Edible Landscaping with Berry Plants

Blueberries On Bush
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There is no law that says you can only plant vegetables and fruits in their designated gardens. Many edible plants can be incorporated throughout your yard. The two caveats to edible landscaping are that you want plants that will look attractive all season and plants that won't be eaten by animals before you get the chance to indulge. That's not easily accomplished, but berry plants may be the solution.

Berry plants tend to be small enough to look appropriate in any size yard. Most have attractive leaves and flowers and, of course, the glossy, colorful berries are a great attraction. Plus berries require minimal maintenance. They are rarely affected by pests and diseases and a good annual pruning routine will keep them healthy and shapely. The biggest chore for berry growers will be protecting the fruit from the birds and other passing critters.

There are several ways you can begin to incorporate berries into your landscape. The bushy types can be used as individual specimen plants or lined up as hedges. Low growers can be used as ground covers or edging plants. And vines can be trained along fences or over arbors.

Berries for Close to the House

For use as stand-alone plants or as ornamental plants closer to your home, choose upright berries with attractive foliage all year long.

  • Highbush blueberries are an excellent choice, with their small, white, cup-shaped flowers in spring and their dazzling red color in the fall. Most don't get taller than 6 feet and can even be grown in containers.
  • Currant bushes have lovely lobed leaves, like fancy maples. They branch out with an airy appearance and have tiny berries in red, white, pink and black. If you are looking for something more formal, currants can be trained into standards.
  • Elderberry is a large shrub, capable of reaching 20 feet tall. It can be pruned to maintain its size, but it is a beautiful shrub with sprays of star-shaped white flowers that give way to shiny dark-purple fruits. You can try your hand at wine making or save them for jams and pie. Fall foliage is a mix of reds, yellow and orange.

    Berries for Hedges

    You can use any of the bushy berries to create a hedge, but brambles, raspberries, blackberries, and gooseberries, work especially well because they are big, floppy, rambling plants. They can create a privacy screen in little time. They will quickly disguise an ugly fence and the thorned varieties will be a big deterrence to dogs and other unwelcome visitors.

    Brambles are usually trained along supports, to encourage more fruiting, but they will produce plenty even if they are left alone to grow along with your fence.

    Vining Berries

    • Grapes are the obvious choice for draping over an arbor. The big leaves will create a shady nook and the clusters of grapes will dangle down for easy access. You will want to make sure you can reach the vines, so you can keep them pruned and producing well.
    • Kiwi vines are also beautiful plants, with big heart-shaped leaves. They are very vigorous and attach by twining. They'll need a strong support, but since they can live for decades, it's a good investment. You will generally need 2 plants, a male, and a female, to get fruit. However, there are varieties, like ‛Issai' that have both sex flowers on one plant.

    Berries as Groundcovers

    • Lowbush blueberries only grow about 18 inches high. They spread by runners and with their ability to withstand dry soil, they make them nice options for covering a spot where the grass doesn't want to grow.
    • Strawberries are also happy covering ground. The June bearing types will spread by runners, but the everbearing and day neutral varieties tend to be better behaved.
    • There's even a low growing raspberry, ‛Formosa Carpet' that is evergreen and spreads to form a mat. The fruit is not quite similar to the raspberries we're used to. I haven't tried it, but it is said to be tasty.

    This is just a small sampling of readily available berry plants. All are easy growing, attractive and delicious. If you are looking to add some shrubs to your yard, consider having them do dual duty by planting berry bushes.