A Softer Side of Green
Kerria japonica ‘Variegata’, which has white-edge leaves
Flowering quince (Chaenomeles x superba), available in coral, red, pink or white
17-inch tall x 7-inch diameter cream urn. This is my go-to vase for last-minute arrangements and it is tall enough to handle the branches, which are nearly three feet long.
From the Farmer
Jump-start spring: Many flowering shrubs and trees are suitable for indoor forcing. In addition to Kerria and quince, you can cut the bare branches of forsythia, witch hazel and numerous fruit trees. Harvest branches when their buds begin to swell, taking care to use proper pruning techniques. Re-cut the stems on a 45-degree angle and place them in a vase of clean water. Over time, the buds will respond to your home’s warmer temperature and begin to flower. Be sure to change the water as you would with any floral arrangement.
NOTE: Each Sunday of this year, I will post my photographs, “recipe” and tip for that week’s floral arrangement, created for my new book, Slow Flowers.
Enjoy the floral journey through 52 weeks of the year~
Lately, I’ve been reading a lot about the first celebrity floral designer, Constance Spry.
If you haven’t heard about her, check out the newish biography called The Surprising Life of Constance Spry, by Sue Shephard (2011). Mrs. Spry was at her peak of popularity between the two World Wars, and I loved reading about her magnificent cutting garden that supplied her London studio and shop called Flower Decoration in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s.
Speaking of Flower Decoration, that is the name of a volume that Mrs. Spry wrote in 1933. Re-issued in 1993, you can find it online used, filled with her strong opinions, witticisms, and black-and-white photographs of floral arrangements. These are a little dated, of course, but what stands out to me is the eclectic lineup of ingredients, which includes many flowers, foliage and edibles that today’s hip floral designers think they’ve popularized.
Guess what? Mrs. Spry did it first!
The rest of us have just discovered the ingredients with which she created lush, naturalistic, unfussy bouquets. Cherry tomatoes, grape clusters, gourds, fig leaves, sea-kale, agapanthus seed heads, amaranth, rhubarb and artichokes are wonderful floral elements showing up in couture bouquets and magazine spreads. But Constance Spry used them first – and that’s quite fun to RE-discover.
Lorene asked me to donate a seasonal floral arrangement and a copy of The 50 Mile Bouquet to the event’s silent auction. How fun to step out of our car and look across Greg and Gary’s wonderful garden at the sparkling white-and-green scene. There was an old log stump and it seemed like the perfect “pedestal” for placing my bouquet for a last-minute portrait before the party.
Everything else here sparkled, too. Enjoy the glimpses captured by my lens. And if you want to read more, follow this link to a post from an Old Goat Farm holiday tea from 2010. Visiting at Christmas, seeing the century-old Victorian farmhouse, hearing the clucking chickens and (of course) eating delicious food . . . what a chance to while away an afternoon.
Here’s to a wonderful holiday season! And a New Year to come~
My friend Bill called me yesterday to tell me that Seattle Met magazine included me in their “Perfect Party” feature for April.
“WHAT????” I asked. Clearly, this happened without my knowledge – but it’s quite exciting. And amusing! I’ve never before been illustrated! I wonder who put them up to this?
Here’s the story:
I’ve drawn names of all those who answered my question below and here are the five “winners” of a FREE copy of The New Sunset Western Garden Book, courtesy of Sunset. The question: What is your favorite ornamental landscaping plant (shrub, grass, perennial, etc.) to harvest for a cut bouquet? yielded these winners/answers:
Jen Y: peonies
Paula: bunnytails grass blossoms or pilotus joey
Carol: Peonies, nandina branches and berry clusters
CONGRATULATIONS! You will soon be hearing from Dana Smith of Sunset Publishing, who needs your mailing address.
I recently had a chance to interview Kathleen Brenzel, garden editor for Sunset magazine – and editor of Sunset’s new, 2012 edition of The New Sunset Western Garden Book, (Sunset Books, $34.95 for flexible binding, $44.95 for hardcover), a “bible” for western gardeners.
Whether you’re new to gardening or have logged many planting seasons with your hands in soil, it’s the single best go-to reference for garden-makers in our region. As chunky as the Yellow Pages, this essential guide to the West’s ornamental and edible landscape has been around for 80 years. I’ve owned every version since the early 1990s, including the most recent 2007 edition, which is dog-eared from much use.
When I got my hands on the just-released ninth edition last month, I thought: How different can this really be? I asked Kathy to walk us through the book’s 768 pages:
How did you go about updating this edition? Before we did anything else, we assembled a panel with landscape architects, horticulture educators from UC Berkeley and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, nursery people and new graduates who had used our last edition as a textbook. The recent grads told us that in order to make “The New Sunset Western Garden Book” relevant, it had to have a digital component. They said: “We go everywhere with our smartphones, so we want to be able to take a photo of a plant we see on the hiking trail and look it up instantly.”
How did you go digital? Now you can take the best of Sunset with you to the garden center, nursery and your yard. You can get the free mobile edition of this book’s Plant Finder on your smartphone. (Search for Sunset Plant Finder.) With it, you can access more than 2,000 plants — and search by plant name, ZIP Code, climate zone, sun and water requirements, and type. There’s a companion online Plant Finder that lets you browse by color, height, spread and special needs.
How else is the book interactive? The last section of “The New Sunset Western Garden Book” is a practical guide. We’ve added a camera icon on the bottom of the pages, pointing you to corresponding videos on our website. It’s nice to read directions on planting a tomato in a pot and then watch a video of one of our editors showing you exactly how to do that.
What are the other major updates? This is the first edition to feature plant photos exclusively, rather than illustrations. There are more than 2,000 plant photos. We also updated the entire plant encyclopedia. That was the biggest job in the whole book. Every plant was reappraised, and we added many new varieties now available in nurseries. We went to growers all over the west and compared our existing plant database with what they are now offering; we asked what they thought we should include and why.
How many new plants did you add? The new book has 9,000 plants, up from 8,000 in the last edition. We also had to check the botany of every plant because botanists are constantly reclassifying plants.
What can new gardeners gain from the book? The section “Gardening Start to Finish” is more instinctive for the beginner. We walk them through the whole growing process from A to Z. We also have practical sections on gardening for wildlife and native plants, growing herbs and water-wise plants.
What can more experienced gardeners gain from the new book? The plant encyclopedia is filled with tip boxes of additional information – like how to propagate a sweet potato vine or when to cut ornamental grasses for the vase.
You have more edibles, don’t you? We asked ourselves: “What do people want most from ‘The New Sunset Western Garden Book’ right now? You’d have to be totally checked out not to notice a huge wave of edible gardening, so we wanted to amp up our coverage. I’m really happy with the “what edibles to plant when” charts for warm-season and cool-season veggies.
What’s your favorite take-away from the book? There’s an underlying theme that acknowledges how we garden now – with an interest in natural gardening and sustainability. Our gardens are smaller, but they’re stylish and sustainable.
Note: A version of this Q&A appeared in the LA Times HOME blog on February 17th.
Joel Lichtenwalter and Ryan Gates of Grow Outdoor Design, based in Los Angeles, have introduced me to some really creative gardens they have designed. And what strikes me when seeing these mostly small, urban landscapes, is how well plants are used as architectural elements within the spaces they reside.
You won’t see fluffy cottage gardens with English-inspired perennial choices in Ryan and Joel’s gardens. Yet even when they design for bungalow-scaled residences, some of the same intimate, cottage garden experience occurs for the humans who occupy them. That emotional sense of being surrounded by plants, layers of textures – and even color in a tonal, modern sense –happens in their gardens.
For those who ask: What plants are appropriate for a lush, low-water landscape? I think you’ll appreciate Ryan and Joel’s plant list for their clients’ lawn-free front yard now filled with native and Mediterranean grasses, shrubs, ground covers and trees, many of which display multi-season beauty:
A shopping list of California native plants and their Mediterranean companions
Ceanothus griseus horizontalis Yankee Point
Arctostaphylos ‘Howard McMinn’
Arctostaphylos ‘Emerald Carpet’
Leymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’
Sisyrinchium montanum (Blue Eyed Grass)
Leucadendron ‘Safari Sunset’
Composite decking (raised deck and boardwalk)
Square pre-cast concrete pavers
Poured-in-place concrete bench
‘Del Rio’ gravel
Decomposed granite (DG)
Shredded tree mulch
A few weeks ago, at the invitation of the Whatcom Horticultural Society, I spent a relaxing 24 hours surrounded by gardens, flowers and nature – as well the company of like-minded plant-lovers.
“Why don’t you come up to my house on Wednesday morning and we’ll go see some gardens before you give your lecture?” my friend Dawn Chaplin suggested. With established Bellingham landscape designer Susann Schwiesow, Dawn organizes the monthly lectures for WHS. This is the third time over the years that the society has invited me to speak. It’s always enjoyable, especially since the drive to Whatcom County and the enticing gardens and kindred spirits make my trip north so pleasurable.
After meeting up with Dawn, who lives on a beautiful bluff outside Stanwood with her husband David, we hopped in the car and traveled to Fir Island, a small, bucolic place that’s reached by a bridge, so you barely realize you’re crossing over Skagit River to a real island. We toured the timeless garden created by Lavone Newell-Reim and her husband Dick. I’m hoping to publish as a magazine story in the future, but I can’t help but treat you to a few of the luscious images from this very special, lived-in and loved-in landscape:
On his popular HGTV show The Outdoor Room with Jamie Durie, stylemaker Jamie Durie uses interior and architectural design tricks to amp up dreary backyards.
By the end of a whirlwind 30-minute episode, you’re energized and inspired. Of course, nimble edits have compressed a couple of days of dirt, sweat and (possibly) tears into a dreamy landscape for the small screen. But still, there’s always a takeaway, a “lesson” that catches the viewer’s imagination. “I could try that,” you say to yourself. “Oh, what a simple way to disguise that ugly wall,” or “That’s brilliant!”
Some of the projects conjured by Jamie and his design team are complicated and require professional assistance to execute. But many others fall into the DIY mode: affordable and requiring only a discerning eye to add polish, such as using color, texture or materials to unify otherwise disparate objects.
That’s one reason why I really wanted to see Jamie’s garden firsthand. When I visited his Los Angeles outdoor design laboratory (aka his humble backyard) last spring I loved what I saw.
My assignment was to interview Jamie and help produce the Better Homes & Gardens “Stylemaker” story that appears in the September issue – out on newsstands right now.
Art director Scott Johnson and I both flew into Los Angeles to work on the story. We were very fortunate to team up with LA photographer Edmund Barr and LA videographer Adam Grossman for the shoot. You can see my article and Edmund’s photos in the September issue; you can watch a fabulous how-to video with Jamie shot by Adam on BH&G’s digital edition. And a special thanks to Edmund for snapping this cozy portrait of Jamie and me, lounging in his outdoor living room. Fun, huh?
Many of Jamie’s best design concepts are ones he previously tried out for clients of Durie Design, his studio in Sydney, Australia, and Los Angeles. Some have been executed on previous episodes of The Outdoor Room, or in the pages of his new book by the same name.
We zeroed in on the ideas that move plants away from the obvious “ground plane” and onto other surfaces, such as living walls, green roofs and in the unexpected niches of garden structures. Jamie’s passion for plants is contagious – and you can see it spill over onto BH&G’s pages. Here’s an excerpt:
Outer Sanctum: HGTV star Jamie Durie uses unexpected designs to turn the barest backyards into green oases.
“Once you create an outdoor room, you’ll fall in love with your backyard again,” says Jamie Durie, the star of HGTV’s The Outdoor Room.
A popular designer and TV personality in his native Australia as well as North America, Jamie encourages everyone who has a small patch of earth — or even just a patio or deck– to re-imagine their exterior environment as a functional, eco-friendly living space.
Jamie combines a passion for plants, sustainability, and the outdoors into a zeal for landscaping. He grounds his designs in green practices, using local materials, plants that tolerate the region’s climate, and clever techniques to put plants in almost every imaginable nook and cranny. Hanging planters cover his fences and walls, and pergolas support green roofs. Surrounding yourself with nature this way “can improve your health and inspire positive thinking,” says Jamie, who meditates every morning on the patio outside his bedroom.
Recently settled in Los Angeles, Jamie used the same advice he offers clients: Increase living space by creating more rooms outdoors rather than indoors. Instead of enlarging his modest 1950s house, he coaxed his once-ordinary backyard to live larger, with outdoor spaces variously designed for cooking, dining, lounging, and chatting. “Your spaces should accommodate your life,” he says. “Not the other way around.”
”I have a new outlook when I open the doors,” Jamie says. “This house feels bigger than it is, since the lush garden is part of my home.”
The popular HGTV host and landscape designer shares his ideas, techniques and recent projects in Jamie Durie’s The Outdoor Room (Harper Collins, $25.99), a guidebook to creating beautiful exterior spaces.
Dear friends and readers, I’m sure you’ve just about given up on ever seeing an fresh, new blog post, since I nearly allowed the month of July to come and go without writing anything.
July was definitely enriching – my over-filled calendar says so! And yet, I am also exhausted (see my prior post, referencing moving to a new home, garden, and pond). Possessing countless experiences in need of personal review and reflection, I had planned to share the more colorful events here in a single post – a diary of sorts from the past month. Yet, since my just-crashed computer is in hospital, complete with most of my stored photos (my external hard-drive has to be replaced, too!), I don’t have much to show you.
So the July recap will occur in stages. Phase One covers July 5th-6th when I visited a few rural towns outside of Portland, Oregon.
I rode the train from Seattle to Portland on July 4th of all things, and my 4-hour journey was lovely, relaxing, and quiet. What a nice way to skip out on the potential holiday craziness on the freeway. Upon arrival, I rented a car and drove to the hamlet of Boring, Oregon.
My friend Nancy Buley lives there and she let me stay under the eaves of her farmhouse, in a room she calls the “garret,” the window of which overlooks Treephoria, her boutique tree farm.
Nancy is a tree ambassador who works closely with landscape architects and designers to educate and excite them about awesome ornamental varieties grown by J. Frank Schmidt & Son.
As director of communications, she frequently writes and speaks about new tree introductions, landscape design and tree selection/care. I first met Nancy years ago through Garden Writers Association, but our friendship was actually forged during a fun evening in Oklahoma City in 2007, when Sally Ferguson included us both in her small dinner party. That’s often how things go: We may only see one another a few times a year, but the kinship is cemented and immediately recalled whenever we meet.
Nancy treated me to a fabulous visit, including a walk at dusk around her grounds. At Treephoria, she and her son Neil Buley grow specialty trees in small batches. Nancy possesses a keen eye for the uncommon, but she also evaluates trees for their performance in the residential landscape. She defines Treephoria as, “the rapturous feeling or state of being experienced when surrounded by remarkable trees.”
That is indeed how I felt. I didn’t want to leave! In fact, when given the choice of going out to a restaurant for dinner of staying in the garden surrounded by trees with a picnic of leftovers you can guess what I chose to do!
A highlight of our tour-at-dusk was Nancy’s flashlight-led visit to the stone barn behind the rows of trees. This two-story structure was once the headquarters for Compton’s Dahlias, a commercial dahlia bulb farm owned by Nancy’s aunt and uncle. Wooden trays, retro-style packing boxes and other vestiges of the flower farm made me almost wish she could trade trees for dahlias.
The next morning, I set out to meet photographer Laurie Black and her husband Mark King to shoot profiles of two garden artisans for a feature that will run in Country Gardens magazine next year. I’ll give you a peek about those locations in my next July recap post.
© Debra Prinzing, all written and photographic content. Website design/development by Willo Bellwood/Metric Media