Debra Prinzing

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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.

January 1st – a day to garden

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

Enjoy this photo gallery of some of my New Year’s gardening projects, accomplished today. I’ll add a few comments with each image to explain what I did. Above: Two hyacinth bulbs from Brent and Becky Heath’s care package – I saved them to grow in these glass bulb vases in my kitchen windowsill.

The blogosphere and Twitter world have been busy today, with my friends and those whose work I admire/read writing about resolutions, garden mission statements, and more. I have really tried to tear myself away from the keyboard and screen. It’s ironic that I spend more time here at my desk – looking through the open shutters to the backyard – than I do actually touching, breathing and engaging with said yard.

So today I decided to spend time on gardening projects. I am stiff and tired. Six hours straight – pruning and deadheading, digging up, wheeling the barrow to and fro – is not my typical schedule these days. And I am determined to return to this routine (or an edited version of it) in 2009.

Because you know what? I’m feeling very happy.

At left: I finally planted this beautiful Billbergia nutans ‘Variegata’, which I am embarrassed to say I purchased in March 2008 at Western Hills Nursery in Occidental, Calif., during our post-SF Flower & Garden Show garden-gals’ field trip. Miraculously, this plant has not only endured, but seemingly thrived in a 6-inch pot all these months. It is a beautiful, strappy, striped plant and doesn’t it look nice with the Clare Dohna mosaic orb?

What’s been holding me back anyway?
Since leaving behind my cherished garden in Seattle in August 2006, and moving to what many people think is heaven on earth – Southern California – I have been fairly disengaged with my new yard. As I’ve said before, I can’t really call it a garden. It’s really just a yard filled with plants I don’t understand or particularly like. I’ve had bursts of energy now and then to try and tackle things, including hiring someone a year ago to dig up and haul to a landscaping dumpster a yard’s worth of big red lava-rock mulch that covered every surface of soil.

But my heart hasn’t been in it. My heart is so torn between my past life and my present life. Surely, I am a lucky woman. I have my family who I cherish. I have so many wonderful friendships that continue, regardless of whether I’m in Washington State, California or other places around the globe. I manage to keep writing articles about gardens and design topics that really get published by tangible publications (that’s a shocker) and so what’s the problem?

At right: Senecio cristobalensis is another survivor from the Western Hills plant-shopping excursion in March, now given a special place in my front border. What pretty leaves! It’s supposed to reach 6-ft x 6-ft so I will eventually have to relocate this fuzzy-leafed beauty. This is one of those plants I once purchased from Heronswood (I just found the original plant tag from 2001!) that never wintered over in Seattle. See? I already have a new reason to be grateful for living in Zone 10~

I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve been pondering on how to get out of my rut. And the answer is staring me right in the eye. I need to return to the garden. The one that I see if I lift my eyes away from the computer screen and look through the slats of the shutters. Sometimes we have to start moving forward even before we know the path. “Putting wheels on it,” is how my friend Stephanie would describe it. Moving anywhere is better than staying put. There’s a lot of safety at this keyboard. But I don’t want to be just an observer of other people’s gardens, homes, plants and collections. I need to have my own relationship with the land, the plants, and the wildlife that occupy my suburban backyard.  I’ll say it again:  I need to return to the garden.

Today, I did just that. And while I’m in no position to write a garden mission statement, I do have a simple goal (dare I say Resolution?) for myself. And that is to spend 1 hour a day, at least 5 days a week, in the garden. Lord knows, I waste that much time reading emails each day. I think there’s a much better use of my physical and mental energy – and that’s to get outdoors and garden.

I don’t have money to hire a landscaper to do all the things I dream of accomplishing here, but my investment of time and attention is bound to improve my environment. It’s bound to improve my emotional attitude about this place. I’ll try and use this blog to document my progress.

Above: I guess any month of the year is bulb-season here in LA. It’s just that my bulbs will have to be annuals. That’s something I will have to get used to, after investing in and planting hundreds of spring flowering bulbs back in Seattle. The hyacinths, narcissus, tulips and muscari I planted today were a surprise gift from Brent and Becky Heath. The box filled with 70 bulbs arrived a few weeks ago ~ what a treat! I planted layers of bulbs in 2 terracotta pots this afternoon. Then I sprinkled annual seeds on top of each (dwarf cosmos on one; nigella on the other). Who knows if you can pair annuals with bulbs? It’s worth a try! This is my chance to experiment, so stay tuned!

And Happy New Year to all of you. Let’s cherish what we have!