Stay on trend with edible landscaping. Your clients want to do more in less space, which means edible plants mixed in with ornamentals rather than consigning them to their own fruit or vegetable garden. By combining beauty with function, you help your clients improve sustainability, enjoy dual-purpose gardens, jump on the "foodscaping" bandwagon, and enjoy their outdoor space in a health and wellness capacity.
Break out of your loropetalum and lantana rut with these top 10 ornamental edibles — your clients will appreciate your sophistication and on-trend garden aesthetic.
- Crabapples, figs & fruit trees: Treat your clients with smaller properties as well as those with larger spaces to a selection of fruit trees, from the more ornamental crabapples to fully productive apple and pear trees, to citrus and fig. Apple, fig, and pear trees, in particular, are perfect candidates for espalier, that time-honored and space-saving art — and for clients with more significant acreage, allées and orchards are elegant additions. Be aware, however, of those cultivars that are not self-pollinating, as you'll need to plan more than one variety to ensure pollination.
- Serviceberry: (Amelanchier spp.) Technically this flowering tree could be lumped with fruit trees, but it isn't a traditional edible. It does, however, offer four season interest with smooth gray bark and an upright growth habit that shines during the winter, white flowers in spring, red fruits in the summer, and brilliant orange-red fall color. There are many varieties and species of serviceberry, ranging in hardiness from USDA zones 3-9, depending on the species. If we were to pick one perfect "small tree," this would be it.
- Rosemary: (Rosmarinus officinalis) This Mediterranean heat lover — evergreen in some zones — is the ideal stand-in for same-old clipped shrubs. Drought tolerant, cold tolerant to about 20 degrees, and deer resistant, this aromatic shrub has a variety of edible uses. From seasoning and marinades to garnishes and infused liqueurs, rosemary is a looker in its natural form but responds well to topiary shaping as well. Reliably hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 7-10, with 'Arp' hardy to zone 6.
- Blueberries: (Vaccinium corymbosum and V. angustifolium ) How about an edible berry with white springtime flowers and scarlet fall foliage? You can have that with a blueberry bush. Or, if you're into edible hedges, make that blueberry bushes. Easy to grow in full sun and acidic soil, blueberries are partially self-fertile but will produce more if two or more varieties are planted. Lowbush (V. angustifolium) blueberries are hardy from Zones 3-7, but are considered more of the "wild" type of blueberry and not as readily available for landscaping purposes. For ornamental landscaping, look for highbush varieties (V. corymbosum) such as 'Bluecrop,' 'Herbert,' 'Ivanhoe,' and 'Berkeley,' hardy from Zones 4-7.
- Roses: (Rosa spp.) Ever seen the brightly colored fruits that form on pollinated roses in the late summer or fall? Those are rose hips, and they're packed Vitamin C and are used to make jellies, jams, teas, and syrups. Most roses can set rose hips, but some of the more beautiful landscape roses include Rosa spp. 'Happy Chappy,' 'Carefree Delight,' 'Pink Robin,' 'Golden Wings,' and 'Cassie.' Rosa rugosa, a salt-tolerant, drought-tolerant native selection produces the largest rose hips, of virtually any rose. Great for tough growing situations.
- Elderberry: (Sambucus spp.) Elderberry everything is taking the wellness industry by storm right now, but in addition to its impressive health and culinary attributes, this large shrub is decidedly stunning in the ornamental garden. Fragrant, edible flowers with nutrient-rich purple berries set off attractive foliage — this plant has it all. Some of the best landscape selections include 'Adams,' 'Black Lace,' 'Nova,' and 'York.' Look for both S. nigra and S. canadensis (Hardiness Zones 3-8) but avoid S. racemosa, which has poisonous berries.
- Grapes: (Vitis spp.) The most ornamental of all grapevines is Vitis vinifera 'Purpurea,' with its beautiful lobed leaves that range from deep red to dark purple in the fall. Vitis coignetiae, the Crimson Glory Vine has heart-shaped leaves that turn red-orange to purple in the fall. Grapes can be trained for years into intricate cordons and patterns and make a big splash in the fall with their foliage. Most ornamental types are hardy in zones 6-9 and also produce edible fruits.
- Hops: (Humulus spp.) Hops are mostly in the edible category for home brewers but deserve to be on a list of edibles with excellent landscape value. Gorgeous vining plants are hardy in USDA zones 4-8. Butterflies love their flowers, and their fast growth habit makes them ideal for covering up eyesores. Their fruits, called cones, are usually ready to pick and dry in August or September or can be left on the plant for more visual interest.
- Chives: Onion chives (Allium schoenoprasum) and garlic chives (A. tuberosum) are both edible ornamentals that are ideal for bordering or edging a perennial bed, herb garden, or in container gardens. Leaves and flowers have either onion or garlic flavors and deliciously dress up herb butters, oils, and vinegars. Your culinary-loving clients should not be without this one! USDA Hardiness Zones 3-10.
- Artichoke: (Cardoon spp.) Also called French artichoke and globe artichoke, the edible part of this plant is the flower buds that precede the bloom. But, oh, the bloom! A thistle-type lavender flower set off with large jagged leaves — this plant is architectural and showy, to state the obvious. Eat it or not; its beauty is reason enough for inclusion in mixed borders. USDA Hardiness Zones 7-11.