Edible Landscaping’s hidden inspiration

Ken's 4 Winds Visit Pics 2012 024_2We’ve been talking about Edible Landscaping and Ornamental Edibles (OE) for at least a decade now, and many nurseries have hopped on the bandwagon to grow and sell them to searching customers who want in-ground plantings or miniature potted forests they can cart to the next rental home.

OE owes a debt to the Queen of Edible Landscaping, Rosalind Creasy.  Her website provides great recommendations for nice looking selections that work in the Pacific Northwest.  Many online nurseries, including the one I work for, offer a variety of deciduous and evergreen OE, including pomegranate, olive, fig, persimmon, blueberries, citrus and more.

Thanks to the rise of edible landscaping philosophy, people are expanding their thinking about best use of available sunny yard space.  Espaliered fruit trees are the new norm in an era of yard space maximization and attention to quality.

A recent L.A. Times story points out that the proliferation of gardeners committed to eating from their own backyards has rekindled an interest in growing ‘clean crops’ that are as pesticide-free as possible.  Why not be inspired to grow produce with the best flavor possible? My own taste tests comparing Organic Meyer lemon fruits (which I grow myself) with those collected from conventionally grown trees leave me with no doubt: Organically grown Meyer lemons taste much better; flesh is sweeter, rinds are milder.  Try it for yourself and see.

One need only look at this alarming image of a citrus tree suffering from RoundUp (Glyphosate) poisoning, to realize that even the world’s most popular herbicide poses risks. Especially when used incorrectly, pesticides pose real threats to the garden and gardener alike.

The trend for growing your own doesn’t stop with edibles.  Were it not for legal ramifications and perhaps some (arguable) aesthetic ones one can imagine productive fiber gardens of mulberry, hemp, flax, milkweed, nettles and sunflower.  As aesthetic tastes broaden and homeowners associations develop more expansive policies for allowable plantings, I hope we can continue to look forward to ever greater productivity from average yardscapes.


What happened on February 23rd in Studio City? Borgnine

Four Winds Growers presented a lovely display at a classy party to celebrate the life of Ernest Borgnine.  The first annual ‘Ernie Award’ was presented to Sean Penn who was unable to attend, as he was seeing to duties in Haiti.  The award, a lovely globe of blown glass, was received by actor Ken Howard, who gave a touching speech.  Most of the photos taken here are by the very talented Mr. Ken Byes and were done on a fabulous red Nikon that reminds me of a race car.


Iqbal Theba of TV musical "Glee"with blueberries

Iqbal Theba of TV musical “Glee”with blueberries

Gardening chat with Marilu Henner

Gardening chat with Marilu Henner

Ernie Hudson of "Ghostbusters"

Ernie Hudson of “Ghostbusters”

With the masterful Hector Elizando

With the masterful Hector Elizando

With Nancee and Cris Borgnine

With Nancee and Cris Borgnine

Julie Arenal Bryant

Julie Arenal Bryant

Folks Happy to take home the sole fig tree selection: Black Mission fig

Folks Happy to take home the sole fig tree selection: Black Mission fig

Kevin Sorbo of TV "Hercules" fame with Ken Byes

Kevin Sorbo of TV “Hercules” fame with Ken Byes


Lainie Kazan, jazz singer and the unforgettable Mother in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” prepares to take home this beautiful southern highbush blueberry plant.


Nancee Borgnine prepares to present the First Annual Ernie Award


Cris Borgnine enjoys Yosemite Gold mandarins


Iqbal Theba (Principal Figgins of “Glee”) shows off his Sunshine Blue Blueberry bush to Esai Morales, urging him to get one.


Esai Morales (“La Bamba”) considers the options and settles on a Variegated Pink Lemon tree, complete with fruit.

Table filled with Ornamental Edibles. Avocado, citrus and olive trees, plus blueberry bushes.

table after

Every last plant found a home that night. A shot of the table toward the end.

Citrus and Olive trees for the stars


Sept. 22, 2012

Sept. 22, 2012

I like Aloha shirts, and so did Ernest Borgnine.
Here I am with two more generations of zest and sweetness. Cristofer said he’s wearing the shirt his dad wore in “From Here to Eternity”. During the pleasure of meeting this nice family, I felt Ernest’s spirit too; he passed away in July this year, at 95. Nancee and Cristofer both exuded a warmth and positivity that made me think there really is hereditary ‘star power’ in some families. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/ernest-borgnine-estate-3-million-mulholland-374082

One thing’s for sure, it’s true of certain special plants! Among cultivated plants, Citrus are the superstars – (especially in California.) To be the conduit for sharing between superstar trees and human celebrities is an honor indeed! Citrus have culinary, medicinal, ornamental & cultural significance far beyond most other plants! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rutaceae


Nancee Borgnine honors dad Ernest at Emmy’s Party at the Sportsman’s Lodge, Studio City

I was honored to be invited to participate in sharing Four Winds Growers Dwarf Citrus and other fruit trees today at a party given by Nancee Borgnine in Studio City, CA. This pre-Emmy’s event saw a continuous flow of celebrities from television and theatre, who browsed among select vendors and got ‘free stuff’ (shwag). There were sparkly jeans, amazing hats, fragrant herbs and flowers, Vodka drinks, whimsical plush toys made from recycled sweaters, flameless cigarettes, cushy furniture, non-profit Big Brothers, Big Sisters and many others. Our trees seemed to strike many as novel. Because Four Winds’ Dwarf Clementine mandarin tree had been featured in the April 2012 issue of Oprah! Magazine, we were seen by Nancee, and invited to be there. We brought a very nice Improved Meyer lemon tree to give to Nancee in honor of her dad.

Needless to say, it was a day of anticipation and excitement. I met some wonderful actors and their associates, including Joe Mantegna of “Criminal Minds” , also Tony Denison, Michael Paul Chan and Robert Gossett of “The Closer.” It was especially fun meeting Michele Gossett, wife of Robert, as well as other family members of the actors, who enjoy gardening. Cris Borgnine, Nancee’s brother and his family were delightful to talk with. I admired the Aloha shirts that Cris and his little boys were wearing. Cris said that he was wearing one from his dad’s collection that he had worn in “From Here to Eternity”.

The weather was very warm, with some merciful overcast helping cool, but also raising the humidity. To my country bumpkin perceptions, many folks seemed uncomfortably dressed given the weather, (myself especially included).  But stars are stoic, I learned, and they can look ‘cool’ even when it’s not.

All in all I had a ball meeting folks I wouldn’t ordinarily encounter. As for the event itself, I can really appreciate all the coordination that was required, and hat’s off to Nancee and her team for pulling it off with grace and panache!

Best Tips for Growing Citrus Trees Indoors

Successful indoor growing means being especially careful to not over water! Indoor air can be quite dry and a shock to trees being brought in after summering outdoors. Here are my seven tips for helping your citrus trees to thrive indoors.
1. Let roots dry to 50% before bringing in. If the tree is thirsty for its first watering indoors it will make the adjustment more easily.
2. Use a probe type moisture tester so you can be sure to get accurate measurements of root moisture. For about $8.00 this is insurance against over watering that, with the proper care, can last for many years.
3. Only water when the tester indicates a wetness level of 50% dry in the root zone.
4. Be sure the pot size is correct for the size of the roots. A tree in an oversized pot will tend to stay too wet because the roots are of insufficient size to take up the volume of water supplied.
5. Very important: Pot up in a very light, fast draining soil mix. An ideal blend is a commercial garden soil formulated for outdoor use mixed with at least one third volume of cedar or redwood shavings. The shavings keep air in the root zone after watering. Avoid soil mixes that contain chemical wetting agents. If using an Organic soil mix, use up to 50% shavings to assure a fast draining mix. Blend very thoroughly and pot up so that citrus ‘crown roots’ show above the soil line.
6. Do not put gravel on the bottom of your planting pot, because this impedes drainage over time.
7. Fill a large saucer with rocks or other drainage material and set the pot on top. This increases humidity while keeping the pot elevated above the drainage water.

Remember, citrus do best when kept on the dry side of moist! They are heavy feeders, so choose a high Nitrogen fertilizer, ideally one formulated for citrus, and use it regularly throughout the growing season. Finally, and most importantly: provide enough sunshine! Citrus need at least 8 hours of full sun per day to be productive. Supplement with grow lights indoors if necessary.