Using Edibles for Landscape Accents

PUBLISHED IN THE RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL

Using edibles for landscape accents

Well-designed and well-maintained landscapes beautify Nevada, reduce soil erosion, and provide shade and lower temperatures in our hot desert climate. They provide a source of pride in our apartments and homes, places to relax and enjoy, and a bit of neighborly competition. They can also provide us with homegrown produce without losing any of their aesthetic value.

If you enjoy annual and perennial flowers in the garden, consider switching out the inedible ones for flowers and flowering herbs, which can be used to add color to salads and flavor to dishes. Edible flowers for Nevada gardens include roses, Johnny Jump Ups, Calendulas, Nasturtiums and Daylilies. Flowering herbs that do well in outdoor Nevada gardens include lavender, fennel, basil, oregano, sage and rosemary. Their blooms will beautify the landscape and attract pollinators, while providing fresh cooking herbs.

Herbs can also serve as edible groundcovers to add interest, living mulch and transitions between spaces in the landscape. Try planting Creeping thyme or Corsican mint to enhance the beauty of shrub borders or to break up the monotony of mulched areas with an edible twist.

To add green and red foliage to the garden, consider planting rhubarb.  Swiss Chard also comes in a variety of stem colors and can grow in full or partial sun. These perennial vegetables provide vertical accents and dramatic focal points in the landscape. Pole beans, raspberries and thornless blackberries are leafy green climbing plants that can be used to provide shade under arched trellises or decoration over straight trellises or on fences. A favorite for apartment- and condo-dwellers, these plants can hide unsightly chain-linked fencing while providing healthy fruits and vegetables.

Recommended raspberries for Nevada include the summer-bearing Cuthbert, Latham, Newburgh and Willamette varieties as well as the ever-bearing Heritage, Indian summer, Ranere and Delaware varieties. The ever-bearing berries will produce fruit on the top of the cane in the late summer or fall of the first year and on the remaining portion of the cane in their second year. Summer-bearing berries will begin to produce in their second year.

Another way to gain fresh fruit from a landscape accent is to integrate an espaliered apple or pear tree into the mix. An espaliered tree is one that has been trained to grow against a wall or other support framework. In this form, an apple tree can provide vertical decoration along a landscape’s perimeter, disguise a shed, or serve as a living space divider between landscaped areas of different purposes.  An espaliered dwarf or semi-dwarf apple or pear tree is a wonderful way to enjoy the aesthetics of an espaliered tree while reaping the harvests of fruit tree production without using much space in the landscape. A semi-dwarf or half-standard apple or pear tree will reach 8 to 18 feet in height, while a genetic dwarf or miniature apple tree will grow to be only 5 to 8 feet tall.

Growing beautiful and edible flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables in the landscape is fun, eye-catching and delicious. To learn more about how to structure your yard or garden to be edible, productive, beautiful and easy to work in, attend our “Garden Design and Function” class on Monday, August 26 from 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 4955 Energy Way in Reno (cost: $15), or visit the growyourownnevada.com website.

Ashley Andrews is the Horticulture Assistant with the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. For questions about your plants, contact a Master Gardener at 775-331-0265 or mastergardeners@unce.unr.edu.

Edible landscape accents feed people, pollinators and plants

Why plant just for looks when you can also plant for your family, the bees and your soil! These edible landscape plants are especially useful in the garden because they attract pollinators, improve soil quality, or help manage pests by attracting beneficial insects. For more information about the benefits of beneficial insects, visit managenvpests.info.

  • Basil: annual, attracts beneficial insects
  • Calendula: annual, attracts beneficial insects and pollinators
  • Carrots: biennial, attracts beneficial insects
  • Corsican mint: perennial ground cover protects the soil and improves water availability, attracts beneficial insects
  • Creeping thyme: perennial ground cover protects the soil and improves water availability, attracts beneficial insects and pollinators
  • Daylilies: perennial, attractive flowers
  • Fennel: perennial, attracts beneficial insects
  • Garlic Chives: attract beneficial insects and pollinators
  • Green beans: annual, nitrogen-fixing plant releases nutrients into the soil
  • Johnny Jump Ups: annual, attractive flower
  • Nasturtium: annual, attracts beneficial insects
  • Oregano: annual, attract pollinators
  • Rose: perennial, attracts pollinators
  • Rosemary: annual, attracts pollinators
  • Sage: perennial, attracts beneficial insects

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