Debra Prinzing

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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




Inspiration comes in many forms

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

A spring bouquet in a Mason Jar inspires . . .

The other day, while talking with my friend Lorene (one of the most creative people I have known since we were college classmates together), I described some of the cool design ideas I’ve spotted in the past few weeks. My own enthusiasm for all this visual stimulation made me realize my “list” could be a blog post here.

After seeing these ideas in Seattle, Los Angeles and New York, my own idea-bank has been rekindled. Witnessing the talent of others doesn’t ever make me envious. No, it makes me want to up my own game and push myself further to do something wonderfully better as a writer, a gardener, a designer.

The type of inspiration I’ve seen lately has been truly exquisite. Great design is great design, whether in the garden, the home, or the restaurant. When you see it, you know it!

There may be no other response than to gaze in awe and say – WOW. But if your muse can be stirred or awakened by these ideas, by all means, use them as a starting point for your own artistic expression. I hope you enjoy where all this beauty takes you!


17-year-old garden designer Courtney Goetz won a Gold Medal at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show. Her mom, designer and writer Sue Goetz, is one of her influences.

At last month’s Northwest Flower & Garden Show, one of my most favorite annual events, I was invited by Julie Chai of Sunset Magazine to help “judge” the Sunset Outdoor Living Award.

We were smitten by a small but extremely innovative garden called “Paradise (to be) Regained . . . borrowing Thoreau,” which we honored with the Sunset award.

The critera recognizes a garden that exemplifies “fresh, useful and achievable ideas.” In this instance, the designer was 17-year-old Courtney Goetz.

Courtney, the daughter of garden designer and writer Sue Goetz, grew up in the garden-making business. In 2005, when she was 11, Courtney helped mom Sue design a display garden named “A Child of the Garden Grows .  .  .  .” for this same show. Now, she has made a garden herself – and guess what? In addition to the Sunset Award, the show judges honored Courtney with a Gold Medal.

This half-circle garden floor treatment by Courtney Goetz shows how to pair salvaged metal grates with colorful groundcovers to create a "welcome mat" at the entry to a garden shelter.

As her Senior Thesis Project for Gig Harbor High School, Courtney wanted her design to be all about “recycling, re-purposing, and ‘re-characterizing’ used materials for use in the garden,” she says. “My goal and intent for this garden is to have green ideas for everyone to instill in their lives. I want the message to get out that not everyone can buy solar panels or hybrid cars, but anyone can and will make a difference by using a little bit less and utilizing what we already have.”

One of the many wonderful – and really clever — details of Courtney’s display garden was the checkerboard “floor” treatment, combining recycled metal grates with ground covers and rocks.

We loved this idea as a modern twist on a “welcome mat.” Courtney selected varieties of sedum and sempervivums in gold and dark green, as well as smooth rocks and the metal grates. It all adds up to a really gorgeous detail in the garden.

Look for exciting things to come from this young talent. We can’t wait to see more!


Openings between each paver makes room for a permeable detail of smoth stones.

Design detail

Another wonderful “floor” treatment appeared in a garden called “Wrinkle in Time,” designed by Karen Stefonick of Karen Stefonick Design. Her garden won the Best in Show Award, also called the “Founder’s Cup.”

Since I was able to tour it up close during the judging, I realized how truly creative Karen is when it comes to working with landscaping materials. She devised a patio using two simple ingredients: Concrete Pavers and Tumbled Stone.

Look closely at this pattern created by the slightly offset 1-by-2 foot concrete pavers. By staggering their placement and filling a 2-inch gap at either end of each paver with small rocks, Karen has accomplished two things.

First, she uses the texture of stone to contrast with the smooth concrete, which results in an attractive pattern. Second, this treatment turns a patio into a permeable surface for collecting rainwater into the ground rather than allowing it to stream down to the curb and disappear. Very cool!


What a gorgeous grouping of flowers and vases!

During all the Flower Show activity, including giving three talks in two days, I almost forgot to celebrate my birthday. But thankfully, my friends and family didn’t forget.

Flower detail

One of the best surprises was the delivery of flowers from a local West Seattle shop called Fleurt Studio.

The gift-giver was my sister-in-law Sandra B. Henriquez. Her touching gesture of sending flowers was made more amazing because instead of resorting to the generic, 1-800 route, Sandi did her homework to find a local flower shop that offers unique, one-of-a-kind gift bouquets. She called (long-distance from Washington, DC) and spoke with Samantha, the owner, and discussed exactly what would be included in the delivery.

And here’s what arrived: A “floralscape,” an eclectic grouping of five differently-sized vases holding mostly purple and plum ingredients. I loved the whimsical inclusion of two canning jars, a bud vase, a vintage bottle and a miniature glass cup. Together, they created a floral display that no single bunch could equal. Magical, huh?



After February’s Flower Show madness, March welcomed a trip to Los Angeles, my former home town. Living there for the past four years was an amazing adventure, especially when it comes to learning about design with new eyes. The city, and in fact all of Southern California, was for me a big design graduate school – with lessons in architecture, industrial design, sculpture and history.

While living in LA, I spent a lot of time scouting homes and gardens for the Los Angeles Times HOME section, as well as visiting retail sources for plants, furniture, gardening accents and more.

Rolling Greens Nursery in Hollywood is one of my favorite haunts. It was the site of our Garden Design magazine Hollywood Issue party last April – one of those exciting moments when I said to myself: I can’t believe I’m living here and doing this type of work I love!

Teabags, thousands of them!

When I returned to LA last week to work on a photo shoot for Better Homes & Gardens, I took our art director Scott Johnson to visit Rolling Greens. I wanted him to see several of the area’s cool nurseries. We stocked up on some plants for the next day’s shoot, and poked around buying ourselves tiny agaves to bring home to our colder climes (Seattle for me; Des Moines, Iowa, for Scott – yes, I know. It’s really futile, but we try).

But the wow-factor occurred when I walked into the large space where cookbooks and culinary/gourmet products are typically sold. There along the far wall hung a new installation that I can only describe as a Tea Bag Curtain. One of the staffers told me that the artful treatment had just been hung by Rolling Greens creative director Angela Hicks and her crew.

Hundreds (maybe thousands!) of hand-dyed tea bags, attached to long strings create a beautiful semitransparent cascade, suspended from rods attached at the ceiling. I can only imagine how much time and care was taken to create this rosy-melon masterpiece.

Organic and delicate, this “curtain” is so charming. I am eager to figure out how to replicate it somehow. Simple ingredients paired with masterful execution . . . it adds up to something truly remarkable. This Tea Bag Curtain isn’t “selling product,” but who cares? It goes miles at saying to Rolling Greens customers: we care about design and we’re a place where you can be inspired.


Anthropologie's lavish zipper gown - look close and see how it was made with straight pins!

Here's how the crushed paper skirt emerges from the tight, pastel-colored bodice....

Only days after spending 48 hours in Los Angeles, I flew to New York City. I’ve previously written about visiting the awesome High Line Park, but here’s another visual treat, shown purely for its beauty and innovation.

I turned the corner on my way to the Chelsea Market, a huge warehouse-turned-hipster food mall, and there on the corner was a gorgeous Anthropologie window display.

Some super-creative designer turned a dressmaker’s form, yards of zippers, straight pins and crushed butcher paper into a fanciful ball gown. The way the separated zippers form the bodice so the gold and silver metallic zipper teeth sparkle in the light . . . dazzling. But at the top of each zipper, the “end” has been spiraled into a little rosette.

Just take a look and feast your eyes on the charming way a few simple ingredients become Cinderella’s new gown!

Now, go out and do something uninhibited and artistic today. I dare you! I’m going to try it myself.

Chocolate flowers for your garden

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010


BH&G's August issue features my "Debra's Garden" column about "hot chocolate" plants

Chocolate flower and plant update:

Better Homes & Gardens readers who see this month’s “Debra’s Garden” piece on cocoa-colored and chocolate-scented plants might be interested in reading my post from last July. You can find it below.
Just last summer, I visited the famed Chocolate Flower Farm in Langley, Wash., on Whidbey Island – and wrote about my tour of the charming and inspiring nursery with owner Marie Lincoln.
Several readers have already contacted me to mention Chocolate Flower Farm as a great source for dark-colored and sweet-fragranced plants, including the chocolate cosmos, featured above right.
In fact, if you turn to the Resource section in the August issue, you’ll discover that we did indeed feature this great resource for all things chocolatey. The web site is:
As with the edible kind of chocolate, one can never have too many yummy, delicious chocolate plants. Enjoy – and please let me know how you are using this sultry color in your own garden.
Dark chocolate brushes the tips of this multi-petaled dahlia called 'Karma Choc'

Dark chocolate brushes the tips of this multi-petaled dahlia called 'Karma Choc'

chocolategardenThe flowers that Marie Lincoln and Bill Schlicht cultivate at their Whidbey Island nursery specialty nursery are good enough to eat. That’s because Chocolate Flower Farm’s mocha, bittersweet chocolate, cinnamon, cocoa and espresso-hued blooms and foliage plants are as satisfying to the senses as a Fran’s caramel-filled chocolate sprinkled with grey sea salt (well, almost).

My friend Stacie Crooks, of Seattle-based Crooks Garden Design, was my escort to Whidbey last Tuesday. We’d only slightly recovered from our late night festivities in her superb, often-photographed drought-tolerant  garden, where a gaggle of garden gals gathered (isn’t that alliterative?) for a lovely sunset soiree.  I spent the night at Stacie’s and we set off the next morning for the ferry from Mukilteo to Clinton on Whidbey Island.

The ferry crossing was short – 20 minutes – but beautiful in its grey-blueness with sunlight pushing through the morning haze. I breathed Seattle’s maritime air and that made me happy.

I had a lovely visit to Marie Lincoln of Chocolate Flower Farm on Whidbey Island outside Seattle

I had a lovely visit to Marie Lincoln of Chocolate Flower Farm on Whidbey Island outside Seattle

After visiting one of Stacie’s inspiring and impressive design projects, the subject of which I hope will soon appear in one or two of my articles, we drove to Chocolate Flower Farm to meet Marie. I first met this dark-plant purveyor by telephone when I called her last December to request an interview. I wanted to include her “sweet” plant passion in my February “In the Garden” column for 805 Living.

Like most of my writing efforts, there’s a back story on the piece, entitled “Brown is Beautiful: Sweet Tips for Growing a Chocolate Garden.”  Last fall, my editor Lynne Andujar made an off-the-cuff comment to me: “Oh, our February issue is going to be the CHOCOLATE issue, but I’m not really sure if there’s a fit for the gardening column,” she said.

“You bet there’s an angle,” I replied. “We’re going to feature chocolate-scented and chocolate colored plants!”

A little shed houses the nursery sales area

A little shed houses the nursery sales area

Marie Lincoln shows off her plants to garden designer Stacie Crooks

Marie Lincoln shows off her plants to garden designer Stacie Crooks

Marie and Bill started the Chocolate Flower Farm in 2005 to grow and promote dark-colored plants. 

The display beds and nursery area have expanded around their 1923 farmhouse and outbuildings (sheds!) to the former horse pasture.

As the “hot chocolate” trend grew, the couple searched for even more plants on the dark end of the spectrum, selecting unusual sports to propagate and sell as exclusive named cultivars. Marie jokes that her nursery reflects “a collision of two passions,” as it introduces new and veteran gardeners to the beauty of chocolatey colors in the landscape (not to mention a few very special chocolate-scented plants that invoke memories of grandmother’s Nestle Toll House cookies coming out of the oven).


Keeyla Meadows colors her garden world

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

Note: A version of this Q&A appeared earlier this week in “LA At Home,” the Los Angeles Times’ daily home and garden blog.

Mary Ann caught one glimpse of the awesome coat and matching socks . . . and said - Hey, that's Keeyla Meadows!

Mary Ann caught one glimpse of the awesome coat and matching socks . . . and said - Hey, that's Keeyla Meadows!

Los Angeles native Keeyla Meadows lives in Berkeley where she makes art and designs gardens. Her cheerful, 50-by-100 foot city lot is a living canvas packed with life-sized female figures and not-so-perfect vessels, hand-built in clay and glazed in a palette of turquoise, apricot and lavender.

An exuberant color palette that few would dare to use - here's Keeyla's Berkeley bungalow and street-side "sunset" garden

An exuberant color palette that few would dare to use - here's Keeyla's Berkeley bungalow and street-side "sunset" garden

No surface here is left unadorned. Whether it’s her swirly ceramic paving, custom metal benches or sculpted walls, Keeyla artistically places favorite objects and plants with a carefree confidence that few of us can master.

Fans of Keeyla have long admired her award-winning gardens, including a ‘Best in Show’ at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show a few years back. Her beautiful first book, Making Gardens a Work of Art, was published in 2004 by Sasquatch Books, a Seattle imprint that also published my first book, The Northwest Gardener’s Resource Directory.

Lorene and me ~ gal pals in Keeyla's garden

Lorene and me ~ gal pals in Keeyla's garden

In 2008, I lucked into an impromptu visit to Keeyla’s personal wonderland when my girlfriend Mary Ann Newcomer boldly followed her into Café Fanny’s in Berkeley, an Alice Waters bistro, and snagged an invite for our group of breakfasting garden writers.

Lorene Edwards Forkner, Mary Ann and I hopped in the car and followed Keeyla to her bungalow, a few blocks away. It is fair to say we were hyperventilating!

“You can take photos, but don’t publish them until my book is out,” Keeyla requested. It was the least we could do, having feasted our eyes on her botanical paint box, imagining how we might try her playful ideas in our own backyards.

9780881929409_CMYKHer new book, Fearless Color Gardens: The creative gardener’s guide to jumping off the color wheel (Timber Press, $27.95), has just been published. Filled with Keeyla’s photography of design projects, as well as her doodles and sketches, it reads like a colorist’s memoir, complete with a muse named Emerald.

Strong on fantasy, it’s also a useful workbook for garden owners who need a nudge toward the more vibrant end of the color spectrum. I recently asked Keeyla about the book.

Q: How do you teach students to feel confident as garden designers?

Keeyla's color sensibility is in her DNA as evidenced by the orange side of her house punctuated by a tree-inspird sculpture

Keeyla's color sensibility is in her DNA as evidenced by the orange side of her house punctuated by a tree-inspird sculpture

A: A lot of people have this mantra that says, “I’m not a creative person. I’m not an artist.” Our lives are built around the practicality of what we have to do everyday so many people shut those doors to creativity a long time ago. I suggest you treat garden design like something you do all the time. The physical activity of placing plants in a space can be as easy as folding laundry and putting it away, or setting the table, or baking a cake.

Q. How can I make a landscape project feel less overwhelming?

Mary Anne Newcomer, Keeyla Meadows and Lorene Edwards Forkner

Mary Anne Newcomer, Keeyla Meadows and Lorene Edwards Forkner

A. I suggest you divide your space up like a series of photographs or like windows.

Decide what “picture” you’re working with, where it starts and ends. Start with looking out the kitchen window and use plants and art to fill the frame.

Q. Where does your color inspiration come from?

A. A lot of my color sense comes from growing up in Los Angeles and living with its “colorfulness” – the light, tile work and Catalina Island all inspired me. Right now, I’m designing a new garden for the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show in March. It’s a habitat garden and the colors I’m using come from the red-headed garter snake, an endangered snake from the San Mateo coastline. It has a read head with a turquoise and red stripe down the back, so it’s providing my design motif, my imagery and my color combination.

Jump off the conventional Color Wheel and play with Keeyla's Color Triangle

Jump off the conventional Color Wheel and play with Keeyla's Color Triangle

Q. How do you suggest people “jump off” the color wheel?

A. The traditional color wheel makes my head spin. I use a color triangle, which is so stabilizing. I put blue at the top of the pyramid – it represents the sky. The other two points are red and yellow. Between the three primary colors are the secondary colors. On either side of any point is a harmonic chord of color. You’ll never go wrong if you take one of the points – red, yellow or blue – and use one of those chords of color on either side of it.

 Q. How do you balance artwork with the plants in your garden? 

A checkerboard of color in a patio installation

A checkerboard of color in a patio installation

A. Art gives me a constant relationship to plant against, a very stable feature to move through the seasons with.

Art creates so much focus and orients the whole space so one is not always reinventing. It is like a stage setting.

The artwork and hardscape set the stage for your plants to really become the stars.

Here’s a quote from Keeyla’s book that seems apropos:

“In my gardens, color refers to everything – absolutely everything. I don’t just make a bland holder, a neutral vase, for colorful plants. Color includes the rocks, the pavings, and the artwork. It also connects up with the color of the house and the sky above. So it’s really like bringing the camera to your eye. When you take a photo, you are looking at everything in the frame. In creating color gardens we will look at everything that is part of the garden picture. . . “

More photos to share from our visit to Keeyla’s magical garden:

Rolling Greens nursery and garden emporium comes to Hollywood

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009
Gourmet food, exotic tea blends and a library of design books fill the new Rolling Greens in Hollywood

Gourmet food, exotic tea blends and a library of design books fill the new Rolling Greens in Hollywood

rolling greensLast Thursday, a vintage tire shop in the heart of Hollywood was the setting for a festive pre-opening bash thrown by Rolling Greens, its new tenant.

Designers, landscapers and horticulture fans gathered to sip, graze, explore (and shop!) at the hottest new garden emporium in Los Angeles. My editors at Garden Design magazine asked me to attend and check out the happenin’s.

Rolling Greens’ second location is the brainchild of owner Greg Salmeri and his colleague and creative director Angela Hicks. The original store in L.A.’s Culver City is a distinctive nursery, home and garden destination, formerly only for the trade, that opened to the public in 2004.

Tire dealer-turned-garden emporium, in a historic, weathered building that's full of character

Tire dealer-turned-garden emporium, in a historic, weathered building that's full of character

For his new outlet, Salmeri snagged the lease on Town Tire Company, a weathered brick building that has been a Hollywood landmark at the corner of Beverly Blvd. and Gardner Ave. Built in 1930, the iconic structure was originally a food market and then in 1963 became a tire store.

“I’ve had my eye on the Town Tire Co. building for years and dreamed of opening Rolling Greens in this incredible space,” Salmeri says. “In this new location, we’ve expanded our offerings into home categories beyond what we offer at our Culver City location.”

Greg Salmeri

Greg Salmeri

Salmeri and Hicks turned the tire shop’s unpolished attributes into appealing design elements for Rolling Greens. There are big metal garage doors that roll up to connect the indoor spaces with the fresh-air ones. The original concrete floor has been cleaned up and the exposed brick walls sandblasted. Once covered over, several huge glass doorways topped with half-circle transom windows have been exposed to invite sunshine into the 1,000-square-foot bed and bath department. The cash-wrap counters are clad in 19th century pressed-tin ceiling tiles. The “color greenhouse” is a glass-and-steel dividing wall that encloses an area for indoor plants, including orchids and ferns. Panes of amethyst and bottle green glass replaced broken sections, creating a vintage greenhouse backdrop at the center of the store.


Meet a beautiful – and sustainable – landscape

Friday, August 28th, 2009
Mike Mcdonald, a Green Builder and Visionary

Mike Mcdonald, a Green Builder and Visionary

gardendesign004Garden Design magazine asked me to profile one of its “Green Awards” winners for the September-October issue, which is out on newsstands this week.

The story is about a lovely, sustainable landscape designed to complement the cutting-edge, eco-architecture of Margarido House in Oakland.

Margarido House is the creation of builder-owner Mike McDonald of McDonald Construction & Development, and his architect-brother Tim McDonald of Philadelphia-based Plumbob.  The brothers and their multiple collaborators have created a stunning residence that earned the highest (Platinum) rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. It is the first home in Northern California to obtain the LEED-H Platinum Award (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

gardendesign005What makes this garden and its home sustainable?

1. It’s Permeable : The patio, roof and driveway surfaces are designed to capture all of the property’s storm water runoff. The driveway’s decorative design uses recycled and perforated Pavestone concrete tiles. Water percolates into a 4,000-gallon cistern hidden under the driveway and, when needed, circulates through the property for irrigation and flowing through the Zen garden’s piped fountain. “We’ve created a self-contained water loop,” Mike points out.

 2. It’s Durable: Garden designer Lauren Schneider of  Wonderland Garden and Landscape in Oakland, chose a diverse, drought-tolerant plant palette. She worked closely with local growers to specify California native varieties, as well as plants from many Mediterranean regions, including South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, South America and Mexico. She closely observed the garden during its first year to evaluate whether each plant was durable enough to survive Oakland’s dry summer conditions with infrequent water.

 3. It’s Reusable: Recycled concrete is the basis for Margarido House’s über-modern S-curve chaises, tabletops and sleek urns, which contain succulents, bamboo, and New Zealand flax. Created by Bay Area Concreteworks Studio, which also fabricated interior concrete counters, the products satisfy LEED’s “local” and “reusable” criteria. Other outdoor furniture also has recycled content, including Room & Board’s  “Emmet” Adirondack-inspired chairs, by Loll Designs, made with 100 percent recycled high density polyethylene (plastic).

Margarido House, enhanced by a soft, sustainable garden

Margarido House, enhanced by a soft, sustainable garden

One of the key scoring factors in earning this ranking is Lauren’s sustainable landscape design.

Dreamy and naturalistic, the garden is an organic counterpoint to the geometric architecture.

Lauren actually created three distinct gardens – one on the ground; one in the air; and one that climbs an incredible vertical retaining wall and has multiple sections for planting (not to mention a melodic water feature to attract birds).

Photographs of the Margarido’s rooftop garden weren’t included in the Garden Design layout, due to space constraints. I wanted to make sure and show some here. The rooftop is pretty stunning, and not just because it has killer views of San Francisco Bay. It is installed on top of a capillary mat and layer of geo-textile material; over this base are “three inches of horticultural pumice as a drainage medium and five inches of lightweight planting mix,” Lauren explains.

Garden designer Lauren Schneider gave me a personal tour of Margarido House's exterior spaces

Garden designer Lauren Schneider gave me a personal tour of Margarido House's exterior spaces

The dramatic design includes sedums and sempervivums, golden barrel cactus, lewisia, Cleveland sage, lavender, deer grass, and Libertia peregrinans, a New Zealand iris relative valued for its bronzy-orange blades.

This garden provides top-down insular qualities that cool or warm the home, depending on the season. Flowers and stems of Cleveland sage, silhouetted against the sky, can even be seen through the skylight that illuminates the master bath. The roof garden invites its viewers to look close and study the interplay of plant colors and forms. In an abstract way, they echo the distant scenery where treetops and buildings form an irregular city skyline.

You can read the full story here. And enjoy this gallery of photos that I shot when visiting this past May. You’ll see details that caught my eye and get a fuller sense of this amazing landscape and home.

Stylish Chicken Coop in Santa Barbara

Sunday, August 16th, 2009
A tiny chicken coop with loads of style

A tiny chicken coop with loads of style

Last week’s visit to Santa Barbara included a stop at “Rooms & Gardens,” a wonderful home furnishings, antiques, accessories and interior design emporium on State Street.

I needed to check out the store’s new backyard chicken coop and garden.

Owners Eric and Jami Voulgaris recently created the sweet coop and romantic garden, where four Buff Orpington hens reside.

When I met Eric a few weeks ago, at the Santa Monica “Rooms & Gardens” store (they own this location with a partner, actress Mary Steenbergen), he told me about the chicken coop project.

The little building measures about 6-by-6 feet in size, with a charming shingled roof, board-and-batten siding, a country-style screen door and shutters. Stained that dreamy grey-blue shade, it looks both elegant and timeless.

A curved cobblestone path leads from the store’s back door out into the postage-stamp-sized garden. Picket fencing contains the four gals in their little yard.

The Voulgaris children named the Buff Orpington chicks, born on Easter morning: “Henny Penny,” “Rosy,” “Cornflake,” and “Scramble.”

The 800-square-foot garden’s renovation came about because it had to be ripped up when the neighboring Apple store was moving in. When that construction came to an end, Eric and Jami saw it as a chance to dress up the space, which really hadn’t changed much since Rooms & Gardens opened 16 years ago.

Happy chickens living in a happy garden

Happy chickens living in a happy garden

Pretty and inviting, a corner garden

Pretty and inviting, a corner garden

Fully organic, the Martha’s Vineyard-inspired garden is landscaped with espaliered apple trees, Meyer lemon trees, ‘Iceburg’ roses and clumps of lavender. One corner holds a display of potted hydrangeas and an iron chair.

The garden and hens complement the carefree lifestyle settings inside Rooms & Gardens. Eric describes the store’s look and feel as “a fusion of British Colonial, ethnic accents, Chinoiserie and a relaxed coastal theme.”

I love the happy vibe that you feel upon entering. It’s a store where sink-into furniture is paired with uncommon accessories, all of which suggests well-loved and well-lived-in environments.

The garden is open to visitors during store hours. If you want to taste the yummy brown eggs produced here, check with the staff. Eric mentioned that a plan is in the works to supply Tuttini’s, a cafe around the corner, with their daily source of eggs!

Santa Barbara Style – indoors and outdoors

Sunday, April 26th, 2009
A tapestry of showy succulents, designed by Botanik

A tapestry of showy succulents, designed by Botanik

Erin (Keosian) Taylor’s  cool plant and design emporium called Botanik was one of my very first garden discoveries when I moved to Southern California in late summer of 2006.

I have Gillian Mathews, another awesome garden retailer who created Ravenna Gardens in Seattle, to thank for the introduction.

In September 2006, Gillian and Theresa Malmanger created and led the “Los Angeles-Santa Barbara Garden Tour” for the Northwest Horticultural Society. So I piggybacked on that trip and joined all my Seattle pals only 3 weeks after I moved here. I was in for a treat!

It turns out that I needed Gillian and Theresa to be my “guides” to begin to understand my new backyard.

It was the best gift they could have shared. The three-day garden extravaganza gave me a front seat tour to some amazing private gardens, public gardens and retail outlets. It fed my spirit and soul as I got to pal around with several very special, dear friends.It made me begin to realize that I was going to be “okay” living here because I started viewing SoCal’s horticultural and garden design world through the eyes of these savvy Seattle folks. That began my long education as to just how cool my new environs are.

One of our stops was the coastal village of Summerland, where Botanik occupies two cute cottages. Created by Erin Taylor, a fresh, young talent who has an amazing eye for design and a solid footing in horticulture, Botanik captured my imagination for gardening with succulents in a whole new way.

Since then, over the past few years, I’ve visited Summerland whenever I could (it’s only a few miles south of Santa Barbara off of Hwy. 101). Erin is inspiring, creative, and refreshingly casual in her design approach. She and staff designer, Molly Hutto create succulent displays like I’ve never before seen. Their creations are oft-copied but never surpassed in composition – with delicious succulent textures, colors, forms and patterns.

Botanik's entry porch converted into a potted plant display

Botanik's entry porch converted into a potted plant display

botanik7In 2007, Kate Karam and I produced a story about Botanik’s luscious succulent designs for a future Cottage Living story. We had such a great time working with Erin and Molly that day. The designs they came up with were to die for! Sadly, as you all know, Cottage Living ceased publication after the December 2008 issue and we all miss it (we miss garden editor Kate, too!) Who knows where that film will surface or whether it will at all (I’m hoping Sunset picks it up, since it’s a sister magazine).

Not one to sit around and wait, I was recently fortunate to interest another editor in Botanik. Well, that’s not fair to say because I haven’t met an editor or publication yet NOT isn’t interested in Erin and Botanik!

But, earlier this spring, Erin graciously agreed to let 805 Living create a story around her natural design philosophy for interior and exterior spaces.

My story appears in the April issue of 805 Living, with photographs by Gary Moss. Here it is for you to read and enjoy. And for those of you planning a Garden Pilgrimage to Santa Barbara (Lotusland, Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens, etc.) don’t leave town without stopping in Summerland to visit Botanik.


An award-winning Los Angeles garden inspired by Morocco and India

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

Sparkling and serene, this is a tiny garden that oozes romance and mystique (design and photo, Laura Morton)

I believe that the paths we walk lead us to the people we need to know in our lives.

Case in point: A week or so after I insisted that my friend Shirley Bovshow, an LA garden media personality and talented designer, bunk with me for 2 nights at the Portland Garden Writers Association annual symposium, she invited me to join an Association of Professional Landscape Designers’ lunch meeting at her home in Woodland Hills. Since Shirley and I live relatively close to one another (by LA standards), I took her up on the invite. The other guests were fellow members with Shirley in APLD’s LA chapter. Plus, Shirley’s garden is a wonderland of plants and design ideas.

The Association of Professional Landscape Designers is an impressive organization. I have met, interviewed and written about APLD members (and their work) in many venues, including Seattle, Los Angeles and beyond.

The September gathering introduced me to several Southern California garden creators, including Shirley (Edenmaker), Jennifer Gilbert Asher of TerraSculpture (I’ve recently written about her work), and Laura Morton of Laura Morton Garden Design.

When Laura casually mentioned to me that one of her projects won the 2008 APLD “Gold Award” for residential landscape design, I went a little crazy. “Has it been published?” I quizzed her. “No,” she admitted.

No sooner than I heard this – and no sooner had Laura sent me several photographs and a little movie about her design for Mala Vasan’s Hollywood Hills backyard, than I was on the phone to LA Times HOME section editor Craig Nakano. As I suspected, he was very interested in seeing what Laura had to share.

Open air living: Designer Laura Morton changed a plain backyard at Mala Vasan’s home into an Indian-tinged outdoor living room with a reflecting pool, fire pit and garden (Laura Morton photograph)

The story about Mala’s garden, inspired by her own multicultural interests and designed by Laura Morton, appears in today’s LA Times Homes section. Here are the opening lines:

HER PASSAGE TO INDIA: A Hollywood Hills bungalow’s small backyard is transformed into an exotic, cozy retreat and social spot.

If you’re looking for a good excuse to invest in landscaping, Mala Vasan’s is hard to beat. She credits her dreamy mix of Indian and Moroccan inspiration for seducing her sweetheart.

“My garden brings out an inner magic,” says Vasan, a producer of TV commercials who was going out to eat with screenwriter Brian P. Regan when he saw the enchanting outdoor space and said, “Forget it. Let’s stay here and order Chinese food.”

With scented blossoms, dancing flames, the sound of spilling water and chaises large enough for two, the intimate setting is, indeed, full of romance. (“Our first dates were on those couches,” Vasan says.) The garden also is an artful antithesis of what it used to be: a driveway too small for a car and a 560-square-foot backyard dominated by a wobbly brick patio and views of a boxy air-conditioner hanging from the neighbor’s garage.

The transformation of this Hollywood Hills property earned its creator, Laura Morton of Laura Morton Design in West Hollywood, a gold medal last year from the Assn. of Professional Landscape Designers. For Vasan, the thoughtful design was proof that tiny details and a vivid imagination could turn a prosaic space into a pretty and practical retreat.

The Times’ online photo gallery features several before-and-after shots, including a darling photo of designer Laura Morton and client Mala Vasan, seated in the garden. You can see the gallery here.

Here are a few more photographs, courtesy of Laura Morton. Visit her web site to see many more of her projects – inspiring and alluring spaces that will get you thinking about turning your own backyard into an exotic oasis with plants, cushy textiles, the presence of water, candles to illuminate and other sensory pleasures.

A curtain of water spills over the reflecting pool’s tiled edge into a hidden channel behind the fire pit (Laura Morton photograph)

Romantic chaises, piled with textiles and cushions, create a luxurious outdoor living room (Laura Morton photograph)

In my interview with Laura, she described how a feeling of intimacy can be created in a garden:

“Enclosed spaces instill a sense of intimacy, and within that, your own sense of paradise is possible.”

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.