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The Beautiful Edible Garden: Design A Stylish Outdoor Space Using Vegetables, Fruits, and Herbs

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One of Amazon's Best Garden Books of 2013. From the founders of landscape design firm Star Apple Edible & Fine Gardening in the San Francisco Bay Area comes a stylish, beautifully-photographed guide to artfully incorporating organic vegetables, fruits, and herbs into an attractive modern garden design. We've all seen the vegetable garden overflowing with corn, tomatoes, and zucchini that looks good for a short time, but then quickly turns straggly and unattractive (usually right before friends show up for a backyard barbecue). If you want to grow food but you don't want your yard to look like a farm, what can you do? The Beautiful Edible Garden shares how to not only grow organic fruits and vegetables, but also make your garden a place of year-round beauty that is appealing, enjoyable, and fits your personal style. Written by a landscape design team that specializes in artfully blending edibles and ornamentals together,  The Beautiful Edible Garden shows that it's possible for gardeners of all levels to reap the best of both worlds. Featuring a fresh approach to garden design, glorious photographs, and ideas for a range of spaces--from large yards to tiny patios--this guide is perfect for anyone who wants a gorgeous and productive garden.

220 pages, Paperback

First published February 5, 2013

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About the author

Leslie Bennett

6 books3 followers
Leslie Bennett and Stefani Bittner are co-founders of Star Apple Edible + Fine Gardening, a San Francisco Bay Area landscape design firm focusing on aesthetic edible gardening. At Star Apple, they bring together ecologically sound landscape principles and small-scale urban agriculture, working with both ornamental and edible plants to create integrated landscapes. Visit www.StarAppleEdibleGardens.com.

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5 stars
67 (20%)
4 stars
110 (33%)
3 stars
112 (34%)
2 stars
37 (11%)
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1 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 52 reviews
Profile Image for Pam.
1,594 reviews
June 14, 2018
Fundamentally this book explores how to include edible plants in a stylish landscape. The authors, Leslie Bennett and Stefani Bittner, organize the book well addressing the issues of a successful garden design. But practically the book fails in several ways. First of all, gardeners in zones colder than 7 or 8 will find that many of the plants mentioned can not be grown in their area. Secondly, the photos and text repeatedly return to the use of the same visually attractive edible plants like thyme, colorful Swiss Chard, and fruit trees. The authors do not address plants in any specific order and fail to show how for example tomatoes or squash can be grown in a visually appealing way. Likewise, they do not make any variety recommendations when they say that eggplants look good in the garden. Most of the photos are close ups that show the plant’s lovely foliage but not companion plantings. When advice on a specific plant is given, it often fails to explain in the necessary detail. For example, they say that garlic chives should be allowed to flower as their white heads are really beautiful, they fail to mention that if allowed to set seed garlic chives are real thugs! Knowledgeable gardeners will find little information or inspiration here.
Profile Image for Julia.
451 reviews32 followers
March 5, 2013
This is not for novice gardeners. The projects are rather involved too (& could be costly). I liked it & the photos are gorgeous. My only concern is that there was not enough clarity - for me - between the plants/parts of the yard that are and are not edible. I would be hesitant about engaging in some of these projects if I had young kids in my home. Anyone living in such a yard with a mixture of edible & potentially poisonous plants would absolutely have to be extremely well trained about what is & isn't edible. I would also be concerned that neighbor kids might assume everything is edible & possibly be poisoned. (My parent's had the experience of having things stolen from their vegetable garden on several occasions - sometimes lots of things. I'd hate to see a kid get poisoned because of something like that - call me paranoid if you will.) Overall though, worth looking at for the avid gardener.
Profile Image for Kevintipple.
805 reviews15 followers
April 7, 2013
You want to grow some food, but you don’t want your yard to look like a farm. Or maybe your Home Owner’s Association has rules on that and will freak if they can tell you planted some produce producing plants. Or maybe you have a difficult neighbor who has a tendency to report everything you do to the city inspectors. If you are looking for a way to mix in the edible plants with flowering things The Beautiful Edible Garden: Design a Stylish Outdoor Space Using Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs might be the book you.

Recently released in paperback by Ten Speed Press, the paperback book is broken into six chapters detailed with text and numerous photographs. Designed to take you through design, planting, harvesting, and maintaining your garden there is also information geared toward us apartment dwellers with patios and balcony’s. Colorful and edible is the idea here along with using whatever space you have to maximum effect.

Chapter One “Principles for Successful Edible Garden Design” opens the colorful 200 page book after a very brief introduction. The main theme here is to come up with something that has balance and complements the architecture of the home. By choosing the right height and color plant and considering the ideas of symmetry and asymmetry, among other design ideas, you can achieve something beautiful. The authors take readers visually and by text through these ideas as swell as show how to make the garden work year around with multiple harvests of the same produce. Various styles of landscaping among other topics are covered here.

Chapter Two “Creating Your Beautiful Edible Garden” takes the reader through the author’s five step process to create exactly what the chapter title suggests regardless of the space. They also tell you what to consider regarding your soil, light, water, and other issues.

Starting on page 67 you can start applying what you have learned in “Chapter Three: The Beautiful Edible Front Yard.” This is what the neighbors will see the most and there are ways to grow food without the issues noted above. Your only issue may be being sure to plant enough to share when harvest time comes around. Design elements are also a major focus of this chapter as is the problem of unwanted pets in the yard. Front yards can also be a good focal point for containers and they are discussed here.

Once you have done the deal in the front yard you move on to “Chapter Four: The Beautiful Edible Backyard.” Working off the idea that the vegetable aspect of gardening should be a focal point of the overall landscape, the authors explain in detail how to make things beautiful, productive, and functional. Along the way they go through various options such as if you want to have a large family dining area separate away from the main house, on a small patio, or something else. What you can plant intermixed along a walkway and what really needs its own beds (garlic and potatoes) among other topics are covered.

Chapter Five comes into play where your space is limited. “Beautiful Window Boxes, Side Yards, and Other Small Spaces” begins on page 149 and opens with advice on container gardens. Once you gave the right container, you need the right edible plant for it. The authors make numerous detailed suggestions. Window boxes, side yards, and other small spaces are also extensively covered very well in this chapter.

“Chapter Six: Planting and Maintaining Your Beautiful Edible Garden” is all about just that. Improving your soil, getting a compost bin going (assuming you can have one), water issues, etc., are just a few of the issues covered here before more information on the various types of seeds and plants. Along with a list of toxic plants that you may wish to avoid if you have small children that put anything and everything in their mouths, there are suggestions regarding tools, planting techniques, mulch, pests, beneficial bugs, and more.

This isn’t just a how to grow book. Interspersed throughout the book are instructions with pictures on how to assemble wreaths of all types, flower arrangements, and other colorful elements for your home. That carries over into the five page resource list that stars on page 200. In addition to blog and book suggestions, there are recommendations for composting supplies and materials, nurseries, organic fertilizers, tools and furniture, and more.

The book concludes with a one page acknowledgement page and a one page author/contributor page and a four page index.

The Beautiful Edible Garden: Design a Stylish Outdoor Space Using Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs is one of those colorful gardening books that not only will inspire you to try to duplicate the results, it will show you how to do so in simple step by step detail. Colorful and informative, this paperback works on every level. All you have to do is get out there and get dirty.

The Beautiful Edible Garden: Design a Stylish Outdoor Space Using Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs
Leslie Bennett and Stefani Bittner
Flower Arrangements by Studio Choo
Photographs by David Fenton
Ten Speed Press (Crown Publishing)
February 2013
ISBN# 978-1-60774-233-3
Paperback (also available as e-book)
220 Pages

Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2013
Profile Image for Tracy.
2,322 reviews11 followers
April 22, 2013
This was a beautifully photographed book, especially the floral arrangements. It had some good information in it, but I felt like it was written more for the west coast or more warm climate regions. I would have loved to have seen the zone listings for the various plants recommended in the book. If you want to be inspired by what can be, this would be a nice book to look at.
Profile Image for D.
1,418 reviews34 followers
May 14, 2014
as i've written this review, i've pulled the book up from 3 stars to 3.5–4.

this is a solid, attractive, easily accessible reference for the home gardener looking to create a sustainable, edible landscape. the book would be helpful to folks of all levels of gardening experiences, with all sizes of yards, in all growing zones, though undoubtedly those with some gardening knowledge, access to moderate space, in and moderate zones will find the most options.

as a beginner gardener, i found all of their ideas comprehensible, but the authors included enough plant pairing and staggering of plantings within one season to undoubtedly make it an interesting read for the more advanced gardener. the beautiful photographs were inspirational. armed with this and my Sunset plant and flower guide, i think i could do real damage to my yard (but, like, AWESOME damage!!!).

the book provided:
-landscaping basics for front yards, back yards, and side yards or container gardens
-principles for good garden design -- height, placement, arrangement, etc.
-suggestions for design by garden style -- cottage, mediterrannean, urban modern, traditional, tropical/exotic, woodland
-how-to gardening basics -- garden planning, crop rotation, seed selection, plant placement and care, pest prevention, composting, harvesting
-and some fun extras like seasonal floral arrangements -- using unconventional materials and arrangements, with step-by-step how-tos and beautiful photographs

while i doubt this book will quite be the one-stop shop for the beginner or avid gardener, it's a wonderful resource and will pair very well with a few more thorough references.
Profile Image for Katie.
1,138 reviews18 followers
August 18, 2015
I really enjoyed this beautiful book about edible landscaping. The pictures are incredible and inspiring. The authors break down the process of creating an edible landscape into several steps which feel easy to follow. There are many good suggestions about plants to use and creative ways to incorporate them into the garden. They also deal with a variety of yard sizes so it feels easy to scale up or down depending on the size of your property. The one thing that would have given this a five star rating was if the authors were a little more specific about where the plants they suggest grow best or even more specific information about the plants. The gardens they describe feel very generic. It is hard to tell what part of the country they belong in which makes for universal appeal but also makes it hard to know if their suggestions are worth trying in my area. There are a few general statements here and there about plants such as citrus being better in warmer climates, but nothing specific. I did not expect an exhaustive list of plants and where they grow, but it felt as though some of there suggestions simply would not work in my Pennsylvania garden. For example, they use artichoke as a suggestion for adding an architectural element to your garden. However, if you don't live in an area where artichokes thrive it would have been nice to have one or two ideas of similar plants that might work in cooler climates.

Overall, I loved the book and will probably look through it again. Just know that it is a big idea book rather than a book with information on specific plants.
6 reviews1 follower
April 14, 2013
I wasn't 100% sure what to expect from this book when I first received it; I have read a few books about garden planning that left a little to be desired so while I had high hopes, I didn't have any grand expectations. I was very pleasantly surprised. This is an excellent book not only about incorporating edibles into your landscape but about gardening in general. It is very readable and incorporates a lot of very helpful photographs that support the text very well. I believe this text would be suitable for the novice gardener and an individual with many years of gardening experience as well. I really appreciated the lists of plants suited for particular conditions: shade, low water, tropical, etc. The authors also give details about the entire process, from choosing the plants for your particular plot to preparing the soil and caring for them while they grow. There is also an entire section dedicated to gardening in small spaces and containers which would be very useful for anyone who thinks they don't have the room to garden. I also really liked that they included sections that cover edible flowers and toxic plants. Both categories contained a some common flowers and it's always nice to know what to seek out and what to avoid when it comes to additions to the salad plate.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book as a part of Good Reads First Reads program. This did not influence the review I have written.
Profile Image for Slee.
Author 4 books3 followers
April 4, 2014
As an edible gardening enthusiast I was delighted by the inspiration and beautiful photography featured in The Beautiful Edible Garden, but, as a gardener who likes to have all her reference material at hand, I was also somewhat disappointed. Other for books I have read in the genre had prepared me to feel moved and delighted,and to look out at my yard with a brand new set of visions for planting things I possibly hadn't considered edible before. This is not that book.
The Beautiful Edible Garden is more a garden design book in the tabletop book sense that it provides neither layout advise nor plant lists, but does give tried and true design advice adapted for edible plants rather than those that are simply ornamental.
This is not a book aimed at beginners, and perhaps that is where it diverged from what I was hoping for.
The wreath projects are lovely, though it seems that in the case of the berry and quince wreath that it would be particularly short lived, unless I missed something in the instructions. I did feel, throughout the book that the instructions could have been more clear.
I do feel that there is a lot to take away from this book, but it wasn't the book I was looking for this week.
Profile Image for Kristal.
511 reviews10 followers
March 7, 2016
I was totally captivated by the beautiful cover and gorgeous pictures in this book. The authors' goal in this book is to help redefine the plant palette to utilize edible and ornamental plants throughout your garden in a way that is both beautiful and productive. They begin by discussing the four main principles of creating a beautiful, productive garden: Balance, Arrangement, Year-Round Beauty and Harvest, and Unified Style. Then they break the garden down to the Front Yard and the Backyard and give five steps to achieving the perfect garden:
Step One: Arrange Permanent Elements
Step Two: Establish Focal Points
Step Three: Position Anchor Plants
Step Four: Add plants for Beauty and Production
Step Five: Fill It Out with Groundcovers and Low-Growing Plants

There were many times I missed the writing due to being enchanted by the beautiful photography in this book. Instead of taking notes of text, I was noting a stunning photo. But be warned - if you do not live in California, you might have to research suitable alternatives to the suggested plantings.
Profile Image for Jacquie.
63 reviews
June 16, 2017
I read this book concurrently with Bittner's other book, Harvest. I enjoyed Harvest much more. This book was too "theoretical" for me. The book spells out a 5-step process for you to use to design your yard and make it, not only beautiful, but useful/edible. But there weren't enough concrete examples on how to do that. And the pictures were beautiful but in so many of the pictures I didn't know the plants pictured, and knowing that would have greatly helped me plan my own yard. I would have loved if the book included several pictures of people's yards and also explained which plants were in the picture and why they were chosen. It would have helped me to apply the concepts the book laid out. Maybe someone with more experience in landscaping and gardening would enjoy this book more.
Profile Image for Steph Myers.
345 reviews3 followers
April 3, 2013
Beautiful photos. This is primarily a design book and pretty thin on technique. The principles presented are simple and easy for the layperson to apply. The photos show that including edibles can make a garden every bit as gorgeous as perennials alone. Even though the authors try to create a book that can be used by any gardeners, I think it will be most beneficial to coastal and mild climate gardeners. Many of the edible plants presented are annuals in Colorado unless potted and brought indoors or stored in a greenhouse.
Profile Image for Kait.
34 reviews10 followers
June 17, 2013
I think this a great book for someone who really cares about the aesthetics of their garden and wants a clear plan of action to follow. Basic design principals are covered and a five-step plan is outlined and then applied to different types of spaces. Beautiful pictures and copious suggestions for integrating ornamental and edible plants. I was slightly (only very slightly) frustrated by the inclusion of many plants that are not hardy in my area (zone 4), as it is written from a CA perspective. But I WILL get over not being able to have a rosemary hedge.....
Profile Image for Shauna.
Author 5 books11 followers
June 3, 2013
This is a beautifully crafted book. The photos are wonderful and plentiful, which made me all the more excited to grow and design. The book is very informative as well--though the growing suggestions are focused on the realities of growing in what I assume is the author's native climate zone. Drier climate zones, like the one I'm currently in, will need to adjust the instructions significantly. Overall, I was very pleased with the book.
Profile Image for Jennifer McGuinness.
Author 4 books
March 20, 2014
I found that while I was reading "The Beautiful Edible Garden," I was constantly putting the book down to make notes of ideas that jumped into my mind for my own garden. The beautiful photography shines throughout the book and this collaboration by Bennett and Bittner really does inspire you to make a more beautiful, edible garden.

Read my full review over at my blog, http://frauzinnie.blogspot.com/2014/0...

Profile Image for Kendra.
8 reviews
December 15, 2013
This book does lack some technique for beginners HOWEVER it's not called "Edible Garden 101" or "How to Create a Basic Edible Garden". This book is successfully addresses the esthetics of edible gardens. It is photograph and inspiration heavy.

I loved this book and it is one of the few on this topic that I have read from the library and purchased because I can't renew it forever.
Profile Image for Candy.
1,392 reviews17 followers
January 15, 2015
I picked up 2 tips from this book. One involves the uses for grey water when thinking of food safety. The other was a reminder to put stepping stones in your garden beds to keep from compacting the soil.
Otherwise, it was a pretty random read with some repetition, and incorrect word use. ( Wheel BARREL?)
Profile Image for Seth.
583 reviews
September 3, 2014
Gardening seems so simple and so complex all at the same time, which means reading about it is both inspiring and daunting. There are so many plants, so many things to know and consider! I can't imagine that any gardener could surround himself in such an environment and not marvel at the beauty, wonder and ingenuity of creation.
Profile Image for Carrie.
86 reviews
July 23, 2014
This book seemed well-researched and based on the landscaping experience of the authors and other contributors. The photography was well done and pertinent to the text. Overall, I think this is the best book I have read about ornamental edible landscaping due to its thoroughness on the topic, included references, and balance of text and images.
Profile Image for Erica.
111 reviews
October 5, 2017
This is a wonderful book if you're interested in garden design and want ideas. I drooled over the lovely photos. It's a less practical book for the actual gardening part...you really need to do extra research on whether the varieties they recommend will do well in your region and how easy they are to grow. Start here...but read more solid gardening books that are tailored to your area.
Profile Image for Julie.
279 reviews22 followers
March 17, 2013
While not strictly for beginning gardeners, this offers great information that can be applied to any garden. I found the sections on under planting, shade-tolerance, herb wreaths, container planting, and composting achievable and practical.
Profile Image for Megan.
224 reviews6 followers
October 18, 2013
This is a beautifully done book. The authors own a vegetable gardening business in California, so it would definitely be more applicable to you if you lived in that area. But, the design principles are universal and apply to all gardeners. Good gardening eye candy!
Profile Image for Kristiana.
64 reviews5 followers
May 13, 2014
While this book makes me want to move to CA it does not help me plan an edible garden anyplace else. It relies heavily on citrus that you plant in-yard and other wonderful sounding fruits that I just do not think would work in most of the country.
4 reviews1 follower
May 12, 2015
The plants they suggest often don't work in Denver, but I enjoyed the "design for dummies" aspect of hte book. I will take some of the concepts they share and apply it to my permaculture design for my yard to help make it look more cohesive.
Profile Image for Lisa.
314 reviews21 followers
May 18, 2013
More emphasis here on style than on edible- the writers are landscape architects, so perhaps this was to be expected. A very pretty book, well worth the read.
205 reviews5 followers
December 26, 2013
Got some great ideas from this book including using herbs as ground covers. Beautiful photos. Can't wait til spring!
Profile Image for Rachel Hopkins.
259 reviews8 followers
May 14, 2013
Good information and well written but I was looking for more concrete garden plans
8 reviews
June 12, 2013
This book was perhaps more for warmer climates than the midwest, but I did enjoy the concepts. Nifty ideas for landscaping the garden as well.
Profile Image for Jemkagily.
32 reviews
August 4, 2013
Slightly aggravating to have so many plants included that I just can't grow in my planting zone (all those citrus trees!) but still a lovely book.
Profile Image for Kim.
1,225 reviews15 followers
August 16, 2013
Lovely little book with beautiful photos, unfortunately it was more appropriate for Southern California than western New York.
Profile Image for David.
51 reviews
September 2, 2013
A good balance of design aesthetics and good garden health. Gorgeous photos!!!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 52 reviews

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