Nowadays, a green thumb can give you more than just a pretty landscape — it can make you a meal.Rosalind Creasy’s new neighbor was a little bit curious when he saw her clearing a plot in her front yard for a new garden. When Creasy informed him that it was going to be a vegetable garden, she could tell he was worried. Vegetables in the front yard? Really? But those who know Creasy well, as most of her neighbors do, knew that this gardening expert and author would make the area as beautiful as it was functional. They were right.
“It used to be very difficult to talk clients into [planting edibles],” says Creasy, author of Edible Landscaping, which was first published in 1982. “I could often talk them into a few herbs, but that was it.” Now, clients are open to planting more than just the usual grass and shrubs — gardens that Creasy says “don’t give us anything back.” And at gardening seminars across the country where Creasy espouses edible gardening, it’s standing room only.
Yes, it appears that kale has become the new hydrangea. Thanks to the enormous popularity of growing one’s own food, edible plants — including vegetables, fruits, and herbs — are sharing soil with even the most uppity flowers. And far from looking unsightly, these edible landscapes are beautiful. Even front-yard worthy.
“At some point in history, the plants in our gardens became segregated,” notes celebrated gardener and landscape designer P. Allen Smith on his Garden Home website, pallensmith.com. Flowers and grasses on one side and, somewhere out back where they couldn’t be seen too much, vegetables in their own raised plot of soil.
Walking through the backyard garden of the “Dirt Doctor,” Howard Garrett, a Dallas-based master gardener who has long preached about the benefits of organic gardening, it’s hard to tell how edibles fit into his landscaping plan. (In fact, at first, this writer wondered if she’d entered the wrong yard.) But at nearly every step of the way on his tour of the garden, Garrett points out edible after edible. “That’s pomegranate,” he notes. “And that’s bay” — as in the tree that produces the bay leaves most of us purchase whole but dried in the spice section. Witch hazel and onions hide among the ground cover. Even rosebushes fall into Garrett’s edible domain. “Most people don’t know that roses are an edible plant,” he says. “The rose petals are edible; so are the rose hips.” The latter he uses in his homemade herbal tea, for which he has plant after plant worth of ingredients to work with in his yard. Soon, the backyard reveals itself for what it really is: an edible landscape.