Debra Prinzing

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New Garden Products for 2011 – Part Two

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Preserve the Harvest with Burgon & Ball's charming jam, marmalade, pickles and chutney jars.

Trend-spotters are reading the horticultural tea leaves these days.

It’s an annual practice that I remember so well from my newsroom career when, without fail, we reporters were asked to compile the obligatory “forecast” story. I covered retail, and you could imagine how loathe Seattle’s major retail CEOs were to tell me anything about the coming year when it was just days after Christmas and they hadn’t tallied up the current year’s performance.

But, alas, we all want a glimpse into the future. And that’s what going to industry trade shows can help reveal. A peek into the products, plants, tools and design items you may be seeing in 2011’s backyards.

This post continues with even more interesting offerings. Or the ones that caught my interest anyway. I welcome your reaction. Are these items you can see yourself purchasing for your garden? Do you even NEED more products? (That’s a long conversation, isn’t it?).

Here is the "sun" bracket from M Brace - simply brilliant!

I really enjoyed meeting Jill Plumb, a school teacher who came up with a brilliantly simple method of building raised beds.

Her product is called M Brace. It is a decorative steel corner bracket that holds lumber at a 45-degree angle WITHOUT HARDWARE (note: this is a big selling point for anyone who has dragged the electric drill and 100-foot-long orange extension cord out to the backyard to try and wrestle together a box for the tomatoes).

Here's Jill demonstrating the nifty packaging for a pair of brackets.

Jill told me that she got this “big idea” one day while re-loading paper napkins into a “slot” style napkin holder.

Something clicked and she saw in her mind’s eye how easy it would be to have a bracket that emulated that napkin holder. Just larger, more durable and also pretty. Several prototypes later, including the support of her students who she involved in the design process, packaging development and marketing, Jill’s M Brace is looking very professional and has already hit garden center shelves in some markets.

Made from recycled steel (natural or powder-coated), with decorative cut-outs including a squiggle, sun, carrot or bamboo fronds, the set of 4 brackets has a $165/set recommended retail price. Jill continues to offer new product ideas such as “edging” made from the leftover swirl pieces or plant stakes from the leftover carrot cutouts. Brilliant!

The Feeney 3-in-1 trellis, shown in a fan pattern

I spotted another clever system to corral plants – especially in this case, vines – in the Feeney Architectural Products booth.

A detail of the Somerset II Trellis

We see so much over-designed crap in the marketplace, which is one reason why I appreciated Feeney’s simple use of stainless steel cables to create a trellis for climbing plants. Feeney’s 3-in-1 Trellisis an easy-to-assemble wall-mount trellis kit with 1/8-inch diameter rods and special mounting components that can be configured into a Fan, Grid or Diamond design. This is a lightweight solution that does require measuring and drilling skills to install, but can turn a blah wall or fence into something quite beautiful. Just add a vine of your choice and voila! Something quite pretty. Suggested retail: $199.

Feeney also uses stainless steel cables in its inexpensive “It’s a Cinch” plant hanger and in a freestanding trellis panel kit. The Greenway Trellis has a frame of aluminum tubing and a square-grid pattern for the vines. The frame legs can be set in compacted gravel or concrete footings, or they can be base-mounted on a deck or patio. That square-grid pattern also shows up in the Somerset II Trellis, which has top and bottom powder-coated aluminum brackets. It is also a wall-mount system but a little larger than the 3-in-1.


More from the 2010 Independent Garden Center Show

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Speaking at IGC was a great experience - with 2 talks in 2 days

Dateline CHICAGO: Another “first” this year was participating in the Independent Garden Center Show, which took place in Chicago, August 17-19th.

The fourth annual trade show for independent nursery owners and their staff gathers thousands under one roof for seminars, tours, a mega trade show, and serious networking.

The who’s who of the garden world comes to the IGC Show. I’ve wanted to check it out for a couple years, so when I was invited to make a presentation on the “Most Inspiring Garden Centers and Specialty Retailers,” I jumped at the chance to participate.

You can see some hightlights of that talk here. I had a wonderful audience of engaged and energized nursery owners. And I am encouraged by the response from these retailers interested in sharing my ideas and themes with their employees and staff.

I participated in a second presentation with Robin Avni, a friend and colleague who has invited me to be an associate in her Lifestyle Insights consultancy. I’m one of a group of like-minded “real women” experts who have come together to use our talents and knowledge to help corporate clients serving the female consumer.

For the IGC Show audience, Robin and I presented “The Female Gardener: Mommy to Maven.” Our presentation shared some of the research and insights collected by Lifestyle Insights in the past 12 months. We want garden center owners and garden-related companies to think about the female consumer not just by obvious demographics of age, ethnicity or economics but by her life stages. We’ll be sharing more about our research in the coming months, but suffice it to say, Robin and I both felt that the presentation was a good way to have a conversation with the gardening industry about who “she” is (and “she” is a powerful consumer to serve).

Magnetic and inspiring - Jamie Durie

There were other fun aspects to attending the IGC Show, including hearing from keynote speaker Jamie Durie of HGTV’s Outdoor Rooms. Jamie’s electrifying talk was not long enough – in fact, it’s a bummer that he was sort of cut short due to timing, since he had so many inspiring things to share with American nursery owners and outdoor living retailers.

Here are a few of his comments that resonated with me:

Luxe-scaping is one of Jamie’s design terms. He likes to start a landscape with Shapes First, Plants Second. Once you decide on the shape (“Embrace the plant’s architecture,” he explains), you can choose site-adaptable and regionally-appropriate plants to reflect the shape.

Jamie talked about “planting into the hard-scape,” an idea that helps to soften the architectural elements of a design. He showed images of one of the garden staircases designed by his firm Patio that caught my eye and nicely illustrated this concept. The wide stone-tread staircase has shallow risers that are planted to give a soft, green contrast to the hard-edged stone. This made me think of a succulent staircase at Ed and Susie Bealls’garden in Rancho Palos Verdes we saw recently (photo, below).

Here is a Southern California interpretation of "planting the steps" - from Ed and Susie Beall's garden.

It’s easy to get swept up in Jamie’s passion for enjoying the garden all year long. “Control your environment with built structures” and use new, technological and design features to do so (especially if you live in cooler climates). For example, Jamie uses overhead heaters as well as under-deck and under-patio warming systems. Outdoor fireplaces and fire pits are de rigeur for all-season garden living.

Jamie shared some of the ways he has developed and expanded DurieDesign, his overall brand. His advice could apply to anyone interested in staking out a position in the horticultural industry. I certainly found it useful. This isn’t comprehensive since I wasn’t writing notes as quickly as Jamie was speaking, but are some highlights:

Be able to state clearly your business Description, Expression, Attributes, Promise and Theme.

Study your brand personality and strategy. For Durie Design, the theme of “well-being” represents lifestyle and balance. There is a spectrum that goes from the tangible (what you do) to the intangible (why you do it). In between are the How and Who of your brand personality.

DurieDesign’s brand attributes includebeing Inspiring, a Design Authority, Accessible and having a Positive Energy. Know and communicate your brand promise. For DurieDesign, that means “connecting design and innovation wi the mind, body and spirit.” His brand theme: Let’s Go Outside. “People are intrinsically connected to plants.” Yes, that’s so true!

In the coming weeks, garden and design writers and their publications will be obsessing about “what’s hot” for the 2011 gardening season. I venture a guess that many of those must-have products, plants and ideas were introduced at IGC. I’m going to share my favorite new products — my “picks” — very soon.

Inspiring garden centers and outdoor living retailers

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

This was my first visit to the IGC Show in Chicago - the 4th Annual Show was impressive

I had a great gathering of "indie" retailers for this presentation.

After presenting to a welcoming audience at last week’s Independent Garden Center Show in Chicago, I’m more convinced than ever that there is a huge passion and vitality among the “indies” of horticulture. 

These are the women and men who adore plants, love to share their knowledge about growing things, don’t mind getting dirt under their nails, and who understand that connecting with other gardeners is what it’s all about. 

If you can run a business like that, well, then you are blessed. I’m not saying it’s easy. These are hard-working plantswomen and men; some of them are from longtime nursery families who grew up growing and selling plants. Others come to garden center life through different paths. But people find their way. And in the face of competition from big box retailers, the “indies” are almost as threatened as small-town booksellers (Although I just read an article in New York magazine about the return of independent book stores.) From what I saw last week, with the aisles of Chicago’s Navy Pier teeming with thousands of trade showgoers, I’m convinced the “indie” garden center and outdoor living retailer is a force to be reckoned with. 

My talk highlighted some of the successful participants in this movement. I promised to post an excerpt of this talk and some highlights here for my audience members to read. I”m also interested in comments and suggestions for other “indies” who are doing things right in their own community. Please let me know where you gain inspiration and make a “connection” with the local garden center in your community. I really do want to know! 



A meadow in a vase

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

The September issue of Better Homes & Gardens features my “Debra’s Garden” column encouraging readers to add ornamental grasses to their seasonal flower arrangements.  

"Meadow in a vase" is the theme of my September column for BH&G

The photo that accompanies the piece depicts a gorgeous autumn bouquet bursting with asters, fall foliage and miscanthus blades.  

Its sultry palette includes dark purple, russet-red, gold and green elements in a clear, glass vase. As a footnote, I promised to show off my favorite grasses for cutting and flower arranging here on this blog.  

As it turns out, I’ve been seeing a lot of wonderful ornamental grasses and grass-like design ingredients lately. These days, I have dreamy plumes of fountain, feather, and silver grasses on my mind.  

There’s something both completely romantic and purely modern about grasses in floral arrangements (or in the landscape, for that matter). Here’s a peek at what’s caught my eye this year, including my favorite grasses for cutting:  


Owned by Diane Szukovathy and Dennis Westphall, Jello Mold Farm is one of my favorite local flower sources here in the Pacific Northwest. Diane and Dennis use sustainable practices and recently they’ve delighted floral design customers with gorgeous late-summer grasses. You can find Jello Mold Farm at the Queen Anne Farmers’ Market every Thursday – be sure to check out the incredible selection of downy and fluid grasses.  

Here are a few show-stoppers included on Diane’s “fresh list” that she emails to customers every Monday. The four images you see here were taken by Diane: 

Jello Mold's RED JEWEL MILLET, with large, elegant, arching, red-toned seed-heads approximately 5 inches long

Jello Mold's GREEN MILLET, with 3-inch-long, fuzzy green seedheads and a wonderful texture

These awesome examples are ornamental millets, not edible ones. 

While actually cultivars of Pennisetum glaucum, you can almost convince yourself that they are relatives of the corn family if you squint. 

When cut for bouquets, the plants yield both the sweet, furry seed-heads, as well as the strapping, wide leaf blades. Both plant elements are useful in an arrangement as beautiful counterpoints to blooms. 

Like many good things, “more is better.” For example,  I like to gather several seed-heads together in a clump and inset them into the arrangement. 

It’s a pretty picture to have three to five seed-heads cascading out of a bountiful grouping of seasonal flowers and foliage.