Debra Prinzing

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Behind-the-Scenes of a Country Gardens photo shoot

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Creating a magazine story involves a lot of moving parts.

Last year, I worked with a huge team of talented people to produce a feature story for Country Gardens magazine called “Art by Hand,” which appears in the current Summer 2012 issue. Editor James Baggett had the original vision for this story — and he asked me to produce and write a group of short profiles that together tell the story of craftspeople and artists whose work is inspired by the garden, wildlife and nature.

Our starting point was Dirt Couture, the online garden emporium started in 2010 by Cindy McNatt. Many of you know Cindy for her daily updates called Dirt du Jour, which is a fun, g0-to site for all the latest gossip about plants, books, people and trends in the gardening world.

Cindy suggested several of the artists whose work is featured on Dirt Couture, and since photographer Laurie Black and I are now both located in the Pacific Northwest, we decided to focus on three folks in Oregon and Washington. We photographed their portraits and work last July.

Last September we headed to Southern California for a visit to Cindy’s gorgeous garden and the world headquarters of Dirt Couture (aka, her kitchen table!). Pulling together all these separate pieces and making them into an 8-page feature for Country Gardens was way more work than just visiting a beautiful garden and spending 24 hours photographing it. But I love teaming up with Laurie and her husband Mark King, and things always seem to have a good flow when we’re on location together.

So you can read the story here — or, better yet, pick up a copy at the newsstand. Laurie’s photos are amazing (and PS, she also photographed the cover of the same Summer issue to illustrate my feature about The Herbfarm Restaurant’s Basil Banquet. That’s another fun story!).

Here are my favorite out-takes from “location.”

Bob Denman of Red Pig Garden Tools in Boring, Oregon, is one of the country’s last blacksmiths making hand-forged gardening tools and implements. You can learn more about his work here:

Bob and Rita Denman, of Red Pig Garden Tools

Love this old-timey sign!

You can see the actual forge-marks on these hand hoes. Rustic beauty!

Artist Blenda Tyvoll uses mixed media to cover her canvases with soulful trees, inspired by the Oregon farm where she and her family grow Christmas trees! Check out more of her work here.

I love this little gallery I styled with Blenda's canvases and her collection of paint-chipped stools.

from left, Blenda studies her collection of tree-inspired paintings as Laurie Black and Mark King capture the shot.

Potter and artist Marybeth Sommers of the Seattle area has adapted the traditional Raku method to create bird houses and bird feeders. They are charming! We photographed Marybeth and her work at the Dunn Garden in Seattle. Thanks to the folks there for making that happen! Marybeth’s studio is called Ring of Fire Pottery.

Here's what happens when the showers arrive in the middle of a photo shoot! That's Mark King, holding a rigged up photographer's stand with an umbrella clipped onto it. Just to keep our subject Marybeth dry while Laurie take her portrait.

A sweet vignette of Marybeth's bird feeders in the colorful Dunn Gardens.

Finally, we spent a day with Cindy McNatt, creator of Dirt Couture. Visit the site here and learn more about all of these artists, plus nearly 100 more artisans and crafters. You won’t be disappointed!

Garden Writer friend Julie Bawden Davis (left) visited Cindy McNatt (right) and me (center) during our photo session. It was fun to reunite with my SoCal girlfriends!

Laurie King, a dream of a photographer to work with!

Dirt Couture's canvas harvest trug - perfect for gathering flowers and herbs.

The end! Now we’re busy planning all the stories to be created this summer for 2013 issues~

You say Toe-MAY-toe; I say Toe-MAH-Toe

Thursday, April 9th, 2009
A cause for celebration: Hundreds of Heirloom Tomato Starts

A cause for celebration: Hundreds of Heirloom Tomato Starts

Does anyone really NEED 21 tomato plants? The answer is: OF COURSE!

If you are obsessed with having dee-lish heirloom tomatoes at your fingertips, you will want to track down Tomatomania, the largest spring sale of tomato seedlings around. It is a grassroots endeavor; the brainchild of landscape designer and Tomato addict Scott Daigre.

Shopping for the very best of heirloom tomato starts with Tomatomania founder Scott Daigre

Shopping for the very best of heirloom tomato starts with Tomatomania founder Scott Daigre

I remember meeting Scott in 2006 at the Northwest Flower & Garden Showin Seattle. I’m not really sure why a California boy was up in Seattle, but it was certainly a treat to meet him at one of my book signings. Little did I know ( I find I am saying that a lot these days ) that I would soon be Scott’s neighbor in Ventura Co., and moreover, a customer of one of his Tomatomania events.

A couple of folks, fellow Garden Writers, have kept Tomatomania on my radar. Kate Karem, formerly Cottage Living’s gardening editor and also a former LA resident, told me she used to be involved in Scott’s annual plant sales. While reading Orange Co.-based garden writer Cindy McNatt’s new “Dirt du Jour” blog, I was recently reminded to check out Scott’s event. In fact, it was a link on Cindy’s blog that pointed me to the very first Ventura County “Tomatomania” event at Otto & Sons’ nursery in the agricultural town of Fillmore, about 20 miles north of my place.

My buddy Alex, tomato fan extraordinaire

My buddy Alex, tomato fan extraordinaire

Since ours is a household of foodies, including children who have very definite opinions on all things culinary, I was psyched to again grow heirloom tomatoes (I haven’t planted any since leaving Seattle – and that’s a pretty tough tomato-growing climate). Whether someone needs as many as Alex and I acquired last Saturday is a matter of opinion.

We have room in our raised beds, so we’re going to go for it. Scott advises that backyard gardeners space tomato plants at 2-foot intervals. We can make it work, I’m sure.

The nursery sale was organized with a logical A to Z display. The only problem is that every single tomato looked healthy and vigorous; the fruit photos and descriptions made our mouths water (or at least piqued our curiosity).

Pick it, Slice it, Salt it, Eat it - Simple!

Pick it, Slice it, Salt it, Eat it - Simple!

The wagon Alex pulled for me up quickly. We loved running into Scott, he of the bright red hat, lime green shirt, and turquoise Tomatomania T-shirt. The ambassador of tomatoes is on a roll. His sales now crisscross the US and he has plans to add a few more states in 2010 (even in Texas, he says).

Here is a list of the plants we brought home in 4-inch pots. For $4 each, ours was a good investment. The neighbors are already putting in their requests for our “extras” come harvest-time:

  • Cherokee Chocolate: Mahogany-colored variety; excellent flavor, large fruit
  • Black Krim: Originally from Krim on the Black Sea of Russia; slightly flattened shape, dark-reddish mahogany color
  • Aunt Ruby’s German Green: Pink-blushed interior; green pleated exterior; handed down from Aunt Ruby Arnold, Greenville, Tennessee
  • Copia: Named in honor of the American Center for Food, Wine and Arts in Napa, California; a stabilized cross of ‘Green Zebra’ and ‘Mauve Stripe’; fine-lined golden yellow and red striped fruit
  • Beam’s Yellow Pear; Pomodoro; La Roma; Sungold Cherry
  • Sugary: Sweet, cherry-sized, oval-shaped
  • Berkeley Tie-Die: no description necessary! The name alone demanded that we plant this one
  • Black Zebra: Perfectly round, 1-1/2-2 inch fruits with deep, dark red to caramel-colored skin beneath dark green-mahogany streaks; smoky-sweet flavor
  • dscn0374Pink Accordian
  • Kellogg’s Breakfast: Round, yellow-orange fruit
  • Hillbilly Potato-Leaf: From West Virginia (natch); mild flavored beefsteak fruit that weights up to 2 lbs; orange-yellow streaked and mottled shades
  • Omar’s Lebanese: 1-2 pound pink beefsteak
  • Banana Legs: 4-inch mini banana-shaped, brilliant yellow fruit; fun for kids