Ask the Landscape Architect Expert: Integrated Gardening…Beautiful and Edible

I love this idea!

Creating beautiful gardens with some of your favourite perennials, and then adding in vegetables, fruits, and herbs to provide edibles as part of your overall landscape.

And who better to speak with regarding this growing “return to roots” in landscape design then Paul Brydges, award-winning Landscape Architect, and owner of Brydges Landscape Architecture and Design.

“There are so many ‘edible options’ to plant in our gardens, options that can provide beauty, privacy, and interesting design elements, while also ending up on your dining room table,” explains Paul. “In addition, most of these edible options are also pollinators for bees, and feeders for nature like birds and squirrels,” a point that Paul is quick to address. “You might be inviting nature into your space, which many of us enjoy, and are happy to welcome them.”

So don’t be surprised when the local birds increase their visits to your new garden!

“People these days are becoming more health conscious, and the idea of having food grown fresh from your very own yard is becoming a very popular alternative. The space required can vary, and a designer can point out some clever ways to incorporate your landscape design into one that can serve several purposes.” Paul provides me with a great example; “People can choose a different variety of bushes to not only define their property, but also to provide privacy. People are now starting to choose berry bushes, such as a high bush cranberry, which can grow to be 10 feet tall and spread out to almost 8 feet. It makes for a lovely way to create a beautiful flowering hedge, and one that you can eat the fruits directly off of the vine.”

Herbs are always a winner. You can grow them indoors and outdoors, just steps away from your BBQ or cooking space. There’s nothing like freshly picked herbs to put the finishing touch on a home-cooked meal. Paul points out that you can grow some of these herbs and other edibles amongst your other perennials. “Ornamental grass usually is planted in groups. If you have 5 or 6 different grasses spread out properly, you can grow ground vegetables inbetween. Planting vegetables such as squash and eggplant in-between your ornamental grass can add depth and interest. Pumpkin and squash begin as a beautiful flower on a vine, and can turn out to be a great addition to one of your favourite dishes!”

It’s these types of planting strategies that can merge beauty and utility into your gardening plans and landscape design.

There are also edible versions of Chrysanthemums in the form of a daisy – “Crown Daisy” to be exact. These lovely flowering plants can be used in salads, stir-fry’s, tea, and even wine. Interestingly enough, these types of plants produce pyrethrins, a natural insecticide in their seed pods, providing an organic way to keep those pesky weeds and insects at bay. Who knew?

Another interesting plant option is corn. Instead of ornamental grass to provide privacy along fence lines, or even around pools. And who doesn’t love fresh picked corn?

As Paul and I speak, he tells me about a traditional dish called “Three Sisters Soup”, an indigenous soup which happens to combine 3 of my favourite foods, as corn, beans, and squash are at the heart of this recipe. In a “three sisters garden”, corn, beans, and squash are planted together to help each other grow strong. Here’s how planting them together works:

Corn has a high need for nitrogen, and the beans produce a high amount of nitrogen. Climbing beans need something to climb on, and a corn stalk is a great natural trellis. Squash plants spread, providing a natural weed cover and moisture-retaining shade for the corn and beans.

A perfect combination to serve your landscape requirements, and put nutritious and delicious food into your belly!

There are so many great options to choose from when planning your integrated garden. And one of the best parts is that the project can involve the entire family, providing delicious home-grown nutrition to your family meals, and create an interesting landscape among your favourite perennials.


Written by: Kelli M. Maddocks

Author: LivingSpaces

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