Edible Landscaping

Edible landscaping is certainly not new, and as families try to make every dollar count, it's good to get double duty from your landscaping dollars and effort. Whether you grow flowering plants with edible parts or edible plants with beautiful flowers and leaves -- or both -- you combine practicality with aesthetics, feeding both body and soul.

Plant leaf lettuce, especially radicchio or spinach, for vibrant colors. Grow summer flowers to add to salads and herbs for teas. Add small fruit or nut trees and berry-producing shrubs to complete the picture. Even those with limited space can enjoy beautiful flowers and plants that are also a source of food.

Edible flowers

The dramatic sunflower comes in a wide variety of heights and colors, and the blossoms last for weeks. After the flowers have faded, the seed heads can be left to feed the birds or harvested for your family to enjoy.

Sunflowers are just one of dozens of edible garden flowers. Perhaps you've been served a colorful salad, complete with nasturtium or pansy petals, or have seen an elegant cake decorated with day lilies. Even the much-maligned dandelion is tender and flavorful. Zucchini has a bright yellow flower that is completely edible. Scarlet runner beans, not surprisingly, have bright red flowers that are also edible.

Shrubs

Many of your favorite shrubs might be a source or food, such as the rose hips from your roses. They are rich in vitamin C and are often used in herbal teas. Roses are just one of the many shrubs that can be grown as a low border or a hedge.

Others favorite foods can be grown as shrubs, including raspberries, blueberries and blackberries. Depending on your growing zone, you might be able to grow currants, gooseberries or plums as foundation plantings or cranberry or hazelnut bushes as screens, according to the National Gardening Association.

Fruit and nut trees

Many of our favorite fruits and nuts grow on sturdy yard trees that provide spring flowers, summer shade and autumn harvests of apples and pears. Pecan and walnut trees are other standard yard trees, and both provide heavy shade and edible nuts.

Those with limited space need not despair. Simple grape vines can be trained to grow along a fence or on an arbor. The grapes and their leaves are prized for both flavor and color. Small varieties of fruits trees are perfect for small yards and patio containers.

Don't forget the alliums and herbs

Garlic is an especially exotic-looking plant with a complex, purple globe-shaped flower atop a long, slender stalk. Chives and onions, likewise, add textural interest and color to the garden and great flavor to your favorite dishes.

Herbs can be light and lacy, such as dill, or thickly textured and intensely green, such as basil. Lavender and rosemary are other favorites, prized for their texture and fragrance before being harvested for cooking and baking. Rosemary stems make great skewers for grilling chicken. Mints and bee balm provide colorful flowers for the garden, while the leaves are harvested for tea.

Of course, you must be certain of the identity and the safety of the plant you are eating and even the part of the plant you are consuming. In some cases, the leaf or petal might be completely safe, while the berry could be poisonous. Consult a reliable source if you are uncertain. Your county extension service should be able to answer your questions. Or consult reputable sources such as What's Cooking America for suggestions and precautions. Then start your own edible landscape.

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