Updated: Jan 6, 2022
Beautiful Crape Myrtles, Boxwood and Burford Holly, all have their place in the landscape because they are pleasing to the eye. However, planting edible plants into the same landscape can have an equally pleasing effect to the stomach.
Known today as Foodscaping, it is the incorporation of edible plants into an already pre-existing landscape. There is evidence of this practice for centuries. Herbs, vegetables and fruit trees, made up elaborate gardens as far back as the Mesopotamia age. Babylonians and Assyrians planted edible plants throughout their cities, and in palace courtyards.
The gardens are often described as “Paradise.”
Paradise indeed. Creatively reorganizing our concept of what a typical landscape should look like, can lead to delightful discoveries.
Enchanting aromas can have an uplifting effect on one’s mood.
Sweet-smelling, tasty plants become almost therapeutic, and a welcome pastime rather than a chore. Even hand-watering can turn into a Zen like exercise.
To start with, any one of the upright rosemary’s makes a dense hedge spaced eighteen to twenty inches apart. They will create a beautiful texture and color contrast against such ornamentals as variegated privet ligustrum. Sprigs of Rosemary can be clipped fresh, or dried and ground into culinary dishes, I tie a bunch together and use as a brush when grilling, and tie small bunches and hang, to freshen the air in rooms of my home.
Planted in front of established shrubs, Mexican marigold mint forms a two-foot mound of lovely golden flowers. This under used perennial, imparts a sweet licorice flavor, similar to French Tarragon.
Cool weather edible flowers like violas, pansy and nasturtium group well with tender green of kale and many varieties of colored chard and colorful lettuce. These flowers can be planted in September through December.
Calendula, also called Pot Marigold by herb growers, offers orange and yellow “Rays of Sunshine” even on the dullest winter day. Calendulas have many uses. The flower petals are edible and used to dye cloth and paper. Boiled down, it serves as a soothing poultice on skin inflammation and sunburn.
Garden Purslane (Portulaca oleracea sativa) is an upright salad green with very succulent leaves and yellow flowers. They are mild in flavor, crunchy like iceberg lettuce, and said to be high in vitamins and antioxidants.
Spring planting a border of onion or garlic chives in and around ornamentals will help to deter pests. In addition, the puffy purple blossoms are delicious in any salad, or dip combination.
In areas that need widespread ground coverage, consider Greek oregano, creeping thyme, or any variety of mint. Given the right spot, they can quickly spread.
Heading into the summer months, Lemon and Orange Gem Marigolds (Tagetes signata) offer dainty masses of citrus scented flowers, on rounded one- foot bushes. Petals are plucked off and added to salads and sugar cookie recipes.
If you want a touch of burgundy color in your garden, edibles will provide it nicely.
Red Shiso (Perilla frutenscens) is an attractive burgundy perennial with a mild curry flavor. And can grow to two - three feet. Red Tea Hibiscus, also a dark burgundy beauty can serve as a background plant in warmer areas, or as an annual in colder spots. A tender perennial, it’s mild sour flavor blends in well with other salad greens, and makes a wonderful refreshing tea.
Combine hibiscus with grey Sage “biergarten” planted in the foreground. This fragrant edible sage mounds up to ten inches tall and spreads twenty inches wide. It’s a nice color contrast. Both adapt well to intense summer heat and drought conditions.
Red or purple basils are colorful herbs that deserve a spot in the summer landscape. Easy to grow from both seed and starter plants, and used in pesto and dried blends. They also add a natural pink blush to herbal vinegars.
In Zone 8ab most of these perennials can be planted in late summer for fall and winter, or early spring harvest. Most need full sun early in the season, but as the summer heats up, shading from existing ornamentals is much appreciated.
Consider alsadding peach, jujube, loquat, apple, pear, plum, pomegranate, fig, and persimmon trees to your landscape. The spring flowers on some, though short lived are beautiful.
Well-drained, friable soil is a must to successful edibles and ornamentals. Amending your soil with organic compost is helpful. Being consistent in your organic practices is important for taste of all your edibles. A foliar feeding of earthworm casting tea is recommended, if available.
Mulching in the hot summer months and into winter will improve soil fertility, suppress weeds and protect roots. Disease and pest damage occur less often when your plants are growing in healthy soil. You can start most plants from seeds yourself or buy organically grown plants.
I’ve provided a few links to my favorite seed companies and some information on the edible landscape. Happy Planting!