Edible Plants in Gardening
It’s that time of year when garden centers are full, and you just can’t seem to squeeze enough hours out of the day to get your yard done. With budgets tightening, many folks are considering growing food instead of just pretty flowers. But fear not – just because a plant is edible, it doesn’t have to be ugly. In fact, with a little thought you can create a beautiful, edible landscape that feeds all your sense. Take a look at some of our favorite edibles.
List of common edible plants
Espalier and Miniature Fruit Trees
Espalier is an ancient European art of training trees and shrubs to grow on a flat plan or along a fence. It’s a technique that has been commonly used for fruit trees. Training takes time and espaliered fruit trees require pruning 2-3 times a year. While they may take some work, the pay off is exquisite!
Some of the more common fruit trees that can be espaliered are:
- Miniature Citrus Trees
Dwarf or miniature citrus trees can make excellent container plants to accent landscaping designs or they can be incorporated into permanent landscaping in warmer growth zones. These miniatures produce fragrant flowers, followed by full-sized citrus fruit.
Popular dwarf varieties include:
- Meyer Lemon
- Venous Orange
- Washington Navel Orange
- Tango Mandarin
- Clementine Mandarin
- Kieffer Lime
- Key Lime
- Sweet Lime
Blueberry bushes can grow 7-12 feet tall, depending on the variety. They make an excellent landscaping backdrop or when planted in rows, they can serve as a natural hedge.
These bushes do best in acidic soils (pH between 4.1 and 5.0). Soil that is naturally not acidic can be supplemented to create the ideal pH. Blueberries like plenty of sunlight for ripening but, they can do just fine without morning sun (I have three bushes that do quite well on the west side of the house).
Blueberry flowers have both male and female organs within the same flower, but not all varieties are self-pollinating. It is best to have at least two varieties that flower around the same time (There are early season versus late season varieties.) Try to pick two early varieties or two late varieties and plant within at least 100 feet of each other. They tend to do well with as little as five feet between which can increases the amount of cross-pollination by bees.
Unlike blueberries, blackberries grow as canes. They love full sun and a slightly acidic to neutral soil pH (pH 6.5 to 7).
While blackberries are typically known for their nasty thorns, there are thornless varieties.
Thornless blackberries reach a mature height of 5 feet and canes behave similar to vines when growing. Trellising the canes allow for more airflow and keeps them from going crazy. More airflow and better access to sunlight with trellising can increase fruit yield!
There are many varieties of raspberries. Again these grow as canes and most varieties do have have thorns on the canes – so handle with care! However, there is at least one variety of thornless raspberry (known as “Joan J”). Raspberries also do best with some kind of trellising or support. NB! With all three types of berries, covering the fruit with bird netting before the fruit ripens is essential if you wish to have fruit for yourself!
There are a number of herb and flower blossoms that are edible and the parent plants make for beautiful landscaping. Here is just a SMALL sampling of herbs and flowers that produce edible blossoms that you can consider incorporating into your landscaping:
Along with the green leaves, chive blossoms are edible. The taste is a blended combination of garlic and onion. Also lavender blossoms are well known for their use in tea but, they are also excellent for use in cookies, cakes, and ice cream. Culinary lavender is becoming quite popular. For example, lavender blossoms can be used as an edible garnish on meat and potatoes.
There are a surprising large number of flowers that are edible. Below is a sampling of some of the more popular ones. Be absolutely sure you have identified the flower properly and only eat the portion of the flower considered edible.
Nasturtium have a peppery taste and are easy to grow.
Pansy and violets have a mild, minty flavor. They are popular either candied or as décor on cakes. Violets can be used to make tea, cake, and syrup. Rose petals have a sweet taste. They are also commonly candied and used as décor on cakes. Scented Geraniums’ (Pelargonium species) flavor often corresponds to the variety. For example, a lemon-scented geranium has lemon scented flowers with a hint of lemon taste. The flowers and leaves are great for teas and on salads. Daylily flowers have a slightly sweet mild vegetable flavor. Note that these can act as a mild diuretic or laxative so they should be eaten in moderation!