Multi-colored heirloom tomatoes, plump, ripe berries, mint, squash, cucumbers, green beans…there’s just no substitute for fresh-from-the garden fruits and vegetables. Even if you don’t have the time, space or inclination to plant traditional rows of produce in your yard, you can harvest this kind of bounty right at home—in your flower beds!
It’s called foodscaping. It’s the art of integrating edible plants into your ornamental garden design.
Think about it: Why does a landscape have to consist of only ornamental shrubs and flowers? Many veggies, fruits and herbs are quite beautiful and can add texture and color to a garden. A well-designed foodscape can be a visually thrilling smorgasbord of food-bearing bushes, trees, vines, grasses, bulbs and ground-cover, all in harmony with the traditional inhabitants of our time-honored residential garden landscapes.
Foodscaping isn’t a new concept. I’ve been adding herbs into landscapes for many years. Lavender, thyme, oregano, rosemary, sage, chives and many others look right at home in decorative gardens, especially drought tolerant ones. These are all perennials.
In fact, adding herbs to your garden can be an easy way to wade into foodscaping. Why not plant some citrusy lemongrass, which resembles ornamental grasses, has a heavenly aroma and sways with the garden’s gentle breezes. Texas tarragon has beautiful leaves and lovely yellow blossoms, and Thai basil has purple stems, purple-veined, lush green leaves and dazzling purple flowers. I like to plant enough of these to leave the flowers on some for their beauty and dead-head others to facilitate flavor development in the leaves.
Annual vegetables have a place in the garden, too, whether in beds or in containers. Something as simple as planting cherry tomatoes in a pot with sunny marigolds—also edible—will be appreciated in your landscape and at your dinner table.
For winter plantings, I like to incorporate edible kale, cabbage and parsley into containers. My favorite winter flower is the viola, a more petite version of the pansy. Both are wonderful in salads.
Besides the obvious benefits of getting fresh, garden-to-table produce, combining ornamental and edible plants can wake up a garden with an explosion of new shapes, textures, colors and aromas. Plus, properly-planned foodscaping creates a healthy, biodiverse ecosystem in the landscape, reducing or eliminating the need for pesticides on food. And it can win over even the most restrictive HOAs.
Based on the results I’ve enjoyed and the interest I’m getting from clients, I plan to do a lot more foodscaping. I’ll be writing more about it, too, so keep an eye out for more on this topic in future posts.
Meanwhile, if you’re interested in learning more, check out The Foodscape Revolution: Finding a Better Way to Make Space for Food and Beauty in Your Garden, by Brie Arthur (2017, St. Lynn’s Press). It really recharged my interest in this sensible and exciting concept.