When I heard that Ivette Soler (the Germinatrix) was writing a book about vegetable gardening my first thought was no way! Ivette is all about design and cool plants, there must be a mistake! It’s got to be a book on garden design, not a vegetable gardening book!
Well I was right, and wrong.
It is a book on garden design, and it is a book on vegetable gardening! Cool huh?
You’ve probably already read a couple of reviews on Ivette’s book, but I wanted to wait until I had a chance to finally meet her and hear her speak at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, in Seattle, before I posted my review. Here we are after having chatted a bit before her talk…(special thanks to Christina Salwitz, The Personal Garden Coach for taking our picture). Yes Ivette looks just like the wonderful effervescent personality that she is (she’s the cutie on the right)….I on the other hand look terrified, evidently my stressful almost 4 hour drive effected me more than I realized. Of course opinionated Ivette (that’s why we love her right?) wastes no time getting right to it. She starts off with this: “Let’s face it – not many neighborhoods will be friendly to a no-holds-barred edible landscape.”
And it’s this mind-set that sets The Edible Front Yard apart from other vegetable gardening books. It’s not a “how to book” for setting up a front yard farm (a term she illustrated with slides during her talk) it’s all about designing a front yard that just happens to be beautiful and produce edibles too. After all as she pointed out “beauty also feeds us.” This path is bordered by gorgeous and aromatic basil and you can see a silver artichoke (upper dead center) echoing the shape of the agaves on the right. Ivette has four rules she keeps in mind when it comes to planting an edible front yard and notes “While hardcore food growers might argue that any plant that nourishes and sustains us inherently beautiful, some fruits, herbs, and vegetables are simply not the best choices for an edible garden with an ornamental focus.” (hallelujah!) Her rules are:
1. The entire plant must have a pleasing form.
2. It has to give at least two reasons to plant (color and form, or texture and seed heads)
3. Its leaves must hold up for the entire growing season.
4. Use hardscape (to provide structure).
By using these “filters” she creates beautiful edible gardens, as illustrated by these photos (all of which are of her personal garden and hell strip, photos by Ann Summa). And yes all of these images feature agaves (this is the danger garden blog after all) but trust me the book is full of more broad examples! In this photo you can see a bit of her bean trellis in the upper right hand corner… And she includes a “how to” if you want to make one of your own. Her fabulous hell-strip planters speak to her “Texas roots” and she includes several under-construction photos, always a nice touch. Speaking on “planting for where you live” Ivette says “Look at the plants in your neighborhood and pay special attention to what is thriving. Easy-to-care-for gardens need plants that do well in your area. Don’t discount plants even if they seem too common: there’s no such thing as a bad plant, or an unfashionable plant, only a plant that hasn’t been used well.”
There are pages and pages of information on ornamental edible choices as well as plants that add structure and work well with the edibles. In fact in reading I learned that Bachelor’s Buttons are edible! Who knew?
One of many witty tidbits in the book Ivette also shares the best-ever description of a Grevillea flower “flowers that look like a toothbrush and a shrimp had a baby” here is a photo I took at the NWFG Show of an impossibly large Grevillea flower on a tiny plant. Her description is good yes!? So would I recommend The Edible Front Yard? Definitely (and not just because Timber Press sent me the book for free to review!). This is a book I wish many of my fellow Portlanders would read. You can grow food in your front yard and still have a beautiful garden…or put another way…you can have a beautiful garden which also has food growing in it! Really you can and this book can help you do it.
So a couple of other bloggers have reviewed the book and then given it away to a commenter. I’m not doing that, I like the book too much and I want to keep it! (selfish aren’t I?). I am however going to give away some vegetable seeds from Renee’s Garden, just the thing to get you started down the beautiful edibles pathway. Full disclosure…I received these seeds for free from Renee’s Garden when I stopped to talk to them at the Farwest tradeshow here in Portland last August, they are packaged for the 2011 season. The collection includes:
Tricolor Zucchini, Jade, Gold & Emerald
Farmers Market Lettuce Blend, Sweet Greens & Reds
Tricolor Cherry Tomatoes, Garden Candy
Tricolor Bush Beans, Gold, Purple & Green
Salad Scallions, Delicious Duo
Don’t they just sound delicious and gorgeous too?! What do you have to do to win? Just comment on this post…and yes…you must be in the continental United States, I’ll draw a random winner on this Sunday the 6th in the mean time, buy the book!