Garden Designers Roundtable: Edibles, Have Your Landscape and Eat It Too!

Garden Designers Roundtable: Edibles, Have Your Landscape and Eat It Too!

Today’s post is part of Garden Designers Roundtable, and the topic this month, in honor of our friend and fellow Roundtable blogger Ivette Soler, is “Edibles”. Ivette’s book The Edible Front Yard: The Mow-Less, Grow More Plan for a Beautiful, Bountiful Garden has just been released from Timber Press.

As a designer, the joy of a client telling me they are thrilled with their new garden is only surpassed by them also telling of how much they enjoy interacting with it. Today’s fast paced lifestyle, and the “suburban sensibility” of what a yard should look like, has changed the way we view our yards. Once a place to play, recreate and supplement the pantry, is now seen as a sofa with a plastic cover, a space to been seen, used with caution, but preserved so as not to affect the home’s value. Worse yet, we not only strive to keep up with the Jones’ but mimic them as well, creating vast tracts of lawn and ornamentals with very little human activity. Edibles (a trendy name for growing food), give the designer another tool in the box to entice the property owner out of the house and into the landscape.

A vegetable garden and property value are not often used in the same sentence. But when approached with a designer’s eye, and mixed with ornamental plants, a wonderful space can be created. Visually stunning, a parterre would surely impress the neighbors and add value, but the maintenance would prove to be prohibitive. So what are the smaller things we can do to introduce edible into the landscape? Let’s find out!

Perennials. Herbs are useful plants, not only in the culinary sense, but aesthetically too. They add texture, form and blossom, and can be used in pots, as ground covers or even hedges. Herbs such as Thyme, Chives and Sage can be added to the perennial border, foundation planting or mixed in with pots on the deck with annuals for a stunning combination.

Garlic Chives have wonderful grass like foliage and pretty white flowers!

Shrubs. High bush Blueberry Vaccinium corybosum is the perfect plant to add both beauty and taste to the landscape. Great bark color in the winter, soft green foliage, incredible red and orange fall color, make this an extremely ornamental shrub. The berries are terrific for attracting birds, and if you get to them first, are one of the healthiest foods you can eat! You can even buy Low Bush Blueberry Vaccinium angustifolium as sod, to create a naturalized area or for use as a ground cover.

Blueberry Sod (Vaccinium angustifolium)

Photo from Fred’s Wild Sod in Blue Hill, ME

Trees. Fruit and nut trees are a great way to add edibles to the landscape. Apple, Peach, Plum and Cherry, all have beautiful and fragrant blossoms, great foliage and sweet fruit. Use dwarf varieties for small spaces. Nuts such as Walnut, Butternut, Almond and Filberts are all tasty additions to the landscape, and recent introductions have provided blight resistant Chestnut cultivars, giving hope that this stately North American native will once again populate our landscapes.


The delicious fruit of the American Chestnut

Photo from Bioweb

Annuals. Vegetable plants can be added to nearly every landscape, but not all veggies are ornamental enough to be included, so we must choose wisely. In her new book, The Edible Front Yard, Ivette Soler presents four criteria she uses when choosing vegetables for use in the ornamental landscape;

1. The entire plant must have a pleasing form – It cannot stand on the merits of its flowers (or vegetable or fruit) alone.

2. It has to give me at least two reasons to plant it (such as color and form, or texture and seedpods).

3. It’s leaves must hold up for the entire growing season.

4. If you must plant ornamental edible in the front yard because you have no other suitable space, pay extra attention to your hardscape.

By using Ivette’s criteria, we ensure a beautiful garden through out the season. Here are a few of her suggestions for use;


The vibrant colors of Swiss Chard will brighten up any garden!

Photo from Uprising Seeds


Eggplant adds interest as well as beauty!

Photo from Tiny Farm Blog


Lacinato Kale will surely blend into the perennial border!

Photo from Organic Garden

It’s time we once again look to our yards as productive spaces, instead of something unused that simply adds value. I hope you have seen here that your yard can be a place of respite, recreation and also a place to grow food, and it can be visually stunning as well. What edibles will you add to your landscape? I would love to hear about it, so why not leave a comment or head over to the Facebook page and upload some pictures.

Until next time, may you find nourishment in your garden!



If you’d like to learn more about Edibles see my review of Ivette Soler’s book The Edible Front Yard here, and also please visit the blogs of my fellow Roundtable designers (links below) as they also discuss this tastier side of the garden.

Douglas Owens-Pike : Energyscapes : Minneapolis, MN

Genevieve Schmidt : North Coast Gardening : Arcata, CA »

Ivette Soler : The Germinatrix : Los Angeles, CA

Pam Penick : Digging : Austin, TX

Rebecca Sweet : Gossip In the Garden : Los Altos, CA

Scott Hokunson : Blue Heron Landscapes : Granby, CT »

Shirley Bovshow : Eden Makers : Los Angeles, CA

28 thoughts on “Garden Designers Roundtable: Edibles, Have Your Landscape and Eat It Too!

  1. Agreed agreed agreed!!! I love your point about coaxing our clients out into the garden when we give them edibles- so true! The use of edibles DOES encourage more interaction with our landscapes, and I love to encourage that – for many, it can be a dramatic and positive lifestyle change!
    I am so incredibly honored and humbled by the support of my GDRT friends, I can’t even explain it. I’m blushing super hard right now! Thanks you for giving us such a thoughtful post, Scott – and an extra thanks from me – just cuz!

  2. Yes, I agree with Ivette that it is the interacitvity which you emphasize here which is the charm. And veg and fruit are a great way of achieving that in a mostly permanent landscape. I have to say that I am doubtful about the productivity in many cases.Energy for energy I would raher buy what I eat and eat something different ‘with my eyes’! But I don’t grow veg so I would say that wouldn’t I? And I do always suggest to clients that they buy plantlets as a shortcut.
    Lovely piece!

  3. Scott, I love the connection of edibles making gardens more interactive. As I was reading your post and saw the mention of lowbush blueberry sod, my first thought was ‘where do I get that?’. Thanks for including the link, that’s a must have for my garden.

  4. I LOVE swiss chard and garlic chives in the garden! This is the greatest topic, and so timely. This year, I’m doing more herbs on my balcony; not quite enough sun for veggies, unfortunately.

  5. Your post has wonderful applications for those of us who need to limit our water consumption. Many herbs and woody plants (not blueberries,heh!) can be grown in dryer zones of the landscape. As always, smart plant selection is the key. Thanks for the great tips!

  6. Scott,
    Great overview of the use of different edible plants and trees in the landscape. As you explained, edible gardening runs the gamut of perennials, shrubs, trees and annuals. When we approach edible design with this in mind, we end up with a more dynamic garden than Just a vegetable plot!
    Shirley Bovshow

  7. I love your suggestions, Scott. I think clients are sometimes daunted by the idea of edibles because they’re picturing something super complicated. But you show that there are a lot of straight forward choices that are edible and lovely to look at.

  8. Eggplant as an ornamental edible? I would have *never* thought of that–I’m inspired! 2011 is the year I’ll expand beyond my usual trusty Redbor and Lacinato kales in the front garden. And I can’t wait to read “The Edible Front Yard.”

    1. I have always loved Eggplant Erika, not only to eat but also the look of the plant. Having it suggested for use in the perennial border, was like a light bulb switching on. Good luck with your expansion!

  9. Scott, I love your posts! They are always chock full of useful info and lots of gorgeous photos. I am going to “borrow” a lot of these ideas for my gardens and for my clients’, too. That kale is incredible, and I love swiss chard, so I’m not sure how long it would last in my garden, but it would sure add to my summer menus! Thanks so much!

    1. Thank you so much Cindy, I am glad you enjoy stopping by! That is one of the drawbacks to using edibles, isn’t it, they get eaten. 😉 Hope to see you at one of the Tweetups or CT Blog Outings!

  10. Austin has lots of pecan trees, Scott, and I wasn’t even thinking of nut trees in terms of this post topic, but you are quite right. It’s great to hear all these ideas about low-maintenance edibles.

  11. Scott, great choices here, and too funny that we both picked up on the same bit of Ivette’s book to quote!! I love the blueberry sod, which I have never seen here. What a fantastic idea. The chestnut is another I had never thought of before.
    You’ve managed to make a daunting project – incorporating easy edibles – simple and appealing.

  12. I really was initially exploring for points for my very own blog site and uncovered your own blog post, “Garden Designers Roundtable: Edibles, Have
    Your Landscape and Eat It Too! Blue Heron Landscapes”, do you mind in cases
    where I actually employ some of your concepts? Appreciate it

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