Debra Prinzing

Get the Email Newsletter!

Episode 369: The Joy of Bulbs with Longfield Gardens’ Hans Langeveld and Jen Pfau

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2018

It’s time to plan and plant our spring-flowering bulbs! The anticipation of their colors, forms and fragrances in my garden — and vases — will carry me through the wet, gray months of winter! (c) Missy Palacol Photography

Here are three Longfield Gardens’ collections I’ll be planting in the Slow Flowers Cutting Garden this fall! From left: “Daring Forms” alliums; “Golden Glow” collection of narcissi and muscari; and “Flower Arrangers” tulip collection.

It’s October 3rd and for most of us around the country, it’s time to start thinking about planting our bulbs for next spring!

I recently immersed myself in this topic, thanks to an assignment from Garden Design magazine, whose editors asked me to interview Chanticleer Gardens’ plant information coordinator Eric Hsu. The article, “Planted Palettes,” is out in the magazine’s Autumn 2018.

The Fall 2018 issue of Garden Design magazine features my article and Rob Cardillo’s images about spring bulb design at Chanticleer Gardens (c) Missy Palacol Photography

In writing the story, I learned volumes about designing spring landscapes and container gardens with familiar and unfamiliar bulbs. My 14-page article is illustrated with gorgeous images from Rob Cardillo, an award-winning photographer I’ve known for years through the Garden Writers Association. You’ll love every page, and the publication of what Garden Design magazine is calling its “Joy of Bulbs” issue has inspired me to focus on bulbs in today’s podcast.

One of the most dazzling Longfield Gardens collections available to plant this fall! Designed by Alicia Schwede of Flirty Fleurs, the “Baroque” bulb collection.

Another beautiful bulb collection, curated for Longfield Gardens by Alicia Schwede of Flirty Fleurs, called “Somerset”

I’ve wanted to visit Longfield Gardens’ U.S. headquarters in Lakewood, New Jersey, for a number of years. A trip to Philadelphia last week brought me pretty close to that spot, so I invited myself out to the Jersey Shore, about 90 minutes east of Philadelphia, to tour Longfields’ bulb operations and trial/test gardens.

Slow Flowers visits Longfield Gardens! From left, Jen Pfau, Hans Langeveld and Debra Prinzing

My thanks to Longfield for sponsoring Slow Flowers for a number of years. I’ve worked closely with Kathleen Laliberte on bulb-themed stories and promotions  and it’s Kathleen who helped arrange my visit. I’m so grateful that it all worked out to spend a morning there and meet with today’s guests, Hans Langeveld, co-owner of Longfield Gardens, and Jen Pfau, marketing director.

Hans Langeveld showed me how the caladium plants are grown for use in photo shoots! You can just pop these cylinder-planters into the landscape — easy!

Here’s a little bit more about them:

Hans Langeveld grew up in the heart of Holland’s bulb-growing region and has been involved in horticulture his entire professional career. As an enthusiastic gardener himself, he has a unique perspective on flowering bulbs that stretches from the breeders and growers in Holland to his own backyard in New Jersey. At Longfield Gardens, Hans is responsible for account management and quality control.

Left: The familiar packaging you’ll see at most Costco outlets this fall. Right: Jen Pfau shows the packaging’s planting and care instructions.

Jen Pfau grew up in a gardening family in New Jersey and graduated from the Cornell School of Agriculture with a degree in marketing. She joined Longfield Gardens in 2009 and launched the company’s online store in 2011. In addition to managing e-commerce, Jen is also deeply involved in the company’s wholesale business, where she oversees product selection, merchandising, marketing and the customer experience. 

Yes, the dahlia season is winding down but the planting beds at Longfield’s Test and Display Garden in Lakewood, New Jersey, are ready for spring bulbs!

Here are some of the online resources from Longfield:

Find Longfield Gardens’ catalog of bulbs to order and plant this fall here.

Library of Resources and Articles about Fall-Planted Bulbs 

Follow Longfield Gardens’ social places here:

Enjoy videos on planting and more.

Longfield Gardens on Facebook

Longfield Gardens on Instagram

Longfield Gardens on Pinterest

Longfield Gardens’ Blog

Fall is in the air and I think we’re all ready for it. That said, there’s still the promise of spring 2019, thanks to visions of bulbs in our dreams! Thanks so much for joining me today as we discussed all the things we need to know about bulb planting for cutting gardens, landscapes and containers.

We have a vital and vibrant community of flower farmers and floral designers who together define the Slow Flowers Movement. As our cause gains more supporters and more passionate participants who believe in the importance of the American cut flower industry, the momentum is contagious.

I know you feel it, too. I value your support and invite you to show your thanks and with a donation to support my ongoing advocacy, education and outreach activities. You can find the donate button in the column to the right.

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 365,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you for listening, commenting and sharing – it means so much.

Thank you to our sponsors who have supported Slow Flowers and all our programs.

Florists’ Review magazine. I’m delighted to serve as Contributing Editor for Slow Flowers Journal, found in the pages of Florists’ Review. It’s the leading trade magazine in the floral industry and the only independent periodical for the retail, wholesale and supplier market.

Arctic Alaska Peonies, a cooperative of passionate family farms in the heart of Alaska providing bigger, better peony flowers during the months of July and August. Visit them today at

Seattle Wholesale Growers Market, a farmer-owned cooperative committed to providing the very best the Pacific Northwest has to offer in cut flowers, foliage and plants. The Growers Market’s mission is to foster a vibrant marketplace that sustains local flower farms and provides top-quality products and service to the local floral industry. Find them at

Longfield Gardens provides home gardeners with high quality flower bulbs and perennials. Their online store offers plants for every region and every season, from tulips and daffodils to dahlias, caladiums and amaryllis. Visit them at

Syndicate Sales, an American manufacturer of vases and accessories for the professional florist. Look for the American Flag Icon to find Syndicate’s USA-made products and join the Syndicate Stars loyalty program at

Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an employee-owned company that provides our industry the best flower, herb and vegetable seeds — supplied to farms large and small and even backyard cutting gardens like mine. Check them out at

Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers. Formed in 1988, ASCFG was created to educate, unite, and support commercial cut flower growers. It mission is to help growers produce high-quality floral material, and to foster and promote the local availability of that product. Learn more at

Mayesh Wholesale Florist. Family-owned since 1978, Mayesh is the premier wedding and event supplier in the U.S. and we’re thrilled to partner with Mayesh to promote local and domestic flowers, which they source from farms large and small around the U.S. Learn more at

Certified American Grown Flowers. The Certified American-Grown program and label provide a guarantee for designers and consumers on the source of their flowers. Take pride in your flowers and buy with confidence, ask for Certified American Grown Flowers.  To learn more visit

And the Team Flower Conference – a professional floral event where flower lovers from all over the world gather for networking, learning, and celebration. It’s a special time for the floral industry to come together and whether you’re a farmer, designer, wholesaler, or just love flowers, you’re invited to attend as Team Flowers dreams big for the industry’s future. Head to to learn more about the 2019 conference in Waco, Texas!

Debra Prinzing at PepperHarrow Farm on September 9, 2018. Photographed by Liz Brown @estorie

I’m Debra Prinzing, host and producer of the Slow Flowers Podcast.

Next week, you’re invited to join me in putting more American grown flowers on the table, one vase at a time. And If you like what you hear, please consider logging onto iTunes and posting a listener review.

The content and opinions expressed here are either mine alone or those of my guests alone, independent of any podcast sponsor or other person, company or organization.

The Slow Flowers Podcast is engineered and edited by Andrew Brenlan. Learn more about his work at




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.


Monday, August 4th, 2008

A true-blue grouping (left) in Sunset Magazine’s test gardens; Silvery succulents (right) thrive in ice-blue containers for a satisfying grouping at Longwood Gardens, 2006

Ever since I relocated from Seattle to Los Angeles, nearly 2 years ago now, I have relied more than ever on container gardening. With a confounding, on-again, off-again irrigation system that will cost the equivalent of a year’s grad-school tuition to completely repair, and with rock-hard soil that endured years smothered by the previous owner’s idea of weed control (black plastic sheeting covered with red lava rock “mulch”), I’m desperate to grow plants in spite of unwelcome conditions.

But where? And how to keep them alive when it’s too hot and dry for anything but succulents to look good?

The answer is a container garden. Gardening in a container is like one-stop shopping. Maybe we should call it “one-stop gardening.” Here are some of the best reasons for gardening in pots:

Why grow a container garden?         

  •  Move plants and architectural interest above the ground’s surface:  You’ll enjoy beauty closer to eye level, as in this cool vintage vessel that caught my eye at Chanticleer Gardens in Pennsylvania (2006).




Edible and Accessible: Lettuces and herbs thrive in pots, like this over-sized terracotta “strawberry” pot at right – measuring 48 inches tall, created several years ago by the designers at Emery’s Garden in Lynnwood, Wash.! At left, ornamental peppers and kale in a pot at Longwood Gardens are food for the eyes.



Define a focal point: Signal the entrance to the garden, such as with these two glossy Asian pots that contain lush golden hostas. Mounted on pillars, they announce: “Come this way,” a way that’s made more enjoyable because this portal leads to the gardens of David Lewis and George Little, Bainbridge Island artists.



Provide a natural perimeter: Anywhere in the garden, such as at the edge of a deck or patio, pots can act as a verdant “wall” to contain, deter, protect or enclose. I particularly enjoy seeing three identical pots, lined up as a formal barrier – it’s plant-filled architectural interest. Here, at the edge of Peter Norris Home & Garden’s parking lot, these giant iron urns hold gold-streaked phormiums (left). A trio of fern-filled pots defines the edge of a formal planting scheme at Robert Dash’s Madoo Garden (right).