Debra Prinzing

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A horticultural weekend in Los Angeles

Saturday, May 8th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Stucco Studio in a celebrated garden

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

Tired of crowding his landscape architecture practice into a tiny spare bedroom of his bungalow, Joseph Marek renovated a 400-square-foot garage. He quadrupled his work space and created an attractive destination in the garden [William Wright photograph]

Not that I’m competitive or anything, but I did feel a tad victorious when I opened the current (Sept. 08) issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine, seen at right, to discover a feature story about two of my favorite shedistas, Joseph Marek and John Bernatz. Pretty cool to “scoop” MSL on a design story (it isn’t the first time gardens I’ve written about in books have later appeared in this magazine; no, it’s the third time!).

Congratulations to Joseph and John for the much-deserved recognition. And kudos to their friend, writer Susan Heeger, for her story. To be fair, I can’t take any credit for “discovering” Joseph and John. Their garden and several of Joseph’s residential designs for lucky clients have been featured in House Beautiful, Metropolitan Home, Horticulture, the Los Angeles Times, LA Magazine, Pacific Horticulture and Cottage Living, as well.

I’m tickled that the dynamic duo’s “Stucco Studio,” a converted 400-square-foot 1930s-era garage in their Santa Monica backyard, is featured as the “opening chapter” of Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways (see the first two pages of their chapter, above left).

Exquisitely photographed for our book by Bill Wright, the studio — a paprika-colored structure once designed to hold a single automobile — has been transformed into a creative and joyous environment for Joseph Marek Landscape Architecture, Joseph’s landscape architecture practice.  The highly functional interiors do double-duty (by day, this is the headquarters for Joseph’s design practice and John’s at-home office for his travel agency; come weekends and evenings, it is often converted into an impromptu party house, where friends and clients may gather for informal cocktails). It is also a vibrant architectural foil for the small but intensely-planted garden.