time to time, fabulous though the gardens are. I’d personally love to see more western/southwestern gardens.
    .-= Pam/Digging´s last blog ..Hillside gravel and timber path–done! =-.

  4. Heidi Schreiner Says:

    Love it! I so wish I could have toured the gardens with you! There’s nothing that nourishes a designer’s soul as to tour gorgeous gardens and discover what makes them beautiful. — unless it’s spending time with other like-minded designers.

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