Edible landscaping isn’t a new concept. Going back as far as the ancient Egyptians and their neighbors, we find grape arbors, olive trees, and a variety of other fruit and nut trees planted in formal gardens. They provided shade, beauty and handy fresh-picked snacks. Victorian and American colonial gardens included both culinary and medicinal herbs planted with ornamental flowering plants. Today, you too can incorporate fruits, vegetables and herbs in your landscaping; many of them are as nice to look at as they are yummy to eat!
Trees & Shrubs with Fruits
If you already have an established landscape design, you don’t have to pull it all out and start over to join the edible landscaping bandwagon. When trees or shrubs need to be replaced, switch to fruit trees that also provide shade, fragrant spring flowers and bring soft lines to the landscape. Persimmon and apple trees, along with pecans and walnuts, provide food, shade, and bright pops of color when the fruits ripen.
You might also consider dwarf varieties of apple, banana, citrus, fig, and cherry trees, planted in containers if you don’t have a lot of ground space for larger trees. Make it easier to move the plants around, or to protect them during bad weather, by filling the bottom half of the containers with empty plastic water or soda bottles. This also saves you money because you will need less soil to fill the planters, and the space around the bottles acts as a water reservoir, which means you can water them less often.
Edibles for Flower Gardens
Deck out your existing flower beds with edibles, as well.
- Define the borders of the beds – lettuce, green onion or parsley.
- Add height and texture to the back of the beds – dill, corn, beans or fennel.
- Great along a fence line – cherry tomatoes or sunflowers.
Edible Flowers Add a Splash of Color
Nasturtiums provide vitamins A and C, and make a tossed salad extra special. Pansies and violas add a splash of violet, pink, yellow or white to both the garden and your salads, while pineapple sage and scarlet runner beans bring in brilliant scarlet hues. Garland chrysanthemums (Glebionis coronaria) add yellows, while pot marigolds and African marigolds bring deep oranges and golds to the party. Scented geraniums in white, pink and purple not only offer edible flowers and color, but their fragrances are pleasant as you relax on the porch.
Pro Tip: Rose hips, the seed pod that forms below the flowers, are an excellent source of vitamin C when brewed into a tea or made into jelly.
Grow Your Own Berries
Of course, you can’t forget the berry bushes. Not only are they attractive in the garden, but the fruits are also terrific tossed raw into salads or cooked into pies, muffins, and jams or jellies. With the wide range of their peak seasons, they’ll add color for weeks, especially if you plant gooseberries, blackberries, blueberries, currants, as well as red and black raspberries.
Edible Plants with Pretty Leaves
Other edibles blend well with more traditional landscaping as well. Purple leaf basil as a border adds texture and color, while the wispy fronds of fennel add movement in the garden breezes. Sage complements succulents especially well, while marigolds and peppers bring out the best looks in each other. Try red-leaf lettuce and calendula in window boxes, or mix rainbow Swiss chard with French sorrel for a luscious green background.
Edible landscaping brings whole new meaning to putting your money where your mouth is and reaping what you sow! Find edible plants to incorporate into your garden HERE.