Debra Prinzing

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Eight Days: From Santa Barbara to San Diego . . . and points in between

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Here’s what I’ve been up to lately. I traveled to Southern California all of last week  – from Saturday, April 13th through Saturday, April 20th.  I experienced many great highlights; too many to mention. Here are some of them:

Miles of mums at Ocean Breeze

Tours focused on the entire process – from planting and growing to harvesting and grading. Mums, also known as pom poms, are one of the last commercially grown flowers still grown in soil.

My name badge

Fun to wear the VIP badge!

Chalkboard welcome

Chalkboard welcome at Padaro Floral in Carpinteria, California

DAY One: Carpinteria Greenhouse & Nursery Tour, sponsored by the California Cut Flower Commission. I was hosted by Harry and Michele Van Wingerden, the great folks at Myriad Roses and Padaro Floral Design for a day of book-signings and eco-floral demonstrations. A special thanks to the Van Wingerden family, CCFC CEO/Ambassador Kasey Cronquist and Event Planner Anna Kalins for making it a successful and enjoyable day!

botanik owner Erin Taylor

Erin Taylor, designer of flowers, interiors, landscapes and more~ The talented owner of botanik in Summerland, California hosted my lovely book event.

DAY Two: Book signing and flower demos at botanik in Summerland. Loved spending time with very talented owner Erin Taylor and her team. After several hours at botanik, I met up with Cristi Walden and we headed to Sea Crest Nursery, her father Jack Stevenson’s palm and cycad collection. It was so exciting to return to this beautiful place and hear how my talented friend is learning the business of growing and selling amazing landscaping plants (oh, and propagating, too!).


A horticultural weekend in Los Angeles

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

Agave attenuata - the most sculptural and simply perfect form in the Southern California garden

Joanne White leads the way along the rose-laden path in Marylyn Ginsberg and Chuck Klaus’s garden

I have spent many moments this past week reliving the wonderful experience of leading the Northwest Horticultural Society’s “LA Garden Tour” last weekend.  

It was a lot of work for the group’s tour co-chairs Gillian Mathews and Renee Montgelas and me, but we agree that the four-day excursion was a huge success (well, we won’t discuss the bus fiasco on Saturday night – no fault of our own!).  

I said “yes” to planning and leading the tour after several years during which Gillian and I fantasized about putting together a weekend trip.  

Gillian and I have known each other since 2000 or 2001 when I was still reporting on retail trends for Puget Sound/Eastside Business Journals in Seattle and she had just launched her garden emporium, Ravenna Gardens. From there, we not only helped each other with our respective auction projects, but we became friends. Gillian, in fact, is responsible for me assuming the editorial duties for the horticultural society’s Garden Notes, a quarterly newsletter that I edited for a few years on two occasions.  

We first worked on a tour together in 2005 when I led an autumn weekend to Eastern Washington/Yakima area. And only three weeks after I first arrived in Southern California in late August 2006, it was serendipitous that Gillian and Renee brought an NHS group to Santa Barbara and Pasadena. I joined them for much of that tour and honestly feel that it was my happy introduction to Southern California horticulture and landscape design. When I visited some of Santa Barbara’s great public and private gardens and nurseries with the group, I thought to myself: “I am going to be okay down here.”  

Gillian may not realize how directly and indirectly she has influenced and encouraged the course of my career to leave business writing and embark on garden and design writing – but she has!  

Fast forward 3-1/2 years and it was my turn to show off LA to many old and several new NHS friends. Here’s a recap and some photos to introduce the awesome design style of LA’s gardens:


Garden Field Trip: Descanso Gardens, Los Angeles

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010
An unlabeled dark pink Camellia in winter at Descanso Gardens

An unlabeled dark pink Camellia in winter at Descanso Gardens

Camellias are oh-so-beautiful, delicate and almost porcelain-like in their perfection.

Deb and Anita (Mom) in Japanese garden

Deb and Anita (Mom) in Japanese garden

On the day after Christmas, my parents and I visited Los Angeles’s most established camellia collection at Descanso Gardens

The mature camellia shrubs (many of which are tree-like in their proportions) are protected from Southern California’s harsh heat and sunlight because they’re planted in the understory of even more mature sycamore and live oak trees. They are happiest in the cooler months of the year.

Here, you really do feel like the paths lead through an established woodland. It’s actually an urban woodland, just off of the junction of two freeways. But that’s LA for you.

When we moved to Los Angeles in August, 2006, we got off the plane at Burbank Airport and while waiting for luggage, I noticed a huge DESCANSO GARDENS billboard above the luggage claim area. I remember thinking, “what kind of garden could exist among all this concrete?” 

Anita (Mom) and Fred (Dad) at entrance to Oak-and-Camellia Forest

Anita (Mom) and Fred (Dad) at entrance to Oak-and-Camellia Forest

Later, I was lucky enough to visit. Descanso Gardens is a 160-acre natural woodland and botanical garden located just north of Burbank in a community called La Canada-Flintridge. It’s about a one-hour drive east of where I live in Thousand Oaks and about 20 minutes west of Pasadena. If you plan a visit to the Huntington Botanical Garden, you can easily add a side trip to Descanso. 

I was invited to give a talk at Descanso a few summers ago and was blown away by its immense scale, as urban gardens go. But until last week, I had never visited during the winter Camellia season.

Descanso’s founder, E. Manchester Boddy, publisher and owner of the Los Angeles Daily News, preserved the land (gardens, woodland and chaparral) to share Southern California’s natural beauty with future generations. This is where he lived, building a home in 1938 with views of the San Gabriel mountains. The Boddy family left the house in 1953 when they sold Descanso to Los Angeles County.   

A beautiful pink camellia display

A beautiful pink camellia display

About the Camellia Forest:


Thousands of camellias grow in the understory of a 20-acre oak forest. Boddy began planting camellias in the late 1930s, originally to supply the florist trade.
Many plants were purchased from F.M. Uyematsu, a Japanese-American nurseryman whose camellias were well known to the trade.   Other plants came directly from china, including Camellia reticulata cultivars, imported by Boddy in 1948.  Camellias bloom here from October through May, so you can actually enjoy them most of the year except for summer.

Here are some more of the flowers and garden features that we enjoyed on our winter visit. I especially love the glossy red container plantings of Camellia sasanqua ‘Setsugekka’ because they remind me of the same ones growing in my former Seattle garden, espaliered against the fence for a beautiful winter floral display.