entertainingFood & Drinkoutdoorstudio choowe like it wild

we like it wild: star apple edible gardens

by StudioChoo

As much as we love flowers (and you know how much we love flowers), we have a feeling that the purely decorative garden’s days may be numbered. This bold statement is a result of meeting Leslie Bennett and Stefani Bittner of , an Oakland-based landscaping company determined to bring sustainable, edible gardens to even the tiniest urban and suburban plots. The two create gardens that harmoniously weave edibles and ornamentals and rechristen boring suburban lawns as stylish micro-farms.

Star Apple believes that where we live, what we eat and how we connect to nature and our community are all important to our health and well-being, and the gardens they create are both artful and fruitful. Put thoughts of clunky, raised railroad-tie beds out of your head; the garden designs from Star Apple are elegant, sophisticated, colorful and hardly recognizable as the hardworking mini-farms they actually are. Leslie and Stefani work closely with home gardeners teaching them how to cultivate and care for their new plots, as well as offering monthly classes focusing on seasonal topics like winter veggies or how to make cocktails with ingredients from your garden.

CLICK HERE for the rest of the post after the jump!

The company strives to bring edible gardens to even yard-less apartment dwellers through a line of , complete with organic potting soil, organic mixed heirloom salad green seeds and organic fertilizer. Or if you’re lucky enough to have some outside space to spare and an affinity for eggs, Star Apple has been working with to develop a pre-fab chick coop complete with succulent roof (available in Spring 2011). We got a chance to visit the green-roofed coop prototype with seven resident chickens at Stefani’s beautiful home and garden in Lafayette.

It’s hard to sum up Leslie and Stefani’s backgrounds in a sound bite. Between the two of them, their career paths have crisscrossed the worlds of law and landscaping, taken them from Switzerland to the Sierra Foothills, and finally landed them both back in the Bay Area where they’ve used their collective knowledge to bring a food and gardening revolution to the urban landscape. The two met while Leslie (a lawyer turned landscaper) was apprenticing at the organic foods landscaping company , and Stefani (with a career in non-profits turned landscaper) had just started the edible landscape division of in Berkeley. They decided to use their design, fine gardening and organic farming expertise to start Star Apple and bring more edible plantings into urban spaces.

We asked the ladies for some tips on what to do in your garden right now:

Late September and October is when we have fun experimenting with heirloom hard neck garlics. This year we are especially excited about Red Toch, Purple Haze and Thai Fire. We picked up the local organic garlic seed at in Petaluma, Ca. on the same day Stef picked out her chicks. Hard necks are great because you can grow rare gourmet varieties unavailable at the market. Soft necks, although more common, can be braided and stored hanging — a great activity for kids and an unusual gift come summer. Garlic is super easy to grow. If you have never grown vegetables before, garlic is a great one to start with. This is also the time of year to start thinking about cover cropping parts of your garden. You can replenish soil nutrients sustainably using crimson clover, vetch, and favas (yum!). We like to build in visual interest using the low growing crimson clover interspersed among the more unusual pink-flowered fava bean.

If you are interested in getting more information on Star Apple or need help with your garden, Leslie and Stefani at (510) 922-1258 or email [email protected]

Suggested For You


  • I was SOOO looking forward to having one of those coops this summer, but I called my city zoning and in the suburbs, we aren’t allowed to have one chicken-not even if it’s kept in a coop. I know zoning laws are meant to protect us, but sometimes I think they are why my food is produced so far from where I live :( The only regular/reliable source for organic eggs I have (even when looking at local farms in my area) is to try and trust the free range label on the eggs at my supermarket, or get them delivered from illinois to virginia! :( Love these efforts! The more of this that happens, maybe the more flexible laws will get?

  • Thank you for this! I am struggling with how to design both my front yard and back yard. I want to get rid of the lawn on both sides, and on the front, intersperse edible plants and herbs amongst other plants. In the back, I want a veggie garden. But I want both to look really beautiful and well designed. Unfortunately, the pickings are incredibly slim for how to make a unique, beautiful garden using edibles. Everything seems focused on either purely decorative garden design with ornamental plants and flowers, or purely utilitarian design for fruits, veggies & herbs, so any resource is a boon! Needless to say, I would LOVE more coverage related to this concept…

  • This is stunning. I clicked on this post with a little trepidation, that my envy would spill over into bitter resentment that I live in a rental apartment! but instead I am inspired and will call these gals whenever I have a little patch of my own for planting and roosting.

  • Those photos are stunning! Thank you thank you for making this concept come to life. Star Apple rocks to take all these quality-of-life issues and put them together to make our homes, lives, tables, more beautiful and more yummy. I love the idea of growing my food in such a beautiful way. Get to share the process with everyone I love from seed to table. Thank you Design Droits-Humains, thanks Star Apple — so calling you for a consult!!

  • With the Beauchamping “food” print discussion still in mind, I’m chuckling a litle here with the photo of the gorgeous chook straight under the title of edible gardens… Gorgeous work though!

  • So inspiring. Hopefully many will see how you can steward a whatever size piece of land, and support many “communities” on it and add to a greater good for all — including neighbors — we all need the good air a healthy garden generates!

    Love the photos. Those are some loved birds!

  • we started today out in the garden getting more done on the ‘almost done chicken coop’ and vegie garden – interrupted by the aussie rules football grandfinal which ‘DREW’ ( can you believe that) – then almost finished the cladding. love this story!!! we’re almost there…patience…we have tomorrow! cheers kari

  • What a great post. As an country girl who now lives in the city I really appreciate efforts to make urban gardening not only a reality but beautiful, thoughtful and stylish as well. Thank you!

  • One of the most gorgeous posts ever!!! Could you please re-post when the coops become available- maybe with a guide to the best small space, friendly, cool egg chickens???? That would be so exciting. Then I would plan my trip to SF to get the coop, see Diana Fayt’s ceramics and go to Flora Grubbs garden too. Super Fun!! Thank you!!!

  • What a great company. Here’s to the hope that one day soon, every boring suburban lawn will have been turned into a stylish micro farm! I’m always trying to convince people to grow vegetables in their front yard. :)

  • I’d love to visit these photos in person, ho beautiful are they? Just out of interest, what type of chicken is the fluffy one at the beginning of the post – does anyone know?

Leave a Reply

Design*Droits-Humains reserves the right to restrict comments that do not contribute constructively to the conversation at hand, that comment on people's physical appearance, contain profanity, personal attacks, hate speech or seek to promote a personal or unrelated business. Our goal is to create a safe space where everyone (commenters, subjects of posts and moderators) feels comfortable to speak. Please treat others the way you would like to be treated and be willing to take responsibility for the impact your words may have on others. Disagreement, differences of opinion and heated discussion are welcome, but comments that do not seek to have a mature and constructive dialogue will not be published. We moderate all comments with great care and do not delete any lightly. Please note that our team (writers, moderators and guests) deserve the same right to speak and respond as you do, and your comments may be responded to or disagreed with. These guidelines help us maintain a safe space and work toward our goal of connecting with and learning from each other.