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Creating the double-duty garden: How to incorporate edible plants into a landscape design

Photo By: Courtesy of Jessy Berg
Photo Courtesy Of Jessy Berg This espaliered pear tree sits in a narrow strip as a separation between the garden and the driveway.

As a landscape designer, I like my garden to be in harmony – with the different elements working together. So, unless I have a secluded area for raised beds, I tend to find utilitarian rows of veggies quite the eyesore.

But integrating edibles into the design itself – and making them an attractive part of the overall landscape – easily solves this problem.



The following edibles look great as part of the overall garden design.

• Herbs. One of my favorite herbs to plant is chives. Perfect little grasses, they work in all types of gardens, including formal, cottage and contemporary. Their lavender flowers also work beautifully in a pastel color palette. Mix chives with other tasty spices like oregano, thyme and rosemary. Throw a miniature rose bush in the middle for a design that’s beautiful and edible, too.

I recommend placing herbs near the kitchen for easy access. As you select them for cooking, you will keep them pruned and tidy along the way.

• Trees. Fruit and citrus trees such as lemons, apples, plums and apricots are very flexible in an edible garden design. They achieve the height that many gardens need to create a sense of privacy while simultaneously providing shade and food. Plant a persimmon tree and you will have a tall shade tree with amazing fall colors, followed by the beautiful orange fruit.

If you have a path, plant rows of fruit trees on either side to create an allée, which works equally well in Mediterranean, formal and cottage gardens.

When planting lemons, I often use two different kinds: the Improved Meyer Lemon, which is sweet and works well for cocktails, and the Eureka Lemon, which is tarter and, in my opinion, better for fish and lemonade.

I’m also a big fan of espaliered and trellised trees, especially in small garden spaces. They look great in formal and modern gardens.

• Hedges and shrubs. Blueberry bushes are my favorite edible hedges. There is also Carissa macrocarpa, which grows small natal plums and can be pruned to look like a hedge. In fact, it can withstand quite a bit of shearing to work in a formal or contemporary garden.

• Groundcover. Strawberries make an excellent low planting, and some stay green most of the year. I recommend planting multiple varieties so that you have a longer crop season, and some variety in taste. I often use everbearers or day-neutral (a general class of strawberries), because they tend to flower and bear fruit year-round.

• Vines. Overhead and climbing plants are plentiful in the edible garden. Grapes are a standard in any edible garden, but don’t forget the others – kiwi and passionflower have attractive flowers and produce delicious fruit. When it comes to the passionflower vine, make sure you get the fruiting kind. And with kiwi vines, unless you want two, get Actinidia arguta Issai because it’s self-pollinating. Other kiwis need a male for the female to fruit.

The bottom line. The next time you go to the nursery, why not pick up some plants that serve double duty? They’ll look great as part of your overall garden design and produce food to boot.

Jessy Berg is a professional landscape designer and co-founder of Habitat Design, which offers full-service online landscape design planning for small and mid-sized gardens and an online store of unique garden and home furnishings. For more information, visit habitatdesign.com.

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