This summer I had the pleasure of visiting with Bassem Samaan and seeing one of the finest examples of edible landscaping I’ve ever seen. Amidst the most typical of suburban neighborhoods in Bethlehem PA, Samaan has transformed his yard into a paradise of fruit. He is successfully growing an astoundingly wide variety: figs, pomegranates, guavas, maypops, pawpaws, persimmons, olives, jujubes, loquats, peaches, plums, apricots, asian pears, mulberries, che, currants, gooseberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, grapes, and kiwiberries. Some may be surprised that all these fruits can be grown an hour north of Philadelphia in climate zone 6. This is accomplished through careful selection of hardy varieties and container growing combined with a small greenhouse in the backyard. See my post “Fresh Figs for Cold Climates” for more information about techniques for protecting tender plants from cold.
Samaan has also started a small hobby business of propagating and selling fig varieties. He currently has almost 150 cultivars, many of which he collected and named himself from cuttings taken across the country. Check out Samman’s website (treesofjoy.com) for details about fig varieties and information about purchasing.
Needless to say, this is a powerful example of what can be done with a landscape. The lush bounty of Samaan’s landscape is in stark contrast to the yards surrounding his. He says his neighbors have shown little interest in what he’s done, not even bothering to pick the grapes on their side of a shared fence. A drastic change in mindset is needed! The suburbs, as unsustainable as they are in many ways, could easily be self-sufficient in fruit production.