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You Can Grow It: Landscaping with edible plants

We check out some edible plants that you can incorporate into your home landscape.

BOISE, Idaho — Here’s how you can get the most out of your home landscape, planting for both beauty and productivity. By incorporating plants that produce food as well as pretty flowers, you can make your yard more interesting and inviting, for people, and for wildlife.

There are a few plants that you should consider for your landscape that will please the eye as well as the palate.

Gardening is all about balance. Whether you grow a lot of flowers, or you grow all vegetables and fruit, try combining both for an edible landscape. Let me show you some examples of plants that you can add to your home landscape that will provide edible benefits for yourself, and for wildlife, as well as some others that will provide stand-out beauty in the midst of your vegetable garden.

There are a few varieties of berry plants that will grow very well in both urban and rural landscapes. Most of them provide an attractive display of color from spring to fall, with the added benefit of a crop of healthy delicious berries for you and the birds.

First, the aronia, or chokeberry, is a deciduous ornamental shrub that produces pretty pink or white blossoms in the spring, followed by dark red, purple or black berries in the summer, then colorful leaves in the fall. Birds don’t care that much for these berries, leaving more for you to make into jams and jellies, syrups, juices, and many other flavorful products.

The serviceberry is native to Idaho and can be grown either as a shrub or a small tree. It thrives throughout all four seasons: in spring, it’s one of the earliest sources of nectar for pollinators, with abundant white blossoms that resemble apple blossoms. In summer you’ll get clusters of delicious reddish-purple berries that make a good substitute for blueberries. In the cooler nights of fall, the leaves turn bright orange and red, revealing a silvery bark in winter.

Berries offer some great health benefits, but many gardeners shy away from blackberries because of their tendency to spread quickly with dense, thorny, tangled growth. But now there are several upright and thornless varieties that make growing and harvesting the berries easy and rewarding. The plants need minimal care, and by late summer you can harvest the berries without getting even a scratch.

If berries aren’t your thing, try another Idaho favorite, rhubarb. It’s a perennial vegetable, but is used mostly as a fruit in desserts and jams. Rhubarb makes an attractive shrub in the yard or the vegetable garden, and is one of the first food crops harvested in mid to late spring. Give it a little space though, since it produces very large leaves, with eye-catching pink and red stems. The leaves are toxic, but the reddish stems are delicious. Once it comes up in the spring, it won’t require much care. And since it tastes great with strawberries, you might want to plant a strawberry patch nearby.

Now here are a few non-edible plants that you might include in your vegetable garden for an interesting shake-up in the sea of green leaves. And they’ll attract a lot of pollinators to make your vegetable garden more productive.

Agastache is better known as hyssop or hummingbird mint. It’s a perennial with oval, toothed shaped leaves that have a white tint underneath, and bright lavender flowers that bloom throughout the summer. It’s drought tolerant, and hummingbirds and butterflies love it.

Echinacea, or coneflowers, are part of the daisy family, which also includes sunflowers. They have large showy heads of flowers that bloom from early to late summer in a show-stopping display of color. They do well in our hot, dry summers, and will really bring the bees to pollinate your garden.

And here’s an attractive plant that’s well-suited to Idaho. The oakleaf hydrangea doesn’t mind the dry, hot summers and cold winters, unlike some of it’s cousins. It comes in a dwarf variety, so it can grow at the edge of your vegetable garden. You’ll get dramatic pink or white blossoms in the summer, and the leaves turn a brilliant red, orange, yellow and burgundy in the fall.

It’s possible to have a beautifully landscaped yard, as well as a bountiful harvest of delicious things to eat. It just takes a little planning.

Here’s another idea that you might want to consider – plant herbs in the bare spaces along the edge of your yard or along fences and walls. They’ll make those areas more attractive, as well as provide a source of delicious and healthy additions to your favorite recipes.

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