Personal Garden Coach

The Motivational Gardener at Large

The Edible Front Yard- Ivette Soler February 1, 2011

When I think of eating produce that I can grow in my front yard, I can almost hear the cries of the neighborhood Lawn Nazi’s now. Grousing not so subtly when passing by for inspection, “What about the green carpet of tweezed by hand, weed free, edged to perfection, pride of ownership that defines your island of possession and weekly proof of conquering nature?”

Surely Blueberry shrubs could be acceptable. They’re so pretty in Fall! Especially if I bake them a pie right? What about some Rhubarb? That can’t hurt if I have some strawberries growing underneath. Then they can have a Strawberry-Rhubarb pie! I could even have hanging baskets of berries growing on the porch. Certainly, the Lawn Inspector Generals can’t have a problem with that, right?

Simple- Strawberries and Lobelia!

Now, with the support of “The Germinatrix”- Ivette Soler and her brand new book called “The Edible Front Yard”, I have her chutzpah and encouragement to go for it! Ivette has written an entertaining and might I say, down right persuasive book for me to have the guts to stand up and plant my veggies, right here in my own front yard! Lawn Nazi’s be warned. I will not tolerate your irrational tyranny any longer.

With Ivette’s brand of witty and passionate support, her book is lighting the way to create a front yard landscape that is elegant AND tasteful, in the best possible way! The forward in her book is written by Fritz Haeg, the author of “Edible Estates”. Fritz challenges us to be brave, go forth and conquer our fear of the neighbors downward glances and make the display of your edibles beautiful!

Photos Worth 1000 Healthy Calories

Ivette has gathered hundreds gorgeous of photos of gardens and plants in this book that help tell the story of distinctive and beautiful edible plants. Photographer Ann Summa gets the bulk of credit, but there are also photos from edible gardening experts and designers from many varying locations. They give great example of aesthetic’s and variety of styles and ideas to springboard your integration of edibles into the face forward side of your landscape.

Style Advice for Star Quality Veggie-scapes

The “Rules For Front Yard Edibles” on page 15, gives four guidelines to follow so that your edibles to rise to the occasion. The performance AND the beauty necessary for making the most of the design and devourables is paramount. Ivette puts great weight on Beauty, Style, Regional Appropriateness, and your Home’s Architectural Style. Those are points that really ring bell’s with the neighbors and HOA so that they know you’re not going to be creating an eyesore.

The book is chock full of suggestions for ways to add edibles to your landscape that follow the four guidelines. Plus a whole slew of plant suggestions and even design renderings that you can copy in your own garden!

Fired up doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about tackling this Edible Front Yard revolution! This book also has a great section on the Reality Check needed before you really get going such as, Climate, Boundaries, Grading, Structures, and Sunlight or lack of it. There are even some suggestions for shade edibles!

Red Sails Lettuce, Lemon Thyme, Hellebore, Jasmine and more!


Of course it would be imprudent for me not to mention the VERY BEST part of the book – THANK YOU, Ivette and Timber Press, the column on page 131 about Garden Coaches!!!! YES WE CAN be of great help to a gardener who wants to embark on this great new gardening adventure in eating. Saving you Money, Time and Labor is my specialty!

The How-to’s

The chapters and sections that cover the removal and reuse of the lawn, working with existing trees and plants, making the most of hardscaping, and maintenance of your newly designed Edible Front Yard are fantastic! Ivette has written them with a green hand and responsible attitude for todays new gardeners. Setting an example for the neighbors and young passers-by is a truly noble ideal in this day and age. Worms, Compost Tea, Organic Pest Control methods are all topics that we need to be preaching from the top of the compost bin and Ivette has set in motion a beautiful means of doing just that!

Eating out of your Edible Front Yard will not a be considered a subversive act anymore. Even Martha is talking about it! The Mayor of San Francisco has also turned a public space into a fruit and veggie bearing garden for all to enjoy.  This can begin to transform a community, create great relationships with spectators and promote biodiversity that goes beyond lawn and Lobelia. Not to mention the financial and physical benefits of growing your own produce and staying in shape while you do it.

I WILL reflect my own style with veggies in the front yard and I WILL be removing some lawn chores from my routine this Spring while I add some produce curb-appeal! Thanks Ivette! :-)

*Leave me a FABULOUS comment for a free book give away of “The edible front Yard Garden” – drawing on March 1st!!


Brainstorming A Container Garden Design: “Black & Tan” June 11, 2010

Brainstorming ideas for container gardens is really no different from any other type of garden inspiration process. An idea can jump-start from anything really.

Garden art:

Or the container itself can demand a certain color combination:

My “Teal Pot Theory” in action :-)

But in this case, it was a little plant that inspired this combination for me! The “Phantom” Black petunia, with its creamy, rich stripe had me at “Hello”! Even through the pouring, cold rain, I was inspired to maximize the caramel, chocolate, purple tones of the petunia to the max.

This container design was a custom request, with my very FAVORITE requisite, “make it awesome”. I love a challenge like that! Below is the result of my creative passion today. Hopefully it will fill out the way I think it will and be a huge, sexy mass of interesting texture and luscious colors and tones.

The “Black & Tan” name for this combo is thanks to @MJausson via Twitter, with a little nod to @PatFitzgerald thrown in for good measure!

I made this in mirror image so that it could be viewed from both sides too!

This turned out to be one of my favorite containers that I have ever done, I can’t wait to get a picture of it in a month or two!

**Bonus for staying with me all the way to the bottom of this post: If you want to win a super cool spin composter from

Clean Air Gardening, then leave a comment on this post. I will draw a name randomly from a hat and you will have a new composter on your doorstep before you can say “sustainable gardening”!!

Thank you Clean Air Gardening!

Like this post? Please share with friends! You can also find me on Facebook here where I post TONS of fun things daily!


Garden Designer’s Roundtable-“Container Style” May 25, 2010

When we move into a new house, condominium or apartment, many of us dream about how we can start personalizing our space and really give it our personal signature. Adding your personal flair to a garden in the form of a long term design plan or potentially even construction takes planning and lots of money.
You can easily get that instant gratification by adding a container garden or maybe even more than one special
container in various focal point places for your garden, patio or balcony. A personal statement that is unique and
defines your garden personality can be made in a million different ways such as through color, theme, scale or drama.

The little nursery where I work has me design containers for sale as well as custom designs for customers. I also create container gardens for my own “Personal Garden Coach” clients and of course myself! I need to have a VERY flexible design attitude to be able to change with the customer or client as well as creating container gardens for anyone who may fancy them at the nursery. This may mean that I design a container that is pink and feminine one minute and then create a modern contemporary creation for a bachelor pad the next! This gives me a wonderful perspective for using plants in a large number of ways that may not be typical, in other words, I have creative license to use whatever my imagination allows.

I think that one of the most valuable ways to understand the potential for containers in your space is through pictures and I have many! A number of them are just quick snaps that I take at the nursery very quickly as I put them out for sale and others are from my garden, clients garden or shows I’ve attended.

Some women get all crazy about shoes, for me it’s pottery!! OK, make that any container really. As long as it has drainage, or even the potential for drainage, it’s fair game in my book. I’m not going to go into all of the myriad of possibilities for various container options or we could be here all day. Let’s just suffice it to say for this post, that any and all are just fine by me!

A container as a focal point is a design strategy that is used by many as a way to draw the eye to a particular point or area in the garden. One of my favorite new containers is seen best from inside my house, silhouetted against my neighbors home. Here are a few pics of the garden and the focal point pot as it was installed and as the garden began to mature over the seasons. In the foreground is a spectacular Hydrangea Paniculata that blooms right there in the window for a full on summer display!

Frequently I allow the container to determine the design of the plants. I will choose a container that inspires me for a particular spot and then let the plants show off or support the shape and color of the container.

I hope you enjoy these pictures that I’ve assembled here. Leave me a comment and share how you make your containers special!

Close up details are fun in containers too!

Don’t forget to have a little sense of humor.  :-)

Garden Designer’s Roundtable is wonderful group of garden bloggers who also happen to be terrific designers. Please visit their posts on “Containers” as well.

This month’s bloggers!

Debbie Roberts : A Garden of Possibilities : Stamford, CT

Jenny Petersen: J Petersen Garden Design : Austin TX

Jocelyn Chilvers : The Art Garden : Denver, CO

Laura Livengood Schaub : Interleafings : San Jose, CA

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In the Garden : Los Altos, CA

Rochelle Greayer : Studio “G” : Boston, MA

Lesley Hegarty & Robert Webber : Hegarty Webber Partnership : Bristol, UK

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT

Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA

Tara Dillard : : Atlanta, GA


The San Francisco Flower and Garden Show- Container Drama March 31, 2010

Container gardening is one of my particular favorite things about garden design. So when I was looking for my unique “take” on one aspect of  the San Francisco Flower and Garden Show I knew it had to be about the abundance of ideas for dramatic container garden plantings that you had to see!

With styles ranging from modern to whimsical, country to antique, and natural to edible there was a plethora of fantastic design concepts that can be translated into ANY garden.

Here are some that I found to be interesting and noteworthy. This should inspire you to get out there and be creative with your containers too. Many of these are planted with found or recycled objects. Try something new, get out of your comfort zone and define your space so that it will reflect your personal style!







Thanks for taking a moment to visit my photos. And a BIG thank you to Laura Schaub for inviting and organizing all of us Garden Bloggers at the show. Applause applause!


The Last Gasp of Fall Color October 23, 2009

Rhus Typhina or Sumac is in all her glory right now. I saw this in my E-Mail today and thought about the ones in my neighborhood with such glorious color on them I had to run out and take some pictures to share.

Fall color 10-22-09 002

In some areas of the country this small tree might seem ubiquitous as we sometimes feel about some of our common trees  here in the green Northwest. But, you have to hand it to Mother Nature on this one- she out did herself!

Fall color 10-22-09 003

After chatting with neighbors on this lovely fall evening, I found a couple of other fall color shots that stood out too. Enjoy!

Autumn Blaze Maple

Autumn Blaze Maple

Leafy Carpet

Leafy Carpet



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