Story by Mark Welsh / Photography by Yoshihiro Makino
Edible Gardens LA founder, Lauri Kranz is a
passionate advocate for planting gorgeous flowers and nourishing food together in the
same garden, and designs and sustains edible gardens for (fortunate) chefs, restaurants,
schools, and private clients. She's also the author of "A Garden Can Be Anywhere. Creating
Beautiful and Bountiful Edible Gardens."
Your edible gardens are wonderfully wild and exuberant. Do you
have an aversion to tidy rows?
I come from a place of wildness, and actually feel uncomfortable when everything’s in a perfect row.
Nature doesn’t plant that way. A bird drops a seed and it sprouts right there. It’s healthier for the soil to
have natural diversity.
Our lives are so structured and a garden represents a kind of personal freedom. I like plants to be an
expression of that freedom.
You combine beautiful flowers and nutritious food in your edible gardens. Aren't flowers and food usually grown separately?
There doesn't need to be a separateness to growing great food or having a beautiful garden. A garden can be filled with delicious foods ... luscious tomatoes, fragrant melons ... but also bursting with dinner place dahlias, poppies, fennel. A combination of flowers and food creates even more beauty.
" Combination of food and flowers creates even more beauty "
– Lauri Kranz
What's the most important component of an edible garden?
A flat space. It can be a patch of lawn, patio, a terrace, fire escape, or roof. I live in Laurel Canyon on a steep hillside that's difficult to landscape, so I planted 20 fruit trees in containers - peaches, pomegranates, plums, figs, apples - and put them all around the house on hardscape surfaces like decks and balconies.
How about sun?
If you have 4 hours of sun per day there's a lot you can grow, like arugula, kale, chard, cherry tomatoes, mustard greens, and herbs. Before you plant, watch and document the sunlight through the day. Let the sun tell you where your garden should be.
"The story is in the soil" is the title of Chapter 3 in your book and also the tagline on your website ediblegardensla.com Why is soil so important?
The healthier the soil, the more productive and nutritious your food is going to be. Having an organic garden doesn't just mean you're not using chemicals; it means you're constantly enriching and replenishing the soil with organic
material. I'm a huge believer in organic compost; it's vital for the planet.
The most important thing that we grow in the ground is our relationship to the living soil itself. The soil, like the oceans or the sky above our heads, is a complex, living superorganism."
– Lauri Kranz
What pots are best?
But good terra cotta pot that
goes up to your knees. That's tall enough to fit the roots of almost any plant. Or get a
small pot if you're growing herbs, arugula, green beans, and peas that need less soil depth.
Begin with a pot of basil on a sunny windowsill. Nurture it, grow it, and very quickly you'll
be making pesto. Small steps lead to bigger steps, like growing cherry tomatoes. Soon you'll
have created a unique food garden for yourself.
What other favorites do you plant in your edible gardens?
Things like caper berry shrubs and blueberry shrubs, pineapple sage, and lemon verbena. Fava beans are gorgeous and they feed the soil. Plant them in a spiral, not rows. As they grow tall they lean in and make wonderful flowers from which the beans form and grow inside. Also, artichokes because they're so gorgeous, and the purple flowers attract the bees. Bees are a garden's best friend. Without bees many of a garden's plants will simply fail to thrive.
Speaking of bees, what attracts them?
The first thing I plant in a garden is African basil because bees love the purple flowers. In a warm season I try to plant squash and cucumbers. The flowers are easily pollinated by the bees when they're so close to the plant. Sometimes when I grow fennel I let it go to flower. Pollinators really love them.
African Basil is one of the Garden Collection candles you created with L.A. candle makers, Le Feau de L'Eau. How did this collaboration come about?
I'd loved and cherished their
candles in my own home for years. Later, I met and got to know the owners, Wendy Polish and
Jo Strettel, and we decided to develop a collection based on plants I cherish and use in
edible landscapes. We wanted them to smell like they were just cut from the garden. This
meant shipping live botanical samples so that they would retain their true scent.
We love the fragrances. What inspired them?
I grow Cardamom at home and love
the scent of the leaves when you tear them open. The Cardamom candle smells like the
leaves of the plant, not the root. Citrus Geranium, I got from an organic farmer here,
and it smells extraordinary, like spring and summer to me. African Basil is the first
thing I plant in a garden. For Lemongrass Rosemary I was harvesting an herb garden,
digging out lemongrass and rosemary, and when I put them in the basket together I was
taken by the scent.
Why are gardens so important?
Spending time in the garden gives
us the connective tissue we need to connect with nature; without it we're reallyh lost.
We all need to reconnect with nature and open up those doors and windows to those pieces