"Edible Estates is an attack on the front lawn and everything it has come to represent!" This quote from Edible Estates' website, and a riff on the title of his new book, begins a discussion on what it is we want from a lawn anyway? Fritz Haeg, Edible Estates creator and chief protagonist, is trained as an architect but frequently works as an artist and gardener, so his view on gardening penetrates into other disciplines. History tells us that the history of lawns, as we know them, starts in private homes of the wealthy in rural England. Prime agrarian land was purposely left idle as a sign of the sheer wealth of its owner. In this light, millions of suburban southern California homes sporting green lawns is something to think about.
Gardening as a cultural practice is as rich and varied as any other medium. Not only is it about the eyes; it is equally about other senses. One look at the great palaces of Europe and you can see why. Metaphors abound for all to see and the senses collapse in ways that a painting's effect can never approach.
But let's be realistic, homeowners who agree to take on a working garden on their front lawn have other issues in mind. "How will my neighbors react?" "How much is this going to cost?" "How much time is this going to take out of my day?" For the past few years Haeg has developed a practice where his own home in Los Angeles is turned into a salon of sorts, where projects and people come together. Part of the effort in taking this on, both for Haeg and his homeowners, is the commitment to see it through.
One of the byproducts of this process is that people end up growing their own food while sharing the inevitable overflow with others, very often their neighbors.
The traditional arguments around public and private space get a little reversed when it comes to the Edible Estates project. Typically, we bemoan the lack of public space and are critical of the power of developers to take what they want. What Edible Estates generates is as much a critique as it is an action: homeowners making gardens on the front lawns of their own property. So much money and effort is spent on beautifying the homes on TV and magazines. But for what? There is something to be said about the effort to turn private space into pubic space. After all, isn't bringing metaphors to life what art is really about?