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Budding Author With LCF Roots Pens New Gardening Book

December 16, 2004

by Jacqueline Chen

In his forthcoming book, "The Year I Ate My Yard", La Cañada native Tony Kienitz is referred to as a "vegetablarian," a title he invented to describe his professional affiliation.

From carrots to cabbage, chives to chickweed, Kienitz has spent most of the last decade teaching about and building organic vegetable gardens in homes, orchards, even vineyards all over Southern California. Unlike many backyard farms, aesthetics is emphasized in his residential plots; he mixes flowers and herbs with the vegetables, and sometimes includes inedibles.

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Kienitz attributes his love of flora to the garden of his childhood home on Orchard Lane in the Palm Crest area of La Cañada, which he described as an "absolute jungle." Every square inch of the yard had been planted with different types of herbs, flowers, fruits and vegetables, he recalls.

"We basically destroyed the garden as kids, playing hide and seek," he said, "but now, as a professional, I realize its greatness. I interacted with a very well-designed and established garden."

Kienitz spent his elementary and high school years in La Cañada's public schools. After graduating with a degree in theater from UCLA, he worked first as an actor, and then in various "Hollywood-type" posts, all the while growing vegetables as a hobby. The pastime grew into a calling when, one summer day in his late 20s, Kienitz brought six grocery bags of homegrown tomatoes to work, and sold them all in 10 minutes. The $40 in revenue paid for his entire garden for a whole year, and so a career was born.

His first horticultural job came in the form of fine garden expert at Hortus Nursery in Pasadena. He took care of its 10 organic vegetable garden customers, growing the client list to 120 after a year. Like many nurserymen, he also ran his own business out of his home, laying out edible landscapes. Each new client posed a different challenge. He remembers the cancer patient who wanted a garden that would provide foods for her macrobiotic diet, the child, fascinated by broccoli, whose parents wanted a variety of the vegetable in their garden year-round, as well as the thousands of families with children who refused to eat their greens.

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