Debra Prinzing

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A Floral Visit to San Diego

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

Rainbow Protea's just-harvested blooms - dazzling!

Earlier this week I was hosted by my dear friend and fellow Garden Writer board member Nan Sterman when I flew to San Diego to give a talk to the San Diego Horticultural Society. I love the title that Mary James  of SDHS gave my talk: “Bring me Slow Flowers” – a fun play of words on the title of my next book. Using images I’ve shot over the past several years, my lecture incorporated concepts from The 50 Mile Bouquet and Slow Flowers.

Here are the highlights of my (almost) 72 hours in San Diego:

Hasan Kayali, Ayse Kayali and me - walking on the beach at La Jolla Shores, just before sunset.

First, I visited Hasan and Ayse Kayali, some of our oldest friends from college days. My husband Bruce and Hasan were jumpers (long/triple) for Harvard’s Track Team back in the day and we never, ever get to spend enough time together. However, all of us were together in Tuscany in 2009, for a week at Villa Maddalena in the town of Montisi. That was pretty special. After a late, but delicious, lunch, we took a walk on the beach at La Jolla Shores.

After I said good-bye to the Kayalis, I headed to Encinitas, just a few miles north. Nan Sterman and Curt Wittenberg welcomed me with a flavorful Moroccan chicken dinner prepared by Curt, and we stayed up way too late just talking. Nan and I figured out that after this month (December), we will see one another in January (GWA Winter Board Meeting – Austin, TX); February (Northwest Flower & Garden Show – Seattle, WA); March (SF Flower & Garden Show – San Mateo, CA); April (when I’m back in San Diego to speak) . . . and of course, in August, when our GWA annual symposium heads to Quebec City. Nice to anticipate!

So exciting.....A visit to the uber-famous and very talented floral artist, Rene van Rems!

Nan and Rene are old San Diego friends in the floriculture-horticulture community.

On Monday morning, I headed over to Carlsbad, Calif., to visit the very famous René van Rems, a world-class floral designer and friend of Nan’s.

I’ve known of René because of his books (including René’s Bouquets: A guide to Euro-Style Hand-Tied Bouquets) and others. He is an internationally recognized designer, consultant and instructor, born in Holland, but based in San Diego for the past 30 years.

Rene's modern, colorful studio - where all the fun happens!

A "local" bouquet in the Rene van Rems studio - foraged Alder branches - perfect for the season.

Last year, René established a new studio in Carlsbad, north of San Diego. I was so impressed with the interior space – as you can see here. It’s suitable for large-scale production for big events, for René’s many floral design workshops, and for private events. René considers himself to be in the “business of creativity,” and he loves to teach everyone – from the DIY flower-lover to the professional who participates in his advanced Master Classes.

René signed and gifted me two of his recent books — the hardback version of René’s Bouquets and his way-cool new book: Rene’s Bouquets for Brides. I felt a little inadequate giving him a signed copy of The 50 Mile Bouquet, but he was quite gracious about it. And, he was very kind to come and attend my lecture that evening. Please check out René’s beautiful work at his website, here.

This is the incredibly stunning landscape in Fallbrook, California - home to Rainbow Protea Farms

Nan picked me up around lunchtime and we headed out to Fallbrook, Calif., about 45 minutes east of Carlsbad. We were on a floral mission: To visit Rainbow Protea, an exotic cut flower farm that grows South African and Australian flowers in the Proteaceae family.

A special thanks to Dawn Bonner, whose family owns Rainbow Protea, and to sales & marketing whiz, Kim Jernegan, who hosted us. Kim loaded Nan and me into a pickup truck and we traversed the bloom-filled hills of the 198-acre farm on a brilliant December afternoon.

Kim Jernegan and me - holding stems of some beautiful Protea flowers.

Rainbow Protea began operations in 1985. While some may liken the hilly terrain approximately 20 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean and 60 miles north of San Diego as “similar” to South Africa, Kim begs to differ.

She points out that to grow thousands of flowering sub-tropical shrubs — Protea, Leucadendron, Leucospermum, Banksia, Leptospermum, Chamelaucium (Wax flowers), Anigozanthos (Kangaroo Paws) and other Mediterranean specimens — the farm’s crew has to use an auger-style drill and major amendments.

Those include primarily organic addititives such as fish fertilizers, worm compost, compost tea and kelp products.

Enjoy my photographs of the plants that earned my affection.

Kim sent me home with a bountiful box of blooms, which I have been enjoying all week.

The wonderful thing about these exotic members of the Proteaceae family is that they are VERY long-lasting in the vase.

You need to re-cut the stems and refresh the H20 every two to three days; but then you can plan on having an exotic, modern-looking arrangement for weeks and weeks.

'Safari Sunset' Leucadendron

Protea 'Rosa Mink' - love the fuzzy margins on the petals!

Protea 'Pink Ice' - a silky-smooth variety

Protea 'Liebencherry' - vivid raspberry pink!

A hillside of Leucadendrons against the intense blue December sky. Unforgettable!

A Protea in bud - not sure of the variety, but it's sure gorgeous.

Good-bye Rainbow Protea. . . I'll be back!

Finally, I was welcomed by the members of the San Diego Horticultural Society. I felt like the room was filled with kindred spirits – gardeners who want to learn more about the plants they grow; people who are eager to try new things, including floral design. A great visit – and one that I will always cherish. Nan, Curt, Karen Bussolini (a writer/photographer friend who was in town, visiting from Connecticut), Bonnie Manion and I closed down the night with a late dinner at Il Forniao. Very satisfying!

Before I left the following morning, I squeezed in a visit to fellow garden blogger Bonnie Manion of I first met Bonnie in 2009 when Country Gardens magazine asked me to write about her vintage container designs for spring bulbs. The story was called “Tour de Forced Bulbs.”

Later, after we moved from Seattle to Southern California, Bonnie and I finally met in person – and we had several fun adventures, including our day-trip to the Long Beach Flea Market with Lorene Edwards Forkner and Kathy LaFleur. Bonnie is an amazing designer, writer and winemaker (with her husband John Manion). While our time was short, I was tickled to spend a little time with her, touring their newly renovated home, barn, barrel room and more…and talking about the book-biz, blogging and gardening.

Look for exciting things coming from Bonnie in the near future, including a new book on keeping chickens!

Okay, enough for now. Please enjoy these photos and check out all the people I’ve highlighted in this blog post.



Chicken Coop Sightings . . .

Thursday, August 6th, 2009
A vintage EGGS sign hangs in Kathy Fries's fanciful coop

A vintage EGGS sign hangs in Kathy Fries's fanciful coop

Fresh eggs, how can you argue with that idea? I love cooking with fresh, organically-grown eggs produced by free-range hens. Thank goodness that I can buy them at my local, Thousand Oaks Farmers Market every Thursday! 

I wonder how long it will take before I graduate from growing backyard herbs, fruits and vegetables to raising chickens? Let’s see. . . maybe after my children leave for college, and perhaps after my beloved Lab, Zanny, has passed on.

Poultry fever has smitten many of my friends, though. I love the way they’ve integrated chicken culture into horticulture (get it?). And I really love the chicken coop architecture created by inspired hen owners.

Bonnie Manion's hens live in a renovated children's playhouse!

Bonnie Manion's hens live in a renovated children's playhouse!

My blogger friend Bonnie Manion, who writes at Vintage Garden Gal, often shares stories of her hens, advice on raising chickens and even the care an maintenance of coops. She has just inherited a couple of charming gals – Buff Wheaten Marans. You’ll want to read more of Bonnie’s chicken adventures (and see more photos of her charming coop, which is a re-purposed children’s playhouse, shown here ).

Recently, a writer friend of mine paid me what I think was a lovely compliment. She said, “Debra, I want to create a book just like Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways – but about chicken coops!”

And my response: Go for it!

Bill Wright, my fearless collaborator, would love to photograph a chicken coop book. I call him “fearless,” because how else could you describe a guy willing to get inside a coop with half-a-dozen chickens, two youngsters and a lot of feed flying around . . . just to capture the perfect shot!!!?

Here is that photograph, of our dear friend and shedista Kathy Fries, along with her sons Xander and Jasper. We documented a moment in their daily routine, when mom and boys feed and water the chickens, gather eggs, and generally putter around the coop. That coop, by the way, is no ordinary henhouse. You’ll see what I mean about “poultry fever.”

”]Kathy, Jasper (left) and Xander feeding their chickens [William Wright photo]Kathy’s chicken edifice is called the Palais de Poulet. She worked with Seattle artist-builder John Akers to create the magnificent chicken abode, complete with a jaunty turret and a brick entry path lined with boxwood clipped into a fleur de lis pattern.


It’s time to think about spring in the garden

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

Yes, it may only be the second week of January, but our Noble firs and cedar boughs are now past their prime (and in my case, at least) cut up and ready for recycling in the yard-waste bin.

Onward to spring!

To get me in the mood, I have this inspiring drawing pinned next to my desk.

My friend Jean Zaputil, an artist and garden designer, illustrated and hand-colored it as a most charming New Year greeting.

The scene depicts a songbird perched on top of a hellebore, with the wistful and compelling lines, which read:

“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” 

[attributed to Percy Byssne Shelley]

Perhaps this saying will give you something to hold onto in the dormant months of winter! Spring is coming soon!

Also getting me in the mood for spring: Country Gardens’ early spring 2009 edition, which just arrived in my mailbox. 

I opened it up to find my story about friend and designer Bonnie Manion, owner of Mon Petit Chou, a vintage design business based in Encinitas, California. Bonnie blogs at VintageGardenGal – a cheery and charming spot to visit – you’ll want to do so frequently!

The story, commissioned by James A. Baggett, editor of Country Gardens, is called “Tour de Forced Bulbs,” and it features Bonnie’s designs pairing forced spring bulbs with forced flowering branches – arranged in vintage containers.

Here is the story in its entirety. A shorter version appears in the magazine, along with the step-by-step instructions for planting a container with hyacinth bulbs and pussywillow branches. The story was photographed by Ed Gohlich and produced by field editor Andrea Caughey.

TOUR de FORCED BULBS: Get a jump on the season by pairing vintage vessels with spring-fresh forced bulbs to create uniquely charming displays.

The promise of spring appears in fresh-green leaves emerging from the pointed tops of daffodil, tulip, hyacinth and amaryllis bulbs at Bonnie Manion’s garden in Encinitas, California. Swelling buds on her flowering trees – apricot, plum and peach – hint at new growth about to unfurl into delicate blossoms and tender foliage.

Bonnie, a collector and purveyor of garden antiques and cottage décor, celebrates the season’s arrival by growing a multitude of flowering bulbs. But instead of digging holes in the ground for her many bulb varieties, this clever gardener relies on unique vintage containers for forcing and displaying masses of spring blooms.

She named her vintage design business Mon Petit Chou (translated from French, it is a term of endearment meaning “my little cabbage head”). The whimsical phrase encompasses her love of French antiques and American barnyard implements alike.

“I look for pieces with a history but that can also be repurposed and used in a fabulous new way,” Bonnie explains. She custom-designs her arrangements for special events and commissions, often advising customers about what to plant inside a chipped enamel kettle, a wire market basket or even an intricately-carved wooden drawer.

Come springtime, Bonnie considers flowering bulbs and branches as the perfect partners.

Some gardeners are intimidated by forcing bulbs, but to Bonnie, nothing could easier. “In a way, bulbs are similar to a chicken egg in that they are also one of nature’s perfect self-contained packages,” she says. “They have everything that’s required to bloom into a flower. There’s a lot of simplicity to growing them.”

Using fresh-cut branches, the flower and leaf buds of which have yet to open, requires little effort, Bonnie adds. Whether brought indoors for flower arranging, or used as accents to planted containers, the tiny buds slowly open until flowers gracefully unfurl. “They last quite a while, especially if you keep the branches in water,” she advises.

With a spring palette ranging from soft pastels to bright primary colors, bulbs and branches pair companionably with timeworn artifacts of the past. “I like the yin-and-yang of it. To me, the weathered patina of old containers goes well with the colors of my spring bulbs.”

To grow bulbs in containers, Bonnie begins with the right vessel, selecting an eye-catching piece with a generously-sized opening at the top. Bulbs don’t require much root space, meaning that even a four-inch-deep wooden box is adequate as a planter. Deeper containers can be used as well. “You can keep the soil level low around the bulbs, and use the height of the container to support bulbs such as paper whites or amaryllis, as they grow tall and reach for sunlight,” Bonnie says.

Interesting vintage containers include chicken feeders, tool carriers, old boxes or pails, hay racks, sugar tins, large and small funnels, oil cans, children’s wagons or carts, old urns, kitchen strainers – “virtually any container with a wonderful vintage character,” she says.

Bonnie’s finished designs look spontaneously fresh. “I get a lot of my plant and container ideas from my travels,” explains this vintage garden gal.

She frequents large and small flea markets and other off-beat vintage garden antique sources around the country and occasionally visits Europe for inspiration. “I might see a single potted rose in a Paris flower shop. Or, I’ll discover a dramatic floral arrangement in a London hotel lobby and try to recreate it at home.”

Bulb-filled vintage containers never fail to make a statement. “Put them in a setting in your garden where you need some ornamentation,” Bonnie suggests. “You can have fun bringing old pieces back to life and making them functional again. Get as creative as you like, and your pieces will be uniquely you!”

Forcing Bulbs

Try Bonnie Manion’s methods of planting spring-flowering bulbs in an unusual vintage or salvaged container. Look for blooms that will show off the best features of the vessel, such as crimson-streaked tulips that echo the red painted handle of an enamel kettle. Here are some tips:

  • Make note of each bulb’s “Plant-to-Bloom” timeframe to coincide with your needs. Bloom times vary greatly and you will need to plan ahead when planting.
  • Forcing bulbs in soil, versus water only, will ensure the bulb has the ability to bloom again year after year (replanted in your outside flower beds or another vintage container).
  • Use organic or general-purpose potting soil. The soil should reach a level one-inch below the container’s rim. Make sure you have good drainage so that any excess water is able to drip out of the base (you may need to use a saucer to protect furniture or windowsills from water damage).
  • Plant dormant spring bulbs directly into the potting soil. Bulbs should be root-side down and pointed-tips upward. It’s okay to pack bulbs “shoulder to shoulder” for a massed and abundant result. In general, you can completely cover daffodil, tulip and hyacinth bulbs with at least one inch of potting soil. The top third of an amaryllis bulb should peek out above the soil surface. Pack potting soil firmly around bulbs to anchor them in place and water once thoroughly to close any air pockets in the soil.
  • Bulbs require sunlight to awaken from their dormant state, and begin forming roots, stems, and flower parts under their onion-skin-like sheath.
  • Protect the container from extremes (place on a porch or under eaves in milder climates; bring indoors in colder ones). Do not let the soil dry out, but keep it lightly moist. In general, bulbs prefer to be on the drier side, rather than wet.
  • If you want maximum versatility with your designs, plant bulbs in small plastic nursery pots. One or two bulbs will fit inside a six-inch, soil-filled pot. You can plant up dozens of bulbs and care for them using directions above. Once they begin to bloom, arrange the bulbs inside larger containers and layer Spanish moss on top to cover your secret.

Check out one of Bonnie’s favorite bulb sources: Easy-to-Grow Bulbs.

Forcing Branches

Young branches of woody trees and shrubs are supple and pliable in the spring. This makes them easy to weave into trellis-like designs as Bonnie has done. If you cut the branches before their flower or leaf buds open, you can bring them indoors for long-lasting vase arrangements. Better yet, add cut branches to outdoor containers as a complement to spring bulbs. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Look around your landscape for inspiration. Do you have a golden forsythia, coral-bark maple, or flowering plum? As many of these woody plants are in need of early spring thinning or pruning, save the cut branches for container or vase designs. A neighbor might also allow you to lightly prune a few branches. In late winter or early spring, local markets or florists are good sources for cut branches, such as curly willow, quince, or witch hazel.
  • Use a pair of clean, sharp garden shears, secateurs or loppers to branches at a 45-degree angle. Make the cut at the bottom of a stem where it joins a larger branch.
  • You can stick the pointed base of each cut branch directly into the planting soil, at least three inches deep. As you water your bulbs, the branches will soak up needed moisture to keep the buds plump until they bloom.
  • You can also arrange cut branches in a water-filled vase. Flower preservatives can keep the water muck-free, but nothing’s better than replacing water daily.

Here’s what I’m reading – a blogging “meme” (or is it a “tag”?)

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

I’m the kind of person who may be vaguely aware of a trend but I don’t have a clue what it’s actually called.

Case in point: the hip blogging term “MEME.” I kept hearing about this word, but didn’t know its meaning. I thought perhaps it was an acronym (as in multi-electronic-marketing-expression – huh?).

When I moderated the “Blogging Success Stories” panel at the Garden Writers Association annual symposium in September, Dee Nash of Red Dirt Ramblings made a comment about “meme” this and “meme” that. I just smiled and nodded, as if to say: Oh, I am in the know. I really get what you’re talking about.

Except I didn’t. That’s how non-technical I am.

Then last week, my friend Lorene Edwards Forkner sent me a “tag” challenge, one that she received from another Internet girlfriend, “Flowergardengirl” (aka Anna). I received Lorene’s nudge, but I’ve been so swamped that my follow-through has been belated for seven days.

I looked up the word MEME, which I thought might apply to Lorene’s “what are you reading right now?” tag, and discovered the following:

Meme: (Noun) A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.

Okay, tonight is the night. I’m down to one kid (the other kid is performing in a play and has informed me he is going to the midnight opening of teen-vampire flick “Twilight” after his show – who cares about first period choir tomorrow anyway? And husband Bruce is conveniently away at a 2-day graduate school commitment), so I can finally sit down and “play” with Lorene. She understands the delay and distractions. I know she does!

The challenge is as follows: Grab the nearest book at hand (no fair looking for something intellectual, just what’s within arm’s reach of your keyboard). Turn to page 56, go to the 5th sentence and post your results – include the 2-3 sentences that follow to provide some sort of context. Then turn around and “tag” 5 or more blogging friends to do the same.