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Best Edible Ornamentals

 
Benton Lewis
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Which plants are the best edibles that are usually grown as ornamental?

I like silverthorn, its nitrogen fixing and gives loads of edible fruit.
 
steve bossie
Posts: 260
Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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last spring i planted several types of american and european elderberries, aronia, black currant, autumn olive, goumi, arctic kiwi, honey berries , mulberries and seaberries. all are ornamental in some way but also great berries to eat! i couldn't see wasting my property just growing a big lawn so i put that half acre to good use! my fiances not very happy but i explained it to her and she's better with it now. some should produce next summer!
 
Marc Mindy
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Location: South Boston, Massachusetts
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@Steve Bossie: What a fantastic group of plants! I wish we had room for more trees/shrubs...

While most definitely not ornamental (almost anti-ornamental, haha!), we cultivated lambsquarters (yup, goosefoot!) in order to collect seeds for indoor growing. We have Chenopodium microgreens growing as we speak! I do not think I would recommend it...the quantity of the seed harvest was not super inspirational.

Mindy
 
Dillon Nichols
pollinator
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Location: Victoria BC
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You say 'usually grown as ornamental'; are you looking for plants people won't recognize as food per se, or things that will be aesthetically pleasing in a front yard, or just things out of the norm?


Steve, being very keen on berries, I really like your list; from an aesthetic standpoint I think the arctic kiwi is a standout, and it's definitely not a widely known edible.

The only one on your list I take exception to is honeyberry/haswkap. It might be pretty in your area, but around here, not only has it not produced worth a damn, it dies back by mid-late summer and looks like the victim of a terrible drought with crisped brown leaves even when irrigated. Not attractive. Thinking of digging ours out this year. We have Tundra, Borealis, and Berry Blue, but I've also seen very similar results in my region from the Blue Forest, Blue Moon, etc cultivars. To make matters worse, they've grown very slowly, and to add insult to injury the pitifully small crops of berries are way too tart for my taste. The birds like em, at least...


To stick to the berry category, Chilean Guava is a very attractive bush, and probably not widely recognized as edible; in the last couple mild winters in my region it's only had a bit of dieback at the top, and aside from that stays green and bushy with beautiful red-tinged leaves around the edges.

Blueberries are obviously not usually grown as ornamental, but can be very visually appealing; the 'pink lemonade' cultivar we planted last summer doesn't seem to be much for berries, but it's stayed green all winter thus far.
 
Kyrt Ryder
Posts: 746
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Dillon did you put the honeyberries in full sun?
 
Dillon Nichols
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Close to full sun, which is as much sun as is available anywhere in our garden. The ones on the farm I interned on did have full sun, and really amazing soil; they had the same early browning issue, though they were a bit bigger... I lost most of my interest once I tasted them; far too sour for me, like a very unripe blueberry.
 
Casie Becker
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Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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At least in my area the pineapple guava is developing a reputation as a good edible now. But it's been a popular landscaping shrub for a while. Looks like a large leafed version of Leucophyllum frutescens. Extra bonus, it has edible flower petals that you can eat without sacrificing the fruits production.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9421
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Loquats are marginally hardy for bearing in Zone 8 and are often planted purely for their qualities as an ornamental tree.

 
Kyrt Ryder
Posts: 746
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Dillon Nichols wrote:Close to full sun

Hmmm, I had been planning to plant the pair I have coming in the mail in partial shade anyway. I'll report back with my results.
 
Kate Muller
Posts: 180
Location: New Hampshire
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High bush Cranberry are beautiful. I will be planting more of these this spring.

Corneilan Cherry and Nanking Cherry are pretty in bloom. Quince has beautiful salmon colored flowers in the spring.

People are surprised at how pretty celery and asparagus are when growing.

Lovage, Rhubarb, tiger lilies, hostas, wintergreen, sea kale, all look great in gardens.

You can tuck herbs like sage and thyme anywhere.




 
Alder Burns
pollinator
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Location: northern California
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A few things I haven't seen mentioned here yet.....daylilies....though some are better than others I hear. The common orange wild one is good though....both flowers and shoots. Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is a rare thing....a woody shrub with edible leaves....younger ones especially....they are sweetish in taste. Canna flowers are also edible.
 
Jan White
Posts: 90
Location: BC Interior, Zone 6-7
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Dogwood, Cornus kousa, is gorgeous. Haven't tasted the fruits myself, but supposedly taste a little like lychee.
 
Su Ba
pollinator
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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Crabapples.
 
steve bossie
Posts: 260
Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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Marc Mindy wrote:@Steve Bossie: What a fantastic group of plants! I wish we had room for more trees/shrubs...

While most definitely not ornamental (almost anti-ornamental, haha!), we cultivated lambsquarters (yup, goosefoot!) in order to collect seeds for indoor growing. We have Chenopodium microgreens growing as we speak! I do not think I would recommend it...the quantity of the seed harvest was not super inspirational.

Mindy
i find any healhty puned shrub to be ornamental myself. some more than others. all are unique to this area. i planed 4 black lace and black beauty elderberries that are very ornamental w/ purple lacy leaves and pink flowers in the summer. they all have nice color in the fall too.
 
steve bossie
Posts: 260
Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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Dillon Nichols wrote:You say 'usually grown as ornamental'; are you looking for plants people won't recognize as food per se, or things that will be aesthetically pleasing in a front yard, or just things out of the norm?


Steve, being very keen on berries, I really like your list; from an aesthetic standpoint I think the arctic kiwi is a standout, and it's definitely not a widely known edible.

The only one on your list I take exception to is honeyberry/haswkap. It might be pretty in your area, but around here, not only has it not produced worth a damn, it dies back by mid-late summer and looks like the victim of a terrible drought with crisped brown leaves even when irrigated. Not attractive. Thinking of digging ours out this year. We have Tundra, Borealis, and Berry Blue, but I've also seen very similar results in my region from the Blue Forest, Blue Moon, etc cultivars. To make matters worse, they've grown very slowly, and to add insult to injury the pitifully small crops of berries are way too tart for my taste. The birds like em, at least...


To stick to the berry category, Chilean Guava is a very attractive bush, and probably not widely recognized as edible; in the last couple mild winters in my region it's only had a bit of dieback at the top, and aside from that stays green and bushy with beautiful red-tinged leaves around the edges.

Blueberries are obviously not usually grown as ornamental, but can be very visually appealing; the 'pink lemonade' cultivar we planted last summer doesn't seem to be much for berries, but it's stayed green all winter thus far.
thats weird cause they grow very well here. maybe because they like our cool summers. they don't brown at all here and are nice and full with good foliage color in the fall. we have slightly acid soil which they prefer also.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I'm currently growing Cardoon, a beautiful plant, but have not learned how to include it in our diet yet. It's doing so well I feel as though I really must learn how to use it. I think it will work in anything using a mixture of vegetables, but we didn't like it just by itself.
cardoon.jpg
[Thumbnail for cardoon.jpg]
 
Benton Lewis
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eastern redbud maybe
 
André Troylilas
Posts: 130
Location: North of France
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I'm currently growing Cardoon, a beautiful plant, but have not learned how to include it in our diet yet.  It's doing so well I feel as though I really must learn how to use it.  I think it will work in anything using a mixture of vegetables, but we didn't like it just by itself.

I think you have to hide it from the sun for 2 to 3 weeks (one stalk or two) with old newspaper, and then make a gratin with it.
That's the way we do around here...
 
John Polk
steward
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Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I'm currently growing Cardoon, a beautiful plant, but have not learned how to include it in our diet yet.  It's doing so well I feel as though I really must learn how to use it.  I think it will work in anything using a mixture of vegetables, but we didn't like it just by itself.

I haven't tried it myself (yet), but this sounds like a good Cardoon (cardini) recipe  Very Italian.

 
dirk maes
Posts: 68
Location: belgium
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cardoon flower buds are like artichokes, just a bit smaller. Cardoon stems need to be bleached and peeled, than cooked and served whit a bechamel sauce 'au gratin' ( one sugestion).Its more of a late fall vegetable. Cardoon is more winter hardy than artichokes. Its a perennial but needs replant every 5 to 7 years.
 
Mike Turner
Posts: 314
Location: Upstate SC
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Camellia sinensis (the oriental tea plant) and yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) are great ornamentals that can be grown for tea.  Camellia sinensis blooms in the fall as the same time as the sasanqua camellia and both can be pruned as hedges whose trimmings can be dried for tea.  Bees love both of them when they bloom.  The camellia is by far the greater producer of leaves for tea since it has been selected for millennia for teat production and keeps putting out new growth continuously from spring until late fall.  Yaupon is the North American counterpart to the South American mate tea holly and makes a very similar tea.  The "vomitoria" species name refers to its red berries which were used in native American purging ceremonies.
 
Casie Becker
pollinator
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Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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Something that I was thinking about as I finished planting seeds yesterday. Is is it possible that developing beautiful food plants could increase the number of people that garden? Like the  neighborhood where people start putting out flowers because of that one neighbor with the amazing flower bed.

Food plants can have a much longer life span than many seasonal flowers and can be as pretty. I love my palm shaped kales, and they have that great shape precisely because they've been being harvested for food. I planted a whole lot of chard at the same time as I was spreading spring flower seeds. Those colorful stalks will last a lot longer than the spring flowers. These are examples of plants that weren't bred for appearance. If I can keep these front yard beds in good appearance for the whole season, I could see a neighbor or two considering a tiny planting of greens by their front door.

Maybe it's not worth a full scale breeding effort, but it does make me wonder.
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
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Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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I especially love the idea of the beautiful edible landscape.  Rosalind Creasy has done a great deal of work in this area.   http://www.rosalindcreasy.com/
 
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