Debra Prinzing

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Episode 466: Black Sanctuary Gardens with Leslie Bennett of Oakland-based Pine House Edible Gardens

Wednesday, August 12th, 2020
Left: Leslie Bennett in her Pine House Edible Gardens-designed Oakland backyard
(c) Rachel Weill

Today’s special guest returns to the Slow Flowers Podcast after her 2017 appearance. Leslie Bennett is an award-winning garden creator whose Pine House Edible Gardens designs and installs beautiful, productive edible landscapes that provide bountiful harvests of organic fruits, vegetables, cutting flowers and herbs — and that create space for more beauty, peace and connection in clients’ lives. Pine House also maintain gardens, harvests and processes garden-grown food, and teaches clients the skills to do it themselves.

Edibles and cut flowers (citrus, blueberries, fig, protea, poppies) flourish in anAlameda front yard (c) Caitlin Atkinson

As a Black woman owned business and multi-racial, queer inclusive, majority female team, Pine House Edible Gardens stands for more than just healthy food and beautiful landscapes, and this is one reason I invited Leslie back to the show — to discuss her firm’s commitment to making gardens accessible to all through its equity pricing program and the Black Sanctuary Gardens project. As Leslie writes on the company’s web site: “We believe an edible garden can be a transformative space to grow and practice the better ways and world we want for ourselves and for our communities.”

The 2017 Slow Flowers Summit presentation features (from left): Chantal Aida Gordon, Leslie Bennett, Riz Reyes and Nicole Cordier
The speaker lineup at our first Slow Flowers Summit, including Leslie Bennett (far right)

In 2017, Leslie joined the first Slow Flowers Summit in Seattle as a speaker on the topic of inclusion and representation in floriculture and horticulture. She is definitely a mentor of mine as I strive to make the Slow Flowers community an inclusive, supportive and accessible place for Black flower farmers and Black floral professionals.

The first Black Sanctuary Garden project, created for a community leader in East Oakland
(c) Rachel Weill

Slow Flowers has had the privilege of sharing our resources to support anti-racist programs and to support new members through our Professional Development Fund for Black Farmers and Florists. One of the programs we were moved to support financially is the Black Sanctuary Gardens program that Leslie began a few years ago through Pine House Edible Gardens. I wanted you to learn more about this program because I believe it is a model that anyone who wants their creative enterprise to be guided by values- and mission-. As I watch how Leslie uses her talents and resources to support her beliefs, it inspires me to want to do the same with Slow Flowers.

A front garden landscaped with edible plants in Atherton, Calif. (c) David Fenton

Thanks so much for joining my conversations with Leslie — our most recent one and the replay of Episode 302.

One thing Leslie said that struck me so powerfully and it needs to be restated: This is not charity. This is giving back what has been taken. Land, generational wealth, historic and systemic racism. Operating very humbly will take us forward.

The 2020 campaign page . . . with donations soon reaching the $30k goal!

The current Go Fund Me Campaign for Black Sanctuary Gardens is close to reaching its 2020 campaign goal of $30,000, but the fundraising continues because this will be an ongoing design/installation series. You can read more about Black Sanctuary Gardens at Pine House Edible Gardens’ web site, but I’d like to highlight a few details. Leslie writes:

“Inspired in part by Alice Walker’s naming of the garden as a site for black women’s spirituality, creativity and artistic work, landscape designer Leslie Bennett and her team work to design, install and care for a series of low to no-cost Black Sanctuary Gardens for Black women and Black communities. Visual curation and photographic documentation of the women and communities in their garden spaces is a secondary, integral part of the project as we create imagery that more accurately and inclusively reflects the relationship of Black women and communities with their gardens.

An entry garden in Los Altos, Calif., features low-water, edible and native California plantings (c) Caitlin Atkinson
Edible garden in Hillsborough, Calif. (c) David Fenton

The primary goal of Black Sanctuary Gardens is to create garden spaces for Black women to rest and be restored. This space is so needed, given the racism and sexism that Black women experience as part of daily American life. A further goal is to define, uphold and celebrate Black community spaces, amidst gentrification and displacement of historically Black communities in Oakland. 

Black Sanctuary Gardens is an exciting opportunity to develop gardens that are reflective of our brilliant Black community and supportive of our specific cultural experiences, while offering real sanctuary for Black people to commune, converse, collaborate, heal, rest, and be nourished.

Left: An enclosed kitchen garden with fruit trees and vegetable beds in Oakland Hills (c) Caitlin Atkinson; A bountiful planting from Pine House Edible Gardens

After we recorded today’s interview, Leslie and I continued to discuss the many important reasons for centering a business around Black wellness, creativity and community. It has inspired me to find words to state the importance of these values in the Slow Flowers movement. While I’m proud that our stated Manifesto values sustainability, local sourcing of flowers, and supporting family farms, I realize I want to more explicitly and actively support equity in our Black farming and floristry community. Look for an update to the Slow Flowers Manifesto in the coming days — as we put values and beliefs into words.  

Here’s how you can find and follow Leslie Bennett and Pine House Edible Gardens:

Pine House Edible Gardens on Facebook

Pine House Edible Gardens on Instagram

More about Black Sanctuary Gardens

Now, more than ever, your Slow Flowers Membership gives you an important story to share with your community and your customers.

Our monthly Slow Flowers Meet-Ups continue this Friday on August 14th (9 am PT/Noon ET) and you’re invited to join us – virtually – via Zoom.

If you missed last month’s Meet-Up, you can find  video from our July 10th Slow Flowers Member Virtual Meet-Up with featured guests wedding designer and stylist Joy Proctor, founder and creative director of Joy Proctor Design and Slow Flowers members and wedding and event designers Adam Rico and Alicia Rico of Dallas-based Bows and Arrows Flowers. Learn about the first @saytheirnamesmemorial in Portland, Oregon, installed on Juneteenth (June 19th) by Joy and a group of friends, artists, designers and craftspeople, and created in several other cities including Dallas and Atlanta by Bows and Arrows Flowers.

Gina Thresher (left) and Tonneli Gruetter (right)

This week’s guests include Gina Thresher of From the Ground Up Floral and Tonneli Gruetter of Salty Acres Farm — they’re among the instructors in a new virtual floral conference taking place in late August called Fleurvana Virtual Summit. You’ll hear more from Gina and Tonneli and learn how you can grab a free registration for the four-day conference August 23-26 — I’ll be speaking at Fleurvana, too. You’re invited to join us on Friday!

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 632,000 times by listeners like you. Thank you for listening, commenting and sharing – it means so much.

As our movement 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.

Thank you to our Sponsors!

This podcast is brought to you by Slowflowers.com, the free, nationwide online directory to florists, shops, and studios who design with American-grown flowers and to the farms that grow those blooms.  It’s the conscious choice for buying and sending flowers.

And thank you to Florists’ Review magazine. I’m delighted to serve as Contributing Editor for Slow Flowers Journal, found in the pages of Florists’ Review. Read our stories at slowflowersjournal.com.

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 ascfg.org.

Longfield Gardens, which 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. Check out the full catalog at Longfield Gardens at longfield-gardens.com.

Rooted Farmers works exclusively with local growers to put the highest-quality specialty cut flowers in floral customers’ hands. When you partner with Rooted Farmers, you are investing in your community, and you can expect a commitment to excellence in return. Learn more at RootedFarmers.com.

(c) Mary Grace Long photography

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 soundbodymovement.com

Music Credits:

Homegrown; Turning on the Lights; Gaena
by Blue Dot Sessions
http://www.sessions.blue

Lovely by Tryad 
http://tryad.bandcamp.com/album/instrumentals
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

In The Field
audionautix.com

Revisiting our Stylish Sheds

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

Published in 2008, Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways is more relevant than ever!

In 2008, after a year of scouting the country for “stylish sheds” with my wonderful collaborator, Seattle photographer Bill Wright, and after months of interviewing shed owners, designers and builders, then writing 50k words or some ridiculous amount of text, Clarkson Potter (Random House) published Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways.

We loved that book so much. We loved how beautiful Bill’s photography was, capturing the personalities and stories of each shed owner, not to mention unique geographical and architectural characteristics of each shed. We loved storytelling through my interviews, conversations that dug deep into the psyche of hideaways, retreats and shelters.

Bill and I were truly ahead of our time. We saw around the corner and we believe that Stylish Sheds captured a shift in how people viewed their gardens and the once-neglected huts or sheds that stood there.

Our book documented that lovely shift toward viewing sanctuary not as somewhere you have to travel to, but somewhere that exists just steps away from your backdoor.

Stylish Sheds Well, 2008 was a financial disaster and the bottom fell out of the real estate market. Our timing could not have been predicted. Ten years later, a number of copycat books emerged on the marketplace. And Bill and I just sat their and thought: Wow, we were visionaries! The promotional machine we needed in the lifestyle media marketplace was in its own crisis when Stylish Sheds was published. That was the era when magazines like House & Garden, Cottage Living, Domino and others suddenly folded.

Eventually, nearly 20k copies of Stylish Sheds were shipped to booksellers, more than any other book I ever wrote. But then, it went out of print a few years later. You can still find this special title on your library shelf and through online sellers of used books.

We were quite suprised recently when Lyda Kay Ferree, a lifestyle writer for a group of magazines in the South, contacted us to see if she could excerpt a few of Bill’s photos and interview me for an April 2020 Home & Garden feature for VIP Jackson Magazine and one of its sister publications.

Lyda Kay definitely “gets” this book. When she contacted me to set up the phone interview, she wrote: “I am fortunate to live in an historic district in a 100-year-old home, complete with the original potting shed with brick walls. (It has electricity but no running water.) I had saved an article about your book as I am getting ideas for my potting shed.”

Well, we had a lovely conversation about Stylish Sheds, and Lyda Kay’s article appears here, with photography graciously provided by Bill. Seeing those beautiful and diminutive structures we documented brings back a flood of memories of that year — between summer of 2006 and summer of 2007 — when Bill and I produced 35 photo shoots in 52 weeks.

Itinerant seekers of inspiration, we felt like we were on a treasure hunt, gathering the best tiny architecture and design ideas to share in our book’s pages.

Lyda Kay has shared the PDF of her article and you can download or read it here. We’re so pleased that she reached out and helped to remind us of this special book and the memories of creating it. Thank you, Lyda Kay!

Got Rocks? Here’s a savvy design solution for all those nuggets you’re digging up

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

Love this tall console-style table made from hog fencing, rocks and a stone top — Design by Greg Graves and Gary Waller of Old Goat Farm.

If your garden is like ours, well, rocks are in abundance.

Our six-month-old garden occupies the 20-foot-by-60-foot backyard of a suburban home completed just months ago, right before we moved in on February 11th.

By the time we started working on the garden, no surprise! We realized what everyone who moves into a new-construction house learns. Landscaping crews simply move a lot of dirt and rocks around (usually destroying topsoil in the process). Then, they push any excess mixture of native soil, debris, the random screw or nail, and rocks up against the perimeter of one’s “new” yard and toss some bark dust on top. Not exactly “prepared soil,” right?

Rocks of all shapes and sizes have been piling up. We’ve had to muscle them out of newly dug planting holes for shrubs, perennials and trees. Said rocks range in size from a pingpong or tennis ball to something the size of a large dinosaur egg.

Case in point:

Yes, this is from the ground in our backyard. It was definitely a “two-person” rock, as they say.

Clearly, the rocks are winning. And it’s not like you can toss them into the compost bin and let the city deal with the mess.

Right now, along the side of our house next to the foundation, a long row of rocks is on display. There are mostly 6- to 12-inch diameter nuggets; some are surprisingly smooth; others more shard-like. I wasn’t sure what to do with them until I returned to Old Goat Farm this past weekend. And I was reminded that it’s possible to turn unwanted rocks into very-much-wanted garden furniture and art.

Old Goat Farm is owned my my friends Greg Graves and Gary Waller. Old Goat Farm is out in the country, as one might expect, in the town of Graham, about 45 minutes south of where we live in Des Moines. It is a combination display garden, specialty nursery and animal sanctuary, all of which surround a charming Victorian farmhouse where Gary serves his famous holiday teas (there’s usually a waiting list, so check it out ASAP if you’re interested). I have written about Old Goat Farm’s holiday teas a few times, and you can read those posts here from 2010 and 2012.

Both men say they themselves are “old goats,” but the only reason you would believe that is their combined gardening and horticulture wisdom. Together, Greg and Gary know more than many of us will ever learn in one lifetime, not to mention two. Old Goat Farm is always open to the public the second weekend of the month, April through October. You can learn more about other special sales and events by checking out the Facebook page here.

Bruce and I spent a lovely evening last weekend at Old Goat Farm, where the guys hosted their first ever farm-to-table dinner in the garden. The food was out of this world – all vegetarian, of course – and presented in such a visually appealing manner by local chef Meghan Brannon of Conceptual Catering.

Between courses, we were encouraged to stroll the display gardens, and they are magnificent. I hadn’t been to Old Goat during the summer months for several years, and so I’d missed how much these borders, paths, islands and vignettes have matured over the dozen-plus years that Gary and Greg have tended to this land.

With rocks (and what to do with them) on my mind, what jumped out at me during this visit was how masterfully the guys handle their rock containment. Let’s review a few of these special pieces:

Twin gabion towers that serve as pedestals for beautiful urns to mark the entry into Linda’s Garden, a special destination honoring our late friend Linda Plato.

A small garden bench (right) and a square side table (left). Both utilize stone slabs for the “top.”

Another view of the fantastic gabion fern table. This is a stunner!

A detail of the planted surface of the table.

Another beautiful view.

You’ll want to read Greg’s blog post  from a few years’ back, in which he discusses his wire-cage designs and his personal relationship with the rocks in his garden. I found it inspiring!

Simply defying gravity, Greg and Gary make stone-filled metal orbs, too.

What a lovely way to punctuate a turn in the pathway.

 







Floral Spectacle in Seattle, inspired by The Flower House (Episode 230)

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

“We can imagine it and we can do it,” Diane Szukovathy, Jello Mold Farm & Seattle Wholesale Growers Market

Lisa Waud, artist, innovator, entrpreneur, floral designer and creator of The Flower House (Detroit). She's standing in front of the base of the tree-inspired sculpture installed by her students at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

Lisa Waud, artist, innovator, entrpreneur, floral designer and creator of The Flower House (Detroit). She’s standing in front of the base of the tree-inspired sculpture installed by her students at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

A botanical tree grows up the walls and across the ceiling of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market

A botanical tree grows up the walls and across the ceiling of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market

Last week I told you about a series of Flower House activities taking place in Seattle with creator Lisa Waud. As I noted, Lisa has been on a West Coast tour which began on January 19th in Seattle, took her to Olympia and Portland, and continues until early next week in California.

As it turns out, I had a scheduled interview be postponed, so today, I’m bringing you a series of clips, short takes and conversations from the various events held at the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market when Lisa was here. Please enjoy these sound-bites, beginning with remarks from flower farmer Diane Szukovathy of Jello Mold Farm, board chair at the Growers’ Market, as she introduced Lisa Waud’s Wednesday morning lecture.

Diane is followed by Lisa’s introductory remarks; then we’ll jump to several short interviews with designers who took part in a Master Design Class led by Lisa. Thirteen designers teamed up to experience a mini-version of the Flower House installation, creating a massive botanical sculpture within the Market’s walls in just under 4 hours on January 19th.

Early in the class, a team started building the "bones" of the sculptural installation, while other designers worked on the floral pieces, called "amoebas"

Early in the class, a team started building the “bones” of the sculptural installation, while other designers worked on the floral pieces, called “amoebas”

The team of amazing designers who were led through a 4-hour session with Lisa Waud (lisa is front, far left)

The team of amazing designers who were led through a 4-hour session with Lisa Waud (lisa is front, far left)

Love this hot, orange-red amoeba palette!

Love this hot, orange-red amoeba palette!

Led by Lisa, the designers went through the entire process that a Flower House designer probably experienced — from visioning, brainstorming, creative problem-solving and execution. Having watched the process first-hand, I have to say it was nothing less than Spectacular!

One of the fun things Lisa threw into the mix was a series of surprises that added pressure and tested the mettle of the designers, much like the Flower House team endured during the 3 days when they installed the Flower House.

So I played along as a member of the press, who showed up unannounced expecting people to stop what they were doing while I conducted an interview. That was just one of the crazy twists Lisa threw at her students. Another of her surprises was to add a “last minute” delivery of flowering branches — and challenging the designers to figure out how to incorporate those elements into an almost-finished composition.

In the end, well, all I can say is, these designers rose to the challenge and proved that the sum of their parts was far greater than anyone could have individually achieved.

The final installation is gloriously wild and magical.

The final installation is gloriously wild and magical.

The Seattle Wholesale Growers Market's 18-foot-high ceilings are perfect for the installation -- check out the I-beams.

The Seattle Wholesale Growers Market’s 18-foot-high ceilings are perfect for the installation — check out the I-beams.

Each of the five "amoebas" were woven with foliage, branches and flowers, with a specific color emphasis.

Each of the five “amoebas” were woven with foliage, branches and flowers, with a specific color emphasis.

Another view of the hanging pieces

Another view of the hanging pieces

Details of the pink and fuchsia amoeba

Details of the pink and fuchsia amoeba, fashioned with flowers and foliage from the farms that supply the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market

As you hear a series of clips, I will ask each person to introduce herself and her business, followed by a brief series of questions; and then we move onto another group of designers. This patchwork quilt of a podcast episode concludes with a 10-minute wrap-up session, a debrief with Lisa and the 13 designers, as they compare notes about the challenges and results of their time together.

Here is a list all the participants and their social media links — these are women you will want to follow if you haven’t yet discovered them!

Floressence, owned by Anne Bradfield

Terra Bella Flowers, owned by Melissa Feveyear

Splash Floral and Interiors, owned by Lisa Behringer

Columbia City Bouquet, owned by Emily Kopca

Gather, owned by Amy Kunkel-Patterson

Bash and Bloom, owned by Eleanor Blackford

Lola Creative, owned by Emily Ellen Anderson

Camas Design, owned by Erin Shackelford

First & Bloom, owned by Tammy Myers

Smashing Petals, owned by Keita Horn

Melanie Benson Floral, owned by Melanie Benson

Vases Wild, owned by Tobey Nelson

Casablanca Floral, owned by Maura Whalen

Finally, I have to state publicly, that this entire week of events could not have happened so successfully without the leadership and talents of the three staff of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market: Molly Sadowsky, Danielle Bennett, and Agnes Cwalina. They are amazing!

NEWS TO SHARE

This happened and it came as a total surprise!

This happened and it came as a total surprise!

I want to thank the flower farmers of the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market for surprising me with a huge honor. Here is a link to the Market’s press release.

On January 19th, Slow Flowers hosted a dinner to honor Lisa Waud and to showcase the floral art installation she and her team had installed earlier that afternoon.

At the dinner, Diane Szukovathy took the mic and announced that the farmers had created a new award, called the Growers Choice Award, and that I was the first recipient. Later she told me it was the most fun scheming she’d had in a long time, which puts a huge smile on my face. I truly was astonished to receive this recognition–and the language is most meaningful because it recognizes “outstanding contributions to revitalize the local floral community.”

80K

The Slow Flowers Podcast has been downloaded more than 80,000 times by listeners like you. THANK YOU to each and every one of you for downloading, listening, commenting and sharing. It means so much.

Until 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 Wheatley and Hannah Holtgeerts. Learn more about their work at shellandtree.com.

Music provided by: Audio Nautix







The Flower House Virtual Tour Part 3 with Liz Andre-Stotz and Holly Rutt (Episode 224)

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

The Flower House's "A Little Michigan Magic," a gorgeous, fantasty-like expression of all four seasons in Michigan state.

The Flower House’s “A Little Michigan Magic,” a gorgeous, fantasty-like expression of all four seasons in Michigan state.

I snapped this photo of Liz Andre-Stotz, inside the room she designed and fabricated with two other Michigan designers. Love the natural light spilling through the windows.

I snapped this photo of Liz Andre-Stotz, inside the room she designed and fabricated with two other Michigan designers. Love the natural light spilling through the windows.

Holly Rutt, of Sweet Pea Floral Design, posing with the marigold "shower curtain" in "In Loo of Flowers"

Holly Rutt, of Sweet Pea Floral Design, posing with the marigold “shower curtain” in “In Loo of Flowers”

Today’s podcast brings you Part 3 of our coverage of the Flower House, a fabulous, groundbreaking floral art project that designer Lisa Waud instigated in the city of Detroit.

Today, we continue the miniseries with more conversations recorded with designers who came together for this visionary project that opened to the public for a 3-day run beginning on October 16th.

Here are links to Part 1 and Part 2, my prior episodes gathering the voices of some of the lead designers who executed individual rooms in the Flower House.

First, I’ll introduce you to Liz Andre-Stotz of Parsonage Events, who teamed up with two other Michigan designers to turn the first floor bedroom of the Flower House into “A Little Michigan Magic.”

The room was a true Michigan collaboration with Jamie Platt from A.R. Pontius Flower Shop in Harbor Springs, Michigan, and Jennifer Ederer, owner of Modern Day Floral in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Then we’ll pivot to Holly Rutt of Sweet Pea Floral Design, another Michigan designer, who chose the first-floor bathroom and called her installation “In Loo of Flowers.”

MEET LIZ ANDRE-STOTZ

Seasons in Michigan, expressed by Liz, Jamie and Jenn, three friends who teamed up to create a room at The Flower House

Seasons in Michigan, expressed by Liz, Jamie and Jenn, three friends who teamed up to create a room at The Flower House

Winter is expressed against the fading robin's egg blue walls in "A Little Michigan Magic"

Winter is expressed against the fading robin’s egg blue walls in “A Little Michigan Magic”

Based in Clarkston, Michigan, Parsonage Events is a family affair. Liz runs the full-service floral design studio with mom Susan and her husband Bill Stotz.

READ MORE…







A (American Grown) Flower-filled April, Part Two. OR: Adventures with Sharon Lovejoy

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

I’ve been home for a few weeks from my 11-day road trip that took me by plane to Southern California and back home again behind the wheel of a rental car. I have many fond memories (as well as the photographs that I collected), while stopping along U.S. Hwy. 101 on my way north to Seattle.

So here is a second travelogue, which I think many will enjoy.

I stopped at the home and garden of fellow writer and sweet friend Sharon Lovejoy and her partner in all, Jeff Prostivitch. They live in San Luis Obispo, a stunning area of coastal California, in a cozy bungalow surrounded by an oft-photographed and published garden.

There are several highlights from this short visit that I want to share.

running-out-of-night First of all, I got to hold in my hands the advanced readers’ copy of Sharon’s debut novel, Running Out of Night, which will be published in November.

On an earlier visit to Sharon and Jeff’s (I think it was in the fall of 2009), I tagged along with Sharon to a regular session with her writer’s group. This is the small gathering of writers in her area who have faithfully met with one another for years as they’ve read given both encouragement and critiques of each other’s writing projects. It was on that visit that I heard Sharon read aloud one of the chapters of her novel-in-progress. 

So you can only imagine how thrilling it was to sit for a while on the sofa in their living room and read the first few chapters in the REAL book! If you have a young person in your life (ages 7-12), I urge you to order this book or ask your librarian to order it. It is an adventure that involves two young girls who are equally enslaved, despite the difference in their skin color. I thoroughly love the characters, the plot – and the dialogue! Sharon is a masterful storyteller and I can’t wait to get this book into the hands of my niece (a 4th grade teacher) and her students.

A bud vase displays charming nasturtium flowers and foliage, on the edge of the kitchen's vintage farm sink.

A bud vase displays charming nasturtium flowers and foliage, on the edge of the kitchen’s vintage farm sink.

I also experienced a treat that anyone who visits this abode is bound to see. This is the home of gardeners, naturalists and amateur botanists. Every single thing that grows in the Lovejoy-Prostovitch garden is a gift from the earth. And they cherish those gifts with fervor.

The simplest tendril, sprig or pod is elevated with love and affection by Sharon and Jeff. Their home is filled with tiny bouquets and posies. The whole idea of “bringing the garden indoors” takes on new meaning when jam jars, bottles and shot glasses are filled with minature floral arrangements. A delight for the eyes. Here is a peek at some of the ones I noticed (I’m sure there were more!):

Geraniums (pelargoniums) in a bottle; citrus on a cake plate.

Geraniums (pelargoniums) in a bottle; citrus on a cake plate.

 

The posy by my bedside table. With the sweet William tucked inside, you can only imagine how it scented my dreams that night!

The posy by my bedside table. With the sweet William and sprigs of herbs tucked inside, you can only imagine how it scented my dreams that night!

 

Cheery golden-yellow columbine in the bathroom.

Cheery golden-yellow columbine in the bathroom. Is that parsley as the greenery?

 

Vases of flowers even appear in the garden, like this display of bird-of-paradise, collected with the potted succulents.

Vases of flowers even appear in the garden, like this display of bird-of-paradise, collected with the potted succulents.

 

Mr. Owl, with the moon, spotted on that magical night at Old Edna.

Mr. Owl, with the moon, spotted on that magical night at Old Edna.

That evening, Sharon and Jeff brought me along as their guest to a party given by their friends Aline and Frank.

This lovely couple lives in New England but spends part of the winter months staying in the San Luis Obispo area to be closer to some of their grandchildren.

While they have rented many types of houses for their winter interludes, this year found them settled in at a place outside SLO called Old Edna

Sharon promised: “Oh, Deb, you’re going to love it!”

And she was right.

Seen from the back, through the trees, the two-story tin mercantile building, circa 1908.

Seen from the back, through the trees, the two-story tin mercantile building, circa 1908.

Old Edna has an amazing history, and I hope to do it justice with this brief summary (please follow all the links to read more). Today, Old Edna is the creation of a dreamy artist named Pattea Torrence.

Pattea's office, in a charming garden shed on the Old Edna grounds.

Pattea’s office, in a charming garden shed on the Old Edna grounds.

 

Love how an old branch becomes a "trellis" under the eaves.

Love how an old branch becomes a “trellis” under the eaves.

 

Sharon and Jeff, both taking photos, at Old Edna. They are standing in front of the original Old Edna cottage.

Sharon and Jeff, both taking photos, at Old Edna. They are standing in front of the original Old Edna cottage.

Pattea has saved this elderly hamlet that time almost forgot, turning it into a destination that includes guest cottage farm stays, wine tasting, special events and more.

In 2000, Pattea and her husband Jeff Kocan purchased the two-acre, 100-year-old townsite with its running creek in Edna Valley (a world-class, wine-producing region) and two-story tin building (once a general store, dance hall and post office, dating back to the turn of the century, 1900).

They have salvaged and restored many of the structures and created a magical place for guests who stay for short or extended periods. There are two guest cottage on site, a three-bedroom Suite Edna and a one-bedroom honeymoon cottage called DeSolina. 

Another stunning sight: Birds in flight, in the sky overhead - a perfect V formation.

Another stunning sight: Birds in flight, in the sky overhead – a perfect V formation.

Pattea is affectionately known as “The Mayor” of Old Edna. She was a gracious host, although I have to also thank Aline and Frank for their amazing hospitality!

I hope to return and spend more time, but these photos will give you a glimpse of what I experienced. Up next: A visit to The Sun Valley Group, an unforgettable flower farm in Arcata, California.







Shutters, stylish and succulent-filled

Sunday, November 13th, 2011

Last year I blogged about finding a set of half-circle shutters at a vintage sale. I wanted to emulate my friend Baylor Chapman’s succulent-planted shutters that grace her outdoor terrace in San Francisco. Since then, a few folks have emailed to ask if I EVER finished that project? Much to my embarrassment, those dusty shutters sat in the garage, untouched for nearly a year!

But finally, now that we’ve settled into a permanent residence, I’ve been able to work on this project. The shutters have been cleaned and given three coats of exterior paint. To turn them into vertical succulent planters I mounted both pieces with wood screws outside my office windows and then stuffed the openings betweeen each slat with sedums and sempervivums. Let’s see how they look:

Step one: Paint the shutters. I used semigloss acrylic berry-red, the paint used for my home's exterior trim

Step Two: Staple landscaping cloth to the back of both shutters.

Step Three: Mount shutter and fill the "slots" with potting soil.

Step Four: Plant with hardy sedums and other succulents.

 







Mostly native plant list for a modern California garden

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

A stand of cape rush adds a semitransparent layer of privacy between sidewalk and front garden.

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.

Designers Joel and his client Scott can be seen in the distance, conferring on some of the planting designs.

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.

I wrote about one such place recently and you can follow the links to the Los Angeles Times story here, including an extensive web gallery.

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
Natives:
Ceanothus griseus horizontalis
Yankee Point
Cercis occidentalis
Arctostaphylos ‘Howard McMinn’

Arctostaphylos ‘Emerald Carpet’
Leymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’

Muhlenbergia rigens
Platanus racemosa
Carpenteria californica
Eschscholzia californica
Juncus patens

Sisyrinchium montanum (Blue Eyed Grass)

Non-Natives:
Arbutus ‘Marina’
Agave bracteosa
Leucadendron ‘Safari Sunset’

Agave vilmroniana
Olea europaea
Chondropetalum tectorum

Materials:
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







On location with Jamie Durie for Better Homes & Gardens

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

On location in Los Angeles with Jamie Durie - photographed by Edmund Barr

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.

Check out Jamie's new book for more tips and ideas.

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.







Contemporary trellises for your upwardly-mobile plants

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

 Note: a version of this story appeared in the print edition of last Saturday’s LA Times HOME section and in today’s LA Times @ Home blog.

Jennifer Gilbert Asher and Karen Neill of TerraTrellis

This is their beautiful "Gracie" arbor, inspired by the shape of nursery hoop houses

Instead of a spindly, mass-produced support for your rose or bougainvillea, why not give that over-achiever a sturdy structure on which to climb? And why not train those vines and tendrils on a framework that’s both artful and functional?

Los Angeles landscape designer and artist Jennifer Gilbert Asher has reinterpreted classic garden ornamentation into modern, colorful – and durable forms.  Her TerraTrellis collection of steel tuteurs, arbors and wall trellises offers a stylish alternative to the type of generic (and often impermanent) metal and wood pieces you might find online or at big-box stores.

The pod-like 'Toki,' which Jennifer says was inspired by a Faberge egg!

“Playful architectural forms and compelling colors in the garden are what’s behind this collection,” says Asher, who also creates more expensive works of modern outdoor sculpture through TerraSculpture, a studio co-owned by Karen Neill. Pieces in the TerraTrellis collection range from $279 to $579.

Like the studio’s larger sculpture pieces, TerraTrellis’s pieces are fabricated by Mario Lopez, who runs a metal studio in south Los Angeles. The steel pieces are hand-welded and use stainless-steel hardware and cables. They are oxide-finished or cloaked in a joyous array of powder-coated colors like kumquat, berry and leaf.

Familiar forms from public gardens and even the agricultural landscape inspire the designs.

Here's the lovely color palette ranging from oxidized steel to powder-coat finishes

For example, the lines of TerraTrellis’s “Gracie Modern Arbor,” which looks like a 76-inch diameter double-circle emerging from a pathway, echo the shape of hoop houses that dot Southern California’s plant nurseries. The 58-inch high “Lazio Vase Trellis” is a scaled-down homage to the giant rebar artifices that contain riotous bougainvillea at the Getty Center’s Central Garden.

“These pieces are designed not only to support a plant, but to integrate with it,” Asher says. “This union ultimately forms a work of freestanding, living art in the landscape. We want people to tap into their inner landscape designer and have fun exploring interesting combinations of plant with trellis.”

Pot-ted (www.pottedstore.com) in L.A.’s Los Feliz neighborhood will carry the TerraTrellis collection. You can also order the pieces online at www.terratrellis.com

Here are some other designs in the collection – perfect for your stylish potager or rose border!

Lazio, trellis inspired by the majestic rebar structures that hold bougainvillea vines at The Getty Center

Ina, like a picture frame, for your wall or fence.

Akoris, a leaf green French-style tuteur, with a sculpted wire orb on top.

Detail, showing stainless steel cabling.

How about a pair of vertical trellises for your fence?

This one stands freely, like an artist's easel

Is pink this year's unexpected surprise color for the garden?