Foodscaping; A New Way To Create A Garden

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January 12, 2019

**This article originally appeared in Garden Culture Magazine US21.

With manicured lawns and perfectly trimmed shrubs, the landscaping surrounding North American homes and buildings was, until recently, mostly considered decorative. However, a new way of designing gardens, particularly appreciated by millennials, has just made its appearance: foodscaping!

A Functional, Ecological and Productive Garden

The principle of foodscaping is simple because it involves designing gardens in which edible plants are grown. By making your own edible landscaping, you will be able to create a functional and ecological living environment that will allow you to produce organic, fresh, tasty and inexpensive food!

Nut trees, fruit trees and shrubs, perennial or tropical vegetables, herbs, edible flowers and medicinal plants; any of these has its place in edible landscaping. They have the ability to produce vegetables and fruits in abundance, year after year, with little maintenance. As it is the case for permaculture, edible landscaping is also a sustainable ecosystem that respects living creatures in which interventions are minimal.

Brassica-oleracea-var.-acephala
Like an ornamental garden, foodscaping must be well-planned 
(illustration: Guillaume Pelland, Paysage Gourmand).

A Landscaping Just As Good As Beautiful

Vegetables are considered by a majority of people to be quite unattractive, so they are often grown in a corner of the land far from the house. On the other hand, since it consists of plants that are just as beautiful as they are edible, foodscaping can be achieved almost anywhere: on the front land of a residence, on a terrace or even on a roof!

Numerous edible plants, such as Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris var. cicla), strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa), kale (Brassica oleracea var. acephala), scarlet runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus) and peppers (Capsicum annuum), for example, are just as decorative as most annual and perennial flowers. Furthermore, to make your foodscaping as aesthetic and colourful as possible, you can associate edible flowers, such as carnations (Dianthus) and pansies (Viola x witrockiana), with most vegetables.

If you have a mature garden, an easy way to incorporate edible plants is to introduce those with ornamental qualities into your flower beds. Gradually, you will be able to transform some of your non-productive borders into edible and utilitarian landscaping.

Brassica Oleracea
An ornamental flower bed in which have been introduced ‘Redbor’ kale
(Brassica oleracea var. acephala ‘Redbor’) with purple edible foliage
(photo: Albert Mondor).

An Edible Garden With Style

What materials should be used for the creation of foodscaping? Apart from the fact that it is better to choose materials that are in harmony with those of the house, there is no established rule. Some will prefer modern materials such as cut stone and stainless steel, while others will want old farmhouse materials such as rusty steel, barn wood and straw bales. The recovery of used materials for the creation of edible landscaping is particularly popular among millennials.

A Well-Structured Foodscaping

If you want to be successful at creating edible landscaping at home, make sure that you plant fruit trees. In addition to maximizing the use of space, these plants form the backbone of a garden since they are, in a way, pivots around which the lower edible plants are then placed.

You can opt for an apple tree or a cherry tree, but these species should be reserved for experienced gardeners. I suggest you plant hardy small fruit trees which produce little shade and require little maintenance, such as serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) or Asian pear (Pyrus pyrifolia).

If you live in an urban environment and your land is particularly small, plant hardy kiwi (Actinidia kolomikta), a climbing fruit species with beautiful variegated foliage producing an abundance of edible sweet berries very rich in vitamin C!

Many species of fruit shrubs can be easily incorporated into edible landscaping. Highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum) and raspberries (Rubus idaeus) are certainly the most popular. In addition, many recently introduced cultivars, including Raspberry Shortcake™ (Rubus idaeus Raspberry Shortcake™), are small in size and are well adapted to be grown in containers in urban gardens.

Some native fruit shrubs such as black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa), honeyberry (Lonicera caerulea var. edulis) and black elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) are very popular among younger generations of gardeners.

Lonicera caerulea var. edulis
Called the Fruit of longevity by the Japanese, the honeyberry
(Lonicera caerulea var. edulis) produces elongated berries
very rich in antioxidants (photo: Albert Mondor).

A Perennial Edible Garden

The herbaceous edible plants (perennial and annual vegetables, herbs, edible flowers and medicinal plants) can be arranged very creatively at the base of shrubs and trees. It is possible to associate edible plants the same way one creates an ornamental border, according to their height, shape, texture and colour.

To facilitate the maintenance of edible landscaping, it is advisable to plant herbs and perennial vegetables. Among the most easy to grow perennial edibles are the Egyptian onion (Allium cepa var. proliferum), a perennial plant that is a good substitute for the common onion; skirret (Sium sisarum), which has a sweet and long white root that looks like parsnip; sea kale (Crambe maritima), whose fleshy leaves have a concentrated taste of cabbage, and Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosum), whose artichoke-flavoured root is very rich in fructans – considered as prebiotics that participate in the balance of the intestinal flora – and is a wonderful substitute for potato. However, this plant is particularly aggressive, so it is necessary to install it in a large pot buried in the ground or to surround it with a thick metal border.

Crambe maritima
The sea kale (Crambe maritima), also called sea cabbage,
has a powerful and delicious taste like cabbage
(photo: Albert Mondor).

In addition to growing perennial plants – which should not be replanted each year – the maintenance of edible landscaping can be reduced by planting veggies in a manner that their foliage is touching. It is also possible to cover the ground with organic mulch or to plant groundcovers that densely cover the soil while producing edible crops such as alpine strawberries (Fragaria vesca var. semperflorens) and lingonberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea). Finally, rather than placing plants in clumps or rows, opt for a more natural planting method based on a great diversity of plants.

Brassica oleracea
Cabbages (Brassica oleracea) planted through very fragrant
flowers will be less easily spotted by the cabbageworm
(photo: Albert Mondor).

A Smoothie Garden On Your Terrace

Are you a smoothie lover? It’s easy to create a small garden including some of your favourite plants to make delicious smoothies! Just plant them in containers on your balcony or terrace near your kitchen. Kale ‘Darkibor’ (Brassica oleracea var. acephala ‘Darkibor’), Strawberry Natural Albino® (Fragaria x ananassa Natural Albino®), Malabar spinach (Basella alba) and Blueberries Jelly Bean™ (Vaccinium corymbosum Jelly Bean™) are among the easiest plants to grow in pots and will do wonders in your smoothies!

Container Foodscaping

container foodscaping
Edible plants grown in containers on a roof
(photo: Jean-Philippe Martin/La Shop agricole)

Since more than 75% of North American and European populations now live in urban settings, many of them do not have a lot of space to create a garden. They must grow edible plants in pots on balconies, terraces, roofs or even walls. Several small edible plant varieties have been developed in recent years to be grown in containers. Furthermore, various shrubs such as raspberries, honeyberries and sea buckthorns, as well as some herbaceous plants such as chives (Allium schoenoprasum), marjoram (Origanum majorana) and several species of rambling stonecrops (Sedum) easily survive harsh winters in northern America and Europe, especially if they are grown in textile pots (like Smart pot) promoting excellent drainage and some insulation.

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Albert Mondor

Biologist and horticulturist at Les Jardins d'Albert inc.
Passionate about environmental horticulture, urban agriculture, and extreme landscape design, Albert Mondor has practiced his craft for over 30 years and created numerous gardens in North America. In addition to teaching courses and lecturing at conferences across Canada, his weekly gardening column appears in the Journal de Montréal and the Journal de Québec since 1999. Albert recently published his tenth horticultural book, Le nouveau potager. He is a regular guest and contributor to radio and TV programs and hosts The Trendy Gardener spots broadcasted on Météo Média and online. In May 2014, Albert was awarded the prestigious Henry Teuscher Award, presented by the Montreal Botanical Gardens for his exceptional contribution to the advancement of horticultural knowledge in Canada.
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