Rosalind Creasy is the undisputed high priestess of growing food – beautifully. Her publisher calls her 1982 Edible Landscaping a “groundbreaking classic” and that’s no exaggeration.
But it’s high time for an update, and let’s start with Ros herself. She’s taken it upon herself to create and document photographically as many beautiful ways to grow food as she could cram into her front yard after ripping up the lawn. It’s her only sunny spot and she was determined to put that soil to its “highest and noblest use” – growing food. To that end, she redesigned that spot 50 times since ‘84, with trial gardens and later, theme gardens, one of which you see on the book cover. (No doubt all of her designs have flown in the face of the contempt toward growing edibles summed up by one of her design professors: “It’s tacky.”)
As a designer she’s changed over the years, and now includes more structure, bolder colors, more heirlooms (she’s passionate about saving them) and more spaces for kids.
But designing great gardens isn’t all Ros did to prepare for the long-awaited update to Edible Landscaping. She consulted with or photographed gardens of scores of experts across North America. And she’s pulled together the latest, most vetted advice about the basics of gardening itself – how to garden and with what (not peat moss). So I was surprised to discover in this edition the likes of: organic lawn care, the need to reduce light pollution, and the real deal about recycled plastics (they eventually end up in the landfill, anyway), fertilizers even vegans will love, and wildlife, in addition to permaculture, Slow Food, great design, and an exhaustive encyclopedia of edible plants.
The result is more than the modest “update” conveys. It’s a stunning and inspiring book that’s also how-to writing at its best. I can’t recommend it highly enough – and with no reservations at all. No nits to pick or suggestions from me this time. It’s that good. (Adrian Higgins of the Washington Post seems to agree, and gave the book blockbuster treatment.)
Some Details of Interest
- The photos don’t just show fancy-pants designs like the one above, but also plenty of more do-able gardens for regular people, like the two below.
- There’s plenty of help for beginners, including a difficulty score for each plant.
- Eighteen years ago she had to make the case for growing organically, but no longer – her readers already know that. Progress.
- When Ros wrote her original proposal to Sierra Books she included a jar of homemade organic applesauce with a label reading “This does NOT contain…” followed by dozens of chemicals. Aspiring authors, take note.
- One of her pet peeves is the “county fair, blue ribbon syndrome – the relentless search for huge, flawless flowers, vegetables, and fruits…No one ever tastes these prizewinners.”
Posted by Susan Harris. Photographs copyright © Rosalind Creasy, except for my photograph of her, taken over dinner at Fordhook Farm.