Last June I attended an event that was informative, inspiring and enjoyable. Northwest Perennial Alliance hosted Hardy Plant Study weekend on June 18th through June 21st. The program was packed with terrific speakers, celebrity gardeners and timely topics. However one of the speakers left a lasting impression on me. She inspired me with her enthusiasm for creating edible landscapes.
Rosalind Creasy began her presentation with a story of how she fell in love as a child with gardening and later with food. Her presentation “Introduction to Edible Landscaping” attracted at least 100 people filling the large conference room. Creasy told about her first edible landscape. In the 1980’s while living in California, Creasy replaced her lawn with an edible landscape. Now her neighbors gather to share the bounty, the FedEx driver can’t resist helping himself to a juicy strawberry, and children are attracted to the big orange pumpkins. Easy access to fresh, organic and locally grown herbs, fruits and vegetables is an added bonus.
Creasy enjoyed gardening from the time she was a child in Massachusetts. “My father gave me an array of vegetable plants for my small garden. The plants did not care for my tendency to move them around like I rearranged the furniture in my doll house.” Although her plants died, Creasy’s passion for growing food was born.
As a young woman, Creasy’s love for food and cooking not only made her very popular with her husband and his MIT colleagues, but also sparked an interest in discovering unusual varieties of herbs and other ingredients. She cooked her way through Julia Child’s cookbooks even before Julie Powell. Then she tackled, the Joyce Chen Cookbook. Both Julia Child and Joyce Chen lived in Cambridge, where they each appeared on TV cooking shows.
In 1968, Creasy and her husband Robert bought a home in the Bay Area and she returned to gardening. Creating gardens and growing food kept luring Creasy to learn more. So she returned to school to get a degree in landscape design. When her husband began to oversee scientific projects all over the world, Creasy often visited markets and gardens in places like Milan, Grenoble, Cairo, Taipei, Hong Kong, Paris and Vienna. When she encountered unusual-looking radicchios or chili peppers, she would ask, “How do I cook it?” and “Where can I get seeds?”
During Creasy’s visit to Israel, she experienced a compelling moment. Outside of Haifa on her way to visit a kibbutz, Creasy “was struck by how hard it was for the Israelis to grow food on the limited arable land in their country, which is mostly desert.” Creasy realized that Americans were missing an opportunity to grow at least some of their own fruits and vegetables in their yards. This was the moment when Creasy’s vision of edible landscaping came into focus.
Creasy’s first book, The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping: Home Landscaping with Food-Bearing Plants and Resource-Saving Techniques, (Sierra Club Books, 1982). The book was a big hit and sold more than 140,000 copies, won the Garden Writers Association’s Quill and Trowel award, was chosen as a Book of the Month selection and was hailed by The Wall Street Journal as the best garden book of 1982.
Creasy’s most recent book, an updated version of The Complete Book of Edible Landscaping, is titled Edible Landscaping (Sierra Club Books, 2010). The book will be available in stores November 2010.
p.s. Creasy has written 20 books. The books have vivid photographs created by Creasy. On a personal note, I own at least five of her books. If you love food and gardening, you will love these.