I’ve written before about the before and after transformation of our front yard. I’ve also written about the big decision to part ways with our big leaf maple. The structural changes we’ve made to this area have created the perfection conditions for edible landscaping. The area has great soil (we had this brought in to fill in and elevate the space) and, with a SW orientation, lots of sun. Because of the curved, slightly sloping and terraced nature of this area, it would never support a typical raised bed garden. That’s fine, though, because I’ve already got a number of raised beds in other areas. It wouldn’t make sense to try to make this area something it isn’t. Instead, the plan is to take advantage of the natural strengths of this part of our landscape and to transform it into something unique to the site and special in its own way.
What is edible landscaping? As Rosalind Creasy writes,
“Edible landscaping is the practical integration of food plants within an ornamental or decorative setting. The same design principles as for ornamental landscapes are used, while substituting edible plants such as lettuces, blueberries, vegetables and fruit trees for some of the otherwise unproductive plant material. Using edibles in landscape design can enhance a garden by providing a unique ornamental component with additional health, aesthetic, and economic benefits. Edible landscaping is a mixture of beauty and utility.”
In many ways, this takes me back to my original gardening roots. Prior to focusing on food growing, I primarily did ornamental gardening. When we moved to this house ten years ago, I shifted focus and began developing food growing skills. Edible landscaping merges both of these areas of interest. So let’s take a look at how this is coming along.
The new structural elements in this area are largely food producing. Three cherry trees and a crab apple join the Japanese maple, mock orange, and lilacs. The next layer down (in terms of eventual height) include numerous blueberries, black currants, a few smaller rhododendrons, pieris, azalea, and daphne.
We just added three half wine barrels, which are currently planted with a mix of squash (delicata) and cosmos. Also notable are the rocks. When we filled in this area, we brought in a large, interesting rock for a focal point. You can see this slightly to the right in the middle of the above picture. This large rock complements the rock retaining wall you can see in the lower left of the picture. Planted around the rock, we have hardy geraniums and alpine strawberries, two ground covers we repeat throughout this area.
Joining the squash planted in the barrels, we planted small sugar pumpkins as an edible ground cover. In this picture, you can see poppies and cosmos. Oh, there are also a few artichoke plants in there. Artichokes often show up in edible landscapes because they have a high level of visual interest in addition to producing actual artichokes. Hollyhocks and zinnias round out the cast of flowers, making the flowers a mix of annuals, perennials and biennials. If you ask me, that pumpkin plant is looking pretty happy!
All in all, I’m really pleased with how this area is coming along. We just finished up weeding, planting, and barking (the wood chips came from the big leaf) throughout this area and it is looking really good.