Debra Prinzing

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Container Design Lecture

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011

Do your containers make you happy? SCOTT EKLUND Photograph, 1997

Do you find container design a frustration?

A terra cotta heart-shaped container, filled with succulents.

Recently, Andrew Buchanan, a photographer friend and former Seattle Post-Intelligencer colleague, told me that is the best value for scanning 35mm slides into digital files. It costs about $1.00 per slide, which is a good bargain compared with $2.50 per slide that local labs charge. 

As an experiment, I sent 44 cardboard- and plastic-framed slides that have resided for years in a Kodak carousel tray to to see what they could do.

Kay at emailed the files to me today – just in time for tomorrow’s lecture.  As it turns out, the digitals seem crisper and brighter than the originals…and they can be manipulated, cropped and re-sized. Pretty handy! 

Happily, my talk’s opening slides look great. And they are very sweet. The little boy you see above as a baby and at left as a bored toddler who I dragged to a container plant trial is now 14 years old, about to begin High School in the fall. Time certainly flies – in the garden . . . and with children!

Sunday in the park with Debra

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

Dahlia 'Duo'

Last Sunday morning, while staying a few extra days in San Francisco after my Garden Conservancy talk, I took two Muni buses (47 & 5) to Golden Gate Park where all things artistic, botanical and cultural seem to reside.

My objective was to see the amazing living roof at the California Academy of Sciences, but once I realized I only had 90 minutes, my plans took a slight detour. Art and flowers beckoned.

The Conservatory of Flowers, with Dahlia Dell in the foreground

First stop was the Conservatory of Flowers, circa 1879. It is one of the last remaining Victorian-era conservatories on the West coast (the other resides in Seattle’s Volunteer Park). Before I could even approach the conservatory, my attention was diverted by a late autumn display of dahlias.

Called “Dahlia Dell” and dating to 1924, two demonstration flower beds thrive here, located to the east of the conservatory. They are maintained by volunteers from the San Francisco Dahlia Society for the simple purpose of educating local gardeners and flower lovers about the diversity of dahlia color, form, size and culture. I have a feeling that Paula Jaffe, a dahlia expert and educator who I profiled in “Dazzling Dahlias,” a 2008 Perennials magazine article, is one of the passionate individuals responsible for this joy-inducing floral display.

It was fun to play around with the “tulip” Macro button on the back of my Canon G10 camera and take pics of the fading beauties. These dahlias have withstood the combination of late-season rain, fog and sunshine and they’re still producing pretty blooms. I can’t wait to grow dahlias again, especially because they play well with flower vases. Really well. Enjoy this diverse display. Most (but not all) of the plants were labeled, thankfully.

Dahlia 'Western Spanish Dancer'

Dahlia 'The Phantom'

Dahlia 'Sir Richard'

Dahlia 'Shipley Spot'

Dahlia 'Shea's Rainbow'

Aptly named: Dahlia 'Pooh'

Dahlia 'Pink Paradise'

Dahlia 'Horse Feathers'

Dahlia 'Green D'Or' orange sport

Dahlia 'George C'

Dahlia 'Elvira' (a miniature)

Dahlia 'Delta Red'

Dahlia 'Creamy Beige'

Dahlia 'Bo De O'

Dahlia 'Belle Fiore'

Dahlia 'Badger Twinkle'

Dahlia 'Arulen Princess'


The de Young's tower - against a blue autumn sky.

After spending an hour with the dahlias, I moseyed over to the California Academy of Sciences, but discovered that – from ground level – it is nearly impossible to see, let alone get a sense of its scale and magnificence, Renzo Piano’s green living roof.

So I compromised and spent my museum admission budget to enterthe de Young art museum where “Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne and Beyond: Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musee d’Orsay” was in full swing. It was exciting to see the many amazing and exciting canvasses on display. I’ve been to the Musee d’Orsay twice before when in Paris and so I enjoyed revisiting some of the paintings and drawings again. Twelve galleries of paintings were incredible to take in. You can never have too much of this artwork. The show continues through January 18, 2011.

Here's a closer look at the pointillistic-style perforated copper exterior.

After I left the galleries, I took the elevator to the viewing tower.

Actually, this was the first time I’ve been to the de Young since it was renovated and reopened in October 2005. The “new” building is clad in a perforated copper sheath, which may sound rigid but has a sensual fluidity that reacts to the light and dark.

Depending on how the sun moves through the sky, the building’s surface has dot-like patterns and a shimmery quality. The 144-foot tower is one of the most alluring aspects of the new design, by Swiss architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron and Fong & Chan Architects in San Francisco. From way up high, you can see the best of San Francisco – a 360-degree, mind-blowing perspective.

This roof is incredible - a horticultural masterpiece on top of the California Academy of Sciences in SF

A closer look of one of the roof's mounded forms

From here, I got some photographs of that green, living roof.

 I’ve already decided that on my next visit to San Francisco, I will have to see that installation up close and personal. Because while peering down on it and photographing it (through the glass-walled viewing gallery), I noticed that people were up on the roof doing just that.

Not a bad lineup for a few hours at Golden Gate Park, huh?

New scenes of my lawn-free backyard

Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009
My killer backlit shot of the central path

My killer backlit shot of the central path

We now have a backyard that is grass-free. The space has undergone a huge transformation since earlier this summer when a crew removed the last patches of dying turf. With irrigation repaired and new planting beds+borders outlined and populated, we received a delivery of California Gold crushed gravel to carpet the walking areas. I’ve since decided on the very best way to describe this color of gravel. To me, it will forever be called “Golden Lab.” When our dog Zanny lays on the gravel in the warm Cali sunshine, we notice that her fur blends beautifully – practically the same color.

Our 25th anniversary was last week, and Bruce surprised me with a brand new digital camera, a Canon PowerShot G10. This is a “big girl” camera. No point-and-shoot idiot stuff for me anymore. OK, basically, I have no idea how to do anything BUT point and shoot, but I hope to learn.

The partner-in-crime in this Canon choice is none other than Bill Wright. Bill and I have worked together for years and together created Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways. He knows his stuff. I’m sure he rolled his eyes (privately) about my wimpy camera shenanigans while we were on location together. Lucky for me, Bill advised Bruce on this camera purchase. Oh, and one sweet note. Bruce gave me a 35mm manual camera for a wedding gift on August 24, 1984. It was a beautiful Pentax. I used it for years, but eventually, it broke (OK, it “was dropped,” which is my passive way of saying I broke it) and couldn’t be repaired. That he remembered the wedding gift 25 years ago and wanted to do a reprise was both thoughtful and romantic.  I’m going to get major mileage out of this Canon. That is, when I learn all of its bells and whistles.

Until then, here is my maiden voyage. Photos of the “new” backyard: