How to Appreciate Broccoli: A Garden Designer’s Quest

By ALISON ROWE | Special to the Palisadian-Post

Julie Waxman led the way through the house, past the patio and pool, and down a grassy slope to a quiet, sunny spot. During the 34 years Waxman and her partner, Seth Freeman, have lived in the house in The Riviera streets, this part of the garden has taken on numerous identities, including a vegetable plot and a cut-flower garden.

Daniel Allen
Photos by Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Things changed six months ago when a cousin told her about the plantings at Hamilton High School created by Farmscape. She was so impressed that shortly thereafter she was discussing plans for a small kitchen garden with master gardener and founder of Farmscape, Daniel Allen.

Setting to work, Allen and his team built three raised beds out of untreated redwood, 16.5 inches tall, and lined with gopher mesh to discourage unwanted subterranean visitors.

One of many advantages of planting into raised beds is the ability to control the makeup of the planting medium, especially in areas that may have suffered soil pollution in the past. Another is the ease of picking the produce from an elevated bed. Drip irrigation ensures that plants are watered to their optimum needs and no more, saving precious water.

Showing off the greens.
Photos by Rich Schmitt/Staff Phographer

The choice of what to plant is a personal one, Allen said.

“We start with something enjoyable, and each season we’ll have one or two experiments,” he explained.

As Waxman nodded in agreement, he explained that communication and trust are vital elements in a successful garden.

His team features the talents of a viticulturist and an arborist—so there are few problems that cannot be dealt with—and plenty of innovative suggestions of things to grow that become more tailored as the relationship—and the garden—matures.

Farmscape currently manages 22 residential gardens in the Palisades but other projects are larger in scale. For example, Hillcrest Country Club has 100 beds to provide fresh produce for the restaurant, and Allen is interested in expanding his work with developers to add urban agriculture to multi-family buildings.

Now Waxman’s kitchen garden shows lush and colorful plantings of broccoli, fennel, carrots and salad leaves, as beautiful as any art installation. A Farmscape team member visits once per week to carry out maintenance and harvest the ripest produce, which is presented in a beautiful applewood basket.

“It’s fun!” Waxman said.

However, her experience had an unexpected side effect.

“I felt guilty, because the work was done and I didn’t do any of it,” she shared. “And I learned a lot—planting from seed, growing and thinning.”

Gesturing at some fine specimens in the beds she said, “broccoli takes so much energy to grow, it made me appreciate broccoli.”

To find out more about Farmscape, visit farmscapegardens.com.