Hearing Rosalind Creasy talk about edible landscaping for me was like dining in my favorite restaurant- let's say Cakes and Ale in Decatur- and having the chef note my particular preferences and biases and design the whole meal for me..... inspired, delicious, refined and served with elegant perfection. Heaven. not that she catered to me, just that it doesnt get any better. Rosalind Creasy is the Maestra, the Grand Dame of this whole movement and her thoughts are so well seasoned, so dead-on, her portfolio exhilarating.
The Grand dame of Edible landscaping spoke at the opening of the Atlanta Botanical Garden's new edible landscape in the Spring of 2010. It was a free lecture on a cool April evening with about 50 or so in attendance. I had a chance to walk the new edible garden before the talk and it was... new. For the 2.2 million they reportedly spent, I was honestly underwhelmed. And edible landscape to me speaks of biodiversity, garden health teaming with life. This was perhaps a bit sterile, though they were able to import some sizable plants to begin. To their credit, its brand new! Let's give them some time, but I just dont think its managed organically.
But to hear the woman speak! Rosalind Creasy made a case for edible landscaping that was almost impossible to disagree with. In her travels, she said, the world over she sees people growing their food just out of their front door step- fresher, healthier, tastier. In Isreal, where she watched the arduous task of creating topsoil to cover sand dunes- 10 years for an acre? (im terrible with remembering stats) so they could struggle to grow food. She thought of home and our luxurious space with topsoil still remaining and then how we are the only country who refuses, by unwritten cultural code, to do anything productive with that topsoil. We must be out of our minds. When you think of it this way: the temperate climate, the sun the good soil conditions, and then the common practice of guzzling chemicals and water to grow our prized monoculture: the lawn.
Shallow-rooted, starved, begging for acceptance and praise, the American lawn is the super-model of the landscape world. Not the women themselves, but the caricature we've made them to be. We are working against ourselves, America, and against nature. The chemical, monoculture lawn does nothing but support our cultural ideals, which are at best skewed... might I say completely perverse?
There is a place for open space, but let your lawn host clover and dandelion, plants that support honeybees and have deep roots that improve the soil and access water and nutrients from below. Lots of our volunteer herbs (or weeds, depending on perspective) serve a purpose! Creeping Charlie is known to clean the blood of lead. I see it growing at the foundation of old homes where lead paint may have been scraped. Chickweed contains calcium and protein! (tastes like crap, but put it in a smoothie or salad....)
And around the open space, a border for lettuces, backed by fruiting shrubs of your choice. I find part-shade to be a blessing in summer heat, where veggies will mostly grow. My urban farm in Decatur (Sugar Creek Garden) is sunny for about 4-6 hours mid-day and we're producing hosts of tomatoes, beans and eggplant in our first season. Also, pollinator flowers and medicinal herbs abound: echinacea, culver's root, st john's wort to name a few.
Pick up on of Rosalind Creasy's books. The Edible Herb Garden is a favorite of mine, but cant wait until the next edition of Edible Landscaping comes out!