edible landscaping

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 25 total)
  • Author
  • #175020
    Roland Beinert

    A while ago there was an article in Landscape Architecture Magazine about someone having a food garden in their front yard. The reader responses varied, from people who had no problem with it to those who hated the idea because they thought it looked weird or loved lawn. I’m wondering why the discussion ended there.
    At my first job, my boss never questioned the idea. Clients often requested food gardens. We would sometimes even mix food plants in with ornamentals.
    Why do some LA’s have a bias against food plants? Some of them are actually really interesting looking. They don’t necessarily have to be planted in rows. If part of a landscape architect’s job is to connect people with nature, what more important connection is there than the food we eat?


    I am all for using food plants in designs and think it is an important step toward sustainability. It seems that some of the resistance might be due to a lack of understanding or misconceptions about the “beauty” of edible plants. Another might be a maintenance issue on the part of the client, or a desire for control of the design on the part of the designer. In some parts of the design sphere it seems like there is a desire to build a project that will always be this unchanging expression of the designers original intent, but what if the intention for evolution is built in? I think until we begin to look more at landscapes as dynamic systems that evolve and until we see human survival as part of the system, it will continue to be a fringe concept. I hope that the awareness of the benefits of edible landscapes will grow, and landscape architects are in the perfect position to spread the word…

    Ernst Glaeser

    Dear all,
    I am a forefront fighter for the use of edible plants, or plant parts.
    In the beginning we had plants only. Prehistoric agriculture industry selected the more profitable plants and developed their productivity. Centuries later came the lazy enjoyment industry and took over the fancy plants for decorative purposes.
    We all know about the statement that our children believe that milk comes from the carton. The same goes for our fruit and vegetables.
    For me there are definitely three occasions where we have to bring back the use of fruit and vegetable plants into our landscape:
    Education like schools and kinder gardens, as well as all further education institutes.
    Private gardens where children and/or grand children are, or will be, involved.
    Family Hotels or Resorts.
    The recreational effect, the forbidden picking of a fruit directly from the plant, the odd effect, …., the learning, the surprise, …, … .
    Think of all the great effect some of these plants have.
    Magnificent flowers, fruits and THAT smell of Quince.
    Strawberries, hybrids or wild, planted in semi shade as ground cover; let it go wild.
    That dark red and green of Beet roots.
    The Adam and Eve apple.
    Phoenix dactylifera as Street trees.
    Hazel-, Wall-, Chest- or other nuts, as shrubs or trees. It is said that the Wall nut is driving away the mosquitos.
    Why not using Runner Beans as annual climbers? Great red or white flowers.
    Hibiscus for tea, Roses and their hips, Herbs for the kitchen in bigger clumps with boarder planting,
    … and there is no end.
    Get a catalogue from a reputable fruit and vegetable plant breader and use it as a reference. Mix the medicinal plants and agricultural crops in with the ornamentals. It will give us, the LAs, that sneaky grin on our face when we succeed, that joyful feeling will be transfered to the end user.
    I missed this in most of the Resorts I had been to, but I had been very relaxed where I could see traces of this idea. I use it in my plannings, designs and I help my Contractors to find the suppliers. My Clients are usually surprised in the beginning but soon change their mind and are thrilled by the idea.
    Maintenance is no theme here. This is for fun, not for production. Annuals are used this or that way.

    Roland Beinert

    I’ll never understand the lack of aesthetic appeal. How many ornamental grasses have fruits that look as interesting as heirloom corn, for example.
    I think it’s a good point about landscapes evolving over time. A more permanent set of principles may be more important than the original plan in some cases. Even in landscapes that don’t have food plants that will be harvested, people’s needs change, plants grow, surrounding places change, etc.

    Ernst Glaeser

    ANY garden, park, or designed landscape looks bad if it is not maintained in an overall concept way. That has hardly anything to do with edible plants or plant parts or fancy design.
    It is possible to let Mother Nature do the ART WORK and just help her to maintain it. But that is a different subject.


    I feel strongly that in a residential setting the landscape has to function for the client. I am currently working on a food garden for a really interesting client. For lack of a better word, he’s a hippie, who wants his landscape to be connected with the Earth’s energy. We are installing a pier made of Mexican pebble which will reach bedrock. The idea is that it will release the Earth’s energy into his garden. Some people working on the project feel like it’s a waste of money. I think that because this project is in heavy clay, if nothing else, the pebble will help the garden drain, which will make the plants thrive. This client is great because he really wants to use all of the food that the garden can provide. I will hopefully get permission to post some pictures of the final product, which will have a small fruit orchard, corn, tomatoes, squash, beans, and all sorts of herbs. The design itself is going to be a work of art, as well as a functional landscape, who could ask for anything more?

    Roland Beinert

    Here’s a good example. I didn’t design it.

    Ernst Glaeser

    where is the fun factor?

    Kevin J. Gaughan

    Has anyone read Edible Forest Gardens by Dave Jacke? A couple of my coworkers went to a seminar on the subject and found it to be very interesting. I have not had a chance to read too much of it yet (its a little dense), but from what I gather, the basic idea is that by creating Edible Forest Gardens, your yield can be much greater vs. the amount of energy involved in maintaining it compared to a typical annual garden. It also has a great list of edible plants at the end of it. I wish I had more to contribute, but I thought I would at least throw the idea out there…anyone out there care to expand on this idea of Edible Forest Gardens?


    I don’t necessarily think that Landscape Architects have a bias against food plants, but perhaps have strong opinions about them because vegetable/fruit gardens are more of a “gardening” item and do not fit the bigger picture of what the profession of landscape architecture is all about. Landscape Architects are so much more than simple gardeners or garden designers. This is where the bias comes into play.

    I personally think the idea is great if, you are doing a planting design for a residential client and it works into their desires. But I don’t want to be defined as a “gardener”.


    I recently completed a parking lot for a ferry terminal on Lummi Island near Bellingham, Washington. The island residents are really into sustainable development so we designed the parking lot for storm water to sheet flow into rain gardens and bioswales prior to release into the coastal waters. They also encouraged us to use plants such as blueberry, strawberry, rhubarb and other food producing plants as well as natives to the Pacific Northwest. With this success, I am working on a rain garden and other landscapes for the campus of Seattle University. I suggested using eatable plant materials and discussed our success at Lummi Island. They were very interested and we are now selecting several verities of blueberrys for their urban campus.

    Charles Warsinske, Seattle, Washington

    Roland Beinert

    I haven’t read that book, but there are other books as well. The idea is that you plant in layers like you find in a forest. Herbaceous plants are the bottom-most layer, then shrubs and vines and finally the tree canopy. Edible forest gardens are a part of a whole movement to farm in a way that mimics the natural ecosytem found in a region or microclimate. There are also people trying to mimic the prairies, apparently. Even if you are not going to use food plants, the idea of looking to patterns found in a region is a valuable one for landscape architects.

    Roland Beinert

    I see what you are saying, but I think food plants and gardens do fit into the bigger picture of what landscape architects do. A gardener would be responsible for planning what food plants would go into a vegetable garden every year. But what is the best place on a plan for a vegetable garden? What should raised planters look like? If a client wants a barbeque area on a patio, maybe a few nice looking fruit bushes or herbs would be a good addition to the adjacent planting beds along with the ornamental plants. Along a path in a park, maybe people would enjoy reaching out and picking berries off bushes. I remember a campground where there were fruit trees and bushes separating one tent area from another. I spent the entire first night there munching on apples and grapes. Obviously, food plants don’t belong everywhere, but they can be a nice addition in some cases. Choosing plants to fit a client’s need is definitely part of what we do.

    Roland Beinert

    I was not suggesting we strap our clients to a chair and electrocute them until they accept the idea of food plants in their design. If I had ever tried to force my values on clients, I would have been fired right away with good reason. I am well aware of the one suggestion rule. Suggest something once and if the client does not agree, let it go. Most landscape architects are aware of that rule.
    Some residential clients I worked with did not have any idea what they wanted. In that case, I would generally throw ideas at them until I found some they liked.


    I was just thinking about the prospect of eating plants along a street in brooklyn…..extra seasoning..

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 25 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.

Lost Password