Chow Town

Connect with your landscape by planting an edible garden

I think everyone would agree that food from your own garden tastes better. It’s fresher, more vibrant, healthier-just plain tastier.

A lot of folks have home gardens. I, myself, plant tomatoes, peppers, green beans, and all sorts of herbs with a varying degree of success.

But, Sarah Hermes of Hermes Landscaping in Lenexa takes it several steps farther. She specializes in what she calls “edible gardens.”

“The first project my dad assigned me was to redesign our office’s landscape,” she said. “He thought it would be fun to have some edible plants incorporated. I decided to just go all out, so I created a completely edible landscape.”

Hermes is the Marketing Manager for her family business, and the granddaughter of the company’s founder, John T. Hermes, who built the Lenexa headquarters in 1969.

Some of the original elements, like a creek and a bridge are gone, but an edible garden, filled with natural delights, like purple Echinacea and persimmon and espalier pear trees, is growing up with a new generation of landscaping elements.

Hermes said she visited the Heartland Harvest garden at Powell Gardens for inspiration and education about how to design the Hermes’ garden, and says the landscape is admittedly a test, trial, and risk.

The most challenging part of building an edible garden, Hermes said, is choosing plants that are productive as well as visually appealing. Additionally, picking plants with a seasonal interest is difficult because during the winter, productive plants generally go dormant and are no longer aesthetically pleasing.

The edible garden at the Hermes main office is not only a way to revive a single landscape, but it literally feeds into a larger trend of edible gardening, and the whole movement toward sustainability.

“As a society, we invest a lot of land, water and resources into cultivating beautiful landscapes. To find ways to make these landscapes productive will not only have a huge impact on our food system, but I think it also provides an avenue for people to connect with their landscape in a more meaningful way,” Hermes said. “It is a fulfilling experience to cultivate your own food. It’s empowering, and I believe it will be the way of the future.”

Clearly, not everyone is up for their own edible garden, but if you are, Sarah Hermes is the woman for you. Armed with more than 30 varieties of trees, shrubs and perennials in her own garden-all with a medicinal or edible benefit, Sarah Hermes is like a much more diverse Johnny Appleseed.

Check it out for yourself, and you might find that you can no longer do without the Texas Scarlet Quince, Contorted Filberts, or Pawpaws. Don’t worry if that happens. Hermes can easily, and deliciously, hook you up.

Dave Eckert is the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS-TV and Wealth TV for 12 seasons, or nearly 300 half-hour episodes produced on six continents. Eckert is also an avid wine collector and aficionado, having amassed a personal wine cellar of some 2,000 bottles.