Landscaping with Edibles
Ornamental gardening, often characterized by lush flowerbeds and carefully arranged shrubs and trees, has been a beloved pastime and hobby for generations. However, a trend has emerged in recent years, as gardeners are increasingly blending the aesthetics of ornamental plants with the practicality of fruits and vegetables. This innovative approach to gardening combines beauty with utility, creating vibrant, edible landscapes that not only delight the eye but also nourish the body.
One of the primary reasons for the growing popularity of ornamental gardening with edibles is the aesthetic appeal of these plants. For instance, imagine a garden where tomatoes, with their vibrant red and yellow hues, are grown alongside sunflowers, creating a cheerful and visually stimulating display. This juxtaposition of colors and texture is a testament to the remarkable potential of combining beauty with utility.
Another aspect to consider is the diverse foliage that many edible plants offer. The lush, deep color of Swiss chard, for example, provides a striking contrast when planted next to the fine-textured foliage of ornamental grasses. Or plant big-leaf hosta next to carrots with their lush green lacey tops. This harmonious blend of textures and colors enhances the garden’s overall appeal and demonstrates that edible plants can be just as visually striking as their ornamental counterparts.
The integration of fruits and vegetables into ornamental gardening goes beyond aesthetics, offering a range of practical benefits. The practice promotes sustainability, self-sufficiency, and a deeper connection to the food we consume. This can also be considered as a form of permaculture.
Sustainability is a critical concern in our modern world. By growing our own food in our ornamental gardens, we can reduce the carbon footprint associated with transporting produce from distant farms. This shift toward local, homegrown food is not only environmentally responsible but also contributes to the reduction of food waste and packaging.
Self-sufficiency is another key advantage of ornamental gardening with edibles. As we cultivate our gardens, we gain greater control over the quality and safety of the produce we consume. This empowerment allows us to reduce our reliance on industrial agriculture, which often employs harmful chemicals and unsustainable farming practices. Furthermore, by growing our own fruits and vegetables, we can reduce our grocery bills while enjoying organic, pesticide-free produce.
Consider planting a food forest patch as well. It is designed to mimic a natural forest with various layers, from trees to shrubs in the upper sections, to perennials, groundcovers, and vines on the ground plane. Fruits trees, nut trees, vegetables, and herbs can all be grown harmoniously in a food forest patch.
Freshly picked produce from your ornamental garden is at the peak of its nutritional value. Fruits and vegetables that are allowed to ripen on the vine are more nutrient-dense than those transported over long distances. This translates to more flavorful and healthier meals, and with careful planning the garden can produce edibles during three seasons of the year, providing the gardener with a diverse and rich menu.
The act of growing your own food also fosters a deeper appreciation for what you eat. When you witness the entire growth cycle, from seed to harvest, you develop a greater understanding of the effort and care required to produce food. This awareness often results in more mindful and sustainable dietary choices.
Ornamental gardening with fruits and vegetables represents a harmonious fusion of aesthetics and functionality, where beauty meets utility. This innovative approach not only enhances the visual appeal of gardens but also promotes sustainability, self-sufficiency, and healthier lifestyles.
As more gardeners embrace the idea of combining ornamental and edible plants, we can look forward to a future where our gardens are not only pleasing to the eye but also nurturing to the body and soul. By sowing the seeds of this practice, we can cultivate a more sustainable and mindful way of living, where the garden becomes a source of inspiration, nourishment, and connection with nature.
Have fun planning your next edible landscape, and let’s garden together. ▼
Eric W. Wahl is Landscape Architect at Pennoni Associates, and President of the Delaware Native Plant Society.
Photo credit: Annie Spratt on Unsplash.