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Here's Why You Should Be Using Edible Plants In Your Landscape!

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OVERVIEW:

If you’ve ever wondered about incorporating edible plants into your landscape design but weren’t sure where to start you’ve come to the right place! Edible Landscapes are fast becoming one of the hottest home and garden trends going and for great reason. Did you know small edibles and fruit trees were the most googled plant category in 2022 and continue to lead the top plant searches of 2023!? Edible plants and trees can provide immense ornamental value and structure to gardens and landscapes while providing the added benefit of home-grown organic fruit for your family and much more! In this article we go over the many benefits of using edible plants in landscape design, practical ways to effectively use edible plants in your landscape and the best edible plants to use in each recommended application.

The Benefits:

With such a long list of benefits to edible landscapes its no wonder they are becoming so highly popular! When thinking about beautifying and structuring landscapes and gardens edible plants and trees may not come to mind first. People may think of planting a few berry bushes or fruit trees as an after thought but may not think of incorporating them into the structure of they’re landscape. The reality is that many edible plants provide great structure in the landscape and are just as, if not more ornamental than some nonedible trees and shrubs and provide a plethora of additional benefits when used right in the landscape.  

Free Organic Homegrown Fruit:

The most obvious benefit of using ornamental edible plants to provide beauty in your design is that they also provide home grown organic fruit for you to use in preserves, dishes, freeze or eat fresh as you desire, some with very minimal maintenance required. Although many people associate fruit growing with a need for pruning, spraying etc. there are many low maintenance options that can be grown with out extra curricular care. With the rising cost and lowering quality of fresh fruit available in our supermarkets and people becoming more health aware this is a very highly desirable benefit.

Achieve More with Less Space:

With the size of the average Canadian yard becoming smaller and smaller it makes more sense then ever to use dual purpose edible ornamental plants to achieve the most beneficial and desirable landscape possible in these smaller spaces or fit even more into larger spaces. A beautiful hedge that also serves as an edible berry or a beautifully fragrant and blooming tree that can provide apples or plums at the end of the season is a perfect example of this.

Provide Beneficial Food And Habitat For Wildlife:

Edible plants are great if you’re looking to add something to your landscape that will attract beneficial birds and wildlife and provide beneficial food and habitat so that you can enjoy viewing magnificent visitors such as songbirds, squirrels and more in your yard! Plant a saskatoon or currant bush and enjoy your share of baking or jams before leaving the rest to your magical winged friends.

Create A More Environmentally Friendly, Sustainable And Healthy Ecosystem:

Incorporating edibles into your landscape design is the best way to create a healthy and happy ecosystem on your property. By attracting beneficial wildlife, undesirable pests and the disease that come with them become less of a problem. Beneficial wildlife naturally bring the severity of these pest and disease problems down drastically because aphids and other problem pests that regularly plague gardens and landscapes are some of there favorite treats to eat. Simply put adding edibles to your landscape is absolutely essential for creating an environment where plants, wildlife, insects and humans can live in harmony and with benefit to each other! Adding edibles to the landscape can drastically improve your ecosystem and the overall health of your property.

Provide An Unexpected Source Of Color:

Edibles plants can provide an unexpected pop of color at the hottest time of the year when other flower color is far and few in between. Think of beautiful bright red or bold black berries that pop out on a backdrop of lush green foliage. This effect can provide awesome texture to your garden designs when most other colors are gone or faded!

Practical Uses And Applications

Hedging

Edible Shrub Hedge

There are many edible shrubs that provide a variety of wonderful hedging options for the landscape!


Formal/Border: Blueberry and Elderberry bushes are 2 great options that create an effective and practical formal hedge that can stand up to standard hedging plants commonly used in today’s landscapes. These work great to border a property or define a specific areas perimeter. With beautiful attributes such as a bounty of spring flowers, lush foliage that shears well and delightful fall color with the added bonus of an organic homegrown crop of berries you really can’t go wrong with a blueberry or elderberry hedge!


Screening/Informal: If you’re looking for a more fast-growing informal hedge to provide height and privacy quickly Blackberry, Haskap, and even Hazelnut can be very effective options. Haskaps and Blackberry are extremely durable and low maintenance plants, haskaps being one of the earliest plants to bloom providing a welcome burst of early flowers followed by delicious blueberry like fruit that will be the first berry to harvest each season. Blackberry will also provide a flush of white blooms followed by a fireworks display of colorful and delectable berries all on a thick wall of lush green foliage. Haskap and Blackberry grows quickly to form a nice hedge that can be shaped or left informal and will provide a thick wall of lush green foliage in the landscape with spring blooms, edible berries and yellow to red fall colors! Hazelnut can make a wonderful screen and can turn your landscape into a happy habitat for squirrels and more, and even provide a stunning effect in fall when the leaves turn a golden yellow. A bountiful hazelnut harvest is a great bonus!


Living Fence/Barrier: Seaberry (Sea Buckthorn) and Black raspberry are great when you desire an impermeable barrier that animals and humans can’t breach. They form a thicket of thorny branches that act as a wall or living fence. The blooms of seaberry and black raspberry are quite inconspicuous but when the plants are covered in bright orange or black berries it creates an amazing texture and color in the landscape. While seaberries are great for making healthy juice and black raspberries are great eaten fresh either option will provide the bonus of an edible harvest and what you can’t pick will be highly enjoyed by your winged friends.


Hedging Summary: Although we have discussed a few of the most practical edible plants for hedging there are hundreds that can be used in the same manner. When choosing edible plants for hedging there are many options so make sure to choose plants that match your desired height width etc. For a more formal hedge use slower growing plants that are more behaved in the landscape and shear well. For informal screening use a fast-growing plant that will reach the desired height as quickly as possible. For a living fence or barrier use plants that quickly form thorny impenetrable thickets.


Click To View Varieties And Detailed Info On: Blueberry, Elderberry, Hazelnut, Blackberry, Haskap, Seaberry, Black Raspberry.

Small Specimen Tree

Apple Blossoms On A Tree/ Apples Growing On A Tree

Fruit trees such as apple, pear, plum, hardy cherry and crabapple can make for a high performing specimen tree in your landscape. Many varieties of these types of fruit trees are very low maintenance and don’t require the pruning and spraying most people associate with having fruit trees. All of these provide a profusion of beautiful and fragrant blooms in spring that will be highly enjoyed by humans and pollinators alike. Most of these fruit trees are semi dwarf and provide the perfect size small specimen tree for your landscape. They work great as an anchor or focal point and will out compete your standard ornamental tree with just as much ornamental value plus the payout of homegrown organic fruit you will receive each season. These fruit trees even provide reliable fall color in autumn! There’s not much the right fruit tree can’t provide to your landscape. When choosing a fruit tree to incorporate into your landscape make sure to choose low maintenance and hardy varieties that are semi dwarf and avoid high maintenance types like peach, nectarine and sweet cherry (prunus avium).


Click To View Varieties And Detailed Info On: Apple, Plum, Pear, Hardy Cherry, Crabapple.

Shade Tree

Ornamental Serviceberry Tree in fall colour/ tapping a sugar maple tree in winter

Although unorthodox some edible trees can also make for a great dual purpose shade tree! Serviceberry, Nut trees such as chestnut and butternut and even sugar maples can provide a unique opportunity to reap the rewards of an edible shade tree. Serviceberry reach about 30 ft tall and provide unmatched qualities in every season such as profuse and fragrant spring blooms, delicious edible berries and stunning fall colors of orange, yellow and red! A chestnut, walnut or butternut can provide these same qualities in a larger package, or try planting a stunning sugar maple and tapping it for maple sap! When choosing your shade tree try to find something that will give back to you and provide something of value.


Click To View Varieties And Detailed Info On: Serviceberry Tree, Chestnut, Walnut, Butternut, Sugar Maple Tree.

Ground Covers

Edible Ground cover bee balm plants and Lingonberry

A great place to incorporate edible plants is as a ground cover! Edible ground covers require very minimal space and can be tucked into existing landscapes with minimal effort. perennial herbs and creeping berries such as beebalm and wild ginger and lingonberry, strawberry and creeping blueberry are great at choking out weeds and covering tough to deal with areas. These can also be used to line pathways, cover banks and slopes, use as a living mulch and much more. Choose faster growing plants such as beebalm and ginger to quickly cover an area. Ginger can be grown in very shady conditions and beebalm likes full sun so make sure to consider your sun exposure when choosing plants for this application. If your looking for a more well behaved ground cover go for more slower growing types like blueberry and lingonberry. Pay attention to your desired height when choosing edible groundcovers for your landscape as some only get 2 inches and others reach a foot in height.


Click Here To View Varieties And Detailed Info On: Lingonberry, Strawberry, Creeping Blueberry, Beebalm, Ginger.

Cover A Wall Or Trellis

Kiwi vines

There are some wonderful perennial vining edibles that are just as ornamental as they are delicious. Kiwi vines boast stunning foliage and provide effective and fast coverage to a wall or trellis that you are trying to cover. They are also extremely low maintenance and provide a unique bounty of specialty fruit. Hardy grapes such as Somerset, Beta and Valiant can bring the same qualities to your landscape. Try Schisandra Berry for a totally unique edible/ornamental vine with immense value.  While vining edibles aren’t landscape design staples, we recommend trying one out in replacement of that climbing rose or wisteria in your yard.


Click Here To View Varieties And Detailed Info On: Kiwi, Grape, Schisandra Berry.



Use In A Container Garden

Growing Edibles In Containers

Edible plants can lend a surprising and incredibly ornamental value to your container garden. Thornless raspberries and blackberries, dwarf blueberries and perennial herbs like hyssop and sage are just some of the plants that can improve your container gardens with the bonus of an edible harvest! Shortcake® Raspberry and Baby Cakes™ Blackberry are an awesome choice to use as a container center piece with there colorful fireworks of berries and spring blooms with great fall color. Try the Tri-Color Culinary Sage or Morello Hyssop for unique color all whilst growing fresh herbs to be used on demand in your favorite dishes! Almost all edibles provide some ornamental value. Make sure to choose edibles that don’t get too large so they can continue to be successfully grown in your container garden year after year.


Click Here To View Varieties And Detailed Info On: Thornless Raspberry, Thornless Blackberry, Dwarf Blueberry, Hyssop, Sage.

Conclusion:

Incorporating edible plants into to your landscape design is a great way to create an environment where plants, wildlife, insects and humans can live in harmony and with maximum benefit to each other! Adding edibles to the landscape can drastically improve your ecosystem and the overall health of your property and family!

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