Debra Prinzing

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Episode 363: Grower Wisdom with Jeanie McKewan of Illinois’s Brightflower Farm

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

Jeanie and I had a wonderful reunion in Chicago last week. This photograph was taken in front of the Chicago Hyatt after recording our interview.

I’ve been on the road for more than a week and connecting with Slow Flowers members and sponsors has been at the heart of my travel. Before we jump into today’s conversation with a wonderful featured guest, I’d love to thank a few folks with my shout-outs!

First, on August 11 & 12, I was hosted by Christine Hoffman of Twin Cities Flower Exchange in St. Paul, Minneapolis, where I enjoyed a sneak peek into what’s in store for attendees of next year’s Slow Flowers Summit, July 1-2, 2019.

As I’ve mentioned in recent weeks, Christine and the TCFE are co-hosting the Summit in their wonderful Twin Cities, where the local floral scene is alive, well, thriving and growing.

In addition to arranging for me to visit two of the flower farms that sell their botanical harvest through the TCFE, Christine took me to see three potential venues for the Summit sessions next summer. It’s often quite challenging to manage and plan an event long-distance, so this was hugely important.

At Beezie’s Blooms, a farm portrait with owners Jeff & Randi, with Christine Hoffman of Twin Cities Flower Exchange

Christine Hoffman (left) and Allison DeRungs at Flower Child Farm outside Minneapolis/St. Paul.

It was a major treat to visit Beezie’s Blooms, a Slow Flowers member farm owned by Randi Greiner, and to tour Allison DeRungs’ Flower Child Farm, both located on beautiful properties north of the metro area.

On Sunday afternoon, Christine hosted a meet-up-style open house to introduce me to the local floral community – farmers and floral designers who comprise the dynamic change taking place there. We tasted signature cocktails with a floral note (of course), sample butters flavored with petals and herbs to spread on delicious local bread, and munched on local veggies, all part of the festive day.

It was inspiring and encouraging – all inside The Good Acre, a certified organic hub for local food distribution. That place holds state-of-the-art equipment and huge walk-in coolers where yes, produce from local farms is processed for distribution to school lunch rooms, but where every Wednesday florists and designers come to shop for flowers from as many as a dozen Minnesota and Wisconsin flower farms.

Twin Cities Flower Exchange hosted a wonderful gathering of local flower farmers and floral designers to welcome me to the Minneapolis-St. Paul area! Our gathering took place inside The Good Acre food hub, where flowers make an appearance once a week.

Seeing where it all happens after hearing Christine’s description of the TCFE’s “home” on the Slow Flowers Podcast last year, was such a treat. If you attend the Slow Flowers Summit next year during American Flowers Week, you’ll be able to experience this exciting new economic model taking place first hand, too.

It was so fabulous to partner with Hillary Alger (left) and Marcella Sweet (center) at the Johnny’s Seeds booth during the Garden Writers Annual Symposium last week!

Hillary, Marcella and I hosted the incredibly popular pin-on flower bar at the GWA Chicago Expo, teaching media (writers, editors & bloggers) about cut flower gardening.

I said good-bye to the Twin Cities and headed straight to Chicago last Monday, where I spent most of the week attending the annual Garden Writers Association Symposium & Expo. I’ve been deeply involved in this professional organization – my original Tribe before the Slow Flowers Tribe emerged as a huge part of my life.

At the GWA conference, there is a trade show for two days, where garden and plant vendors exhibit their new products and wares. I joined Hillary Alger and Marcella Sweet of Johnny’s Selected Seeds, a sponsor of this Podcast and all my Slow Flowers channels at that trade show.

I’m so grateful to them and to Johnny’s for investing in bringing the Johnny’s resources and message about growing-your-own-flowers to the garden media – editors, writers, bloggers and broadcasters – my peers – who enjoyed picking up cutting garden tools, plans and images for use in their columns and posts.

It was so fun to watch my fellow GWA members try their talents at making mini bouquets and pin-on flowers!

Hillary and Marcella and I spoke with hundreds of garden communicators interested in new story ideas, and we spent the 2nd afternoon of the trade show running what we called the “pin-on flower bar,” where we encouraged conference attendees to make their own boutonniere or corsage. What made this hands-on experience more special was the chance to showcase exquisite flowers, herbs, berries and foliage from local Slow Flowers member farms. Thank you to Heidi Joynt and Molly Kobelt of Field & Florist; Jeanie McKewan of Brightflower Farm and Beth Barnett of Larkspur Chicago for sending us their best.

Click here to view and download Johnny’s Selected Seeds’ cutting garden resources.

That only took me through mid-week, and over the course of five days I participated in all sorts of Garden Writers activities. But being in Chicago also afforded me time for the second Slow Flowers Meet-up in the Windy City.

Slow Flowers Meet-Up in Chicago, with flower farmers, floral designers, media, sponsors and me!

Last Wednesday night, thanks to Beth Barnett, about 18 of us joined together in her beautiful new Larkspur Chicago studio for an after-hours meet-up where we talked flowers, shared personal stories and enjoyed drinks and bites while making new connections and renewing established ones. I’m so grateful to the many who made the time to attend: flower farmers who traveled two to three hours into the city for our evening together; florists who closed busy retail shops or broke away from producing flowers in their studios to come for a special gathering of kindred spirits.

Thank you so much to Kath LaLiberte of Longfield Gardens, a sponsor of this podcast, and to Mackenzie Nichols, a writer and floral designer friend from New York, both of whom were in Chicago to attend the conference with me! They joined me in shopping for food and wine and helped Beth and me get everything set up for the fun. It was a great night. Just as I felt leaving the party at the Twin Cities Flower Exchange, it was so rewarding to invest in the time to make face-to-face connections with Chicago’s Slow Flowers Community. Thanks to all who helped make it happen.

Jeanie and her beautiful peony crops from Brightflower Farm.

NOW . . . Let me introduce today’s great guest, Jeanie McKewan of Brightflower Farm in Stockton, Illinois.

As you heard, Jeanie’s flowers wowed the garden communicators who made their personal pin-on flowers at the conference last week – I have to say, the big hit was privet berry in its green form. That stumped a lot of my friends and prompted a number of internet searches on smart phones before we knew what it was.

Jeanie McKewan grows cut flowers for Illinois and Wisconsin area flower farmers and Chicago’s Whole Foods stores.

I’ve known Jeanie since 2012, when we met in Tacoma at the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers annual conference. You’ll hear the full story in our conversation, so listen closely. I’ve also wanted to host Jeanie on the Slow Flowers Podcast forever, so once we were in the same city I had to grab the chance. The morning after our Meet-Up, I met Jeanie for breakfast and then we recorded this conversation to share with you.

Brightflower Farm in Stockton, Illinois

Let me tell you a little more about this gifted floral entrepreneur:

Jeanie McKewan brings more than a dozen years of horticultural experience, passion and commitment to growing the finest plant materials available. She earned her Environmental Science degree from Willamette University, a Plant Pathology degree from Oregon State University, and is a Certified Landscape Professional (CLP).

Her working career gave her several opportunities to start businesses for entrepreneurs. In 1996 she was General Manager of Montale Gardens in Wauconda, Illinois, and served for nearly two years as Nursery Operations Manager for award-winning Craig Bergmann Landscape Design before founding her own growing operation.

Brightflower Farm’s production studio

As founder of Brightflower Farm, she is devoted to providing beauty and fullness of life through her plants and flowers. Growing plants, eating good, flavorful food, and producing a stunning and colorful array of flowers is her passion and she feels incredibly fortunate to be able to earn a livelihood providing people with all of these things!

You’ll gain volumes from our conversation – I promise. We had a fabulous reunion and even though I’ve interviewed Jeanie in the past, I learn a lot more from her. This fascinating and experienced flower farmer is incredibly open in sharing her insights with others. You’ll hear that, too.

Field crops look healthy and prolific at Brightflower Farm

Follow Jeanie and her flower-filled world at these social places:

Brightflower Farm on Facebook

Brightflower Farm on Instagram

Fair Field Flowers

Here’s more information about the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s  Wisconsin Cut Flower Growers School, where Jeanie teaches each February

Here’s a bonus, too! I mentioned the two of us met in 2012. One of the outcomes of that time together during the ASCFG meeting was Jeanie bidding on a chance to be interviewed by me for a feature story. She’s given me permission to share that story, titled, “Illinois Blooms for Midwest Vases,” which is posted on the Brightflower Farm web site. It was incredibly fun to write and I think you’ll find it fascinating to read.

Traveling is often exhausting but I found the past ten days exhilarating and inspiring.

From visiting flower farms to spending time with floral designers to promoting cutting gardens to fellow communicators – it was a packed week, but a rewarding one.

Next up, I’ll be attending the Southern Flower Symposium in Charleston, South Carolina, hosted by many Slow Flowers members and the core group called Lowcountry Flower Growers.

I’ll join Rita Anders of Cuts of Color, a past guest of this podcast, to speak on flower farming, floral design, and my upcoming 2019 Slow Flowers’ Floral Insights and Industry Forecast.

The Symposium takes place August 26-27th so check out links to learn how you can attend.

Last week’s Midwest trip ended at the Garden Writers Association annual awards ceremony where Slow Flowers took home two Silver Media Awards for Excellence in Communications.

I wanted to share that news with you, because this Podcast earned a Silver Award for broadcast programming!

Your support of the Slow Flowers Podcast is what keeps me going week in and week out.

What an honor to also be recognized by my peers.

And our one-year-old project, the Slow Flowers Journal, also received a Silver Award in the Trade magazine category. It’s a monthly commitment to write and produce 10 to 16 pages of original and relevant editorial content for my wonderful publishing partner, Florists’ Review, and receiving accolades from fellow members of the media is an endorsement that motivates me to keep going when deadlines loom!

This role as the Slow Flowers champion is one that fills me with gratitude and I thank the entire 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 350,000 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 Flower dreams big for the floral industry’s future. You can head to to learn more about the 2019 conference in Waco, Texas!

(c) Niesha Blancas

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

Music Credits:

Garden Writers Design Bouquets with California-Grown Botanicals

Friday, September 25th, 2015

CA Grown Logo CardCertifiedAmericanGrownLogoCard

Garden Writers get to play with California Flowers at their annual symposium in Pasadena last week.

Garden Writers get to play with California Flowers at their annual symposium in Pasadena last week.

Last weekend, more than 300 members of the Garden Writers Association attended the annual symposium in Pasadena. As the past president, I was there. Two people asked whether I could involve the California Cut Flower Commission in the conference and it worked out beautifully to combine those opportunities.

Vice President and Program Chair Kirk Brown asked me to lead a floral design workshop at the Table Topics session on Saturday afternoon. That’s where hundreds of attendees move through 30 tables, speed-dating-like to engage with various experts and explore subjects of interest to the horticulture, communications, and media professions.

Local Arrangements Chair Lydia Plunk asked me to procure California-grown flowers to adorn the banquet tables at the Media Awards Ceremony Monday. Both requests were doable, made even easier because of the help of these incredibly generous companies:

Syndicate Sales donated USA-made hurricane-style vases for the centerpieces.

Syndicate Sales donated USA-made hurricane-style vases for the centerpieces.

Syndicate Sales

Eufloria donated more than 200 stems of gorgeous hybrid tea roses and spray roses.

Eufloria Roses of Nipomo, California, donated more than 200 stems of gorgeous hybrid tea roses and spray roses.

Eufloria Roses

Kitayama Brothers of Watsonville, California, donated gorgeous miniature gerberas, snapdragons and lilies.

Kitayama Brothers of Watsonville, California, donated lovely, fresh miniature gerberas, snapdragons and lilies.

Kitayama Brothers Farms

Resendiz Brothers of Fallbrook, California, donated exquisite pincushion proteas, textured grevillea foliage and mixed greenery.

Resendiz Brothers of Fallbrook, California, donated exquisite pincushion proteas, textured grevillea foliage and mixed greenery.

Resendiz Brothers Protea Growers

Stargazer Barn of Arcata, California, donated vivid tulips, irises and cotinus foliage.

Stargazer Barn of Arcata, California, donated vivid tulips, irises and cotinus foliage.

Stargazer Barn

Chris Sabbarese of Corona Tools tweeted out this photo.

Chris Sabbarese of Corona Tools tweeted out this photo.

I loved sharing these California blooms as a tangible example of the Slow Flowers movement.

We brought to life the conversation about local, American grown flowers and engaged my fellow garden communicators (writers, photographers, bloggers and educators) by getting them up close and personal to these fresh, beautiful botanicals.

After the workshop, the flowers were used to adorn the banquet tables at the Media Awards Banquet, held at the Pasadena Convention Center this past Monday evening.

My Slow Flowers project won a Silver Award, so it was indeed fitting to have local flowers on the tables that night. As a bonus, one lucky guest at each table “won” a bouquet to take home.

These are some of the photos that showed up on social media, which gives the local, American-grown story a very long shelf life!

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter photos from the Garden Writers event.

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter photos from the Garden Writers event.

As a bonus, Stargazer Barn provided guests with a 15%-off coupon on a future order. If you missed it, feel free to use this one here:




A visit to Sharon Lovejoy’s garden shed

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009
Sharon Lovejoy and me

Sharon Lovejoy and me

In the middle of last week, when I really didn’t have the time to do it, I drove northbound, to central California, where I spent 24 hours with talented writer-illustrator-naturalist Sharon Lovejoy and her smart and kind husband Jeff Prostovich. I met Sharon a little over two years ago when Nan Sterman and I drove to the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show with our friend Joan Bolton of Santa Barbara Garden Design. It was our Garden Writer Caravan and Road Trip. First, Nan took the train/bus from San Diego to my neck of the woods (Ventura Co.); then, the next morning, we drove to Santa Barbara to pick up Joan. Another 90 minutes north of Joan, up Hwy. 101, and we arrived to visit Sharon and Jeff. They fed us, feted us, and hopped in their car to follow the caravan.

A collection of Sharon's charming and inspiring books

A collection of Sharon's charming and inspiring books

Sharon is a total rock star in the Garden Writing Galaxy and I was so excited to have a chance to spend time with her and Jeff.

She has had a huge following ever since she started writing “Heart’s Ease,” a monthly naturalist’s column for the former Country Living Gardener magazine. Sharon’s blog is fun and highly personal – it’s read by friends and fans around the globe.

Her illustrated books about gardening, gardening with children, gardening for wildlife, gardening with food — oh, there are so many and they are like little love letters — have sold hundreds of thousands of copies over the years. In our world, that is unparalleled, I tell you.

61rTYy4K-jL__SL500_AA240_If, like me, you love the way Sharon involves children and their grownups with the natural world, be on the lookout for her next book – out in January 2010! It’s called Toad Cottages & Shooting Stars (and it features her sweet artist-granddaughter, Sara, on the cover).

Sharon and Jeff and I had a magical 24 hours in which we basically talked, ate, drank, cooked, went to see the Lone Pine Arboretum and the plant nursery at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, admired nature, and compared notes about our industry (?) and the “new media” platforms we’re all learning to navigate.

We had to force ourselves to go to bed last Tuesday night . . . the fire was burning in the fireplace and we had so much to say to one another. But we drifted off to sleep and rose on Wednesday morning in time for me to join Sharon at her writers’ group, during which yet another sparkling facet of this talented writer was revealed to me (hint: she is writing a wonderful young adult novel and I can’t wait for it to be completed AND published!).

A sweet retreat in the heart of Sharon's garden

A sweet retreat in the heart of Sharon's garden

It was nice to do something very spontaneous (and very nice that my own husband Bruce held down the fort at home so I could take the trip). I’ve been anxious to see Sharon’s new garden shed.

I had a sneaking suspicion I would be able to persuade Sharon to let me interview her on camera, so I asked – and lucky for you – she said yes. (And there was Jeff, the smart marketer, egging us on and actually directing us at one point.)

We made this totally rough-and-rugged video with my little Flip camera and gave the footage to Shirley Bovshow of Garden World Report. Shirley cleaned it up and used a portion of my tour with Sharon on today’s show. You can watch it here, along with contributions from Ken Druse and Ellen Zachos, two of my favorite garden writer-designers on the east coast.

Sharon promised me a personal tour, and here it is:


This entire experience reminded me of why I love what I do and the people with whom I share this journey.

Since this is Thanksgiving week, I’m thinking about gratitude:

1. I’m thankful that Nan introduced me to Sharon. Nan’s heart is big enough to share her blessings with her friends. I love that about Nan. It’s not the first time she’s opened a door for me, and I hope I can reciprocate.

2. I’m thankful that Sharon and Jeff have adopted me as a friend, and for their generous gift of time, ideas, support, encouragement, shelter (hey, I didn’t mention getting to sleep in the cozy loft at the top of a spiral staircase in Sharon’s art studio!!!) and food (oh, time around the table in their farmhouse kitchen was delicious – in more ways than one).

3. I’m thankful that there are so many kindred spirits in the gardening world, especially for innovators like Shirley Bovshow who just make things happen in new ways, pioneering the path that we all wish to follow (but when we don’t have a road map….she’s bound to!)

4. I’m thankful for my long-suffering spouse and partner, Bruce. He always encourages me to take these trips and excursions, even though it usually means more work for him. I can’t wait for the time when he’ll be freer to join me (and vice-versa).

That’s it for now.

More gardens, even more plants

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009
Shopping and playing at Plant Delights Nursery

Shopping and playing at Plant Delights Nursery

“All the world’s a nursery. And all the men and women merely gardeners.”

— William Shakeshovel (aka Tony Avent)

Garden Writers Annual symposium, Part IV

On Friday, Sept. 26th, the climate started cooling off, but with that came some lightish showers. Luckily, the rain held off until later in the morning, but we started out boarding buses at 7 a.m. (!) to visit to the famous Juniper Level Botanic Gardens at Plant Delights Nursery – a gardener’s mecca, nursery and botanical garden all in one.
Consider: A five-acre display garden that contains 17,000 different plant specimens. The nursery has 1,600 different plants available at any given time. Talk about over-stim!  
Wow - a chance to meet Tony Avent, genius plantsman

Wow - a chance to meet Tony Avent, genius plantsman

I have been a fan of plantsman Tony Avent ever since I inherited the late Stephanie Feeney’s working files from her book, The Northwest Gardener’s Resource Directory. I picked up where Stephanie left off to edit the 9th edition in 2002. That was when Internet plant-ordering was in its infancy and thousands of plant fanatics on both coasts looked forward to receiving the entertaining Plant Delights catalog from this Raleigh nursery. I got a kick out of the “price” that Tony printed on the front cover. It hasn’t changed in the ensuing years: “10 stamps or a box of chocolates.”  

Here’s what I wrote about Plant Delights Nursery in 2002 (of course, never having been there, this was based on the catalog and web site):

 Among the Plant Delights here is an engagingly humorous catalog, its gentle joshing bordering occasionally on the sarcastic. Earlier issues have been subtitled along the lines of “Raiders of the Lost Park” and “It’s not easy being variegated,” as this nursery boldly announces its mission to sell unusual perennials. You’ll find an online catalog of 1,000-plus offerings, including arisaema, asarum, cannas, crinum lilies, epimediums, ferns, hardy palms, hardy ginger lilies, hellebores, heuchera, hosta, lobelia, ornamental grasses, pulmonaria, Solomon’s seal, tiarella, verbena . . . and more.

When we arrived Friday morning, Plant Delights was everything I hoped it would be – and more. The crew at Plant Delights were all-hands-on-deck. Hundreds of garden writers wandered (raced?) around the property, little red or green wagons in tow, seeking unusual must-have plants in the hoop houses and absorbing design ideas in the display gardens that surround Tony and Michelle Avent’s home. The mood was at first festive, followed by a quiet sense of awe.


Inspiration for the mind, heart and spirit

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

Garden Writers Association Annual Symposium, Part III:

Lotuses thrive in the sultry Southern heat at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Raleigh

Lotuses thrive in the sultry Southern heat at the Sarah P. Duke Gardens in Raleigh

 Thursday morning kicked off with our keynote speaker Dr. Lowell Catlett, a fascinating economic futurist who really put things into perspective in his talk, “The Greening of America.” Dr. Catlett tailored his remarks to our profession and totally blew the audience away. We were inspired and challenged (in a good way) to rethink our definition of “green” and “sustainable” lifestyle choices.

You can find several clips of Dr. Catlett’s lectures on YouTube, so check him out. He ended the lecture with this charge: “Do not sell people products and services. Sell them dreams.” It resonated, because we know that seeking and creating beauty in our surroundings is a basic human desire. If you didn’t make it to the symposium, Dr. Catlett’s lecture is one CD to purchase and listen to.

Love the gothic gates at the entry to Duke Gardens; made of metal but inspired by stained glass

Love the gothic gates at the entry to Duke Gardens; made of metal but inspired by stained glass

After the morning workshop sessions and a working lunch at the trade show, we hopped on buses for the first of three days of garden touring.

Thursday was the hottest, most humid day during the conference, so I have mixed memories from our late afternoon tour of the Sarah P. Duke Gardens.

Canna tropicana and a cluster of coleus, backlit in the afternoon sun

Canna tropicana and a cluster of coleus, backlit in the afternoon sun

The 55-acre public garden graces the campus of Duke University and features several special areas, including a formal Italianate-style terrace garden planted with an explosion of colorful tropicals, annuals and woody plants. I spent a lot of time here and was drawn to the twin historic stone structures. Not quite sheds, but shed-like for sure.

I love the placement of these round millstones providing transit across the pond

I love the placement of these round millstones providing transit across the pond

I then escaped to the shade with a few friends walking through the understory of the H.L. Blomquist Garden of Native Plants. Filled with more than 900 varieties of regional natives, it was a beautiful and serene enclave. It was especially fun to hang out here with Nan Sterman, aka PlantSoup, my symposium roommate and Duke University alum. She spent a lot of time studying plants as a biology undergrad, so I had a personal narrative to connect to this amazing place.

We experienced that languishing, Southern state of mind, what with the heat, the humidity, the sun and the sleep deprivation from staying awake late the night before and getting up early in the morning.

Dreamy, visually restful: the Virtue Peace Pond

Dreamy, visually restful: the Virtue Peace Pond

A buffet dinner led to some fabulous conversations with new friends, despite the climatic challenges (it was all I could do NOT to throw myself into the “Virtue Peace Pond” to cool off – seriously). Those water lilies, lotuses and other water-loving plants looked so much happier than the humans seated around the pond’s perimeter.

Most memorable that evening were two conversations my good friend (and collaborator) David Perry of A Photographer’s Garden Blog and I had with Susan Reimer, garden and op-ed (!) columnist and “Garden Variety” blogger for the Baltimore Sun, and later with Rizaniño “Riz” Reyes , an up-and-coming plantsman, horticulturist and designer from Seattle. I recall sharing a table (and prior conversation) with Riz at a Northwest Perennial Association event several years ago. Inspiring to know him – and new friend, to be sure.


Garden products and Twitter friends

Thursday, October 1st, 2009
  Garden Writers Association annual symposium, Part II: 
A charming Southern garden, Raleigh's Rose Cottage

A charming Southern garden, Raleigh's Rose Cottage


Raleigh here I come.  

Greensboro gardener Lynda Waldrep drove me to Raleigh on Tuesday morning where I checked into the Garden Writers Association conference hotel, dropped off my gear and joined the GWA board meeting.

Nice to get Tuesday afternoon’s and Wednesday morning’s business out of the way so I could enjoy the rest of the conference once it began on Wednesday afternoon after lunch.

Wow, I got to meet heirloom seed wunderkind Jere Gettle of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

Wow, I got to meet heirloom seed wunderkind Jere Gettle of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

After some regional meetings and receptions for first-time attendees, the Garden Products Information Exhibit opened – four hours of checking out the new trends in plants, products and programs for the horticultural industry. The exhibit continued on Wednesday for another four hours.

Next, I joined 50 or more very new (and a few old) friends at a private garden cocktail party for garden Twitter participants. Sharon and Jim Bright, our gracious garden hosts, opened the gates to Rose Cottage, their charming place in a historic downtown neighborhood.

The GWA Tweet-up is in full swing

The GWA Tweet-up is in full swing

Raleigh hometown gal Helen Yoest of Gardening With Confidence and Elizabeth Licata of Gardening While Intoxicated/Garden Rant, planned the evening with several other volunteer Twitter friends. Proven Winners (thanks Danielle!) was our sponsor, so we had lots to nibble and sip while admiring the garden’s exuberant cottage plantings, semi-formal vegetable beds (outlined in brick) and more.

Laura Schaub, Amy Stewart and Helen Yoest, real-time Twittering

Laura Schaub, Amy Stewart and Helen Yoest, real-time Twittering

All those women and men with whom I “tweet” came together for an evening where putting a face to a name was part of the fun. Our nametags had our real names and our Twitter names (I’m “@dkprinzing”).

What amused me more than anything was watching people post comments on Twitter during the party.  I call it real-time garden tour commentary at its best.

My gal pal Mary Ann, busy with thumbs and I-phone

My gal pal Mary Ann, busy with thumbs and I-phone

Later that night, I walked all the way across town with a friend to an authentic Carolina ribs BBQ dinner hosted by the Garden Media Group. A chance to catch up with some editor and writer friends, meet several of GMG’s clients, shake the hand of famed BBQ chef Ed Mitchell and eat some of his great Southern food.

Long day, but good conversations all around!

This annual gathering of gardeners is something I look forward to from year to year. Raleigh was my 8th Garden Writer Association event and I’m hooked.

North Carolina in September: Gardens Galore; even more Garden Writers

Monday, September 28th, 2009
"A buckeye in your pocket for good luck"

"A buckeye in your pocket for good luck"

The 61st annual Garden Writers Association annual symposium took place this past week, hosted by a fabulous group of Raleigh garden communicators who put together a great lineup of uncommon gardens, mouthwatering menus and Southern hospitality. The occasion drew 655 registrants, the second-largest gathering ever in GWA’s history after Philadelphia/Brandywine Valley in 2006.

More than our profession’s top event for education, inspiration and networking, the symposium is an affirmation that what we do every day is connect people with the natural world and the environment of plants, water, soil, sun, and animals through stories and photographs. Garden writers communicate information and share inspiration, so that’s why I love and value how I spend my life.

This week on Shedstyle, I will feature a day-by-day recap of my week in North Carolina. I’ll start with Monday & Tuesday:

with my new garden friends, Charlie and Lois Brummitt

with my new garden friends, Charlie and Lois Brummitt

I flew to Greensboro, NC, to be welcomed as a guest speaker for the Guilford County Horticultural Society. Because my lecture was scheduled for Monday evening, I arrived very late Sunday and was met by Lois and Charlie Brummitt, two gracious garden hosts.

They gave me a cozy, quiet place to stay, let me sleep in on Monday, made sure I had a mug of English breakfast tea and a scone (along with Internet service to do a little writing in the AM). Lois and her friend Nanny took me out to lunch at Undercurrent, a lovely restaurant (spinach salad for me; oysters and quail salad, respectively, for them – Southern specialties!).

Graham Ray (center), showing Lois Brummit (right) and friend Mary Halyburton his dwarf conifer collection

Graham Ray (center), showing Lois Brummit (right) and friend Mary Halyburton his dwarf conifer collection

We then toured some of Greensboro’s great private, residential gardens, including the gracious Southern gardens of landscape designer and historian Chuck Callaway and the expansive backyard spread created by Diane Flint. Then we headed for Graham Ray’s woodland landscape.

Graham has devoted 40 years to cultivating his property using a plantsman’s keen intuition to design harmonious compositions of excellent plants in just the right setting. Some of these photos will just have to speak for themselves.

The “buckeye” shown at the top of this page is Aesculus pavia or Red Buckeye, native to the Eastern U.S. and a relative of the Common Horse Chestnut often seen in Seattle (Aesculus hippocastanum). It grows in Graham’s garden and he gave me a pocketful of several to carry home with me. I hope they bring me good fortune!

The Greensboro audience gets ready for my slide show - a great turnout

The Greensboro audience gets ready for my slide show - a great turnout

We arrived at the local Natural Science Center in time for me to set up my slides and meet Lynda Waldrep, who made it all possible as the society’s program coordinator. A special thanks to Lee and Larry Newlin of Garden Discovery Tours for suggesting me and my talk on The Abundant Garden (“Lush and Layered”).

My audience was superb and generous. We had fun conversing about design, plants, and ornamentation in the landscape. And surprisingly, there’s much that North Carolina and Western Washington gardens have in common, including the predominant green palette.

PS, a late dinner of Italian red wine and gourmet pizza, back at Charlie and Lois’s house, was a perfect capper to my 24 hours in Greensboro. We went out to see their garden at night and Charlie pointed out Venus in the sky – magical.

Before I left the next morning, I battled a few mosquitoes to stroll through and snap a few photos of their landscape. It’s a place I hope to return to in the future, to be with new friends and kindred spirits.



Thank you, everyone in Greensboro!

Next . . . Garden Writers Invade Raleigh. What’s better, the food or the plants?!

Hurrah for Julie and Julia

Saturday, August 8th, 2009

51ezORAwNJL__SL500_AA240_Two years ago, I read Julie Powell’s wonderful debut memoir, “Julie & Julia.” Her story of spending 365 days cooking every recipe in Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” was electrifying and compelling.

I couldn’t decide what was more inspiring – Julie Powell’s innocent ambition and subsequent bravado or the between-the-lines story of the power of blogging as a voice for authors.

Either way, I ended up buying 5 copies of Powell’s book for my favorite writer girlfriends. I told them: You must read this book. It will open up your eyes to the potential of blogging.

At the time, I had just bit the bullet and decided to really try serial blogging. My best intentions prior to the fall of 2007 hadn’t gotten me very far. I originally “started” this blog in March 2007, when I foolishly thought would be a book-in-progress blog while Bill Wright and I created “Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways.”  Constant travel, photo shoots, intense deadlines and a generally crazy schedule conspired to keep that from occurring (I think I wrote 2 posts between March and October 2007).

In September 2007, I moderated a “Garden Blogging” panel at the annual Garden Writers Association symposium with blogger-friends Kathy Purdy, Mary Ann Newcomer and David Perry (you will find each of them and their blogs the LINKS section of my home page).  I felt like a fraud. Sure, I created the panel and served as its moderator. But I was a pretender “talking” about blogging, not actually doing it.

I came home from Oklahoma City and, wholly inspired, I just started writing. I am eternally grateful to Mary Ann, David and Kathy for their honest and heartfelt support as fellow bloggers.

Like many tough things, repetition and frequency make it easier to learn new skills and habits. In less than 2 years I have written nearly 200 posts and met many awesome fellow bloggers, readers, friends.

Back to Julie and Julia.

That book really did change my life, thanks to the courageous Julie Powell and the inimitable Julia Child. I came home tonight from watching the movie “Julie & Julia” equally inspired.

As director and screenwriter, Norah Ephron is amazing. What a talent. Her screenplay is delightful. Her cast – Meryl Streep and Amy Adams – are delicious. Totally delicious in their roles as Julia Child and Julie Powell.

A woman seated near me (friend of a friend) told me a great story after the movie. As you may know, Julia Child lived in Santa Barbara in her retirement. The woman remembered working as a waitress in Santa Barbara in 1989. She waited on Julia and her husband Paul, who by then was in a wheelchair.

“Julia ordered a grilled-cheese sandwich and a banana for lunch,” this former waitress recalled. Hmm. I love hearing that our culinary icon, Julia Child, liked basic comfort food. It puts a smile on my face.

Not sure where this post is going, except to say that the writer in me LOVED the book and the film. I felt like I was watching all of our stories, our efforts, our hopes and dreams, up there on the screen. When the film portrayed Julia Child’s manuscript finally getting published after 8 years of work, I felt so victorious for her. When Julia Powell was interviewed for a story in the New York Times food section, I felt the excitement at hearing her answering machine buzz (well, that hasn’t exactly happened to me, but I can kind of relate).

Anyway, if you’re into food you should see “Julie & Julia.” If you’re a writer, you’ll definitely want to.

This post is dedicated to Nan, Paula, Mary Ann and Lorene, my friends who received copies of Julie & Julie from me in 2007.

It’s official: Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways is “Award-Winning”

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

09-awards-logoThe tan envelope arrives in today’s mail. I open it up, hardly able to focus on the letter from Denise Cowie, chair of the 2009 Garden Writers Association Media Awards program.

But, yes, it seems I read this right. “Your entry has received a Silver Award of Achievement,” the letter explains.

The work: Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways

The category: Writing, book

new-book-cover-webAfter whooping it up with my husband, Bruce, I call Jennifer Gilbert at the GWA headquarters to ask whether a letter was sent to Clarkson Potter regarding the “Overall Product” category (which encompasses writing, photography, design and production).

Yes, she assures me, Stylish Sheds has also won a Silver Award for Overall Product. The letter went to our editor, Doris Cooper.

Then I call Bill Wright in Seattle. “Did you open your mail yet?” I ask. “Do you mean my e-mail?” he replies.

“No, your regular mail.”

“It hasn’t come yet today.”

“Oh, well, guess what? We won a Silver Award from Garden Writers for Overall Book Product and I won a Silver for Writing.”

His reply? “Yeah, I got the letter on Saturday saying I won a Silver for Photography.”

What? How could he not be as excited as I am?! He’s known for two days and he didn’t call to tell me!!!

Maybe I’m putting too much emphasis on this, but I love to win – and I love accolades. (Sorry, I know that statement reveals my desire for human affirmation. It often puts me in a bad position because sometimes my motivation to write is more for the accolades than a paycheck!)

Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways, this labor of love, has been positively recognized by many reviewers, purchased by book buyers, and supported by our patient family and friends. That should be reward enough.

But just this once, it’s nice to win something. Even if it’s merely a “certificate” that you can take home and frame.

P.S. We’re eligible in all three categories (Writing, Photography and Overall Product) to be judged for a Gold Award. But we have to wait until the 2009 annual symposium in Raleigh, North Carolina (in September) to know the results.

Check out the Chihuly Glass sculptures at Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden

Friday, February 6th, 2009

If you’re lucky enough to travel anywhere in the world, there’s no excuse not to try and visit the local botanical garden or arboretum. My family has become used to this mission of mine and they often accommodate me.

Last weekend, though, I was with my fellow hort geeks, and no one tried to stop me from a garden side trip! I traveled to Phoenix for the Garden Writers Association winter board meeting. After sitting indoors in a board room all day, we rewarded ourselves by racing over to the Desert Botanical Garden, a magnificent place in the heart of Phoenix.

I first visited DBG about five years ago while staying with my parents (they have spent their winters in Mesa, AZ, a suburb of Phoenix for the past five or six years). At the time, I was a Seattle gardener. I was not interested in cactuses or other thorny desert plants. But the visit changed my mindset. The garden dates back to the late 1930s and it is designed beautifully. Who knew then that I would eventually live in Southern California where all these alien plants thrive with little or no water, heat, sun and (practically) neglect!?

Here are a few shots I took on that first visit:

The January 31, 2009 visit had an agenda.

Number one: Tour “Chihuly: The Nature of Glass” show, the Seattle artist’s first installation entirely within a desert garden environment.  Number two: Meet Ken Schutz, the garden’s executive director, who led the GWA board on guided tour of the show (plus, he graciously joined us for dinner following our hour-long walk through the plants-and-glass extravaganza).

We gathered at the DBG entrance and were welcomed with a refreshing drink, straight from the desert: Prickly Pear Margaritas topped with a wedge of lime! You can purchase the Prickly Pear syrup in the garden’s wonderful gift shop.


Enjoy my narrated introduction, followed by my favorite images:


A virtual tour of the gorgeous glass sculpture display:

“Sun,” the opening sculpture

Agaves in glass: the new entry piece