Debra Prinzing

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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!


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.”


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

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.”


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.


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
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)

Arbutus ‘Marina’
Agave bracteosa
Leucadendron ‘Safari Sunset’

Agave vilmroniana
Olea europaea
Chondropetalum tectorum

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 ( in L.A.’s Los Feliz neighborhood will carry the TerraTrellis collection. You can also order the pieces online at

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?

Jamie Durie’s very personal version of The Outdoor Room

Saturday, May 28th, 2011

This view takes in the two cabanas on the left and the dining pavilion at the opposite end of the pool

I joined Jamie Durie, of HGTV’s “The Outdoor Room,” for brunch and an interview in LA

I’ve been after celebrity garden designer Jamie Durie for more than a year to let me come and do a story about his personal Los Angeles backyard. I sensed he was stalling because, like many of us who make gardens (or write about them) for a living, our own outdoor environment is the LAST thing to receive our attention!

Turns out, Jamie and his producers of “The Outdoor Room” on HGTV  were cooking up big plans for his hillside property in Los Angeles’s Laurel Canyon.

Jamie reimagined the long-neglected yard, dominated by a vintage 1950s swimming pool, into a gorgeous series of outdoor living spaces. The magical transformation occurred over a three week time, and became the debut episode of The Outdoor Room’s season three, which aired earlier this year (you can see a schedule of re-runs of this episode by following this link).

In late February, I received an out-of-the-blue phone call from Jamie, saying: “The garden is finished – you’re invited to come see it!” Wow – this guy is good to his word.

Here's a bird's-eye view of the transformed outside living space - photographed from Jamie's hillside deck

We had a narrow window of a couple week’s time in which I could get down to LA for a photo shoot and interview, since Jamie was about to fly back to Australia for several weeks to shoot another show there. Whew. That guy lives a marathon life and makes it all look effortless. But we made it work. Here is my profile of Jamie’s project, which appears in today’s print and online editions of The Los Angeles Times.

The Los Angeles Times sent one of its very best photographers, Irfan Khan, to document the beautiful landscape. You can check out his web gallery of gorgeous shots here. I also took lots of reference photos to use while writing the story, and thought I’d post some of my favorites below.

Jamie asked me to include the many great resources he used to pull together this extreme garden makeover. So in case you’re curious, here is that list:

Resources & Materials

Bath: “The Outdoor Room” craftsman Steve Zimpel created the bath using recycled cedar from Durie’s original design.

Decking: Fiberon composite decking

Doors: LaCantina bi-fold doors

Fire: Escea outdoor gas fireplace; Durie Design Fire Pit

Furniture: Walter Lamb for Brown and Jordan reproduction chairs and chaises from Design Within Reach; all-weather wicker sectional, Durie Design.

Kitchen: Fuego modular kitchen.

Plants: Monrovia

Vertical garden system: Woolly Pockets

Pool Makeover: Jamie worked with Aric Entwistle of Los Angeles-based H2o Development Inc. to replace a conventional chlorine system with Spectralight, which uses ultraviolet light to kill pathogens and waterborne bacteria. The renovated pool is solar heated with a system from Suntopia Solar. A new infinity edge was fabricated over the original coping using carbon fiberglass, resin, high-tensile adhesives and several coats of waterproofing. It’s finished with Bisazza glass mosaic tiles.  

Like a raft floating over the garden, the upper deck provides excellent glimpses of the garden below.

Here's a bird's-eye view of the transformed outside living space - photographed from Jamie's hillside deck

I love this view from above, which shows how the box-beams form planting channels, and how the Roman shades create a canopy roof for the cabanas.

Here's the exterior of two pivoting planted "walls." When opened, they connect Jamie's bedroom to the garden.

A gorgeous detail of the stacked stone contained by one of two 7-foot gabion tree planters that Jamie designed

Here's a nice detail shot from inside the dining pavilion. You can see how the concrete retaining walls hold the hillside back and also form the interior walls where planters are hung and pillow-backs are rested.

A dreamy morning shot of the outdoor living room, featuring Jamie's own all-weather sectionals and a custom fire pit.

Inside the dining pavilion.

A detail showing how the Woolly Pockets vertical wall system adds foliage and flower texture behind the cabana.

The full-size view of the gabion tree planter - one of two in the garden.

At the end of my interview with Jamie, he talks about how much he enjoys living here. And it’s a perfect way to sum up the feelings I also had being in the highly personal garden environment: 

“Life just seems a whole lot more hectic in Sydney,” Durie says. “You can’t say that about Laurel Canyon. All I ever hear are birds. I’ve got squirrels running along the top of my green wall. An owl moved in once I finished the garden, and we’re starting to be visited by a ton of hummingbirds. I may not have kangaroos and koalas, but it’s kind of fun telling my mates back home that I’ve got coyotes in the canyon.”

Thank you for sharing your garden, Jamie. It was a treat! I hope you slow down long enough to really enjoy it~

Inspiration comes in many forms

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

A spring bouquet in a Mason Jar inspires . . .

The other day, while talking with my friend Lorene (one of the most creative people I have known since we were college classmates together), I described some of the cool design ideas I’ve spotted in the past few weeks. My own enthusiasm for all this visual stimulation made me realize my “list” could be a blog post here.

After seeing these ideas in Seattle, Los Angeles and New York, my own idea-bank has been rekindled. Witnessing the talent of others doesn’t ever make me envious. No, it makes me want to up my own game and push myself further to do something wonderfully better as a writer, a gardener, a designer.

The type of inspiration I’ve seen lately has been truly exquisite. Great design is great design, whether in the garden, the home, or the restaurant. When you see it, you know it!

There may be no other response than to gaze in awe and say – WOW. But if your muse can be stirred or awakened by these ideas, by all means, use them as a starting point for your own artistic expression. I hope you enjoy where all this beauty takes you!


17-year-old garden designer Courtney Goetz won a Gold Medal at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show. Her mom, designer and writer Sue Goetz, is one of her influences.

At last month’s Northwest Flower & Garden Show, one of my most favorite annual events, I was invited by Julie Chai of Sunset Magazine to help “judge” the Sunset Outdoor Living Award.

We were smitten by a small but extremely innovative garden called “Paradise (to be) Regained . . . borrowing Thoreau,” which we honored with the Sunset award.

The critera recognizes a garden that exemplifies “fresh, useful and achievable ideas.” In this instance, the designer was 17-year-old Courtney Goetz.

Courtney, the daughter of garden designer and writer Sue Goetz, grew up in the garden-making business. In 2005, when she was 11, Courtney helped mom Sue design a display garden named “A Child of the Garden Grows .  .  .  .” for this same show. Now, she has made a garden herself – and guess what? In addition to the Sunset Award, the show judges honored Courtney with a Gold Medal.

This half-circle garden floor treatment by Courtney Goetz shows how to pair salvaged metal grates with colorful groundcovers to create a "welcome mat" at the entry to a garden shelter.

As her Senior Thesis Project for Gig Harbor High School, Courtney wanted her design to be all about “recycling, re-purposing, and ‘re-characterizing’ used materials for use in the garden,” she says. “My goal and intent for this garden is to have green ideas for everyone to instill in their lives. I want the message to get out that not everyone can buy solar panels or hybrid cars, but anyone can and will make a difference by using a little bit less and utilizing what we already have.”

One of the many wonderful – and really clever — details of Courtney’s display garden was the checkerboard “floor” treatment, combining recycled metal grates with ground covers and rocks.

We loved this idea as a modern twist on a “welcome mat.” Courtney selected varieties of sedum and sempervivums in gold and dark green, as well as smooth rocks and the metal grates. It all adds up to a really gorgeous detail in the garden.

Look for exciting things to come from this young talent. We can’t wait to see more!


Openings between each paver makes room for a permeable detail of smoth stones.

Design detail

Another wonderful “floor” treatment appeared in a garden called “Wrinkle in Time,” designed by Karen Stefonick of Karen Stefonick Design. Her garden won the Best in Show Award, also called the “Founder’s Cup.”

Since I was able to tour it up close during the judging, I realized how truly creative Karen is when it comes to working with landscaping materials. She devised a patio using two simple ingredients: Concrete Pavers and Tumbled Stone.

Look closely at this pattern created by the slightly offset 1-by-2 foot concrete pavers. By staggering their placement and filling a 2-inch gap at either end of each paver with small rocks, Karen has accomplished two things.

First, she uses the texture of stone to contrast with the smooth concrete, which results in an attractive pattern. Second, this treatment turns a patio into a permeable surface for collecting rainwater into the ground rather than allowing it to stream down to the curb and disappear. Very cool!


What a gorgeous grouping of flowers and vases!

During all the Flower Show activity, including giving three talks in two days, I almost forgot to celebrate my birthday. But thankfully, my friends and family didn’t forget.

Flower detail

One of the best surprises was the delivery of flowers from a local West Seattle shop called Fleurt Studio.

The gift-giver was my sister-in-law Sandra B. Henriquez. Her touching gesture of sending flowers was made more amazing because instead of resorting to the generic, 1-800 route, Sandi did her homework to find a local flower shop that offers unique, one-of-a-kind gift bouquets. She called (long-distance from Washington, DC) and spoke with Samantha, the owner, and discussed exactly what would be included in the delivery.

And here’s what arrived: A “floralscape,” an eclectic grouping of five differently-sized vases holding mostly purple and plum ingredients. I loved the whimsical inclusion of two canning jars, a bud vase, a vintage bottle and a miniature glass cup. Together, they created a floral display that no single bunch could equal. Magical, huh?



After February’s Flower Show madness, March welcomed a trip to Los Angeles, my former home town. Living there for the past four years was an amazing adventure, especially when it comes to learning about design with new eyes. The city, and in fact all of Southern California, was for me a big design graduate school – with lessons in architecture, industrial design, sculpture and history.

While living in LA, I spent a lot of time scouting homes and gardens for the Los Angeles Times HOME section, as well as visiting retail sources for plants, furniture, gardening accents and more.

Rolling Greens Nursery in Hollywood is one of my favorite haunts. It was the site of our Garden Design magazine Hollywood Issue party last April – one of those exciting moments when I said to myself: I can’t believe I’m living here and doing this type of work I love!

Teabags, thousands of them!

When I returned to LA last week to work on a photo shoot for Better Homes & Gardens, I took our art director Scott Johnson to visit Rolling Greens. I wanted him to see several of the area’s cool nurseries. We stocked up on some plants for the next day’s shoot, and poked around buying ourselves tiny agaves to bring home to our colder climes (Seattle for me; Des Moines, Iowa, for Scott – yes, I know. It’s really futile, but we try).

But the wow-factor occurred when I walked into the large space where cookbooks and culinary/gourmet products are typically sold. There along the far wall hung a new installation that I can only describe as a Tea Bag Curtain. One of the staffers told me that the artful treatment had just been hung by Rolling Greens creative director Angela Hicks and her crew.

Hundreds (maybe thousands!) of hand-dyed tea bags, attached to long strings create a beautiful semitransparent cascade, suspended from rods attached at the ceiling. I can only imagine how much time and care was taken to create this rosy-melon masterpiece.

Organic and delicate, this “curtain” is so charming. I am eager to figure out how to replicate it somehow. Simple ingredients paired with masterful execution . . . it adds up to something truly remarkable. This Tea Bag Curtain isn’t “selling product,” but who cares? It goes miles at saying to Rolling Greens customers: we care about design and we’re a place where you can be inspired.


Anthropologie's lavish zipper gown - look close and see how it was made with straight pins!

Here's how the crushed paper skirt emerges from the tight, pastel-colored bodice....

Only days after spending 48 hours in Los Angeles, I flew to New York City. I’ve previously written about visiting the awesome High Line Park, but here’s another visual treat, shown purely for its beauty and innovation.

I turned the corner on my way to the Chelsea Market, a huge warehouse-turned-hipster food mall, and there on the corner was a gorgeous Anthropologie window display.

Some super-creative designer turned a dressmaker’s form, yards of zippers, straight pins and crushed butcher paper into a fanciful ball gown. The way the separated zippers form the bodice so the gold and silver metallic zipper teeth sparkle in the light . . . dazzling. But at the top of each zipper, the “end” has been spiraled into a little rosette.

Just take a look and feast your eyes on the charming way a few simple ingredients become Cinderella’s new gown!

Now, go out and do something uninhibited and artistic today. I dare you! I’m going to try it myself.