Jess Haskins has built a career out of building edible landscapes across Houston. Her company, Patiovore, has planted gardens large and small, with an emphasis on low-maintenance fruits and vegetables that thrive in Houston's wild and wooly weather and our gummy, gunky soil. "Houston is really exciting," says Haskins. "We do have some extremes, but for the most part our climate can grow tropical plants, we can grow cold-weather plants...we have a huge selection of things we can grow."
When I talked to Haskins last week, she was in the middle of planting just such a variety of products: pineapple-guava, which she called a "low-maintenance, really nice-looking shrub," along with sapodilla trees, white sapote, and something called a jaboticaba. "You have these big fruits that grow right off of the trunk," Haskins said of the tree, native to Brazil. The purplish fruit is similar to a grape but much larger, and since it doesn't travel well it's rarely seen in grocery stores.
This jaboticaba—as well as the sapodilla—is just one of nearly 30 trees, shrubs, bushes, and vines that are available as part of Patiovore's holiday package, which gets you—or a lucky recipient—two fruit-bearing plants of your choice for $300. Also included in this price is a full consultation from Haskins in which she'll help you decide on the perfect plant for the perfect spot(s) in your yard. Patiovore bring its own tools and equipment, plants the trees, then leaves you with care instructions to make sure the new mini-orchard gives the gift of fruit for seasons to come.
For those simply in the market for fruit trees sans the full-service package, Haskins suggests checking out the annual Urban Harvest fruit tree sale next month on Saturday, January 17. The gardening non-profit is even offering classes leading up to the fruit tree sale for those intent on creating their own orchard. Prices for the fruit trees range from $15 for blueberry trees to $115 for olive trees.
"Growing food should be seen as an investment," says Haskins. "It’s got a higher up-front cost than just having your lawn guy throw together a bed," though in this case, $300 is a bargain for two fruit-bearing plants and installation. "You should spend a little more because if you do it right and maintain it well, you’ve got something that should give you food for years."