Thursday, October 18, 2012

Rosalind Creasy's Garden: Edible Landscaping with Color

Anyone familiar with Rosalind Creasy's landscaping design savvy knows that she is a champion of color in the garden.  As the guru of edible landscaping - her first book on the subject was published in 1982 and she has since published numerous others - she integrates edibles beautifully in stunning arrangements throughout her front and back yards. 

Recently, I was lucky enough to be invited to spend a few weeks working in her remarkable gardens and meet Creasy and her knowledgeable, amiable staff.

Rosalind Creasy welcomes APLD members on a tour of her garden
It Takes a Village 
When the opportunity arose to assist her regular gardeners in preparing for a tour of her garden by the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) last September, I jumped at it. My friend and budding landscape designer, Susan Stansbury, and I were welcomed warmly to the prep team. 

The Creasy prep team (left to right): Valerie Williams, Susan Stansbury, Debbie Stern (Gudi Riter in background)

There we met head gardener Debbie Stern, intern Valerie Williams, and Gudi Riter, gardener and personal assistant to Creasy. Besides meeting and chatting with Rosalind Creasy, making new gardening friends was the highlight of my time spent in these beautiful gardens.

Detail of front arbor with hops

Our mission was to prepare the substantial garden beds, including every nook and crany, to be inspected by knowledgeable landscape designers. Many of the designers were not likely to be familiar with landscaping with edible plants, therefore the pressure was on to impress and demonstrate that edibles have a place in the suburban landscape. 

Entry to front yard garden

A Feast of Color
Creasy has devoted her career to educating others about the the beauty and utility of including vegetables, fruits and herbs in the home landscape, including the front yard. Creasy's gardens are lovely, and although the various garden "rooms" are lush with edible plants, they are not immediately obvious since the first thing you notice are the brilliant colors. 

The hybrid Enchantment tomato is a Creasy favorite for sauces

She has a special talent for using edibles in unexpected and delightful ways, like the hops that frame the front yard arbor, and another arched arbor covered in  luscious climbing "Enchantment" tomatoes, gorgeous hybrid roma-type tomatoes, of which Creasy is particularly fond (seeds available from Burpee).

Front yard feature: an archway of trellised Enchantment tomatoes

Flowers are bountiful throughout, and besides a riot of color, they provide food for pollinators and a lush habitat for birds, elements that are important for a balanced, healthy, ecosystem for the garden.

The Queen Elizabeth heirloom iris blooms twice a year

Gardening for a Small Planet
Why such passion for landscaping with something you can eat? As resources such as water and fuel become increasingly precious, and our agricultural lands are burdened with serious pesticide and herbicide contamination, producing food locally increasingly makes good sense.

Creasy has been determined to spread the message of gardening (and cooking) with edibles since the 1970's when it was not fashionable to show off the veggie garden in front yard suburban landscapes.

Creasy has designed a serene sanctuary in her heavily shaded backyard

I asked her how she had the fortitude and sheer guts to keep up her work when it earned her a reputation as an oddball in landscape design circles. She stated flatly that she simply "knew it was the right thing to do".

Rosalind Creasy's head gardener Debbie Stern, and APLD tour group

Not one to rest on her laurels, Creasy is as busy as ever, gardening, lecturing, and writing.  And as she enjoys the rising popularity of gardening with edibles in suburbia, she has every right to shout from the rooftops: 

I told you so!

A cleverly designed "tomato house"makes a surprisingly lovely feature in the backyard

Just call me the "hedge whisperer"

Photos: Patricia Larenas, Urban Artichoke


  1. Very beautiful indeed! I'm planning to decorate my basement, and I'm adding this to my basement decorating ideas. My only concern is that will those kinds of plants be healthy without sufficient sunlight? If not,can you suggest some plants that can be planted on my basement. I really need your advice.

  2. Hi Sophie,
    growing plants without adequate light is indeed a challenge. Vegetables are not a good choice (need lots of direct sunlight), unless you have "grow lights" installed that will compensate. However I don't think it may not be very attractive if you are looking mainly to decorate your basement and your goal is not to grow edibles, because the lights have to be hung right over the plants (a few inches above them). That said, it could be interesting with the right design. A set up to grow micro-greens might be more manageable, fun, and less demanding- but still need a light source.

    I'm not very familiar with indoor plants for very low light conditions- you may want to do more research so that the plants are healthy and nice looking!

    good luck-

  3. I'm doing a research about that Patricia. Thank you so much for your insight. I really appreciate that one!

  4. Marinated tomatoes and other veggies are excellent any time of the week


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