Tony Kienitz says the most beautiful landscapes are the ones you eat. “Edible lawns make sense here,” says Kienitz, founder of Pasadena edible landscaping firm Vegetare. “People moved to California so they could have a fruit tree in the front yard. Unless you play croquet or badminton, it’s a shame to be limited to a green lawn.”
Landscape-friendly edibles range far beyond fruit trees. Corsican mint and lemon thyme make good ground covers. You can grow crocus flowers that produce the precious saffron that sells for $600 per pound. “A pomegranate is nicer than an oleander, an almond is better than a crepe myrtle,” says Kienitz.
Going edible doesn’t mean turning your front lawn into the back forty. “It’s hard to beat the look of an artichoke flower,” says Jimmy Williams, founder of Hayground Organic Gardening. “I don’t think there’s many ornamental plants that are more beautiful than that.”
Williams grows more than 1,000 varieties of edible plants, including his patented Goosecreek heirloom tomato that was passed down for generations since his great-grandmother came from the Caribbean as a slave.
Too many lawns
Venice-based Jay Griffith has designed landscapes that feature what he calls “passive edibles” such as orange trees, drifts of rosemary, artichokes, herbs and other plants that give fruit once a year or seasonally.
“People are way too driven about their lawns,” he says, pointing to the ubiquity of chemical pesticides and the much-abused leaf-blower. “We’ve really lost our way.”
However, in a town in which image is paramount, some clients have a problem with a yard that looks less like a pool table and more like a sweater knit from different yarns. And while edible landscaping may be eco-centric, it’s still eccentric – what does it do for curb appeal?
Brian Moore, a realtor in the Los Feliz office of Prudential California Realty, says if it feels good, do it. “When a fruit and vegetable garden is in bloom,” he says, “it’s like arranging an (open house) showing for deer.”
Still, one man’s castle is another’s McMansion. Says Kienitz: “You’re always going to have people who will rip out landscaping and replace it with traditional sod, or who’ll just pave over their front yard and park a boat on it.”
However, for those who appreciate it, edible landscaping offers charm that no rose bush can match.
Moore remembers how a fruit tree helped him close a summer sale. “Every time I showed the house, I’d give the client an apricot,” he says. “They’d ooh and ahh and think it was the best thing.”
A week later, however, all the apricots were gone.
“They’d fallen and stained the ground. They were a real mess,” Moore says. “Of course, by then I’d already sold the house.”