Sunset Magazine - Undercover Edibles

Beauty and bounty meet in a Bay Area front yard.

Designer Leslie Bennett, owner of Oakland-based Pine House Edible Gardens, was up for the challenge.

 February 2018 Issue of Sunset Magazine

February 2018 Issue of Sunset Magazine



Ronald Koo and Miwa Hayashi had seemingly conflicting visions when they thought of redesigning their Los Altos, California, front yard. Koo wanted low-water plants, while Hayashi imagined a lush garden. Oh, and the couple wanted to grow food too: “If I’m going to spend money on a garden,” says Koo, “I want to get some return.”

Designer Leslie Bennett, owner of Oaklandbased Pine House Edible Gardens (pinehouse, was up for the challenge.

First, as a throwback to Koo’s childhood in the dry Sierra Foothills, Bennett and the team from her former company (Star Apple Edible Gardens) kept the yard’s existing manzanita bushes, added silver-leafed fuchsias (Zauschneria septentrionalis), and seeded blocks (with Koo’s help) of iconic orange poppies.

“The garden is at its most beautiful after the rainy season when they’re in bloom,” he says. The orange hue of the manzanita branches and poppy blossoms—along with x Graptoveria ‘Fred Ives’ and Carex testacea—complements the house’s oiled-redwood exterior.

And with Hayashi’s wishes in mind, Bennett created a dense look in adding three varieties of clumping bamboo, chartreuse Coleonema pulchellum ‘Sunset Gold’, and a deep purple smoke bush.

Then Bennett snuck in the bounty. “The idea was to marry food production with a truly modern landscape,” she says. With fig, ‘Fuyu’ persimmon, loquat, myoga ginger, passion fruit, and pineapple guava just steps from their door,

Hayashi has ample ingredients for making traditional Japanese dishes, and Koo has plenty to snack on. “Our own fruit,” he says, “tastes so much better than what you find at the store.”  

Country Gardens Magazine - Leslie Bennett Interview

"It is so exciting when clients call and tell me about their kids’ first blueberry harvest or how they grilled shishito peppers for the first time and they were so delicious or how they just realized that it is so nice to be able to make other people happy by gathering flowers from the garden and giving them away. It’s those simple things, which are so easy to get far away from in modern life, that I love most."

Country Gardens Interview Leslie Bennett.png

January 2018 Issue of Country Gardens Magazine