Sunday, November 24, 2013

Green With Envy: The Arcadia Edible Garden Tour

Yesterday, I went to the Arcadia Edible Garden Tour for the first time. Wow. What a collection of gardens! If you live near the Phoenix area, love edible gardening, and have been saying to yourself “I just haven’t been feeling envious enough of others lately,” this is the tour for you.

“Hmmmm.” you might be saying, “You don’t know me that well, Claudette. There are lots of different types of edible gardens. How do you know that the gardens on this tour will make me envious?” Well, I don’t. But there are a lot of different types of gardens on this tour. Personally, I was really blown away by the variety. I think there’s a really good chance that you would find at least one that would really impress you. But you do have a good imaginary point. Let me tell you more so you can make up your own mind.

The tour is self-guided, but they do have a suggested route (which I followed). It starts with what I think of “Michael Chiarello” type of edible gardening. The people who own these gardens have lots of money and lots of time to spend on this stuff. Their gardens and their homes are beautiful as a result. I’d be shocked if their gardens and homes haven’t been featured in Sunset and Phoenix Homes and Gardens. In one yard, raised beds are nestled under groves of orange trees with a backdrop of white bougenvilla that were planted years ago for a perfect backyard wedding. 

(For more pictures of this beautiful yard, see Into The Gardens.) In another, there are not only raised vegetable beds and fruit orchards, there are also cactus gardens rivaling those at the Desert Botanical Gardens. 

(At this home, I think I saw more people taking pictures of the house than the garden. Actually, it felt a little pervy.)

OK, maybe you’re not the Richie Rich type though. If you’re like me, you think looking at that type of thing is OK for a while, but it actually starts getting kind of weird pretty quick. It doesn’t feel like real life.

So maybe the next type of garden is more your thing. These gardens are what I think of as “Bed and Breakfast” gardens. They are still very stylish, but in many cases, they’re businesses. At some of these gardens, the owners were selling jams, vegetables, and other items that they produced. I didn’t get any good pictures of these gardens, but I can do you one better if this is your type of thing. Check out It’s a full website dedicated to one of these beautiful gardens.

Still not tickling your fancy? You’re not into Martha Stewart worthy jams or Sunset magazine spreads? Maybe you’re more the Mother Earth News or Grist type? I feel ya. I think of you as “Activist gardeners,” and the tour still has something for you. How about people running community supported agriculture (CSA) farms out of their front yards? 

Or a guy who’s created a garden, chicken coops, turkey runs, and aquaponics only using reclaimed materials and stuff he got off Craigslist? Or pretty average backyard gardeners growing vegetables in raised beds and raising a few chickens? The tour has all that.

So I will admit after giving you the whole “There’s something there for everyone” spiel, I didn’t come out of there thinking “Ooo, that’s the garden for me!” All of these gardens are in an area of Phoenix that’s very different than where I live. It’s clear to me that they didn’t have HOAs. (Hello! Some of them are running full-fledged farms and aquaponics systems in their front yards!) A lot of them were using flood irrigation, which makes it possible to have beautiful orchards nestled in the middle of gorgeous lawns. (My irrigation is not so ample, and therefore, my garden is not so lush.) Lastly, it’s really clear that these people devote a whole lot more time (and in a lot of cases, money) to their gardens than me. (For me, this is a hobby on the side when I can make the time.)

But all of that it is OK. I definitely came out hyped up about what I’ve done with my garden so far and the plans I have left. I bought a couple more dwarf pomegranate trees so I could sneak some edibles into the front yard landscaping without ticking off the HOA. I got a few more vegi plants to stick into the backyard plot. And I’m happy with the picture I have in my mind of how it’s all going to come together a few years down the line when an hour here and a weekend there all add up to make the big picture come together. In the meantime, maybe I'll keep gawking. Or maybe next year, I'll use the time to do a little extra gardening in my own yard. We'll see. 

11/27/13 Update: It seems I caused some offense with this post. I made some assumptions about the income levels of the homeowners on the tour and implied that they get a level of help that perhaps they don't. I apologize for the offense. My primary goal was simply to describe the variety of gardens that are available on the tour and I apologize if my methods of doing so were offensive. It's clear that every single gardener who opened their home to this tour is passionate about gardening and I was impressed with every garden. I hope that was apparent in my original post, but I will make that abundantly clear now. Each of these gardeners has shown an impressive commitment to gardening that they should be proud of.

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