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Edible landscapes deliver food and beauty

August 05, 2013
  • Annette Ipsan
Annette Ipsan

Spies are sneaking into my carefully arranged garden beds. Herbs are lurking in my perennials. Fruits have infiltrated my herb bed. Tomatoes and squash are harboring sunflowers and catmint. And you know what? I like it. 

I have discovered the joys of edible landscaping, mixing in plants you can eat with those that you can’t.

It’s smart, lovely and sensible. Why not tuck in beautiful edibles among your posies?

More gardeners are growing their own food because it’s healthier and kinder to the environment. Fresher tastes better, is better for you, and saves the resources — gas, money and more — it takes to transport food hundreds of miles to your local grocer. 

Plus, many of us are gardening in smaller spaces. It just makes sense to use that limited space well by combining flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables. 

Edible landscapes can be incredibly beautiful. Think of ruffled lettuce, burgundy basil, or the technicolor marvel that is rainbow chard. They are lovely and look terrific tucked in among traditional ornamentals. 

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This is all Rosalind Creasy’s fault. The diva of edible landscaping, she has been preaching integration of all things edible for more than 25 years. Her own garden is her living lab, showcasing her passion for plants that feed both our bodies and souls.  

Watching a recent webinar spotlighting Rosalind’s techniques, I was impressed with her gardens’ vigor, productivity and loveliness. She changes the garden often to illustrate how edibles can be used creatively.

Her most recent book, “Edible Landscaping,” is a stylish showcase. 

Red tulips pop from speckled lettuce. Pears drape over an arbor. Red and yellow peppers pop from a crimson planter. Edible pansies and nasturtiums do-si-do with perennials. Herbs fan in front of giant lupines. Tiny cabbages march through a turquoise grid. Seeing is believing.

Edible landscaping is not a new concept. In days gone by, when a garden’s purpose was at its most practical — the feeding of our families — almost all of what we grew was edible. Flowers were an aesthetic afterthought. As we prospered, we flipped the equation, growing pretty things to say, “I can afford NOT to grow food.” 

I say why not have it all? Beauty and food. An edible landscape can be as lovely as any landscape and feed you as well. 

So, I skirt my Tardiva hydrangea with variegated thyme and grow its lemony cousin by my doorstep. I pluck tiny alpine strawberries from my herb bed and snip basil from a fat clay pot under a tumble of coral honeysuckle. And if I listen carefully, I can hear my best patch of black raspberries nearby whispering, “jam, jam, jam.” 

And I’m just getting started. I want nuts and figs and espaliered fruit trees. I want more berries and enough greens to keep the bunnies and me well-fed. I want to snack from every garden bed. Is that really too much to ask? I think not. 

So try some incredible edibles in your garden. It’s food. It’s fun. And it looks fabulous. 
 
Annette Ipsan is the Extension educator for horticulture and the Master Gardener program in Washington County for the University of Maryland in Washington County.  She can be reached at 301-791-1604 or aipsan@umd.edu.

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